Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Singapore Democratic Party skippered by Dr. Chee Soon Juan was one opposition party in Singapore that stood out from the others.
The public saw Dr. Chee as a student of men such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr; men who believed that unjust governments should be confronted by all possible peaceful means under the law, the principle one being the constitutional right of peaceful civil disobedience to unjust laws.
He truly believed, at least that was what I thought, that the truth will eventually overcome injustice and all tyrants will crumble under it's weight and the enslaved will be set free.
We thought that he believed and still does that all laws enacted by governments are not necessarily just. There are some just laws and other unjust. The just laws should be obeyed and the unjust ones such as the criminalization of free speech and expression should be disobeyed and there is nothing wrong in that.
And we were filled with admiration and respect for his several protests and public speeches deliberately breaking unjust laws for which he was repeatedly arrested and jailed.
And many including myself were drawn to the SDP as opposed to any other opposition party in Singapore primarily because of the courage shown by Chee, lacking in the others, to confront Lee without fear or hesitation without regard for his personal safety or happiness, fearlessly championing the rights of his fellow Singaporeans.
Lately the Singapore Democratic Party under Dr. Chee seems to be a very different party altogether, almost unrecognizable. Since the Tak Boleh Tahan protests of 2008, there has not been a single instance of civil disobedience, not a single public protest, not a single attempt to galvanise the masses to demand democratic change.
Except for it's online party blog which has been very active with reports, news and opinions and the holding meetings and speeches in private premises, we no longer see a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King Jr. on the streets of Singapore anymore.
It would not be inaccurate to say that today, the interested observer will see no real difference in the policies and doctrine of the different opposition political parties of Singapore, with the Singapore Democratic Party no different in essence from the others.
None of them believe in the principles of non violent struggle by the breaking unjust laws, content with making criticisms of the ruling party in the hope that Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP will one day heed their call and bring about some change.
Lee Kuan Yew's principle tool for repression of his people is the use of the law to silence dissent. Yet no single opposition party dares to publicly state that the government should stop misusing the law. Even though every single party knows that Singapore judges are corrupt, not a single party dares to openly state that it is so.
No single party dares to hold a peaceful demonstration protesting the misuse of the legal system, even though they all know that this is how Singapore is run, the reason being that the Singapore Democratic Party just as the others fear the dire consequences if they did that.
The Singapore Democratic Party just as the others complain that they are a fear ridden society, yet they are not prepared to shed the fear themselves and openly and publicly challenge the PAP.
It is the same with every single constitutional violation that is a daily occurrence under their very noses, yet not a single party including the Singapore Democratic Party dares to openly mount a challenge or resistance because they fear and therefore they refuse to act.
In fact Tan Jee Say, an SDP's election candidate who lost, actually told reporters before the elections that he was happy to see that Dr. Chee has "mellowed" over time, that he was not so confrontational as before, meaning that he has stopped using civil disobedience as a tool to bring about political change, and that his image in the public has been rehabilitated as a less confrontational human being, as if it was a desired quality.
In fact another of his candidates Michelle Lee was allegedly reported to have said, when Chee was falsely accused of going on a public protest at one of the recent election rallies that if he ever did that again, she would leave the SDP.
What is even more telling was that Chee himself has said that he now feels that actions of civil disobedience were no longer his preferred political action for change when he said that he was told by many that his actions were too far ahead of present day Singapore, and therefore ineffective.
Chee and the SDP should keep in mind that many were attracted to them especially because they were different from the others. They alone had the courage to stand up to the brunt of the PAP unlike the others who would make the necessary noises but back off when it really mattered.
If the SDP and Chee now decide to become just like the rest and moderate their criticism so as not to anger the powers to be, this would be a very bad let down on what we thought Chee and the SDP really stood for.
At least for me, what matters most is not getting into Parliament because if even if you do, and you are afraid to confront injustice without fear, it means nothing in the end.
We have seen the Workers Party's Low and the SDA's Chiam in Parliament for decades, but they have not been able to bring about a single instance of democratic change. Now we have 6 more Workers Party MPs in Parliament but I don't see them being able to do anything from the way they operate. Low, Sylvia Lim and the 3 other new entrants are going the make their usual speeches, Lee Kuan Yew's son is going to promptly ignore them and they will go home and come back the next day for another round of speeches.
Pritam Singh of the Worker's Party has made some fine speeches and criticisms during the election rallies, but if indeed he really said or did anything meaningful, I am sure that if the government would not have him removed through false criminal charges, Low himself would have silenced him.
From the opposition political scene in Singapore, the way it now appears, with Chee's SDP no different from the other opposition political parties, it really seems unnecessary to have multiple political parties because they are all basically the same, since their aspirations are all the same. They all want democracy and freedom, just like the Reform Party or the Workers Party or the NSP.
Unlike in the the UK for instance where the Labor Party is distinctively different from the Liberals which is center right, or the Conservatives which is right wing, Singapore's opposition appear all the same except for the men who run them. Ultimately in Singapore, it all boils down to whom I like, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Low Thia Khiang, Goh Meng Seng or Chee Soon Juan.
One should not be tailoring one's philosophy or principles to enable one to enter Parliament, because that way you would have lost both the Parliamentary seat and your principles in the process. What one should do is to stick to one's principles regardless whether you win now or you lose, because what matters is your own belief that your principes are right, and the knowledge that right will eventually succeed and when it does, it will be permanent.
Alas, I am sad to say Chee's Singapore Democratic Party is just the same as any other opposition political party of Singapore. So if you like him, join him. If you don't then join Jeyaretnam if you prefer or anyone else as you please because noone has the courage or the willingness to take on the PAP on it's injustices where it matters.
Attorney at Law
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