Dr Chee (and all SDP members & followers),
I was a resident of Singapore for approximately 8 years during the 90s, and departed Singapore in 1999. You probably will not recollect this but I once had the pleasure of chatting briefly with you outside Somerset MRT station as you were diligently handing out reading material on the SDP.
As an avid follower of politics within the Asia-Pacific Region, I wanted to just send you this email to offer a word of encouragement, and also say what a marvelous job you and the SDP are doing, considering the “brickwall” you (and all other opposition political parties) have to come up against.
Firstly, let me say that I do not hate or have anything against the PAP or the current government. I think all political parties exist for a reason, that is, to advance their cause with a view of improving people’s lives. As such, we have to give the PAP and Mr Lee Kuan Yew where credit is due. Personally, I do not believe Singapore would be as developed economically today if he did not rule Singapore for that long. I think his intentions for both country and people are good and given the majorities he enjoyed in parliament, he could have become a despot and turned Singapore upside down, raided its reserves, and retired happily in the Maldives. But he didn’t!
Having said that, I do believe it’s time that the current government recognize that Singapore and its citizens are now more mature and that being financially well-off are not the only goals & aspirations they have. There are many things I still do not understand about the current administration but I guess they will never be answered, and they include:
1) Why continue with this GRC system? What happened to a level playing field? If the ruling party is so confident of their policies, what’s there to be afraid of in making it a level playing field?
2) How Mr Lee still is a senior member of the cabinet, especially given that he was the one who introduced the current salary system which pegs their pays to the private sector jobs? Would Mr Lee, at his age, be able to hold a very senior board position in a major multi-national corporation? Would anyone hire a 83-year old to hold such a position? Granted that he is a very politically astute and intelligent person but would his job not overlap with Mr Goh Chok Tong’s job?
3) Why is Mr Lee still there anyway? Does he not trust the people he has handed power to, or is power still really concentrated around Mr Lee (just like Deng Xiaopeng was considered the supreme leader but had no official posts)? The current PM has had considerable time as a MP, cabinet minister, & DPM under both his father and SM Mr Goh; do they still require so many “consultants” to provide ongoing advice to him and the current crop of leaders? Both Mr Goh & the elder Mr Lee are there as consultants I presume! Do consultants usually draw such high salaries?
4) Why continue to stifle free speech? Yes, it does not have to be like America’s system, but having an objective press free from the shackles of the PAP would be a start. People in Singapore are so afraid to get sued if they voice an opinion about the government that nothing gets said, and that is sad. It’s like every time you say something, you’ve got to look twice over your shoulders to see if some agent is tailing you and recording what you have said.
5) Why ban certain books which contain negative press on the government or certain members of the government? Shouldn’t people have the right to make up their own minds whether what the writer has said is correct or not? Besides, perception is real.
6) The elder Mr Lee once called Australia “The Great White Trash”, whilst visiting Australia…could I or anyone call Singapore “The Great Yellow Trash” in Singapore and not expect someone to sue me?
Right now, that’s all I can think of. I have a very soft spot for Singapore due to the amount of time I have spent there and the amount of good friends and ex-girlfriends I have made. I have now married a Singaporean here in Australia and my daughter is therefore half Singaporean. I will educate her about her mother’s beautiful country, its people, it’s people’s will to survive against all economic odds; but I will also tell her about what I have just outlined above. She should get both sides of the story. And yes, I will also inform her of the persistent work the SDP is doing and why they are doing it.
I do hope one day, while still alive, I will be able to see a thriving opposition in the Singaporean Parliament, and perhaps, see a different party (or parties), form government. Who knows, when the elder Mr Lee leaves all of us one day, a group of disenchanted and discontented PAP members might breakaway and form their own political party, or better, join the SDP and win maybe 10-15 seats. That would be a start!
MATTHEW G LAUER
SDP: Dear Mr Lauer,
We thank you for your encouragement and support. It is very heartening to see a foreign national who cares not just for the tinsel and glitter that our country has become, but the real virtues that matter – justice, freedom and democracy. You are indeed an astute observer of Singapore’s politics. The points you raised are spot on. They have been repeatedly raised by Singaporeans and the SDP.
Except for one. The majorities that Mr Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed in Parliament did not come from free and fair elections. In 1963 under Operation Coldstore, the ISD arrested more than a hundred of opposition leaders, trade unionists, journalists, and student leaders. The harassment of the opposition and the dismantling of civil society continues today.
With the opposition skinned to bare bones, the labour movement rendered comatose, and the media house-broken, the PAP conducted elections and has “won” handsomely ever since.
Nevertheless we are thankful for your letter and hope you will continue to visit Singapore and our website.