Change begins with me

Chong Wai Fung

I became a member of SDP a year ago, after being a volunteer at the GE2011. Due to other commitments, I was not an active member – showing up for events here and there. This year, I became more involved – both in planning for activities and taking part in them.

I have always been hesitant in telling my friends about my involvement in politics, especially as it is with an opposition party. Fortunately,
when my friends hear what I have been up to
I receive quiet words of encouragement, or at worst, awkward silence.

Perhaps it was because I have been selective about whom I revealed this information to. One comment that I have received quite often is, “SDP? Chee Soon Juan? He is so confrontational!”

Anybody who has had the opportunity to speak with Dr Chee will discover an intelligent and thoughtful man, with strong convictions and courage to match to stand up for his beliefs. I have never believed everything that was written in the press about Dr Chee. He must have been a real thorn in the side of the ruling party.

But wait a minute! SDP is not all about Dr Chee. Amongst its ranks are many other men and women who are dedicated and who have worked tirelessly away from the limelight, or rather spotlight, to offer an alternative to Singaporeans. The breadth and depth of talent, knowledge and wisdom of these people are inspiring.

Over the past month, I have reflected on what it means to be a member of the opposition
in Singapore. I joined knowing that the odds are stacked against us, that the playing field is not level, that every trick in the book will be used by the ruling party to incapacitate us, and my confidence will probably be tested. These all turned out to be true.

However, I have also made many new friends, people who share the same conviction that Singapore can be a much better place for the young to grow up in, and the rest of us to grow old together. I cannot imagine the betrayal that some of these people must have felt when they were imprisoned without trial and accused of being anti-Singapore.

am rather disappointed that despite the relatively good showing that SDP has made in the last elections, much of the support now appears to be shown through words on the various internet sites and social media platforms. Perhaps, people do not realize how much resources are required to keep a party running and make its presence felt. I never expected to be so involved in all the activities, but the reality is that opposition parties do not have the luxury of almost unlimited resources that the ruling party has.

party machinery needs money to keep the party afloat and human resources to come up with alternative policies. Every outreach activity requires money, and hands and legs. After all, we cannot simply put up large banners announcing that we will be doing walkabouts in the housing estates! We are not even talking about the massive amount of money needed when GE2016 approaches. While there is a group of people who have been quietly supporting the party, it is not enough.

My biggest question
is what happened to the 40 percent of voters who voted for change in GE2011, and specifically the 97,000 plus voters who voted for SDP? What about the several hundred more who had volunteered during the campaign? If we truly want change, we have to do more than just criticize the ruling party. If we care enough about our country, we need to do more than just howl at the injustices of the current system. We have to stand up and be counted, not just once every five years, but every single day.

If we want a Singapore where Singaporeans are taken care of, we need to start with ourselves, not wait for someone else to pave the way for us. While it feels good to know that there is a strong support base for opposition parties, action speaks louder than words. One person may not be able to do much (think Dr Chee), but a large group of active citizens working towards the same goal can change the country (think Arab Spring).

This National Day, I will remind myself that as a responsible Singaporean, it is up to me
to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation. I have made the decision to stand up and be counted. What about you?

Chong Wai Fung is a research analyst and a proud member of Women Democrats.

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