A calculating government and a lesson in unity for citizens

On the eve of the 1st anniversary of the WB-IMF protest, Tanglin Police Devision hastily delivered letters (see letter on the left) to the doorsteps of those who were investigated for the Freedom Walk on 10 Dec 2006, the International Human Rights Day last year.

The letter informed its recipients that there will not be any charge or prosecution for the alleged offence they committed. At the same time, it issued a warning to refrain from such conduct in future, threatening that “the same leniency may not be shown to you.”

Considering the timing and the manner in which these warning letters were delivered (they were not even sent by post), one cannot help but wonder why the police decided to give warnings so suddenly, after more than half a year’s police investigations.

Instead of hanging the prospect of being formally charged over the heads of those involved, a carrot-or-stick deal has been offered to dissuade whoever is thinking of participating in the event to commemorate the 1st anniversary event of the WB-IMF protest.

Like a losing poker player who bluffs by raising the stake, the government’s threat is all but empty. One can recall such similar threats used during the WB-IMF meeting when the police warned that they might consider “shoot to kill” if trouble arose. Similar threats were noted recently during the online discussions when citizens were planning on making a protest statement at Centrepoint. Numerous anonymous postings, possibly from police undercover, repeatedly reminded forum users of the casualties during the Tiananmen massacre in China.

In reality, it is possible that the government is having its own moment of trepidation.

Having a lone Chee Soon Juan in jail, or even a couple of his supporters might at the very most raise a few eyebrows. However, if a dozen or more people were prosecuted for participating in a peaceful assembly, it would look particularly bad on a government that prides itself to be world class.

In addition to losing the respect and trust of its citizenry, it would create an unflattering image for a government that has spent tons of money in building Singapore as the global financial, or whatever “hub” through its carefully crafted public relations efforts internationally.

Ultimately, the freedom of public speaking and peaceful assembly are fundamental to a person’s economic wellbeing. Without these basic rights, what possessions you have can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

Consider the ongoing issues regarding GST, annuity, NS, bus fare hike and so forth, you can say all you want at feedback sessions, write to newspaper forums, gather signatures for petitions, or get your MPs to raise objections to certain policies in Parliament, this government will continue to do what it always does: making unilateral decisions.

The authoritarian government will sit up and listen only when people physically come together in big numbers to demonstrate their displeasure.

This government may be a big bully, but it’s not free from fear. In fact, it is well known that one of the underlying causes of bullying is fear itself.

Event: 1st Anniversary of WB-IMF protest
Date: 16 Sept 2007 (Sunday)
Time: 3:00 pm
Place: Hong Lim Park*, Parliament House, Istana, Queenstown prison**

* Come send us off at the Hong Lim Park at 3:00 pm. Going by the government’s book, Hong Lim park is the only legal place in Singapore for public assembly of more than 4 persons.

** Join us for the candlelight vigil outside the Queenstown Remand Prison from 6.30 pm onward

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