Friday, July 26, 2013

Only the right kind of comics are allowed here

The Singapore government is charging Singaporean political cartoonist Leslie Chew for contempt of court.

Apparently the government did not find 4 of his comics funny. The first appeared to accuse Singapore's judiciary of unfairness, a.k.a. "there's a Lite version of the law for certain group of people". The second appeared to imply that we have a Kangaroo Court in Singapore. The third appeared to compare a heavy-handed case of an opposition politician vs light-handed case of a Romanian diplomat. The fourth appeared to question the disparity in sentences meted out to people committing similar crimes.

As always, there're two opposite reactions from the Singaporeans. One group says Chew asked for it for challenging the authorities. Which is a really dangerous stunt to try in Singapore. Another group applauded him for his courage to draw the truth out and even started a petition to have his charges dropped.

So here's my take as a cartoonist. First of all, I find the government very petty to charge a cartoonist (P.S. This is my very personal opinion not meant to prove any point, so please don't sue me). Like, dude, these are cartoons! Why so serious?! Why should you care so much that you have to charge that guy? Well, I think the government should just heck-care that guy. Here's why:
  • Chew's comic strips are only found online, on his site and Facebook page, which means only those only-know-how-to-complain-and-never-get-their-facts-right netizens will read them. The government should not be worried that any good citizen that reads the newspapers and only believes in the newspapers will even go online to read Chew's strips.
  • Chew wrote a disclaimer with every one of his strip. It's a disclaimer! It's that chunk of font size 6 text that you find at the bottom of a very last page of an investment contract that you sign with a bank. That text that says your banker says your investment in this fund will make you lots of money, but if something bad happens and you lost all your money, the bank is not responsible. So why can't we take Chew's disclaimers seriously too? Nobody loses any money anyway.
  • Shouldn't the authorities spend their time on other more urgent cases, like recovering the S$1.76 million tax money that was stolen by some senior CPIB officer? Even if this case has been attended to, shouldn't the government go check on some other officers in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau as well? You know, just in case? (P.S. I'm only thinking, when there is cheating on a test in the class, most of the time more than one classmate is cheating. So maybe this might applies to the real world as well. So please don't sue me)
On the other hand, Chew should also have been more careful with his pen. He should have seen it coming. Look, have you ever seen a political comic strip on the newspapers that mocks Singapore politics or politicians? We'll only publish comic strips that laughs at the U.S., China or any other countries worth laughing at, but we never laugh at ourselves. Definitely not at our own politicians. Our government is really serious and we the ignorant commoners are nobody to laugh at how they do their work.

Chew should have followed these rules when he draws his comic strips:
  • Thou shall not talk about races, languages and religions. We are not like the U.S. and we are not free to talk about these stuff.
  • Thou shall not disclose our dislikes on policies. We are not like the U.S. or Taiwan and we are not free to talk about these stuff.

  • Thou shall not draw characters that look like any Singapore politicians. We are not like Hong Kong and we are not free to draw these people.

So in summary, do I think Chew deserves to be punished? Yes, I think he should, for crossing the holy boundary that no cartoonist has crossed in Singapore, for pushing his luck. And I think he will be because the government definitely wants to prevent more cartoonists from going astray. How should he be punished? I hope not more than SGD1,000. That's the fine for littering, and I don't think his comic strips are as harmful to Singapore's environment as those litters in the lifts, at the bus-stops and on the roads.

So here's what I have on my mind on the Leslie Chew case. Please excuse me now, I'll need to go draw three white mice living happily with their China neighbour.

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