Thursday, June 2, 2011

Where has the Singapore Democratic Party gone

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.

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

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tearsunderstars said...

"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."

It was untrue. The mainstream media lied about what she said, as their usual tactics to smear opposition.

TR asked on her facebook:
Michelle, TNP published an article on page 12 today in which you appeared to denounce Dr Chee: "I felt what he was doing was not helpful."

You comment is not very helpful as it is used by TNP again to smear the party by harping on SDP's past in 'civil disobedience'. Regardless of your personal view, it should be kept within the party.

Michelle replied:

Dear TR,

Unfortunately TNP does not accurately report what was said and what happened. I am very disappointed with their reporting. I am also disappointed that anyone would lend credibility to anything they report.

I do not want to dwell further on their report and thereby lend credibility to this non-issue. At this stage of the campaign we all need to be focusing on the issues at stake for our nation.


Back to the issue, unfortunately that's how Singaporeans want it. I don't feel sad for SDP, I feel sad for the Singaporeans.

Gopalan Nair said...

To tearsunderstars,

If in fact the Singapore media lied about that claim, which we all know they are very capable of doing, I accept that you did not say it.

As to your comment "You comment is not very helpful as it is used by TNP again to smear the party by harping on SDP's past in 'civil disobedience'. Regardless of your personal view, it should be kept within the party" I cannot follow the argument.

You appear to misunderstand the purport and purpose of Singapore Dissident. It is to bring about political change for a more democratic Singapore and this blog serves a very useful purpopse.

As to whether the state controlled media of Singpaore has lied in any particular instance, it is impossible to tell. And neither is it possible to argue that every single claim made by that state controlled media is untrue either. So Singapore Dissident will continue to use whatever media or Internet information that it finds plausible and if such as in this case, if I had got it wrong, I would be pleased to say so as well.

But I am not prepared to keep anything within or without the party as my duty lies not with the Singpaore Democratic Party but to Singapore. But of course I wish the SDP and Chee well.

Your statement "You comment is not very helpful as it is used by TNP again to smear the party by harping on SDP's past in 'civil disobedience'" shows you have completely misunderstood my position, and that my understanding of your stand has proven correct.

Your statement obvioulsy indicates that you consider Chee's past record of civil disobedience a disadvantage and a smear on the SDP's record. I on the other hand consider that to be the greatest achievement of the SDP and something that they should be proud of.

Let me once again state that I believe that civil disobedience is the answer to Singapore's problems and not going the route of the Workers Party or the others, by merely making speeches and going home.

tearsunderstars said...

TR = Temasek Review team by the way.

Only this statement is my comment: Back to the issue, unfortunately that's how Singaporeans want it. I don't feel sad for SDP, I feel sad for the Singaporeans.

Gopalan Nair said...

To tearsunderstars,

I find it at pains to know how you seem to know what Singaporeans want!

tearsunderstars said...

Well, I have observed so far on Facebook that some people are happy that Dr Chee stopped protesting amd that SDP has "revamped their image" this election. I recall that even during one of the SDP's workshop, someone asked him not to practise civil disobedience (source from Teo Soh Lung's Facebook). I've been around Temasek Review and the oppositions' facebook for some time to read that people still disliked him for being lunatic to protest and all.

However these people are at conflict with themselves. They hate the PAP for all sorts of reasons but do not support Dr Chee's acts of civil disobedience. In other words they want democracy but don't like Dr Chee's most effective way to get it.

Gopalan Nair said...

You may or may not be true. For me that is beside the point. One does not tailor one's actions to comport with the prevailing opinion. One should do what is right, regardless of the outcome. I may be wrong but I say and do what I think.

Sadly I think you have fallen into the trap that the PAP has set.

Let me re-hash what I say all along. There are many, even if not vocal, who believe in the power of civil disobedience, not only in Singapore but around the world. I am one of the few vocal Singaporeans who say it.

As in anything in life, right trumps the unjst. That must be trite. Second these things do not take masses. The masses just follow the lone protester.

And I am sure, you yourself, if you see a protest in sufficient numbers would join in.

And that is the answer to the whole thing. Not just saying that facebook and other such things indicate otherwise.

mycroft said...

At the Epsom Derby on 4 June 1913, Emily Wilding Davison a militant women's suffrage activist and member of Emily Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union threw herself under the hooves of King George V's horse and was trampled to death for her cause. As we speak, Liu Xia, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife, weeps for her human rights activist husband currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in the PRC and cries: "It's time we stopped treating words as crimes!" He might well not survive imprisonment. She, too, is under never-ending harassment by the Chinese Communist party.

For me, the troubling question is: "Do we really want to see Dr Chee similarly beat himself to a bloody pulp against LKY's police state again and again for our amusement and benefit while we enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice from the safety of the sidelines?" Personally, I don't. He has already endured much over the last 20 years so what gives us the right to ask that of him and his family one more time? Frankly, I think Singaporeans haven't earned that privilege and don't deserve a person like him.

On 7th May 2011, Singaporeans knowingly handed the keys to the city to the Lee's, AGAIN, to plunder as they wish and with that they lost all claim to ask for any further favours from Dr Chee, in my opinion. Unlike the poor, uneducated masses galvanised by Gandhi and Mandela, we cannot claim that we were ignorant of the incumbent's ugly history, can we? The Burmese people at least recognise Aung San's tremendous bravery and have risen time and again to shed their own blood in the streets in solidarity with her. By contrast most Singaporeans of today for all their pretentious trappings of affluence, education and sophistication, show no such courage and therefore stand unworthy.

I think Dr Chee is being politically astute by recognising that there is a time and a place for open street protest and that it should be used judiciously and timed with surgical precision for maximum effect. The runup to this election was not that time. In refusing to allow himself and the SDP from becoming the customary sitting ducks, PAP was deprived of a hapless sacrificial goat for the first time in its history and in seeking to manufacture one (a la James Gomez) to distract people from the real election issues, they fumbled and dropped the ball embarrassingly in front of a mocking nation. LKY in particular was at a loss without a ready-made victim to bully and lo and behold, the hidden ugly face of the true despot soon showed as he arrogantly talked down to citizens, threatened the voters of Aljunied, petulantly told Chen Show Mao to 'go back to China' and was forced to issue a public apology to the Malay community. Score 1 for Dr Chee.

I think the SDP is beginning to appreciate that age has rendered the PAP cat sclerotic in its responses and it can no longer catch any mouse that avoids flagrantly pulling its whiskers and tweaking its nose. There's more than one way to skin it. Thus carefully calibrated public protests coupled with the intellectual argument will eventually win the trust of those that have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. All others will continue to Pay And Pay cash.

Gopalan Nair said...

Sorry but you misunderstood. I have never said Dr. Chee should be the only one protesting and getting arrested. God knows he has suffered enough. But it doesn't take too much for someone among the millions today to hold up a placard somewhere and gets arrested. You know the most that will happen is a court appearance and a small fine. Someone else tomorrow and someone else the next day. It is not too hard.

And with the same happening often enough, it becomes a common sight, and hopefully a common sight becomes a flood.

And even if it did not become a flood, it is still far more damaging to the ruling party than anything else.

I personally know from the SDP website of Seelan Pallay's and Kai Sinong's protest and arrest. They simply let them go.

Lee Kuan Yew unlike Gadaffi is simply incapable of shooting or torturing anyone. He is too afraid of being strung up at the war crimmes tribunal in the Hague.

An insident here, an insident there and it becomes islandwide. You must see the particualr advantage of this sort of action in a built up island like Singapore. Even if noone took any pictures, the news would have still spread anyway from Block 101 to Block 102.

And on top of that with sufficient rumor mongering, you can finish the job.

But I am certain you are going to see protests very soon. If any Singaporean speaks out against such activity, it is the effectiveness of Lee's Fifth Column that is enabling it. Not because Singaporeans are unlike anyone else in the world.

Anonymous said...

The difference between you and CSJ is that Chee saw the light, you still didn't and is still fumbling in the darkness thousands of miles away, shooting off your mouth faster than your brain.

Gopalan Nair said...

I have put up the ad hominum attack. Again these are either the same person or serveral people employed by the Singapore govevrnment that are clearly worried over the effect that criticism over the Internet has over their continued hold on power.

Previouly I used to just delete them but periodically it is necessary to put them up to show how worried the Lee Kuan Yew administration has become.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gopalan,

Your ranting is really very shallow and immature. You are also a coward posting from the comfort and safety of San Fancisco. And to think you even dare to condemn and brand others who are made of sterner stuff than you

Gopalan Nair said...

Another comment from that anonymous gentlemen from Lee Kuan Yew's cyber force that they use to discredit their critics. With these sort of comments, they don't seem to be achieving much.

Anonymous said...

Singaporean with a little bit of brains and not robots would know that what Mr. Gopalan has been saying all this time is true. If not LKY would have use all the $$$ and power he has under his control to sue him in California.

Think about that!