Courage at Centrepoint

The protest at Centrepoint on 8 September was an important event. It gave an opportunity to those who are tired of the PAP Government’s callous policies to register their disquiet.

There were a large number of people in black. It was difficult to tell how many of them were clueless about the ‘black’ protest and how many were responding to the call on the Internet. There were some who did not try to appear innocuous and made it quite plain that they were there to be seen in black.

The SDP was carrying out our regular Saturday sales of books and T-shirts. However, this Saturday was a little different. It is the first Saturday that Dr. Chee is in prison. It was also one of the rare times when there was a call for Singaporeans to gather at a public vicinity to protest against the government’s high-handedness. Thus the SDP team sold our democracy materials in T-shirts with bold red words screaming “Free Dr. Chee!” in the early afternoon.

We packed up by approximately 3.45pm and put on our black tops to show support for and stand in solidarity with our brave fellow citizens who were showing up and standing up to the PAP.

The few of us walked in a group. A few others in black who obviously wanted to show that they were not shopping at Centrepoint joined the group. At one point, it swelled to more than 15 people.

The action taken by those who went in black is a first step towards empowerment. The PAP Government likes nothing better than to make Singaporeans feel helpless and dependent on them. However, some of us are beginning to translate our frustrations into affirmative action. Contrary to the propaganda that this government espouses, peaceful assembly and action is an inherent right of every citizen of this country.

This may be a seemingly small step. A first for some. But every peaceful mass action that has challenged autocratic regimes has always started with small numbers.

We congratulate those of you who were there in black to assert your right to protest against the government’s disregard of the welfare of Singaporeans. Many of you went there despite your fears and apprehensions. That is an act courage. We salute you.

“But has all this huffing and puffing gotten human rights anywhere in Singapore?

The honest answer is not very far. The PAP doesn’t seem to have budged very much on the issue. However, to see the fight in such parochial terms is to miss the point completely.

A singular act of dissent never yields immediate results. Every action leaves behind a residue that the next one builds upon. The experience gained and the courage that radiates from that action elevates the general struggle another notch. Even for actions that fail to achieve their stated objectives, there is gain. Every time we initiate an action and fail, we don’t return to ground zero.

It is the accumulation of each protest and each act of resistance that will ultimately take us above the threshold and allow us the success that we seek. In the meantime, every action, big or small, successful or not, is like a training session where citizen-activists hone their skills and build up towards the stage when our objectives are definitively achieved.”

– excerpt from Dr Chee Soon Juan’s “Why Dissent matters”

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