Wijeysingha: Without liberties our nation cannot come into her own

Singapore Democrats

Dr Vincent Wijeysignha gave the opening address at the SDP’s National day Dinner celebrations on 6 Aug 11. Below are excerpts of his speech:

My friends,

It is the SDP family which gathers once again to celebrate, among friends, our nation’s forty-sixth birthday. And so I want to speak to you as family.

The General Elections just passed were for many of us a defining moment. Our party’s vote share, despite a very negative campaign by the other side, increased by 14% and we were able to showcase the Singapore Democrats as a serious party of thinkers and doers.

And in fact, some of our policies, even without being in Parliament, are being adopted.

There is a ministerial pay review occurring. Mr Vikram Nair and BG Tan Chuan Jin are holding Town Hall meetings; the PMO has been slimmed down substantially; and certain members of the PAP front bench have been sacked. Sorry, they stepped down. I stand corrected.

But it was a defining moment for another reason. I experienced, and I am sure you did too, a feeling of mission, a true sense of determination, hard work, cooperation, and a willingness to do whatever the party called us to. A true sense of gotong royong, the community mentality of everyone coming together for a common cause.

And I can never be too lavish in my thanks because those of us who worked in the background of the campaign did so without any desire for thanks except that the cause of democracy should be served.

This is the kind of Singapore that we, not the PAP alone, but we, the people of Singapore, built in these last forty-six years.

Each time I watch our National Day parade and the focus given to the men in white, I say, they have had their reward.

Each time they tell us they will only serve the community if we give them millions of dollars, I say, they have had their reward.

Each time I pass their lavish houses with the police pondok in front, I say, they have had their reward.

Each time I see their grandiose motorcades with the traffic police blocking the traffic, I say, they have had their reward.

But each time I see a beggar on the street, an old lady selling tissue paper, an old man collecting cardboard, I say, their reward has not been earned.

During our Community Service home visits these last 3 months, we have met families who struggle to pay for healthcare, who don’t know whether their rental home will be secure from one year to the next, their children failing in school because they cannot afford a table to study at, I have felt, their reward has not been earned.

We will only come to truly celebrate our nation’s birthday when none of our brothers and sisters has been left behind, forgotten, ignored because they are no longer productive economic digits.

Today, this evening, we come together as a family of men and women – and children – who believe that no one should be left behind. And I think it is fitting at this dinner to record my thanks to the many, many volunteers who stepped up since the elections to carry out our work among the people of Singapore.

It is a spirit of service, a spirit of sacrifice, an imagination of the future we want to share with all our countrymen and women, that has motivated them, motivated you, and today, on behalf of the party, I say a grateful thank you to each and every one of you. And a thank you to all of you who continue to support our vision through your presence here.

Our party, our family, are a people who do. But we are also a family of people who think. Last year, and in the run up to the election, we occupied the intellectual ground when we published our Alternative Economic Strategy and our Shadow Budget, not to mention our election manifesto.

In a short time we will be releasing our submission on ministerial salaries; and our Alternative Healthcare Plan is now being written, under the able supervision of our Policy Committee.

But we have not come here merely to celebrate. We have not come here merely in the hope of seeing Dr Chee dance the ronggeng like last time. We have come here because our party celebrates our community, celebrates humanity.

We have come here to reaffirm our commitment to the civil liberties of every Singaporean, whose birthright was written into a cheque that the bank of our nation did not cash for so many.

We have come here because we know our work is right, and you have joined us to stand on the side of the Singaporean people, to reaffirm our dedication to the human rights of each and every man, woman and child, because you believe, as our whole family of democrats do, that without an assurance of dignity, of equal access to the full range of liberties and rights, our nation cannot come into her own, cannot grow up, cannot face the future that is to come.

A future, I might add, that has entered a new period of instability. Instability of the dollar, of new global political motivations, of changed economic priorities, of shifting power bases.

As history has laid down very clearly, without an acknowledgement of the importance of every individual, we run the risk of trying to build the future on a bed of shifting sands, a future without intrinsic values, a future where only might is right.

I would like to invite you, on our National Day, to reaffirm your dedication to the cause of democracy, to the cause of the people.

The road ahead is still long and it will not be without challenge. I ask you to keep the flame burning, a flame the people of Singapore have helped us to light, to continue your volunteer work with the party, your moral support, your financial contributions.

It is you that keep our party alive, and through you, the hopes and dreams of the people of Singapore.

I would like to say one final word; I hope you won’t mind.

A few weeks ago Dr Chee celebrated his 49th birthday. And in the hustle and bustle of our day-to- day work, it is easy to forget to say these things so I take the opportunity here:

That we have achieved what we have, that the Singapore Democrats have arrived as a serious political force, that our organising capacity has grown by leaps and bounds, is tribute to your able and dedicated leadership.

The watershed of 7 May was in substantial measure a result of your input into the political terrain of our community, a result of your having expanded the discourse and pushed back the out of bound markers. We do not recollect your work lightly and we thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, on that note, it is for me a great honour to welcome you to our inaugural Singapore Day Dinner. Eat, drink and enjoy, because tomorrow, we set our sights back on the road to 2016. Thank you again for your presence with us this evening.

More photos of SDP’s Singapore Day Party here.

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