Commentary: Review Of Democracy

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January 11, 1994

Self-defined conservative commentators like Koh Buck Song and Asad Latiff enjoyed the emergence of Commentary in large part because if gave them a position or positions spar with. While is meant tagging Commentary as being on the liberal end of the ideological spectrum, but that was a small price to pay for what the positive attention did for the publication. Koh Buck Song’s review in the Straits Times gave us visibility and mainstreamed our editorial concerns giving it a wide-audience than we had among the 3000 or so members of the NUSS who opted to receive the journal (the first issue going to all members).

Buck Song begins by noting: “If the success of the journal is, in the end, to be judged partly on the quality of its questions, then this issue does creditably.” And ends that the issue was a welcomed addition to the Republic’s civil society as long as it remained reasoned and the intentions of the editors “sincere”.

While many conservative commentators drew on the language of the country’s leadership, Buck Song quotes some of the more pointed criticism in several essays and conversations recorded in the issue in particular Leroy Lim’s essay “We The Citizen’s Of Singapore” . He notes: “Its natural that an examination of democracy should consider the rules that demarcate the boundaries”¬† referring to the very Singapore political expression “OB Markers” yet lets the Straits Times readership savour Lim’s “stirring passions”.

He quotes Lim’s play on the sombre Pledge that all school children make turning it with dark irony into the “Corporate Pledge”:

We the employees of Singapore Inc.,/ pledge ourselves as one united workforce,/ regardless of degree, housing or COEs,/ to build an internationally competitive/ company based on cheap labour and/ efficient management, so as to achieve/ corporate loyalty, profits and a mandate for/ our principal shareholders.

I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say I believe we brought conservative Singaporean critics a lot of pleasure in large part because the “calm logic” of most of the collection which allowed them to showcase¬† and engage with Commentary in the ST’s pages.

The Democracy Vol. 11, No 2 and my contribution – a reading of Chan Heng Chee’s essay on intellectuals – built on Vol.11 No 1 titled Civil Society.

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