2009 in review: A year of action

December 29, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Are you ready? We’re going for a ride that will take you through the weeks and months of an eventful 2009, and leave you breathless at the end. So buckle up and here we go.

January

Year ’09 started with SDP members being tried for distributing flyers that were critical of the Government. Days later, activists Messrs Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong were arrested for protesting outside the Ministry of Manpower. Of course, foreign workers who did the same thing were ignored.

A PAP MP was set on fire by one of his constituents. The lawmaker was also at the receiving end of an attack by another disgruntled citizen a couple of years back.

The Chief Justice, Attorney-General, and Law Minister claimed during the opening of the Legal Year that Singapore abided by the rule of law. Dr Chee Soon Juan fired back and rubbished their propaganda. Right on cue another trial commenced involving the 5 SDP leaders and activists for conducting a walk down Orchard Road in 2007.

February

Budget time. The Democrats proposed a 5-point alternative program, parts of which were later echoed by a couple of PAP MPs. The idea of giving out spending vouchers was even put into practice by CapitaLand.

The SDP organised a forum (the second one in two years), calling on opposition parties to work in closer cooperation.

Temasek Holdings announced that it had lost 30 percent, or S$58 billion, of its portfolio part of which went to Merrill Lynch who then paid out US$250 million in bonuses to its top executives just before it went bankrupt. Dr Chee summarised the sorry state of affairs and emphasized that Mr Lee Kuan Yew must be held acountable for the fiasco.

Police revealed during the WB-IMF trial that “all ground forces” were deployed to stop the protest for free speech at Hong Lim Park. That same day, a murder took place just a few hundred metres away.

The state media re-interviewed Mr Chiam on his departure from SDP. The Democrats wrote to Mr Chiam who called on Today to stop publication of his interview.

Young Democrat Jufri Salim courageously chose to go to prison for eight days rather than pay the fine for his part in the TBT protest.

March

The Wall Street Journal was convicted for contempt of court for publishing a letter from Dr Chee.

SDP and friends held a retreat in March to discuss plans for the future and to strategise for the anticipated GE as the banned One Nation Under Lee hit 40,000 views on YouTube.

April

The PAP passed the Public Order Act. On the economic front the Democrats hit out at the Government for simply waiting for the US economy to pick up. The AWARE saga raged on and prodded civil society into rare action.

SDP leaders visited National University of Singapore campus, chatting with students and distributing flyers.

This website expanded its services by launching its Chinese, Malay, and Tamil sections.

May

The Democrats issued its May Day message in all four language, calling on the PAP to respect the rights of workers and address the widening income inequality.

A few days later, Malaysian authorities announced the re-capture of Mr Mas Selamat to the embarassment (but relief) of the PAP.

SDP continued to call for unity to fight the PAP regime with Ms Chee Siok Chin urging civil society to work with the opposition to advance democracy.

Activists marked the 22nd anniversary of the infamous 1987 “Marxist” arrests. The gay community celebrated pinkdot.com and our disabled community called for more subsidies.

The Government announced plans to increase the number of NCMP seats. The Democrats countered by calling on the PAP to stop the wayang and make the election system free and fair. In Parliament, PAP MPs called on the Government to pay more attention to SMEs than MNCs, echoing what the SDP has been saying for years.

Mr Chia Ti Lik told the court that “I have to stand up against the law that violates the principles of democracy and freedom” even as he pleaded guilty to the TBT charge because of work commitment.

June

June saw the passing away of counselor and activist, Anthony Yeo, a dear friend of the SDP. Mr Seelan Palay was called up for police investigations for One Nation Under Lee.

Judge Toh Yung Cheong issued a warrant of arrest for Dr Chee for attending his father-in-law’s funeral in Taiwan, only to rescind it after some deliberation.

July

The Democrats spell out what it means to be a credible and effective opposition to counter the PAP’s effort to shape the opposition to its own advantage. The party emphasized the need for a resolute and unyielding leadership under the PAP onslaught.

Ms Ho Ching dropped a bombshell by reversing an early decision to stand down as Temasek’s CEO.

A district judge dismissed a complaint that the police abused its powers during the ASEAN meeting in 2008 by detaining Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr John Tan, albeit briefly, while the police installed surveillance cameras at Speakers’ Corner.

Dr Chee explained why the SDP was expanding at its party conference despite concerted attacks by the PAP. The party also elected a new slate of CEC members.

August

The Young Democrats elected new leaders. Dr Chee engaged Foreign Minister George Yeo on Facebook on various issues including minimum wage and ministerial salaries. Women Democrats delivered the party’s National Day message on YouTube – the first of its kind in Singapore.

SDP invited PAP to an online debate which was, as expected, turned down. Member Wong U-wen delivered a message to reach out to the deaf community and the Democrats visited a nursing home as part of its community service program.

September

Judge Thian Yee Sze fined Dr Chee $10,000 for two counts of speaking in public while the Government belatedly lifted the ban on Singapore Rebel – after it reached nearly a quarter of a million views on YouTube and Google. Mr Seelan continued to challenge the Films Act by submitting an interview with Mr Francis Seow for rating.

Followed by SDP leaders’ visits to several university campuses to reach out to students, NTU’s administration censored the news of SDP’s visit to its campus. Subsequently, NTU students protested its censorship at Speakers Corner.

The party started a series of video messages for the major religious holidays starting with Hari Raya which was delivered by Mr Jufrie Mahmood.

Singapore was accused of stashing hotmoney from Myanmar. HDB resale prices up shot up by 38% with permanent residents making 40% of the purchasers. The Singapore population reached 5 million with 38% of it made up of non-Singaporeans.

The party resumed sales of its newspaper, The New Democrat, after a break of two years while the GIC announced a loss of $59 billion in the fiscal year ending March 2009.

October

District Judge John Ng acquitted SDP activists which cause a bit of a stir on the Internet. AGC has appealed the decision.

Democrats weighed in on Fajar wetmarket issue in Bukit Panjang, supporting residents and stallholders in the constituency. The party applied for a permit to speak to BP residents but the police rejected it. We also wrote to Sheng Siong for a meeting but the company declined the invitation.


Democrat N Gogilavani delivered the party’s Deepavali message while the party chalked up another first by launching the Let’s Talk series.

November

Dr Chee did a series of US radio talk shows calling on US MNCs to stop exploiting Singaporeans while Mr Bob Amsterdam, SDP’s lawyer, released a White Paper on repression in Singapore.

Dr Lim Hock Siew spoke about his 20-year ordeal under ISA during the book launch of The Fajar Generation, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew admitted to being wrong on his policy on learning Chinese.

The SDP joined the Liberal International.

December

PAP proposed a cooling-off period of 24 hours immediately before polling day while the AGC dropped the remaining three of eight charges aginst Dr Chee for speaking in public.

Judge Ch’ng convicted the SDP leaders for distributing flyers criticising the Government while Dr Chee slammed the Minister Mentor for saying that Singaporeans are to be blamed if they cannot cope with the influx of foreign workers.

What a year. Told you it’ll leave you breathless. If you think this was meaningful, wait till you see what’s in store for 2010. Stick around, won’t you?