Why we do what we do

One of the most fundamental objectives of a political party is to formulate policies and convince the people to vote for the party during elections in the hope that if it becomes the ruling party, the policies can be translated into law. Winning power through the ballot box is the only legitimate system to governance in Singapore.

In a situation like ours, however, there is no realistic chance of an opposition party winning the election and displacing the PAP as the ruling party. This is because the PAP keeps changing the rules—and introducing new ones—to make it impossible for opposition parties to win any significant number of seats. It is just not realistic or intelligent to attempt to change the election system that the PAP controls by going through the election system that the PAP controls.

It is, therefore, important to seek an alternative path to make our elections free and fair. The only solution is for citizens to exercise their rights through peaceful mass protests to compel the PAP to accede to the people’s demands for a free and fair election system. The immediate reaction of Singaporeans would be that public protests in Singapore are banned. In such a case how are citizens going to organize a mass movement? The answer is through the use of non-violent action (see below).

The Singapore Democrats will encourage the teaching and training of non-violent action for Singaporeans because we see this as the best—and only—way to reform the elections system in Singapore. It may take a long time but as long as we don’t embark on this path, we will forever be letting the PAP run circles round us during elections.

It is important to add at this juncture that the PAP may allow a few more opposition MPs to be elected in future elections in order to counter the SDP’s strategy. When this happens, the PAP can then say that the election system is democratic, thus, negating the need for mass protests. But even if Parliament has a few more opposition members, how will that alter the decision-making process when the PAP overwhelmingly controls the house? The PAP can easily change the rules again in following elections and "win” back the seats they lost, and we’ll be back to square one. In the meantime, another 5 or 10 years would have passed and little would have changed.

When the political process is democratic, when the media is free and pluralistic, and when opposition parties are allowed to freely campaign for votes, the SDP is confident that the majority of Singaporeans will vote for it and give us the chance to lead Singapore into an exciting and democratic future, one that is full of hope, security, and prosperity not just in material terms, but spiritual ones as well.

If the SDP feels that the elections are unfair, then why doesn’t it boycott elections?

Boycotting elections is a worthy gambit if all opposition parties would cooperate and take a united stand. Given present circumstances, however, this is unlikely to happen. But boycotting elections is only a part of a bigger strategy that is needed to reform our election system. What is even more important is that Singaporeans must be empowered to rid themselves of authoritarianism. In the meantime the Singapore Democrats will take part in elections because election rallies are an important opportunity to reach out and educate the people of the strengths of democracy. We will not stop there, however. The SDP will also urge the proactive use of non-violent action to work towards reforming the election system.

But what is nonviolent action?

A government, no matter how dictatorial, is dependent on the cooperation of the people it rules. In other words, how powerful a government is depends on how much citizens are willing to obey it. When we withdraw our cooperation and refuse to submit to the Government’s oppressive ways, we change the power relationship between government and citizenry, and erode the regime’s hold over us.

Nonviolent action describes the act of refusing to obey unjust laws and the demands of a government without resorting to physical violence. A coordinated and concerted withdrawal of that compliance will render the State impotent with its repression. Refusing to cooperate with unjust laws, carried out in a systematic manner, can bring about change. Nonviolent action has been repeatedly used to overcome dictatorships all over the world, most notably in India during Gandhi’s movement for independence, South Africa during the years of apartheid rule, and Taiwan during the Kuomintang’s dictatorship.

Nonviolent action enables even those who are few in numbers or lacking in material resources to resist their oppressors with moral strength and dignity. Because of the nature of the movement, non-violent can be used by the old and young, men and women, the able-bodied and the infirm.

Nonviolent actions include letter writing, sit-ins, boycotts, marches, strikes, etc. The idea is to use peaceful means to wean governments away from their dependence on undemocratic practices.

Won’t this lead to the PAP taking harsh action?

Yes, it will. The Government can jail 10 persons; it can even jail 100 persons but it cannot jail 10,000 persons. A nonviolent action campaign needs to have the participation of the masses if it is going to succeed. But remember that mass movements always start with the leadership of the few who have the courage to make sacrifices and the vision to bring the people into the future. Many countries have faced similar circumstances as ours, some with situations much worse, but through the intelligent and persistent use of nonviolent action, they were all able to overcome the dictatorial regimes and establish democracy in their countries.

How does one get started on this course of action?

Get in touch with us at [email protected] We will keep you informed of the workshops and seminars that are conducted frequently to educate and train Singaporeans on nonviolence. Remember, it is only when we win back our rights to free speech and assembly can we compel the PAP to reform the election the system and it is only through a reformed election system can we make the PAP responsive to our needs and interests.
About The Party Sunday, 22 February 2009 SingaporeDemocrats Print

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