Monday, October 26, 2009

NUS PSSoc: Partisan or Not?

I am not sure how many of you all are aware of this but it would seem that there is an ongoing tussle between the NUS Political Science Society (PSSoc) and the readers of The Online Citizen (TOC).

Essentially, this tussle began when TOC published an article reporting/reviewing the "Straight Talk: Is Singapore = PAP?" forum that the NUS PSSoc recently organised. In this article, the author appears to have implicitly portrayed the NUS PSSoc as being partisan (in favour of the PAP) because the Society invited only PAP members and NUS academics to speak at the forum but not members of the opposition. This portrayal was picked up by the readers of the article and in the comments section, comments echoed the perception of the NUS PSSoc being partisan in favour of the PAP.

Recognising that such a perception of the NUS PSSoc was being spread on TOC, members of the current executive committee (exco) of the Society stepped in to clarify matters. And as far as I can see, the main points they wanted to clarify include but are not limited to the following:

i) That the forum was not intended to be a partisan event

ii) That although there may be members of the Young PAP within the Society and within its exco, the Society is on the whole non-partisan

iii) That this forum is only the first event organised by the current exco and in future events, opposition members and/or critics of the political status quo will be invited

iv) That the Society has, in the past, organised events in which opposition members and/or critics of the political status quo have been invited to speak

Of course, it will seem to me that despite the clarification, the general sentiment remains that the NUS PSSoc is not totally non-partisan.

What do I think about all this?

Well, before I say anything else, let me first state that although I have been an ordinary member of the NUS PSSoc (i.e. I have never been part of its exco) for the first two years of my undergraduate life at NUS and have helped out at two of its major events, I am no longer associated with it (my membership lapsed and I didn't have time to renew it).I say this lest any of you all dig up my previous links with NUS PSSoc and cast aspersions upon my objectivity in writing this post.

In addition, what I am going to say below is entirely based only on information which is available in the public sphere. Hence, I will concede that there may be things going on behind the scenes which I am not aware of.

That said, I must say that on the whole, my stance towards this tussle between the NUS PSSoc and TOC readers is basically the same as the one I expressed in this earlier blog post of mine.

Specifically, I will say that it strikes me as somewhat unfair, if not fallacious, to label the NUS PSSoc as being partisan in favour of the PAP just based on one event they organised and because they have Young PAP members within the Society and its exco.

Also, I find it somewhat odd that some of the comments on TOC expressed the sentiment that the NUS PSSoc should be more "oppositional" in nature. Hmm... So being partisan in favour of the PAP is to be censured but partisan in favour of the opposition is okay, if not to be lauded?

And we should keep in mind that the fact that NUS PSSoc is just a students' society catering to mainly Political Science undergraduates in NUS, it is not a opposition party or a lobby group. It is thus perhaps unfair to expect or demand that the Society to act as something it is not.

Finally, as I said above, I am not aware of anything that may have gone on behind the scenes with regards to the organisation of the forum. But if indeed things occurred behind the scenes that prevented members of the opposition and/or critics of the political status quo to attend and speak at the forum, the question will then be "who is doing the preventing?". If it was not NUS PSSoc itself which was doing the preventing but some "higher authority", then perhaps we should not lay the blame entirely at the feet of the Society.

In the end, I do not know about you all but I will be keeping an eye to see how things evolve with regards to this affair.

P.S. 27/10/2009

I have been looking through the comments made on TOC in response to the article in question and I think I have two more points which I like to express.

One, it would appear to me that perhaps members of the current NUS PSSoc exco may need to improve on their strategic communication skills.

I say this because while I think it was necessary that they clarified matters regarding the forum with/on TOC, it was perhaps not that wise a move for them to step into the fray and attempt to clarify through posting comments as their clarifications would most likely be drowned out by the cacophony of other comments. If I am not wrong, since the exco had already sent in a statement/clarification through email to the TOC editorial board, it would perhaps be better if the exco had waited till that statement was published on TOC before they made any further comments. And even if TOC delayed or declined publishing the statement, the exco could have released the statement on the NUS PSSoc's own website (and provide a link in the comments section of TOC to the website).

It also did not help that there seem to be at least three members of the exco who were trying to post comments to clarify NUS PSSoc's stance. This was perhaps somewhat confusing. And at times, it was not entirely clear whether those members were speaking in their own capacity or on behalf of the entire exco. The language and tone utilised in the exco members' comments could perhaps also be better chosen; it would seem that several comments were made on the spur of the moment and by individuals who were quite caught up emotionally in the fray.

If any of the exco members are reading this post, allow me to say I mean well with what I have said above.

Secondly, I must say that I am rather saddened by how several comments on TOC used language and tones which were much less than civil. Some of the comments may even be construed as personal attacks. On that note, I cannot help but wonder about if the moderators at TOC have been paying full attention to the comments being made in response to the article in question.

I find it particularly saddening that the author of the article has been dragged into the fray, in light of the comments which appear to be casting aspersions upon her character and state of mind.


chillycraps said...

will it help if members of the public realize that many opposition party members are alumni of NUS political science department?

LCC said...

To "Singaporeans For Free Speech & Transparency",

While I acknowledge the sentiment behind your comment, I however will not be publishing it as I think it involves an issue which is quite separate from the one which I am commenting on in this post.

I am also not publishing your comment because it involves a dispute between you and another online entity; I have no wish for my blog to be dragged into this dispute. It will perhaps be best if you and the other online entity resolve this dispute amongst yourselves.

Singaporeans For Free Speech & Transparency said...

Thank you for your reply. We had sought to resolve the dispute with the other online entity, but had been censored.

We acknowledge your own sentiments, and it is our hope that your decision was not based on a fear of intimidation by this other entity or its supporters.

Thanks once again.

LCC said...

To "Singaporeans For Free Speech & Transparency",

I can assure you that my decision was not made on the basis of fear.

It was purely made on the basis that, if I may reiterate myself, "I have no wish for my blog to be dragged into this dispute" between you and the other online entity.

Thank you for your understanding.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post many entries in support of PSSoc, but for some suspicious reason, they were denied.

You can draw yr conclusions abt toc based on that episode.

I was not even rude, partisan or personal. I merely stated the case as I saw it.

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