Chee: Without rights, there can be no change

Singapore Democrats

The Singapore Democrats participated ina recent Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) event to talk about challenges to fundamental freedoms.$CUT$

Leading democracy leaders,parliamentarians and members of think-tanks were invited to the three-day meeting to address challenges to civil liberties.

“Without our fundamental freedoms,we cannot hope to bring about change,” SDP Secretary-GeneralChee Soon Juan said in his address. “In the absence ofdebate, the dangers of misguided and ill-conceived policies are notexposed and corrected.”

Dr Chee was referring to thePAP Government’s population White Paper in which it was announced that a population of 6.9 million would be targeted by 2030 for Singapore. He said: “Without ourrights of peaceful assembly, the PAP continued with its waywardpolicy until today we find our well-being coming under threat by aGovernment insistent on overpopulating this island.”

The reality is that the deprivation ofour rights has denied us what we really want, Dr Chee said, which isto “live a little more comfortably, to retire with a little moresecurity, and to work a little less stressfully.”

“Exercising our freedoms –especially freedom of assembly – must not be seen as taboo,”he added, “peaceful protests are necessary and righteous meanswith which the people can compel the government to act in theirinterest.”

Party Chairman Jufrie Mahmood addressed delegates at a dinner that conferences such as this helped democracy advocates “exchange ideas andinsights, and to share strategies to work towards the full range offundamental freedoms.”

The goal is to reach the ideal embodiedin the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “recognitionof the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights ofall members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justiceand peace in the world”.

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha also spoke on the subject of civil liberties: “Thereappears to be a significant correlation between the power and wealthof individual leaders and their antipathy to the human rights oftheir citizens.”

He pointed out that inSingapore, over the course of five decades of one party rulethe media, trade unions, academe, civilsociety organisations, etc have been dismantled “with the express ambitionof collecting policy-making solely into the hands of the People’sAction Party.”

CALD also held its Executive Committee meeting. The organisation formed in 1993 will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in Manila, Philippines in November this year. It will also be conducting a series of activities including election observation missions in some of the elections to be held in the region.

Current Chairman Sam Rainsy represented CALD in Rangoon, Burma, last week under the invitation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to attend the National League of Democracy’s inaugural congress. 

CALD comprises democratic parties from Asia (both governing parties and in opposition):

  • Civil Will-Green Party (Mongolia),
  • Democrat Party (Thailand),
  • Democratic Party (Hong Kong),
  • Democratic Progressive Party (Taiwan),
  • Liberal Party (Philippines),
  • Liberal Party (Sri Lanka), 
  • National Council of the Union of Burma,
  • Parti Democratic Indonesia-Perjuangan,
  • Parti Gerakan (Malaysia),
  • Sam Rainsy Party (Cambodia), and
  • Singapore Democratic Party.
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