ST refuses to publish Democrats’ reply

The Straits Times has refused to publish the Singapore Democrats’ reply to the article “The SDP: Destination Unknown” that was run the Saturday before and a series of letters attacking the Party that were printed the following week.

ST’s Forum Editor wants to delete the latter two-thirds of the reply and only print the first 5 paragraphs of the letter. Based on this blatant censorship and its refusal of the SDP’s right of reply, the Democrats will not let the newspaper run the letter.

Instead we will rely on our website to help spread the word about yet more nation-ruining media censorship on the part of the PAP. Readers should be reminded that the PAP Government prosecutes and sues foreign newspapers even if they refuse to publish a sentence, let alone 10 paragraphs, of its reply.

It is so shameless.

SDP will fight hard – and smart

The Insight piece on the SDP (ST, 18 Sep 2004) and the subsequent letters the following week (ST, 25 Sep 2004) cannot be left unanswered.

It is a blatant lie to say that the Singapore Democrats have not been taking up pocket-book issues. In the 2001 elections, the SDP made minimum wage for workers, employment benefits for retrenched Singaporeans, and the PAPs disastrous Foreign Talent Policy its central message.

A few months later, members of the SDP helped to organize the People Against Poverty rally that was to take place on 1 May 2002 during which my colleague, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, and I were arrested for trying to speak up for the working poor in Singapore.

We took the Government to task for curtailing further the rights of workers in the dispute between the Singapore Airlines and the Airline Pilots Association-Singapore in which pilot Captain Ryan Gohs permanent residency was revoked.

We also forced the Finance Ministry to respond (unsatisfactorily) to calls by Internet users about the amendment to the Constitution to allow the Government to transfer the countries reserves to Government-linked companies.

But for the space constraints, I could go on. The point is that you cannot get anymore bread-and-butter than these issues.

It is the Government that has ignored or brushed aside each and every one of these matters. In order for Singaporeans to ensure that their voices are heard, however, they must have a free media, genuinely free and fair elections, and the freedom to hold public protests. Otherwise the record number of bankruptcies, mental breakdowns, divorces, and suicides resulting from the policies put in place by the PAP to work and squeeze the people even harder will continue unabated

For far too long the opposition has allowed the PAP to define what issues are important and what approach the opposition should take. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the ruling party dictating the rules and defining the parameters of the political battle to ensure its grip on society.

No longer. The Singapore Democrats will not only fight hard but also fight smart. While we continue to do our ground work and talk with Singaporeans at hawker centers, MRT stations, in their homes, etc. we will also build international alliances to ensure that the world knows about oppression in Singapore and, more importantly, acts to bring Singapore into the family of democratic nations.

The PAP would love nothing better than to isolate Singapore from the democratic world. This is the only way that it can continue to imprison the minds of Singaporeans because it knows that with everything that it controls domestically the people are helpless and will continue to serve the PAP and not the other way around.

Let us be mature enough to break out from the mental cage that the PAP has put us in. This is not an issue of the SDP colluding with foreigners to do Singapore in. What we want is for Singaporeans to have a voice so that they can protect their own well-being and ensure that policies benefit them and not just the rich. If anything it is the PAP that is in cahoots with foreigners to undermine the welfare of the Singaporean people. The PAP has built an alliance with the rich and powerful of the world to ensure that Singaporeans continue to remain at their mercy.

Let us be serious. The PAP will never allow the people to vote for the opposition in such numbers that will endanger its dictatorial hold on power. It will continue to change laws, amend the Constitution, and bend regulations to perpetuate its rule. Those who think otherwise delude themselves.

Of course the media and its supporters want Singaporeans to believe that going to the PAP-controlled polls once every four-or-five years will improve their lot.

And when election results are announced, the PAP will say that the opposition has not done enough house-to-house visits, that the people reject the oppositions alternative policies, that the candidates dont measure up to the PAP ones, and so on. It will put all the blame on the opposition and say nothing about its manipulation of the electoral system.

Enough is enough. Let us first get the fundamentals right. Without a free and pluralistic media one that does not serve at the pleasure of the PAP, without the right to public protests, without a genuinely free and fair elections Singaporeans will never have a say in policies that affect their lives, including the bread-and-butter ones.

Only when these freedoms are in place can we stop the hoodwinking and the fear-mongering, and only then can we talk about genuine public service and a real contestation of political power in Singapore.

Chee Soon Juan

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