The activists who have been charged with taking part in an unlawful assembly and procession on 15 Mar this year are due back in court tomorrow for another pre-trial conference (PTC). The group of 18 were given till 18 Aug 08 to look for lawyers.
All have pleaded not guilty to the charges. This is because the PAP Government has no right to deny citizens their Constitutional rights to freedom of assembly laid out in Article 14 which states that “every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression” and “all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.”
It is obvious that the Government is worried about the growing interest in the TBT campaign which takes aim at the greed of the ministers and escalating cost of living in Singapore. This message will resonate even more as the economy slows down, retrenchments pile up and prices remain high.
Singaporeans resent the high pay of the ministers even as the number of hungry and homeless increase. On 15 Mar, the TBT activists decided to act on this.
The Attorney-General and police have responded by cracking down on the protesters by charging them for various activities and repeatedly calling them up for investigations. What the authorities don’t realise is that these measures make us even more resolute in working for reform in our country.
Singaporeans, with the help of the Internet, are seeing more and more of the ills that beset this country and how the PAP is desperately trying to cover things up by silencing its critics.
Every oppressive measure taken by the Government attracts more Singaporeans to our ranks. Singaporeans see our nation going down the wrong road and they cannot sit and pretend that everything is all right.
There comes a point where courageous and conscientious citizens cannot and will not hold back any longer. When the PAP tries to shut the people up, an opposite reaction takes place. Unjust punitive measures no longer frighten and deter but instead steel people into taking further civil action.
This is not just the experience in Singapore. It has been the experience of other societies in the past, and not just those in the West but also in Asia and other parts of the world. When citizens awaken and find their voice, they cannot be shut up.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s recent comments about democratic countries being jealous of Singapore and trying to “do us in” and how a multi-party system (as opposed to the PAP dictatorial one) will doom Singapore are desperate attempts to stem the tide of change.
Perhaps only he and a few of those around him really believe that propaganda. The rest of Singapore can see that in order to survive the future, we need to embrace change, change where transparency and acountability are the order of the day.
Change where dissent is embraced, not feared because it is oxygen for creativity and innovation, qualities essential for a knowledge-driven economy.
Change where Singaporeans can enhance their quality of life in ways that they see fit and not where they are herded by the state into upgrading their standard of living for the profit of the ruling elite.
But rather than be a statesman with the wisdom to welcome change, Mr Lee behaves like an angry and out-of-touch old man, desperately clinging on to a fading past and, most frighteningly, willing to sacrifice the future of the naion just to satisfy his own selfish desires.
So if you want to meet with those advocating and working for reform in Singapore, come to Subordinate Court No 24 at 2:30 pm tomorrow. Our work continues.