Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned mr brown, and the government’s role in his termination from the Today newspaper, in the recent National Day address. A Singapore Angle has the transcript, with the below passage:
So I give you the example of Mr Brown’s column in Today. Some of you may have read it, some of you may not. But it hit out wildly at the government and in a very mocking and dismissive sort of tone. So MICA [Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts] replied. How can you not reply? And some Singaporeans feel we were too harsh, we should have been gentler, or maybe just even accepted it, it is just niceness, he didn’t mean us any harm.
Well, my view is like this: Mr Brown is very talented man (in fact he is Mr Lee Kim Mun). If you listen to his podcasts, they are hilarious. And he is entitled to his views, and entitled to express them. But when he takes on the government and makes serious accusations, as he did in this case because he said the government suppressed information before the elections which was awkward and only let it out afterwards, then the government has to respond, firstly to set the record straight, and secondly to signal that this is really not the way to carry on a public debate on national issues and especially not in the mainstream media.
As noted earlier, and as explained by mr brown this week, the government’s right of response is not a concern. The concern is the silencing of dissent, through the sacking of mr brown from Today and the refusal of the newspaper to print any further replies in defense of mr brown. This is said here by mr brown.:
I believe the Government has every right to respond to my Humour column. I may disagree with what they say but it is their right to respond.
I also believe in responding in turn to what the Government said in their letter, but my Humour column was suspended immediately after their letter was printed. Perhaps Mediacorp/TODAY did not stand by what they published?
I understand that many people did respond on the matter by writing in to the mainstream press, but none of their letters were published by mainstream media. Not a single one. Some people who wrote to TODAY about the column’s suspension received a templated response to write to MICA instead, even though TODAY were the ones who suspended the column. Strange.
An equally controversial element of the National Day speech was Lee’s comment that he orders his noodles without cockles. While AsiaPundit has not found the moment in the transcript, mr brown has captured the controversial utterance in his latest podcast.
Xenoboy explains the significance:
When PM Lee in his Rally Speech delivers the ultimate punchline to lay the bak chor mee to rest, to signal Government’s engagement with the Digital Age Singaporean, those dreaming of somewhere else, he utters the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum”.
This becomes an instant classic of dis-connect….
Read the whole thing. The disconnect is explained in this passage:
Mee Siam has never had cockles as an ingredient. Two other distinctly Singapore dishes use cockles. Laksa and Fried Kway Teow Noodles. Most Singaporeans know this. Its a fact of life.
To put it simply, most Singaporeans will NOT make this mistake. Its like ordering bak kut teh, another classic Singapore dish, without the soup. Ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the dough. No, actually its worse. Its like ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the spaghetti. In short, the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum” is an oxymoron. Its like one of those chain e-mail wordplay jokes “military intelligence”.
From what I understand, our esteemed national newspaper, the Straits Times, “heard” and interpreted the crucial phrase as “Mee Siam Mai Hiam”; which means hold the chilli. If this “hearing” is correct, than the phrase is meaningless as a direct riposte against the bak chor mee podcast. I guess the ST is not being honest again. Its “hearing” certainly connects with PM Lee but it means all the rest of Singaporeans “heard” wrongly, very dis-connected.
Image taken from Sei-ji Rakugaki’s Sketchbook, a full size and legible version is here.
While we will not discuss it in detail here, Lee’s comments were in reaction to an earlier satirical podcast by mr brown. See Jeff Ooi for more details on that
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Mao: The Unknown Story - by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday:
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