In the bleakness that envelopes the political landscape in Singapore, there shines through a tiny glimmer that carries the hopes of the SDP to bring about democracy and freedom in Singapore.
Mr John Tan conveyed this sentiment in his address at the just concluded Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) forum entitled Asia Liberal Parties in Power: Getting There, Remaining There.
He added that in spite of the continuing harrassment of dissidents and defenders of democracy by the Singapore Government, there is hope for change in Singapore because of developments in technology.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the SDP was speaking at a session with the theme Assessing the Political Environment: Opportunities and Constraints. Among some of the questions tackled at the discussion are:
- What are the political, legal, economic, socio-cultural and historical factors which affect the nature and operation of political parties?
- How can political parties take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the constraints presented by political environment?
- In devising campaign strategies and framing of issues, should political parties take the political milieu as it is, or should they advocate for change or reform of this environment?
Mr Tan pointed out that fear in Singapore is still prevalent among the populace from years of repressive state action. The latest curtailing of political freedom is the recent introduction of the Public Order Act that prohibits even a single individual to protest.
The election system is still very much in the hands of the ruling party and together with the control of the media, the elections in Singapore could not be more unfree and unfair.
Despite the difficulties, however, Singaporeans are still coming forward to resist the authoritarian control of the PAP. With the advent of the Internet and information becoming more readily available, more people especially the younger folks are coming forward to work for democratic change especially with the Singapore Democrats.
“The emotive quality of their fear is somewhat diluted,” Mr Tan told the audience. “Many of them are savvy in the new technologies and are a great help to the party as we gear up for the coming elections.”
Mr Tan also called on democratic governments to play their role in promoting democracy. A world whose governments respected human rights and democratic principles is more stable. In Asia, democracies must takle the lead in setting a good example for non-democracies to follow.
Regional bodies such as CALD can help to coordinate efforts to bring about political change in autocratic states like Burma, Vietnam and Singapore.
In a separate interview, Mr Tan sat down with Dr Sebastian Braun from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and talked at length about the political situation in Singapore. Watch video here: