Monday, May 21, 2007

Singapore. My humble opinion on what Jeyaretnam should do.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been a member of the Workers Party from 1984 to 1991. During that time, I rose to become a Council Member and Cadre Member of the party. I contested 2 national elections, in 1988 in Tiong Bahru and in 1991 in Bukit Merah representing the Workers Party. I was very active in the Party, selling the Hammer throughout Singapore, speaking at every political rally during that period. I am personally aware of Jeyaretnam's political activities. I think therefore you will agree that I am qualified to make a judgment on Jeyaretnam's politics.

Jeyaretnam is an honest man, a man of high principles, a man who is genuinely concerned about the welfare of Singaporeans. A devout Christian and a man of conscience. A good and honest man in every sense of the word for whom I have the greatest of admiration and respect.

Jeyaretnam has stated he will form a new political party called the reform party and will contest elections and practice law. But in what manner and how he is going to bring about reform, Jeya has not explained. But one thing is certain. If he is going to go on in his merry way, like he has done for 30 years, making speeches, defending defamation lawsuits against him and contesting elections every 5 years, this much is certain. Nothing will change. Singapore will not change. Lee's repression will continue as usual.

Let me explain what I say. I have heard the speech of Jeyaretnam at the press conference a few days ago. His main point was his intention to completely reform the present system in Singapore because he does not accept it. But, did he not say the very same thing in 1981 when he was elected to Anson? He himself admitted that he has been saying this all along! And after having said this same thing throughout from 1981 up till now, 2007, that is, his desire to change the system, has he managed to change the system even an iota? Well then what is the point of his saying it again now? Are we to expect anything different?

Mr. Jeyaretnam wears the T Shirt with the words "the Truth will set you free". Words of God. I am sure God wishes Jeyaretnam well but I know God well too, as well as Jeyaretnam. I can tell Jeyaretnam one thing here. God will not come down from Heaven and help reform Singapore for Jeyaretnam. Jeyaretnam has to do it himself. God has told me that much.

During the many years that Jeyaretnam has been in politics, this is what we have seen. He has been sued numerous times and bankrupted. Jeyaretnam had tried each time to defend himself in Lee's courts and each time Lee has won and Jeya has lost. Jeya has scrupulously obeyed all of Lee's laws, all his unjust laws. Jeyaretnam has not broken any law. He has applied for permits to speak in public and when they were refused, as expected, Jeya has not defied the law. Each time Jeya had applied for anything form the government, they were all turned down. Jeya has obediently followed the law to the letter. In the end, we have seen Jeya being deliberately and illegally punished by Lee without let up. And Jeya has always taken the punishment obediently. And while all this has happened over the years, the cause of democracy has not moved forward one bit. In fact Lee Kuan Yew has gone even further to tighten his illegal grip on power.

Jeyaretnam has to understand Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP are determined to hold on to power no matter what. They will resort to any illegality without hesitation. Lee has the judiciary, the civil service, the press and all organs of power at his disposal, ready to do all manner of dirty work at Lee's nod, anytime any place. This is not a place of rule of law. Jeyaretnam should forget trying to fight Lee in the courts, because law no longer applies. What matters is what Lee says.

In the present political climate with Lee's son as the Prime Minister, Lee must ensure that Jeyaretnam is never elected to office because that will cause his son problems as the Prime Minister. We all know the level of ability of Lee's son as Prime Minister. Jeyaretnam is and remains an unacceptable threat not only to Lee's son but the entire government if Jeyaretnam is allowed to contest the elections, let alone permitting him to win.

Furthermore, we are not even sure whether Jeyaretnam will win at elections even if permitted to run. The Singapore population is changed very much over the years. The capable educated and independent thinking Singaporeans have mostly emigrated to other countries, being not prepared to live under Lee as slaves. Those remaining behind, because of a lack of an education, would not mind voting for Lee because all they care is their bread and butter, not political freedoms. Then there are the many foreigners who have been grated citizenship. These again are likely to vote for the PAP out of gratitude for making them citizens. After all they too are only concerned for their personal interests in Singapore, and not the future of Singapore.

Lee, just as he has done at every elections in the past will ensure that Jeyaretnam is discredited, person of dubious character, incapable and so on, not be given any publicity. In other words, with or without another bankruptcy, Lee will ensure that he loses. Lee's son himself has said openly that he has to "fix" the opposition.

What I am trying to say all along here, is that the playing field is not level. Lee will ensure that is so. In this uneven playing field, Jeyaretnam cannot win. Jeya must understand that, Reform Party or no Reform Party.

If Jeyaretnam is really sincere in changing the political climate in Singapore, as he claims, then he has to play the game differently. I am not suggesting doing illegal things like Lee does. I am suggesting civil disobedience. I am suggesting the openly breaking of laws in Singapore that are clearly seen to be unjust. JB Jeyaretnam has to use unconventional means to capture power.

Civil disobedience is the answer. No other way will work to change the system in Singapore. In any case, civil disobedience is justified in Singapore. Paying ministers millions of dollars is unjust. This is corruption. The people have a legal right to protest against corruption. Peaceful assembly is an internationally accepted fundamental right of all human beings.

Lee's biggest fear is the day that the people of Singapore will engage in peaceful protests. And Jeyaretnam now has the greatest chance in his life to bring about change. I believe there is sufficiently large support for him on the ground in Singapore. He should use it to his advantage. Strike while the iron is hot. Now is the moment. He should call on the people to protest with him, openly against these obscene raise in Ministerial salaries to millions of dollars. Jeya should apply for a permit to engage in this peaceful assembly. When the permit is refused, he should do it without a permit, because permits are never given even if applied for. This is what Lee is afraid of. This is the very thing Jeyaretnam should do. There are of course other issues which require protests. But this is the most important single issue that is crying for action. And then other protests for the other ills, such as CPF can follow. I truly believe that if Jeya should deliberately flout these unjust laws, Singaporeans will become politicized. And this is the very thing we need.

Jeyaretnam should of course expect and in fact should look foreword to arrest. But arrest is the very thing that Lee fears, since the more he arrests, the more he alienates his people. We should try to intentionally provoke the government to act. The more they act with arrests and imprisoning people, the more the people begin to sympathize with the opposition. What Jeyaretnam should realize is that in this battle for power, the opposition have the high moral ground. Justice is on the side of the opposition. That by itself gives the opposition now an excellent chance to shake the very foundations of Lee and his PAP.

As I said, the moral high ground is squarely and firmly on the side of the opposition. The vast majority of Singaporeans hate Lee and the Ministers, whom the people see as greedy money grabbers, not as honest political representatives caring for their interests. Every organ of the government is despised by the people. The judiciary has lost it's respect. So is the civil service. So has every organ of government.

All Singaporeans now need is a man of the stature and respect of JB Jeyaretnam to give the word, for them to rally and come around. There should be no difficulty for Jeya to get, say, 200 people at least to peacefully protest the goings on in the country. With 200 hundred now, next round more will come. This is the only way to change.

Singaporeans are not as cowardly as some label them. All they need is a leader, strong enough to lead them, and they will follow. And there is no shame in standing up to Lee this way, since peaceful protests is an honorable duty of each man when he is under the yoke. It is man's duty to be free of the yoke.

Let me give you one parallel. The Rivona Trial of Nelson Mandela in 1960s. Mandela explained that he was prepared to use violence against the apartheid system of South Africa because as the laws then stood, it would have been impossible to change South Africa by peaceful means. Therefore he had no choice but to resort to violence.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the opposition should use violence. I am suggesting that as the laws and government of Singapore now stand, Jeyaretnam will not be able to change the system of Singapore using the present laws of Singapore. These laws do not permit any real opposition to ever take root. What I am suggesting is that if Jeya is serious in wanting to bring about a better Singapore, then he has to do whatever it takes to bring about that change, short of violence. And that at present is civil unrest, leading up to major disruptions on the day to day running of Singapore. Yes, this will cause disruptions. Yes, this will cause a disruption in production, even perhaps a loss of capital from Singapore temporarily. But, still, I believe the pain of such consequences is a pain worth taking, because in time, Singapore will be transformed into a democracy, where the rights of individuals are respected.

When Russia changed overnight under Yeltsin, from Communism to Capitalism, there was widespread chaos and disruption of the running of the country. But yet, it was a change worth making as today, Russia is hopefully on the way to becoming a vibrant democracy.

And secondly, I think Jeya, instead of going his own way with a new party, should instead join forces with Dr. Chee and the SDP. This is a time to concentrate your forces, not dissipate. Dr. Chee has all along espoused the fact that for any change, one cannot rely on the present institutions of Singapore set up by Lee. One has to go against them, not by their rules but by ours. Furthermore the stature and respect that Jeya has in public will help Dr. Chee and together, you will be a much stronger force than being alone under the Reform Party.

Dr. Chee has over the past years contributed much to the advancement of democracy, more than anyone else in Singapore during the recent past. Dr. Chee has also managed to give greater global exposure to the plight of the Singaporeans by his extensive writings travels speeches and conferences. Thanks to Dr. Chee, the European Union, Canada and Scandinavia in particular are particularly aware of the bleak prospect of the average Singaporean.

With the help of Dr. Chee, Jeyaretnam will be able to show not only Singaporeans but the world over that change must come about, whether Lee likes it or not. This is not a time to worry about the names of political parties. This is not a time to worry about personal egos. This is a time to consolidate together. I am perfectly clear in my mind the following. Jeyaretnam will help the cause of Singaporeans by joining Dr. Chee and fighting together. The fight must on the terms of Dr. Chee and Jeyaretnam, not that of Lee.

By this frontal attack on the government, Jeyaretnam will perhaps be bankrupted one more time. Perhaps disbarred again. But he should be prepared for it and willingly accept it. When he adopts this attitude, it is then that Lee and his PAP will begin to fear. At this moment, there is only one man that Lee really fears. That is Dr. Chee. If Jeyaretnam adopts Dr. Chee's style of resistance, then Lee will have to contend with one other formidable opponent against him.

With Dr. Chee and Jeya together demanding change publicly and openly, in public civil disobedience, and with sufficient strength in numbers, Lee will begin to come around. He will have no choice. I say to Jeyaretnam now. This is your chance. Take it. It is your last.

JB Jeyaretnam is 81 years old. If he is going to change Singapore for the better he has to do it now. There is not much time left for him. He has to look back at his career and ask himself whether his style of politics in Singapore has done any good. The answer is obvious. We are politically worse today than we were in 1959!

I am absolutely sure that if all that Jeyaretnam is going to do is to form his reform party, make speeches, practice law and contest the next elections, he may win a seat or lose, I am not certain. But it makes no difference anyway, since there won't be any more opposition politicians elected. That way, he would have done no good for Singapore.

If he is serious in bringing about real change, he should shake the tree by its very roots. Unrelenting massive civil disobedience demanding the people's rights. I believe Dr. Chee is ready for it. Together with Jeyaretnam, perhaps I will really see a change in Singapore.

I say Freedom now. I am not preapred to wait.

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

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