In an exclusive video conference interview last evening, States Times Review’s editor Alex Tan uncovered his actual intent behind the shutting down of STR.
Singapore Herald (SH): The Singapore government is notably shaken by your article linking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the former Malaysian PM. This is the first time in 3 years they ordered a direct ban on a news website – interestingly the ban 3 years ago involved The Real Singapore which you were also an editor for. Were you expecting such a strong response i.e. a ban, from the government?
STR Alex Tan (AT): I wouldn’t say I am surprised (about the ban) considering that the General Elections is coming. As you rightfully pointed out, the ban 3 years ago coincided with the GE in 2015 – it is hence obvious taking down independent news media is a set up for the election. You could be next you know.
SH: Yes perhaps. I would be more careful. So you are saying that the ban is an election move?
AT: No doubt. 2021 is GST year, so they will move the election away as far as possible. I am pretty sure the next GE is coming in 2019.
SH: Do you think your offending article, “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s investigation target” on Nov 5, is accurate?
AT: Of course it is. I merely linked the events that happened at the four-years – 2011 to 2015 – and delivered a reasonable theory explaining to people “look its all linked, Singapore getting 1500% discount is not a coincidence, the High Speed Rail is not a coincidence, and the stolen funds from Malaysia 1MDB funds flowing into eight Singapore banks is definitely not a coincidence.”
Let’s think the other way: if the events are unrelated, could anyone reasonably explain each event by itself? Why did Najib Razak agree to give Singapore a huge discount, and Lee Hsien Loong who was privy to the water treaty discussion did not raise an issue? Somebody just did you a huge favour and you don’t ask “what’s the catch? what do you want me to do for you in return?” Why did Najib Razak agree to the High Speed Rail with Singapore, knowing he could not afford it? And the most important question of all: how did the billions of stolen 1MDB funds get into Singapore, considering that the banking system is now fully digitalised? Everything is recorded, every transaction has a time stamp, and how did over S$3 billion get transferred without the government knowing is just a huge mystery. They knew about it, they kept quiet until they got called out in 2015.
SH: And the Singapore government refused to contest the points you raised.
AT: This is exactly right. If any part is wrong or unfounded, contest it. Prove that I am wrong, but they can’t. Simple as that.
SH: Several international news media have carried your article and faced similar threats from the Singapore government. The interesting part is that none of them agree to comply with the Singapore government either. And Facebook, even openly declined the government’s request. What do you think of this?
AT: It goes to show that the Singapore government has not delivered a reasonable explanation to the public. Everyone rather believes Alex Tan than the Singapore government is what is happening. The dictatorship has lost its credibility, nobody actually blindly takes in every word they say anymore. This is the Internet age, a platform where ideas are openly debated, not a place where the old order of censorship and propaganda would have control over.
SH: Many Singaporeans have came out in support of your move, and asked you to continue writing. Why did you choose not to continue? You are welcomed to write for Singapore Herald 🙂
AT: Hahah no thank you. I actually long wanted to stop writing because of my life in Australia. I just had a baby girl and I would like to spend more time with her.
SH: You could still write part-time, like ad-hoc basis.
AT: Nah. Part of the reason I shut down States Times Review is because I want to transit into an Aussie life. I want to learn more about the country that adopted me, their politics, current affairs and contribute in that direction.
SH: You mean you want to write Australian news now?
AT: Maybe. I am taking a break now, just focusing on my job and my girl.
SH: A lot of people believe you are making a lot of money from States Times Review, is it true?
AT: That is rubbish. If I want to make money, I am better off working in a A$20 minimum wage job in Macdonalds than writing. The amount of effort and time I put in STR is too much for what I am getting. You have to keep yourself updated to current affairs, read every single piece of news, read every government pdf report, interpret excel data sheets and statistics, read what others are saying on the forums – your head literally get jammed up with all these information. Then there is writing, there is the writer’s block, and some days you just hate writing. You have to be a “reasonable beast” – you know, delivering impact in your writing yet being reasonable and logical at the same time. It is like playing the piano: hitting the right keys is only the basic any player can do that, but delivering emotions is the ingredient to a good article.
SH: Many said it is a waste of your talent to stop now. Will you continue writing in the future?
AT: My answer is no at the moment, not for the next year or so I believe.
SH: Will you write for Singapore Herald?
AT: Hahah you wish. Good luck mate, you’re on your own.