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Oct 20, 2005
Govt should distinguish between substance, form
I REFER to the letter, 'Don wasn't non-partisan in his analysis' (ST, Oct 14), by Mr Chen Hwai Liang, the Press Secretary to the Prime Minister.
Mr Chen seems adamant about imposing the partisan tag on Dr Cherian George by virtue of the fact that his analysis was based on an earlier academic paper which Mr Chen sees as partisan.
There are two problems with this argument. Firstly, the presumption of partisanship is justified by quotes that were taken out of context from the academic paper. Dr George clearly states that there exist 'gaps in our understanding of authoritarian rule' because of normative and conceptual reasons, and the paper was an attempt to bridge such gaps by 'focusing on the state' and 'taking seriously authoritarian rule'.
Secondly, to judge Dr George's intention in writing the article ('Managing civil disobedience'; ST, Oct 10) using a perceptual judgment (that I have attempted to refute) of an earlier paper by Dr George is faulty logic at best; it assumes the objective truism of such a judgment that is necessarily normative in nature.
Later in his letter, Mr Chen argues against all remonstrations that Dr George had commended the strategy of civil disobedience, when the latter merely suggested that the strategy is a mere 'predictable response'.
Certainly, one would not think that a doctor is commending the impending death of his incurable patient by stating reasons as to why such an outcome is medically predictable. Yet, such is the logic that is applied here.
I am pleased to be assured that the Government's response will depend on substance rather than form, but I urge the Government to make a clear and accurate distinction between the two.
Kelvin Chia Kwok Wai