Sunday, April 20, 2008

Singapore. A plan for success

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Reform Party Party's official beginning with Jeyaretnam's full return to politics and a clear indication that it will work with Dr. Chee's SDP is all very good news. The question now is, what is the plan?

Lets look at Singapore now. Lee controls every possible organ of power, the judiciary, the press, the media, everything. Therefore regardless of whether Jeyaretnam wins a seat at the next election or even the SDP winning 4 seats will make no difference at all. You know the pattern already. If the opposition winners are of the calibre of Francis Seow or Dr. Chee, they will not be allowed to take their seats in Parliament. Before its sitting, Lee would have organized a libel suit and the worthy opponent would be worthy no more, by being kicked out of Parliament through bankruptcy.

Jeyaretnam has been in politics for a long time. With all due respect given to him; except for taking great punishment at the hands of Lee, he has not managed to further democracy in Singapore at all. If at all, Jeyaretnam had caused Lee to tighten the screws even more. For instance, during his time, Privy Council appeals were abolished and across the board, laws became harsher with increased punishments.

And as long as Lee continues to have a majority of even one in Parliament, he will continue to do whatever he wants, because all the pillars of government that matter; the judiciary, the media, the finance everything, remains under his absolute control. Regardless of how much wisdom there is in their cause, or how many speeches they make in Parliament, Lee can just ignore it and there is nothing that Jeya or Dr. Chee can do, since the courts and everybody else are beholden to Lee, not to Parliament or to the truth.

So if all what Jeya hopes to do is to stand for elections, win one seat for himself, enter Parliament and make his speeches for 5 years, I really don't think Lee would object at all. In fact Lee may even facilitate Jeya's victory this time, since there is nothing for them to lose. Lee can give Jeya time to talk. And Lee will just ignore it, for another 5 years! It would be the same if Dr. Chee got into Parliament.

What we have to understand is; that the power in Singapore, lies not in Parliamentary speeches; it lies in the pillars of power; which so happens, all of them being beholden to Lee and Lee alone. It lies in the newspaper. You have to convince the paper to be impartial, which it is not. It lies in the judiciary. You have to convince the judiciary to be impartial, which it is not. You have to convince the police force that it is not the private security of Lee Kuan Yew. Convince the civil service to be fair. Convince the colleges to be fair. Convince the HDB not to discriminate against the Malays and Indians. Convince the Civil Service not to issue visas for unlimited numbers of immigrants from China, because it is these pillars where the power actually lies. The question is, how do you do it?

It is impossible to make the aforementioned organizations impartial by speeches in Parliament. They are not going to listen. So what do you do?

The bigger and important task in bringing about democracy is to instill a sense of fairness in these people. A realisation that they are not beholden to Lee as they think. Without that realization, no amount of speeches in Parliament can bring that about. Change has to come by forcing these organizations to realize that what they do is wrong. So I come back to where I started. The answer lies in protests.

Protest outside the courts demanding justice and fairness. Protest outside Straits Times demanding impartiality in reporting. Protest outside the Civil Service demanding equal treatment. Protest outside the HDB demanding an end to discrimination against the Malays and Indians. Protest outside the Official Assignee demanding a reversal of Dr. Chee's bankruptcy. Protest outside the Istana demanding a reduction in the million dollar salaries of ministers.

And these protests must be sustained and not let up until your demands are met. I have no doubt in my mind that every civil servant, every judge, every clerk, everyone, every Singaporean, deep in their hearts, is in fact very much on the side of the opposition. If they act in a manner prejudicial and unfair towards the opposition, it is because they fear Lee Kuan Yew. Sustained protests demanding justice, will I believe, have a redeeming and salving effect on them and they will, in the end mend their ways and become honest men and women.

In fact the opposition, by which I means the Singapore Democratic Party and the Reform Party should concentrate firstly on these sustained protests to bring these pillars of power to see reason. This is the fundamental and first objective. Only the second objective is entering Parliament.

The people of Singapore are confusing the Parliamentary system there, which in fact it is not, to the parliamentary system in countries such as the UK. In the UK, the courts newspapers and the civil service are all independent. Moreover the power lies in the people, who are fully aware of their rights. In Singapore, everything is in the hands of Lee. And therefore Parliament means very little or nothing.

My message to the opposition is this. Work on the institutions on the ground first. Make them realise their duty to justice and equality. While this work goes on, work on Parliament.

This has to be done by protest, first.

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

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