A lesson in unity

August 19, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Malaysian rapper and blogger has been threatened with arrest and prosecution by his government. This, in turn, has triggered a storm of protests\from the country’s civil and political societies.

The matter arose over a video that Mr Wee Meng Chee posted on YouTube where he superimposed rap music over Malaysia’s national anthem and called in Negaraku-ku, criticising a wide range of policy matters.

The Malaysian authorities took offence and threatened to charge Mr Wee with various offences including the Sedition Act even after the blogger apologised.

What the Singapore Democrats wish to highlight over this affair is the spine shown by those who care about political rights in Malaysia.

As a result of the government threats opposition leaders [the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the KeAdilan (PKR)], bloggers, civil society actors, journalists, and lawyers have come out in strength to speak out in a series of forums to be held over the next few days (http://www.jeffooi.com/2007/08/standing_up_for_nameweeku.php):

Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General
Yeoh Yeang Poh, immediate past president, Malaysian Bar Council
Josh Hong, Current Affairs commentator
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader
Chang Teck Peng, Editor-in-Chief MerdekaReview.com

Tian Chua, PKR Publicity Chief

Khalid Jaafar, PKR Central Committee member
Hishamudin Rais, Malaysiakini columnist & independent film producer
Chang Swee Heng, President, Malaysian American Alumni Association

In contrast, when Mr James Gomez was detained following the general elections in 2006, the silence in Singapore (apart from the SDP’s protest) was deafening.

If there is one thing that Singaporeans must learn, it is that unity amongst those who wish to see pluralism and democratic politics take root in Singapore is crucial.

This was the message SDP secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan conveyed to about 80 party members, supporters and friends who attended the National Day/SDP Anniversary last night.

“In order to overcome the one-party state civil society, individuals and political parties must come together to work in close cooperation,” he said.

“No one party, organisation, or individual can do this alone,” he told the audience. “We need to build a network of people or groups of people, however loosely, to work together if we are to make progress in our fight for democracy.”

Dr Chee urged those present to commit themselves to the cause regardless of their affiliation or background. He pointed out two significant events that needed the support of all those interested in freedom and the rule of law in Singapore.

One was the International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual conference to be held from 14-19 October 2007. The IBA will hold a Rule of Law Symposium on 19 October (Friday) which will be open to the public. More information about the event will be posted on this website.

The second event is the signing of the ASEAN Charter in Singapore in mid-November. The group has promised to establish a regional human rights commission in its Charter. The SDP understands that the Filipino, Indonesian, and even Thai governments have been pushing for such a commission.

The Singapore Government has been publicly supportive of such an initiative. Those who are familiar with the PAP will know, however, that what the Government says on matters relating to the promotion of human rights have no connection to what it actually does.

Dr Chee encouraged democracy workers to come together for these events to show that like other peoples of the world, Singaporeans want democracy and freedom just as much. (More information about these events will be posted at this website.)

As a start, a video was recorded of the dinner participants holding lit candles signifying their desire and commitment to see the “flame of democracy” burning even more brightly in the future.

The video will be posted on this website once it is completed. Watch out for it.