Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew government in its state controlled newspaper Straits Times on Feb 29, 2008 reports "Protests may be allowed at Speakers' Corner". Don’t be fooled. This is yet another attempt to continue restriction of Singaporean’s human right of free expression, not expand it. Not only that, if you really think about it; it is utterly ridiculous.
Yet again, this authoritarian government where every aspect of society is controlled by the state; including newspapers, the courts, the judges, the entire Parliament, and everything else in between; continues with its nonsensical rules, reasons and explanations fit only for the pages of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Since 1959, the date when Lee Kuan Yew came to power, his government has never allowed even one dissenting protest to take place. Of course, Lee Kuan Yew himself and his ruling party have held as many protests as they want; but not even one by the opposition was allowed. This is despite the fact that the constitution specifically gives Singaporeans the right of assembly; which right Lee has continued to ignore.
Recently Lee Kuan Yew and his son's government have come under increasing pressure in this regard. Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his political party have clearly begun to become a thorn in Lee Kuan Yew's flesh which is becoming increasingly difficult to dislodge.
Unlike the majority of Singaporeans, a small but growing number of them, including Dr. Chee, have finally decided that they are going to exercise their right enshrined in the Constitution. They are going to publicly protest the glaring injustices that Singaporeans suffer with or without the government's blessing.
So we have seen at the most recent protest on March 15, 2008 in front of Parliament House; the ugly spectacle of police brutality and police lawlessness when they used excessive force, manhandled and dragged unarmed peaceful citizens into waiting police vans, almost breaking the fingers of Chee Siok Chin one protestor and causing another, John Tan, a diabetic to almost suffer a heart attack.
And all this being watched by hundreds of passing onlookers at a busy intersection in Singapore, next to a busy shopping mall; not to mention the thousands, if not millions of both Singaporeans and foreigners, thanks to the Internet.
March 15, 2008 protest in front of Parliament House, called "Ta Boleh Tahan", which means "I cannot take it anymore" in Malay; was the last of a series of public protests which have been gaining both momentum and in numbers. In a country, not much different from North Korea in political style, where every citizen lives in fear, this last protest of 50 people shows that more and more Singaporeans are willing to publicly protest and are not allowing their fear of Lee Kuan Yew to stop them anymore.
Lee Kuan Yew now finds himself in a quandary. Dr. Chee is not prepared to let up, no matter what Lee Kuan Yew throws at him. As you know he has been bankrupted a number of times, gone to prison several times, he has been prevented from traveling, denied a passport and thrown out of his job.
Normally a person having gone through this much pain, would normally be expected to give up. And Lee Kuan Yew and his son, the Prime Minister thought so too. But the problem, which they never expected, is this. This Dr. Chee has turned out to be one tough nut to crack! And what is worse, the bulldog within this man is causing many others to emulate him.
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has finally found out that it is not just one stubborn prize fighter that he has to face but 50 others with their number steadily increasing. Yap Keng Ho, Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Chia Ti Lik and Lawrence Chua, Seelan Pallay, are some like Dr. Chee who have decided they will fight Lee no matter Hell or High Water.
Facing this unstoppable demand from the people for their rights which they have been denied so far; we see this government making their typical lame attempts in desperation to somehow placate the enraged Singaporean. And as expected of this government which has clearly lost its bearings; it is suggesting some nonsence as a favor to the people. Treating Singaporeans no better than children, they are suggesting that protests might be allowed at Speakers Corner at Hong Lim Park; as harebrained a suggestion as any harebrained suggestion will go.
Anyone can see, this is no concession at all by this authoritarian government. Protests are intended to show the world that some injustice is happening at a certain place. For instance if you are protesting against unjust laws, the best location will be the Parliament House, since that is where they make laws. If you want to protest against HDB price rises, you may want to protest outside the HDB office in Toa Payoh. If you want to protest against CPF policies, you may want to do it outside the CPF Building in Robinson Road. If you want to protest against the unacceptably high salary that is being paid to Lee Kuan Yew, you may want to protest outside his house at 10 Oxley Rise, Singapore 090001 where this dictator lives.
What is the point of asking the unjust laws protestor, the HDB protestor, the CPF protestor and the Lee Kuan Yew protestor to go and protest several miles away in Hong Lim Park where Speakers Corner is located?
Look at the Constitution. It says Singaporeans have a right to assemble. It does not say, Singaporeans have a right to assemble at Speakers Corner at Hong Lim Park. In any case, is not plain nonsensical and comical for a man to be standing at a specific location called Speakers Corner in Hong Lim Park in protest against his illegal sacking from his job as a welder at Sembawang Shipyard, 20 miles away nearer the Malaysian waterfront?
And is it not time for someone to suggest to Wong Kan Seng, the Minister for Home Affairs that he should have his head examined for even suggesting this. I believe, in Wong's case, it was not a problem with his mind at all. He did not care what people think of him. After all he has the patronage of his benefactor Lee Kuan Yew to say or do anything with impunity. At least that is what he has been thinking so far.
My answer to Wong Kan Seng is no. This won’t do. And I am sure Dr. Chee and Company is with me on this. We are not prepared to restrict our protests to Speakers Corner. Thanks but no thanks. The Constitution gives us the right. It is not restricted to Speakers Corner. Had it been so, the Constitution would have said so.
I am sure the message of Dr. Chee, Gandhi, Siok Chin, Yap, Ti Lik, Seelan and the other 50- protestors to Wong Kan Seng is this. Brace yourself. The constitution will finally be resurrected. It was dead so far, but it has come alive once again.
The people will exercise their rights. The next protest is being planned. This time there are going to several hundreds. Be prepared to deploy your riot squad with truncheons, dogs and red marias. Charge and beat up the protestors like you did on March 15, 2008 before Parliament House. And cameramen both local and foreign will have a field day posting the images of police brutality on the Internet. And then tell me, how small you feel.
The march for democracy in Singapore has begun; while in Malaysia they have reached their destination. Singaporeans are slowly turning from sheep into lions.
We can only wait to say this about Singapore. "What a pleasant transformation".
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