Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Venerable Venereal Straits Times

I haven't wrote in a while. But today's headlines on the by-elections in Hougang in the venerable The Straits Times (Singapore) was sufficiently venereal to motivate me to awake from my slumber. 

Compared to another friend, who almost got a stroke reading the same news, my reaction is perhaps muted.

At least three websites, whose writers have, to some extent, informed insights into the workings of the Singapore Press Holdings, have addressed the coverage of The Straits Times. If you would like to understand my reasons for taking issue with The Straits Times, you can read this link, this link and this link.

What I want to write about is why I think this is happening and why it may be the return of an old normal that readers of The Straits Times should get used to.

If the general elections coverage of The Straits Times was the beginning of a new dawn for a newspaper under a valiant editor wanting to remain relevant to a readership disenfranchised with its less than objective coverage, the Hougang by-elections coverage of The Straits Times is the rehashing of an old story by an editor fearless in driving a blunt wedge through its readership, even if it means polarising a populace frustrated by a ruling party showing signs of complacency.

In February this year, The Straits Times replaced its former editor with the honourable Warren Fernandez. Warren believes he is a true son of independent Singapore. He has a written a tome about the founding father of the People's Action Party. He has gained immensely from the meritocratic system espoused by the PAP. He has waxed lyrical about the PAP's success in managing Singapore in columns aplenty, which I once followed as a young student. Read his book, if you would like a flavour of these insights.

It is therefore not surprising for someone like Warren to think that to be loyal to Singapore is to be loyal to the PAP in pushing the agenda of the PAP. I accept he owes a great deal to the PAP system for what he is today. After all, at least until he was invited back to The Straits Times, he may well have been working in a multi-national oil conglomerate bringing home twice his current annual salary in bonuses alone.

As such, I admire his deep-seated desire, willingness and ability to want to give back to our motherland.But there is a fine line between blind faith and good faith. The coverage today of The Straits Times was a display of the former.

In my view, there was something more important that was clearly more newsworthy and deserved the front page coverage. This, the solidarity of Singaporeans from all walks of life in that pelting rain in a cause they believed in.

I once said his book "represents Warren Fernandez's version of Singapore. If, as a reader, you do not like it, ignore it. Alternatively, you can choose to be engaged and offer your own version in return."

Likewise, The Straits Times is fast becoming Warren Fernandez's version of Singapore. Ignore it or embrace it.

Thinking about whether this is the kind of your newspaper you want to subscribe to in Singapore is allowed.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Feel free to react below or leave a comment.