Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Singapore. On the threshold of change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore today is on the threshold of change towards more democracy as all the signs appear promising. It should not be long before the Lee government is forced to accept the reality that democracy must come, whether they like it or not.

In the early history, Singapore was populated by an uneducated immigrant and local community who were grateful for the jobs and livelihood that the PAP provided with foreign investment attracted to Singapore with low wages. The early migrants having come from harsh and impoverished countries did not need any democracy and in any case they did not know what it meant. Only few had university education, one of whom was Lee, who therefore managed to have his way, over the humble immigrants, grateful for jobs and a living.

With time, people became more educated with country wide education. It was no longer a country of low paying jobs. With more education, for the first time, people were beginning to demand more freedom. As this change towards more sophistication was happening on the ground, Lee's continued ability to retain power was becoming more and more uncertain.

Therefore in order to continue retaining power in his and his family's hands, it has become increasing necessary for Lee to progressively deny more and more of the public's freedoms. He retains the Internal Security Act, which permits internment without trial. He enacts the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act to ensure that the media is only allowed to publish what he likes. He controls the Trade Unions making sure that wages are decided by him, not the unions. He increases to heightened levels punishments that involve public assembly and free speech to instill a fear in the public not to contradict him. He politicizes the judiciary with defamation lawsuits to destroy political opponents.

In other words he fears the people's power, so he tightens the screws.

At the same time, the people have been moving in the opposite direction. The entire population is literate. The majority have at least a high school or tertiary education. They are more and more well read. The majority are computer literate. They browse the Intenet. They read all sorts of articles on freedom and liberty. And such people, young, mobile and educated are beginning to say more and more that they will not take no for an answer, that they must have their rights, that they are not preapred to be treated like children anymore. They will demand their freedom. And while this population who are getting more and more educated, more and more traveled and more and more sophisticated; the Lee government, if they wish to remain in absolute control have no choice but to become more and more repressive, and take away more and more of the people's liberties.

The situation now is that the government and the people are becoming more and more polarized, working at cross purposes and each pulling in the opposite direction. At present I would daresay that almost the entire educated honest decent people of Singapore are against the rule of Lee and his family. I would even go the extent of saying that Lee is hated by a sizeable section of his people. The latest election results are suspect. In a small island like this, the PAP winning 82 seats and the Opposition winning the same 2 seats like clockwork for the last 15 years must arouse suspicion in any one's mind.

Today, with the government's own admission recently in the Straits Times, the vast majority of young Singaporeans do not rely on the state controlled press for the news, relying entirely on the Internet and blogs. Nearly all political web sites and blogs are anti government. And what is most important of all, the government is powerless to control what is being said on the Internet making their control of the local state controlled press ineffective to influence the thinking of the people. The government has to rely on dishonest opportunists to run their government, people who work for them only for personal monetary gain, without any concern for the rights of their fellow citizens. And it is getting more and more difficult for Lee to get more of these dishonest people to work for them, since with education, they are able to earn an honest living without serving the dictatorship of Lee.

So at present, there is a clear divide between the people and the Lee government. The Lee government now no longer has the support of the people. They now govern with instilling fear among the population, fear of persecution if they dared to challenge the government. I do not believe that any government in a country such as Singapore can last very long just by brute force and instilling fear.

Singapore is different from other countries in many ways. Singaporeans have an English education. Their skills are valuable worldwide. They are much more mobile than other people from non English speaking English educated countries. They know that if push came to shove, they will not perish. They could always leave. This emboldens the people. This gives them courage to demand more and more freedoms and rights. And when this happens, the Lee family in power finds it's position more and more precarious.

One thing that should be kept in mind. History has shown us that Lee Kuan Yew and his family will not ever concede power to anyone. They will hang on to it no matter what. The only way you can achieve any freedom is by unconventional means. I do not mean violence. I am against it. I mean public protests to demand change. When this happens, which is in fact already happening, the Lee family will have to justify their unjust laws, which morally they cannot. Not being able to justify their unjust actions, they must fail. This is certain.

I see, change in the immediate horizon. I see young people emboldened, distributing leaflets in street corners asking their fellow citizens to join them in the resistance, I see people sticking posters to walls demanding democracy, I see people publicly speaking to others telling them to join the resistance, I see the police trying to arrest these young men and women, I see the people fighting their cases in court and finally I see the government powerless to deny the people their just demands.

And I see, the triumph of democracy.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
EMail: gopalnair@us-immigrationlaw.com

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