The Singapore Democrats were in the Philippines earlier this month to attend the General Assembly of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) of which the SDP is the Chair.
Led by party Chairman Gandhi Ambalam, the three-member delegation included Treasurer Mr Gerald Sng and Young Democrat (YD) Mr Muhd Khalis, who is also the Programme Director of the party’s youth wing. The theme of the two-day Manila meeting was “Democracy’s Continuing Struggle in Asia: Countervailing Repression, Intolerance and Opportunism.”
CALD was formed in 1993 by political parties in the region as a response to the wave of democratic change taking place through the region. One of the objectives of CALD is to promote the basic principles of democracy and to facilitate appropriate democratic responses to problems and crises that arise.
Events organised by CALD continue to be important for the region’s party members and activists. The opportunity to gain exposure to what is going on with like-minded individuals and to learn about the democratic process is invaluable for younger Singaporeans who, having lived their whole life under the PAP system, may find democracy an alien concept.
Several of the members of the YD and activists from Singapore have benefited from such programs and activities.
Addressing the delegates on the first day of the assembly, Mr Ambalam called on member parties to continue promoting the ideals of democracy especially when they become the government. When dealing with their counterparts in the region, they should remind their fellow governments to respect democratic values.
Mr Ambalam also took the opportunity to thank the Liberal International (LI), represented by its Secretary-General Mr Emil Kirjas, for its effort in raising human rights violations in Singapore for the first time at the United Nations.
LI had told the world body that it “stands in solidarity with the persecuted democracy activists and censures the Singapore government for its use of public institutions against the Singapore Democratic Party and its associates.”
As part of its multi-pronged approach, the Singapore Democrats continue to strengthen and expand its networking with international and regional organisations.
While mindful that democratic change in Singapore must come from Singaporeans, the SDP believes that international awareness of the on-going repression in this country is an important factor for political reform.