Connect with us


JOM Chief Editor cautions Shanmugam against status quo defence, vows improvement for SG

Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, Jom’s Chief Editor, disagreed with Minister Shanmugam’s recent view on an article by The Economist. He cautioned against ‘whataboutism’ and urged Singaporeans to strive for improvement, not just defend the status quo.



Last Friday (19 April), Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has sharply criticized The Economist for its commentary on Singapore’s political leadership transition.

However, Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, Editor-in-Chief of the online publication JOM, disagreed with the Minister’s characterization of the Economist article.

He suggested that rather than outrightly dismissing critiques from foreign publications, Singaporeans should earnestly consider them as avenues for improvement.

He emphasized the need to move away from a binary comparison between Singapore’s system and others.

The Singaporean media veteran also cautioned against reducing the conversation to “whataboutism” and advocated for Singaporeans to aspire to something better rather than simply defending the status quo.

Minister Shanmugam criticizes The Economist  for its “sneering” critique of Singapore’s political succession

In a Facebook post, Shanmugam expressed disdain for what he perceived as condescension from the British publication, stating that it “can’t resist sneering” at how Singapore manages its political succession.

The Economist’s critique, “Lawrence Wong will be only the fourth PM in Singapore history,” which appeared on 18 April, highlighted that Singapore is on the verge of appointing Lawrence Wong, its fourth Prime Minister in 59 years.

It remarked that Wong “remains relatively unknown among Singaporeans” and was not the first choice of the so-called fourth-generation (4G) leaders. It pointed out that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had previously withdrawn from the race in 2021.

While describing Wong as a “compromise candidate” and a “highly competent former technocrat,” The Economist also suggested that his leadership might lean towards a more collective approach, reaching for consensus even beyond his party.

The Economist’s article implied that Wong’s victory in the upcoming general election is almost certain, attributing it to Singapore’s formidable organization, “unrelenting attacks on the opposition, a docile press, a record of good governance.”

However, the columnist also cautioned Wong about the challenge of gaining moral legitimacy amid demands for fairer growth and more participatory politics from younger Singaporeans.

In response, Shanmugam accused The Economist of harbouring bias rooted in Britain’s historical role as Singapore’s colonial master.

He asserted that British commentators are unsettled by Singapore’s success, noting that “They can’t stand that a people they were accustomed to lecturing are now doing better than they are, across the board.”

Further defending Singapore’s governance, Shanmugam highlighted the nation’s superior economic metrics, with a per capita GDP significantly higher than that of the UK.

Shanmugam pointed out several areas where Singapore outperforms the UK, including governance, economy, media, provision of social services and public safety.

Specifically, he cited Singapore’s low crime rate compared to London and the swift legal action taken against individuals making racist remarks as indicators of social cohesion.

Mr Sudhir’s caution against “whataboutism” in addressing critique

However, Mr Sudhir offered a different perspective from Minister Shanmugam’s interpretation of The Economist’s article and its portrayal of Singapore.

Commenting on the Minister’s Facebook post, Mr Shudhir noted that The Economist article provided a good summary of Lawrence Wong’s situation.

He highlighted that the columnist spoke highly of Lawrence Wong, even mentioning the likelihood of the ruling party winning the upcoming election, among other factors contributing to the securing of the PAP government, including a record of good governance.

“Many of us Singaporeans would agree with the above line, including acknowledging the PAP’s record of good governance,” Mr Sudhir noted.

However, he pointed out that not only is Singapore’s mainstream media docile, but it also appears to be treated more leniently than other media outlets.

He cited an instance where Singapore’s state media the Straits Times published an obvious falsehood about the WP last week, yet faced no public action or condemnation.

Last Wednesday, Pritam Singh, Leader of the Opposition and Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party refuted a claim made on an ST opinion pierce suggesting WP aims to form Govt in the next GE.

Following this, the ST acknowledged this error, issued a correction, and apologized to WP. Dr Gillian Koh, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore, who penned the article also personally apologised to Mr Singh over the issue.

While Mr. Sudhir acknowledged that there are many problems with most media systems around the world, including the UK’s, he suggested that it’s more helpful when foreign publications comment on the city-state to smile and just take on board what they say, keeping what’s useful and figuring out how Singaporeans can improve our system.

“It’s not a binary, our current way or theirs. We can aspire to something better, ” said Mr Sudhir.

He also cautioned against solely comparing Singapore, a small city-state with a population of 6 million, to larger countries like the UK with populations of 66 million.

He suggested that focusing only on specific points of criticism from larger countries can lead to a form of “whataboutism”, where instead of addressing the issues raised, one deflects criticism by pointing out flaws in others.

“There is a risk that our sneer is far worse than any of theirs,” Mr Sudhir warned.

Yeoh Lian Chuan, a Singaporean lawyer, echoed Mr. Sudhir’s sentiment, noting that he also holds a different view from the Minister regarding The Economist’s article.

He found it to be a fair and reasonable summary. Indeed, if the passage to which the Minister took umbrage was the one cited, the statement is likely one that many Singaporeans would agree with.

He advised the minister not to perceive a shadow where none existed.

MCI issued warning to Economist’s Bureau Chief in Sept last year over alleged “interference in Singapore’s domestic politics”

Last September, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) issued a warning to Dominic Ziegler, who is bureau chief for The Economist in Singapore, over “actions that constituted interference in our domestic politics”.

The Ministry’s announcement stemmed from an incident on 25 August when Ziegler publicly endorsed the online publication Jom, where MCI accused Ziegler “compared Singapore to an illiberal state, and encouraged Singaporeans to embrace an alternative vision, instead of what was being offered by the state and an allegedly captive media.”

“It is longstanding Government policy that such foreign interference in our domestic politics will not be tolerated. Singapore politics is reserved only for Singaporeans.”

“Foreign correspondents are free to report and comment on Singapore in their respective publications for a global audience. Ziegler himself has done so regularly,” an MCI statement wrote on 8 September 2023.

Zigler in a statement emphasized the importance of independent media support globally, especially in illiberal states, and contrasted them with “captive media.” Ziegler also commended Jom for presenting alternative visions of Singapore.

Jom is described on its website as a weekly magazine dedicated to Singapore. The publication was co-founded by Charmaine Poh, Tsen-Waye Tay, and Sudhir Vadaketh.

On 6 September 2023, The High Court dismissed appeals by The Inquiry Pte Ltd (TIPL), the operator of Jom, against two correction directions (CDs) it received in July under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The directions were issued after Jom released a “weekly digest” concerning the rental of bungalows on Ridout Road rented by two Cabinet ministers.

Mr Ziegler also authored another article for The Economist, titled “A Slew of Scandals Puts Singapore’s Government on the Back Foot.”

In this piece, he underscored the widespread dismay among Singaporeans regarding the ruling party PAP, shedding light on the challenges and controversies confronting the government.

Share this post via:
Continue Reading
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I personally do not have anything against Shanmugam per se.
Now what I can never accept, is A PAP party full of Jokers, making Millions.
They undermine Us & Still Do Not Protect even The Land. This is something personal.
Now, we all know, some spew shit from their mouths as well.
Let’s VTO.

a dog is always loyal to his master …
how about a well-fed one?

Being born, bred and grown up in the last 50 over years in Singapore, I testify to the fact and the truth that Singapore is not a liberal state. The Press is NOT FREE – atrociously, the SPH and whatever tv or radio stations are mere loyal and obedient pap mouthpiece funded by taxpayers monies. The pap is an extremely intolerant and litigious regime that throughout history to this day had persecuted opposition, bankrupted opposition, jailed opposition by means of RULE BY LAW, not rule of law. The pap regime is super thin skin and always overreacts against the mildest… Read more »

A dog is a dog is a dog all it do is bark & bark & bark on its master’s command & paid millions sleeping his golden gilded kennel – woof woof!!!

I read alot from NDTV

Whenever , it will be the latest about shitgapore

You cant find about the lastest news from shitgapore .

Can the Economist sue KS for the following, I quote this article :

Shanmugam accused The Economist of harbouring bias rooted in Britain’s historical role as Singapore’s colonial master.

He asserted that British commentators are unsettled by Singapore’s success, noting that “They can’t stand that a people they were accustomed to lecturing are now doing better than they are, across the board.”

Look at it this WAY CLEARLY. Analyse critically, SEIVE OUT pre conceived ideas Or BIASED NOTIONS one has over the years DURING WHICH the PAP Very Successfully GOT Sheeps to Give SG Politics DOMINANCE over to them by THREATS, ILLEGALITIES, viz talk politics MUST join political party, and WHEN FACTUAL HONEST statements MADE for the Love of SG as our country, THEY DEMANDED one NOT politicise this politicise that WHEN they TALK everything under the sun on matters THAT Affects ALL of our lives. Where is there such terms and regulations that the PAP THREATENED on Sheeps so successfully. YES.… Read more »

“Good governance?” has to be defined but doesn’t Shanmugam ‘s response reflect the 70% of Singaporeans who suffer or need to be superior to all others in the world. The “we are the best,” compared to A,B,C countries has been sold to Singaporeans and Shanmugam himself seems to have consumed it. So is there anything else needed to be said about the Law Branch of the State? Truly frogs in a well can only see their skyline!

Why Shan makes a mockery to argue facts against Economist – stg related to the EIU tanking Sillypore as world’s most expensive? Likely bcz since there’s no other way Shan can gain some revenge on the poor image painted of SG.

The bully will be none too pleased with this, … assuming that most of SillyPore would be patriotically behind him, … doing battle against The Economist, and standing up for “his” version of the red dot !!!

Very good from the writer – another perspective (half empty half full debate) surely, among others I found that Shan is being very very distasteful, conceited, and looking down on others (to get others to look up his, as a juxtapose mind wash). In fact one Gutzy reader simply pointed out SOME IMPORTANT, CRITICAL difference, viz British press, private owned with Shit Times press ‘PAP CONTROLLED, Citizens OWNED’ – this IN ITSELF IS A MONUMENTAL FACT that has the Effect of SQUEEZING the Black Small Balls of Shan into position (know your stance, U are NOT to gloat down on… Read more »