Casino or democracy – the choice is clear

To get an idea of how crippled our society has become, we need to note the latest words of wisdom from our dear Minister Mentor when he justified the Governments decision to build casinos in Singapore: “The world will pass us by and we’ll watch our neighbours with casinos and say: ‘Okay, let’s have one’. By then, yours is a second-rate also-ran.

To be sure Mr Lee, according to himself, has always been not just anti-casino but dead-set against those darned places. He made the point that people should build their lives through good, ol fashion sweat and guts. The get-rich-quick-but-ultimately-doomed mentality of Miss Roulette and Mr Black Jack had no place in this island of ours. Hear, hear.

But then something happened. Other countries started building gambling dens and, worse, they were actually making money from them. This was apparently all too much for Mr Lee as we were getting left out of the money that came from gamblers. So to hell with all the talk about the work ethic, its money, money, and more money from here on out!

In the meantime, there was something else that was taking place with our neighbours and they werent all about dice and vice. These countries were taking bold steps to democracy. The Philippines, Thailand, East Timor, and Indonesia had all made transitions to more open and free political systems. Even Malaysia, while far from democratic, are showing signs of opening up.

Why did the Minister Mentor not pay attention to these positive political developments? (If you need the SDP to tell you the answer, you must not have been paying very close attention to Singapore for the last 4 decades.) Lets see…vice or democracy…democracy or vice…really, a no-brainer. At the risk of being accused of moralizing, the Singapore Democrats wish to point out that there is something to be said about our society when our leaders look out of the Singapore window, see all that is happening in the region and then point out that we need to catch up by building casinos!

What we really need is for the Government to pay heed to the voice of Singaporeans and to respect our wishes. In a word, democracy. Struggling for democracy is the business of the Singapore Democrats. We have said time and again that the obsession with material prosperity to the exclusion of protecting our political and civil rights will lead to the gradual decay of our society. With years of so-called economic growth, our people have shown little stomach to confront the PAP as it slowly and systematically dismantled all the rights that we were born with as citizens. It mattered little when we were drawing six-month bonuses and making a killing from buying and selling houses. But now when the chips are down and we look for ways to oppose the setting up of casinos in our backyard, we find ourselves utterly and painfully voiceless.

Vote against the PAP at the next elections, some might say. Singaporeans must wake up to the reality that the PAP has not remained in power all this time just so that the people can vote to reduce its grip on the steering wheel come general elections. Without making the necessary sacrifices to win back our rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association, we will forever be casting our ballots that will give the ruling party yet more power.

This casino episode is the clearest example yet of how the lack of democracy can be manifested in very real ways when it comes to matters affecting our lives and those of our loved ones. Human rights are not some namby-pamby subject that has no place in pragmatic Singapore. They are going to be the difference between a society whose guiding principle is the making of money and one that has character and conscience.

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