28 Mar 08
Dear Dr Chee,
Thank you for your letter. We will publish it if you trim it down and confine it to the issues raised by Mr Paul Fernandez. Your letter goes into many areas not pertinent to the issues raised by Mr Fernandez.
Yap Koon Hong
Straits Times Forum
Straits Times Forum
31 Mar 08
Dear Mr Yap Koon Hong,
Stop your prevarication about my reply not addressing the issues that Mr Fernandez raised. It is clear that I have stuck to the issue at hand. Nevertheless I have shortened my letter to well within the 400-word limit (see below). Now publish it.
Chee Soon Juan
Revised version of Dr Chee’s original letter. Dr Chee has removed the portions in bold:
I thank Mr Paul Antony Fernandez for his advice (Advice to Chee: Don’t waste taxpayers’ money, ST 20 March 2008). Unfortunately, it is misplaced.
Just because Mr Fernandez is “grateful” and “appreciative” of the Government does not mean that it is right for the ruling party to ignore the Constitution that guarantees the right of Singaporeans to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly.
For every Paul Antony Fernandez who is leading a “trouble-free life”, there are several others who toil under an unforgiving economic regime that strips them of all dignity and hope.
The writer has a well-constructed channel to express his love for what benefits him. What about those who disagree with him?
They have two ways of making their views heard: One is through the elections. The other is through peaceful public assembly. Both are guaranteed under the Constitution and absolutely essential to a functioning democracy.
Just as Mr Fernandez does not think that elections are a waste of taxpayers’ money, why should he think that way about public protests?
Perhaps it’s because in elections the PAP can bribe and intimidate voters, fix the opposition, and make up the rules as it goes along in order to achieve a certain outcome.
The result is that, in such unfair and unfree elections, issues important to voters become submerged under the onslaught of misinformation propagated by the PAP-controlled media.
Note that Freedom House, in its annual report, states that “Citizens of Singapore cannot democratically change their government.” [The Asia Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) observed the 2006 general elections and concluded that reform of the election system is needed.]
Such control of the citizens’ views and the production of a predetermined outcome in elections is much more difficult to achieve in public protests.
In addition, it is only through peaceful mass protests that the people can compel the PAP Government to reform the election system.
Peaceful assemblies, especially in an authoritarian state where elections are manipulated, are far from a waste of taxpayers’ money; they are the lifeline of the disenfranchised, the weak and the voiceless.
Mr Fernandez also wants the SDP to “form a coalition and work in tandem with the ruling party.” [This sounds curiously similar to what Mr Peh Shing Huei had advocated in his piece “The partitioning of the opposition.”
There seems to be an effort to try to get the SDP to accept the ruling party as the unchallenged power and for the opposition to be a political ornament in a PAP-state.
It must be made absolutely clear that under such a one-party system, the only way for the opposition to work in tandem with the ruling party is for us to abandon our democratic principles and become client-party of the PAP.]
The only way for the opposition to work in tandem with the ruling party is for us to abandon our democratic principles and become client-party of the PAP.
Hell will freeze over first.
[In case it is not already clear, let me reiterate the party’s stand: The SDP is not for sale.
We make this pledge to the people of Singapore: We will continue to fight to empower Singaporeans so that they can have a voice in the policies that affect their everyday lives.
Peaceful assemblies, especially in an authoritarian state where elections are manipulated, are far from a waste of taxpayers’ money; they are the lifeline of the disenfranchised, the weak and the voiceless.]
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party