Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Singapore's disappearing opposition politicians

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We had just gone through the fanfare, the hustle and bustle of speeches upon speeches, the emotions and excitement of 9 whole days of election campaigning, which happens once every 5 years, in the island city state of Singapore until May 7, 2011 when it all suddenly came to an end; 81 of Lee Kuan Yew's PAP members won with 6 of the opposition. And with that, democracy itself came to a halt and went into hibernation to become alive again 5 years later in 2016!

You can compare this single instance of democratic activity to the rains that come to the Kalahari Desert in a flash between long intervals of many years. Suddenly the rains fall in a torrent for a few days, after which there is drought again for many years.

Names that we never heard before, some PhDs, even a medical doctor, managers and you name it, people you never heard before, they all came out of the blue and volunteered to become your leaders for democracy. Except for 6, they all lost and since that time, we have never heard of any of them again.

One of them was in fact permanently residing in Australia with a Singapore passport, returned and made very stirring speeches. Just like the others who have gone, we have never heard of him since that day; perhaps he has gone back to his home in Australia.

And the same with every other opposition politician hopefuls, they all appear to have gone; disappeared. Of course we have Chee Soon Juan and his dedicated handful of hardworking dedicated men and women who soldier along despite all odds, but beside these brave handful, no one appears to be around.

I am sorry to say, despite these brave and daring speeches during these elections coming from them, there seems to be a dire lack of will determination or dedication among the opposition camps, seeming only interested in propping up every 5 years, just before the elections to try their luck and disappearing immediately thereafter if they lost.

And how does a citizen hang his hopes and his destiny on leaders such as this who almost, I am sad to say, appear opportunists, trying to get into Parliament and otherwise they don't show any interest.

To be fair to them whom you see one minute and don't if you blink, the fault is not entirely theirs. The political climate of fear created by Lee Kuan Yew's PAP is to blame for this appalling disinterest.

Lets, face it, it takes almost superhuman will, not found in ordinary souls, but in a few such as Chee Soon Juan to withstand the onslaught of the PAPs non stop repression and punishment if one is seen to engage in political and social work on a regular basis.

First there is the fear that Lee might cause you to lose your job, you might lose your promotions, your children might similarly suffer and on the whole you may have to live an unhappy life, all because of your interest in opposition politics. Some would argue tht it is too much to ask of anyone to martyr themselves for a cause such as this, where repression and suffering is guaranteed but victory is uncertain.

Another impediment to espousing democratic values openly is the lack of an independent press, since they are all state controlled. Moreover you are not allowed to speak without permits, assemble without permits, and even if you arranged an assembly, it would not be reported in the state controlled press.

In these circumstance it is not surprising if the Australian resident has gone home to Australia and the doctor has gone back to practicing medicine and forgot entirely that he had made all those great speeches about all these great things he was going to do for the people of Singapore.

Which is why I come back to the same old mantra once again, which is, without freedom you will not have democracy and in order to have democracy, you have to have freedom. Which is another way of saying that unless you have the freedom of speech and the rule of law, you are not going to have any democracy either, since no one would be motivated to do anything under these impossible odds where their heads are under the chopping blocks.

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

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Anonymous said...

The political opponents who seem to have disappeared after their brave and daring speeches must have gone into hiding to avoid being arrested by the relevant authorities or to face vengeance or punishment of some sort.
In the sinister history of politics, opponents have disappeared without any trace,or disposed of.
This is really frightening. Will it happen here or is it happening now?

comrade mushashi

Anonymous said...

I am for one a hard fight opposition to the PAP.The people of singapore is changing to be more democratic and voice without fear.The PAP is weakening and their disunity will be their downfall.Just like any great leaders,PAP wil fall.There will come a time where true democracy will prevail in Singapore and the time is near.Its not a easy battle and we will get there.long hail democracy!

Anonymous said...

Time to spruce up your act and start using a teleprompter.

Your message can become more effective via video. Fine words are lost on the sheep in Singapore.

Ipad telepromter:

Microsoft teleprompter:

Anonymous said...

You make very good points, which is blogs such as yours, must become more active and challenge the flawed systems that has been put in place by Lee Kuan Yew.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with your comments that opposition wannabes once they lost the election in the name of democracy are lost and never heard of again or in your own words "went into hibernation to become alive again 5 years later ". We do have people in the opposition who are credible and working on grassroots level even though they have lost in the 2006 elections. People like SDA Desmond Lim and NSP Goh Meng Seng are active in their respective grassroots and even somewhat popular on the internet hemisphere even though they haven't been elected yet but people know them well. Also do not forget that the veteran opposition MPs such as Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Kiang once elected have fervently worked their grassroots such that they were return unopposed for consecutive years.
What irks me nothing more are non-elected MPs in the government who comfortably take their seats in parliament at the back of walkovers. In some constituency for example Thomson, we currently have a new and young minority MP who do not grace RC Meetings/Senior citizens meeting, show their faces on regular walkabouts or even attend regular meet-the-people sessions and even if they do go for walkabouts, would only concentrate their attention only on certain "elite" blocks which house high-income earners. There are also no longer and organization of "pasar malam" or bazzars nowadays for residents get-together unlike what we had with the predecessor MP who was not a minority MP.
While I applaud the recent reshuffle in the cabinet by the Prime Minister to put things better for the outlook of the country, perhaps it might be time for him to also shift his focus producing a KPI indicator for the rest of the other MPs and not just the cabinet ones.