Saturday, September 12, 2015

Singapore Democratic Party's Chee Soon Juan has lost again at the elections. Why?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the last 25 years, almost an entire career, Chee Soon Juan, the highly educated and passionate politician wanting to bring democratic change to Singapore island has consistently failed in all elections. The question is why.

I was born and educated and was persecuted by the regime in the island for opposing their authoritarian government. I understand the system well to make this evaluation.

Singapore island today is a business center, where the educated and skilled upper and middle class do reasonably well, on condition they do not openly challenge the regime. On the whole, they have no qualms with the government.

Then there is almost a third of the population who live at or below the poverty line eking out a living. The second important fact is that people generally are not political philosophers and thinkers and they don't generally care too much about ideals such as democracy or human rights, as long as they can get by. And in Singapore although there are no human rights, the rule of law or an independent judiciary, these things do not resonate so much on the island's people as would bread and butter issues.

Chee Soon Juan has claimed all along to be a champion of the oppressed poor, of which there is a sizable population in the island.

The problem with him is that although he articulates the problems of the oppressed and makes speeches, writes learned treatises and blogs on the issue, expecting his people to read them and consequently support him, he does not really do anything tangible to alleviate their problems.

He appears to think that as long as you articulate these issues and problems and the need for change, the people would naturally gravitate towards him and make him their hero. This is where the fallacy lies.  This is where he is wrong.

The other problem is Chee Soon Juan himself. He is not a man who is capable of forming his own opinions on the issues and follow it through regardless of what his supporters say. Instead he sways with the wind, doing one thing at times and changing tack completely because his supporters had told him otherwise.

Chee Soon Juan should know by now that half of his so called supporters are in fact Lee Kuan Yew's embedded moles whose job is to see to it that he destroys himself. I have grave suspicions of such people as Jeffrey George who is one of Chee's political handymen. He runs around seemingly running errands for Chee and goading him on on a path that takes him nowhere.

To give an example, Chee espousing the ideals of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela had set about a sustained course of civil disobedience believing, and rightly so, that without democracy, there is no point in elections. He believed and righlty so, that the first thing you have to address is democracy, from which all other grievances will be redressed.

Suddelnly post 2008, Chee changed tack althother. He gave up civil disobedience in the pursuit of democracy altogether, and decided to work to get into parliament simply by persuasion, but complying with the unjust laws that prevent him any space to achieve it.

Remember, Singapore has no right to free speech, expression or assembly and the courts are mere Kangaroo courts. His reason was that his supporters told him otherwise and he has to listen to his supporters. To give effect to his purpose, that he has given up on civil disobedience altogether, he purged anyone who supported him in that aim. Gandhi Ambalam his Chairman, Seelan Palay, Kai Xiong and many others were unceremoniously shown the door. I too was sent to Coventry.

Now having moderated his stand, presumably not to antagonize the government, given up on civil disobedience and played according to the PAP's rules, he finds himself not only having lost, but his support greatly diminished.

My advice to Chee Soon Juan is this. First you identify the problem. Then you look to means to solve the problem. And most importantly forget about focusing on getting into parliament, but instead focus on trying to be a champion of the people because once he achieves that, he will undoubtedly enter parliament. By focusing on trying to get into parliament without first creating a solid support base on the ground, he is effectively placing the cart before the horse.

A lot can be learned from leaders such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King. If Gandhi and Mandela had decided to work with the authorities, like Chee has decided to do, write learned treatises, blog posts and gave speeches at foreign universities like Chee does, India would still be British India and Mandela would still be under FW DeKlerk's South Africa under apartheid. These men have identified the problem and decided that they would use any means necessary to bring it about (unlawful and violent if necessary).

I am not by any means suggesting even for a moment that Chee should use violent means. But there are just laws and unjust laws. Just laws need to be followed, unjust laws need to be broken. These great leaders that I mentioned were never dissuaded from being imprisoned, tortured or even killed. They were prepared to do what is right, as long as it was right, even if it means breaking unjust laws.

Like these leaders, Chee should have a plan to help the oppressed, not just by talking to them but actually doing something to help them. He should set up an office or a base in one of the poorer sections of Singapore's state owned housing estates. He should be prepared to help anyone who was in need, by writing letters to government authorities for housing or a denial of a license or need for financial assistance. If the government does not respond, he should take it further by organizing a protest or a picket outside the housing authority demanding justice for the resident. Naturally he will be arrested under the unjust laws in the island but he should be prepared to suffer the punishment and consistently do it again for anyone who was in need.

There is also the public advantage of this course of action in public perception. He would seen as a man who really stood up for his people, relentlessly, and would come out as a champion of the oppressed. A man whom the oppressed can trust.

There is also the difficulty of the government in trying to deal with such a champion. With the entire Singapore population watching this injustice to the resident as well as to Chee, he would gain in popularity and more and more people would seek him as their champion against the oppression.

In time he would bee seen as a man who does some good for his people, not just speaking and persuading them as a snake oil salesman would do.

By actually standing up for the poor, not just in words but in action, he would soon get island wide support among the poor and slowly also the support of other sections of Singapore society.

Once he entrenches himself as a champion of the people, he should, if the government allows him to contest elections, which is unlikely, definitely win. But even if he is prevented from contesting elections by this Fascist regime, nothing is lost because he would still be the champion of his people.

Sooner or later, if he has the energy to persist in his cause for his people, this regime will be forced to concede. And at such time Chee would have such strong support on the ground, he would be the leader, with or without this government's consent.

There is no real reason for anyone to support him just because he went around talking to them and made them promises. Just as I would not care about a snake oil salesman who comes around telling me that I would be cured only if I bough his snake oil.

There is no doubt that such a course is an uphill battle, an uphill battle in any case where the government denies civil liberties and who control practically ever aspect of a citizen's life.

But it is a battle that can be won provided he has the courage and the persistence to stay the course. In Chee's case, it is not a difficult decision to make, since after all he has already spent 25 years, an entire career in his political pursuit. Another 25 years of fighting the PAP should not dissuade him. Furthermore Chee is not a stranger to arrest and imprisonment and the prospect of further punishment should not deter a man in Chee's circumstances.

I remember a quotation from a golfer who was asked what he wanted to be. He said he wanted to be a rich man and secondly the best golfer. And then he said, if he became the best golfer, he need not worry about his objective of being rich because that would automatically follow. 

In Chee's case he should work towards being a champion of his people in their daily lives. Once this objective is achieved, he will surely win all his elections.

But most importantly, he should do what is right. Not just what others tell him to do, even if this means he is temporarily alone, a one man army.

The ground is in favor of Chee Soon Juan, just as the ground was in favor of Fidel Castro under the corrupt government of Batista, of Gandhi under the unjust colonial yoke, Mandela under the unjust apartheid regime and King under the unjust racial laws of discrimination. They saw their purpose and fearlessly worked for it, never mind what anyone else thought. Similarly Chee should see his cause and work at it, never mind what Jeffrey George and other PAP moles in his party has to say. 

*No anonymous comments please.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean by birth
Now American citizen
San Francisco California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525

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