Friday, February 16, 2007

Singapore. A depressing prospect.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prospect is indeed depressing. We have 2 elected opposition members in Parliament who have clearly shown by their actions during their entire tenure in Parliament, last 20 years or so, that all they will do is to give moderated speeches on moderated subjects acceptable to the PAP and nothing else. They do not instill much confidence, full stop.

Dr. Chee of the SDP appeared our only hope. But since the last protest before the CPF Building and the recent freedom walk and the Hong Lim protest walk, we have not had any more real action. I believe from reliable sources that this inaction is due to his fear that Singaporeans might be put off from supporting his party, by such things as public civil disobedience, due to their fear that public disorder will cause the country to become unstable resulting in the possible departure of foreign investment, upon which the country relies.

What we do have is a great deal of criticism on the web on the repressive actions of the PAP government against their people. With so much writing and nothing more, I am beginning to question whether the Singapore opposition is only alternative journalism and nothing more than that. If that it is all it is going to be, and nothing more, they will not be able to bring about any change for the better anytime soon or perhaps not at all.

Of course we are grateful for this information. Their writing these things is absolutely essential as an alternative to the government controlled media. But surely, an opposition party should do more than just being an information agency. I am sure that Dr. Chee does not believe that with such constant criticism the people will themselves one day, finally decide that enough is enough, take to the streets and bring down Lee and Company. Second, I am sure he knows that even if the people one day decide to vote for the opposition in massive numbers, the opposition will still not form the government, because Lee or his son will not permit it. Since Dr. Chee knows all this, should he not be doing something more than just informing us about the terrible state of politics in Singapore.

History has taught us a few lessons. One, neither Gandhi or any other freedom fighter managed to move things on his own. He got the people to perform those actions necessary to move the country. He managed and persuaded others to act in ways that is necessary to bring about change. Two, anyone who has taken on the burden to bring about change, must also accept that there is some pain associated with it. Pain for oneself and for others. If Cuba today suddenly decided to embrace capitalism, we all know that there will be even more suffering temporarily than what exists now, until the country stabilizes into the capitalism mode. Russia with the sudden onset of capitalism suffered greatly for a little, much more than they suffered under communism. The country finally became stable and today it is doing exceptionally well.

Dr. Chee therefore has to accept this. It is very likely, that an attempt to take on the PAP by unconventional but peaceful means will cause many to misunderstand him, even dislike him, through their ignorance of his actions. Singapore might even become unstable both economically and politically. But such hardship is worth taking, since it is a step in the right direction towards change for the better, empowering the people and strengthening the pillars of civil society, making the people political persons. All this is good. It is bitter medicine which has to be taken.

Otherwise each morning, I will read the SDP web page, I will know that the Thais are upset with us, that the Indonesians are upset with us, that Singapore was declared one of the least democratic of countries in the world by some respected organization in Finland and so on and so forth. It is a great source of valuable information. But beyond that, to the question, what is the Singapore opposition doing for change, I will have to say nothing. Since what they have done so far has been shown to be insufficient.

I was born in Singapore. I have done my national service. I am as much Singaporean as any other. Of course I would like to see Singapore as a democracy which I can be proud of. I have a responsibility to that country. It therefore pains me, with disappointment and hopelessness when I see nothing happening there which will give the slightest indication of any hope. And in this, I blame the opposition politicians more than anyone else. It is they who have accepted their positions as leaders of the opposition. The burden is on their shoulders. It is they who should discharge it. It is they who must act. And act now.

What I see is, sadly, inaction. Indecision. Unwillingness either to take the country either upwards or downwards. Unwillingness to do anything, and instead they freeze, and do nothing, contemplating that either this or that action might not go well with the people.

Of course I have great admiration for Dr. Chee who has courageously stood up fearlessly against the government's onslaught and suffered terribly as a result. He is also doing a great service by letting the public know the evil that goes on with the PAP administration. Many in Singapore and abroad admire and respect him. I support him in what he does. But I would like him to take the next step that is necessary for the country, because without that next step, it does not appear that Singapore will be any different tomorrow or the day after.

I think that opposition should act on what is right. Not necessarily on whether the action proposed will likely result in the immediate future of adverse consequences or positive advantage. It is the long term goal that matters. Not whether civil disobedience today will tend to alienate some voters.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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