It was clear from the beginning that the public forum held yesterday to discuss how Singapore’s opposition could be more effective as a collective political entity was not going to answer all the questions. The upsized panel was meant to be as inclusive of the wide range of views as it possibly could.
The forum was organised to explore the question of greater cooperation among the opposition parties. It was done with a difference: It included non-party actors. The enormity of the task of trying to institutionalise the opposition means that civil society needs to become involved in the process. The democratisation effort cannot be left to opposition parties. Without a comprehensive and concerted effort from all sectors of the populace, opening up the politial process in Singapore will remain an elusive goal.
When we bring so many parties into a discussion there will inevitably be a rainbow of views and suggestions. But what cannot be ignored was the consensus at the forum that something needed to be done to foster opposition cooperation.
And it wasn’t just nebulous ideas that were thrown up. Some worthwhile and very do-able suggestions were raised: A common manisfesto based on a set of shared values, some common activities that opposition parties could work around, and a common website.
To be absolutely sure, the process of bringing the opposition together will be long and hard. The questions are many and the obstacles severe. In addition, there are forces that would like nothing better than to see process fail. Still others will try to prevent opposition parties from coming together because they understand perfectly the adage that unity is strength.
Indeed, where this effort to bring about opposition cooperation will lead to is not easy to say. But this should not deter the effort from being made.
To those of you who were there at the forum, and those who weren’t, this process will not succeed if everyone leaves it to the opposition to do the heavy lifting. We need ideas, funds, organisers, and go-betweens to breathe life into the process. Your active participation is indispensable.
Yesterday’s was a three-hour discussion held for the first time in Singapore’s history. It was an attempt at exploring possibilities. To expect anything more would have been unrealistic.
But we came away encouraged that there is potential for growth in opposition cooperation and we will do what we can to cultivate the initiative. We hope that all who share in this purpose will come forward and assist in the process.