Freedom Comes With Responsibility

by Patrick Liew on March 27, 2017

Freedom of expression is not absolute and there’s no standard definition of freedom of expression that’s agreed upon and adopted by every country in the West.

It’s politically and culturally relative, and is viewed and practiced differently in every democratic country.

There are restrictions and limitations to freedom of expression in every country.

That’s why when different parties accuse Singapore of restricting freedom of expression and trying to impose their version of freedom of expression on us, they are being absolutely hypocritical.

They define values according to their terms and believe that they have the rights to impose their values on us and we cannot do the same to them.

The sad truth is that despite promoting their values to us, many of these countries have not lived up to these values.

Instead, we have witnessed the rise of fake news, post-truths, and alternate realities. These misinformation have caused untold harm and damages.

In Singapore, it’s generally accepted that freedom comes with responsibility. It should not endanger the country, community and environment.

In particular, it’s enshrined in the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act that our people should not do anything that’s “prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious or racial groups and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility.”

Racial and religious beliefs are visceral part of human psyche and being.

If anyone has been on the ground, and not hypothesize from an armchair, he will know that racial and religious tolerance or harmony can be fragile and be like glass.

An insensitive remark, even if it’s spoken out of a good intention can cause unintended backlashes, open up old wounds, and create new fault lines.

It can cause deep divisions in our country and polarize our people.

Once the social fabric is torn, it may be hard to return the fabric back to its original functional condition.

That’s why we have to be wary of the western version of freedom of expression and ensure that hate speeches are not allowed in our culture.

Our proactive stand against potential problems have helped us to build a country that’s relatively peaceful and free of crime.

There are many surveys that show that we maintain a high standard of trust level between the people and the government, judiciary and police forces.

Singapore has a good standing in the international community for clean government and sound governance.

If you have a chance to travel overseas, you’ll know that Singapore is widely admired and respected in many parts of the world.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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