Thursday, February 19, 2015

The next step in Singapore's political evolution. Street protests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yesterday, President Obama in the meeting with world leaders in tackling the curse of ISIS said one of the main causes is due to the lack of opportunities for dissent in totalitarian regimes. When people cannot change their governments through the ballot box, when dissent is crushed and when democracy is absent, that is when you see violence. What he said is equally applicable in Lee's Singapore.

Today Singaporeans have no means to dissent. There is no freedom of the press. It is not possible to print or disseminate newspapers where only state owned and controlled newspapers which contains only praise for the Lees is allowed. Additionally you cannot dissent through peaceful protests. That too is illegal.

To take its place came the Internet. It is strange that although the government is modelled to a large extent on Communist China's one party rule, for some reason they did not prohibit the Internet which has been to a large extent left alone.

Singaporeans denied the right to dissent in any other way, turned to the only avenue available to them, the Internet. Today I don't thing I am far off the mark when I say, 99% of the Internet is anti establishment. Over decades now, the Internet has become increasingly vocal in their criticism. Question is, what will happen next.

Singapore is not anything similar to the Middle Eastern countries where young people have no food, no education and hope, prime grounds for revolutions. Singapore does educate their young, and although there may not be as much hope as in the West, it is far better than being in Somalia or Yemen.

But hopelessness, lack of education and poverty are not the only causes for revolution, the reverse is also equally true. The more educated you are the more aware of your rights you become and the more likely you will stand up to repression. I think this is what is happening now in Singapore.

He is not only aware that he is denied his right to be free, the Singaporean is also aware that he has a right to freedom and democracy. He is very angry that his Prime Minister and his father are one of the most corrupt leaders if not the most in the world because each of them pay themselves $3.7 million a year of tax payer money.

Today the Singapore Internet is full of vitriol and hate directed to Lee Kuan Yew's son, the Prime Minister for suing people for defamation at the slightest criticism in his Kangaroo Courts, like his father, and denying any form of dissent whatsoever. But the people have not yet taken the next logical step which is peaceful protests and demonstrations. They have been content so far to show their anger only through the Internet.

But the years where the government has literally left the Internet alone has taken it's toll, has continued to embolden the citizenry. Twenty years ago, if you had uttered  the slightest of criticism anywhere, you would have been arrested immediately. But today the Internet, you could say is almost free. It seems as if the people are not afraid anymore in the Internet.

The emboldened Singaporean Internet critic will, I believe take the inevitable next step which are street protests. Being educated they know that it is not wrong to peacefully protest even if the government makes it wrong.

Although this next step will inevitably happen sooner or later, let me persuade you to make it sooner. There are crimes and there are "crimes" conveniently labeled for the Lees to continue their grip on power. Simply because Lee calls it a "crime" it does not become one. To stand at Raffles Place at lunch time holding up a banner that reads "Democracy" is not crime. You haven't hurt anyone and none suffers a loss. Therefore you simply cannot call that a crime. You know this, I know this and Lee knows this. As long as Singaporeans understand this, you will have no hesitation to take to the streets in peace, demanding change.

No dictator in the world gave you freedom because you asked for it. They gave you freedom because they could no longer deny it to you because you forced it. Through peaceful protests in Singapore, you can get your freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, all of which is denied to you today.

You have seen how desperate the Lees have become lately and have literally run out of ideas to silence even the handful of known critics who have dared to come out in the open. Roy Ngerng the blogger has been sued but we haven't seen much traction on the case.

It must be a slap in the face for the Lees when Ngerng has suffered no financial loss so far nor will he as a result because of the huge outpouring of financial support he received to pay the Lees Kangaroo Court judgment, whatever it may be. In the end, Ngerng would merely be taking money from his appreciative donors and handing it over to the Lees.

A couple of days ago the editor of The Real Singapore blog, an ardent critic of Lee's dictatorship was arrested. I expect as in every other case of dissent these days, all they can do is to just give him a slap in the wrist and let him go. They know that if they did anymore, it may well open the Pandora's Box and consequent street protests, which has hitherto not happened in the island, something the government is terrified of. The situation for this government is precarious.

For some reason they don't seem to understand that Singapore is not Saddam Hussein's Iraq. You cannot continue to rule an island like Singapore through repression. There will be a backlash which you already see today in the Internet where 99% of it is anti-establishment.

This Singaporean dictatorship will be similarly helpless if you took to the streets peacefully, something they dread. If they are already afraid to come down hard on a single blogger, what do you thing they would do to 10, or 100 or a 1000 protesters? Lock all of them up and throw away the key? Absolutely not. When you do this, you have won and they have finally lost, no doubt about it.

The reader should read my argument, and if you agree act upon it. At the end of the day, the question simply is this. Do you love your country or you don't. If you do you cannot sit around and wait for the next elections. You have to do something now. And that something is peaceful street protests.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525


Anonymous said...

When are you going to comment on Kuan-Yew Lee in ICU? I can't wait to hear you ranting and bitching, keep them going... You must be very happy.

John Chew

Peter said...

Lee said that he had signed an Advance Medical Directive, a legal document informing doctors that a patient does not want the use of any life-sustaining treatment to prolong his life in the event he becomes terminally ill and unconscious and where death is imminent.

"If I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit," he wrote.

Bobby said...

Why don't you lead by example and follow your own advice: go to Singapore and start protesting. You encourage the populace to challenge the Lee's autocratic rule, but will you ever dare to challenge the existing social-order in Singapore again or was one experience being caught in a cul de sac facing MM Lee too much?

Gopalan Nair said...

To Bobby,
I would very much like to do what you say but it is not possible. Since I was arrested and jailed in 2008 in Singapore for writing a blog critical of the Singapore judiciary while I was physically in Singapore, I was arrested, jailed and deported. The conditions of my deportation were that being an American citizen, although born in Singapore, I cannot enter Singapore unless I obtain a visa.

Although it is technically possible to obtain a visa, although highly unlikely, if I were to ever enter Singapore, there would be no doubt I would be arrested again and detained for a long time. Although I would not have minded this had I been living in Singapore, such an eventually is impossible for me to take, since I have an active legal practice in the States, and it would be unforgivable for me to abandon them again, as I did in 2008 during my long absence.

As for my writing now, I am in a particularly advantageous position. I can write whatever I want while the Singapore Kangaroo Courts are powerless to punish me here. Neither are they in a position to demand my extradition. On the other hand, as my blog is principally directed to the Singaporean reader which they are reading, I am in a position to influence the path of Singaporeans towards democracy. This in my opinion is a noble honorable endeavor which I am pleased to have the opportunity to undertake. And which I continue to do.

I trust this answers your question.

Anonymous said...

You might want to comment on the "Scandalizing the Judiciary" conviction -