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Exactly who is the opposition in Singapore? What does it stand for and where does it want to take the country? There has been much criticism about Singapore’s opposition not standing for anything except that we are not the PAP.
Being opposed to the ruling party itself signals something; the fact that the current system is undemocratic opposition parties are, by default, of the stance that a democratic system must be instituted.
Beyond this, however, the electorate has little idea of what the opposition as a whole want for Singapore. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the media are controlled by the ruling regime.
But there’s another part to the problem: The opposition has not done enough to articulate an alternative vision for this country. We are unambiguous in what we stand against, but are less clear about what we stand for.
The Singapore Democrats recognised this problem and we have, through the years, striven to address this shortcoming. As a result, we have drawn up a clear and compelling vision for Singapore. We have stated where we want to take our country. And where we want to go is starkly different from where the PAP is taking us. In other words, we present to the Singaporean electorate a real choice.
Not only have we laid out a clear direction for the country, we have also made specific proposals and policies on how to get there. From the mid-1990s when we published Dare To Change to our current It’s About You: An Economic Alternative Programme for Singapore, we have made clear our policy ideas.
The difficulty we face is getting the public to know our Programme because the state media have assidously covered up our news. On the Internet, however, most netizens who are interested in the nation’s politics and national issues know what the SDP stands for.
A party with foundation
But why is it important for a political party to make clear its stand? For one thing, a party that stands for nothing is also a party that stands for everything. Such a stance is nothing more than political flim-flam which nobody takes seriously.
Also, a party that does not take a stand on the issues is also often bereft of foundational principles. Such an organisation is like a boat without a rudder. Rudderless boats never did any passenger any good.
There’s a third, and in the Singapore context perhaps the most crucial, reason. A party that makes clear its guiding philosophy is able to attract individuals of thought and substance. Singaporeans who become part of the SDP family know exactly what they are getting into and what is expected of them. They come in with a sacrificial attitude ready to contribute towards achieving the collective vision.
Without foundational principles, a party is in danger of becoming an organisation based on personalities. Personality-based political parties have a short shelf-life. More significantly, they crumble when the personality dies or when personalities come into major conflict.
The SDP have had our share of problems in the past with personality-driven politics. We have learned. And we have changed. Presently, the Singapore Democrats coalesce around an ideal – that of building a free and egalitarian society – rather than a personality.
This does not mean that we are problem-free, but it does mean that because we are focused on our vision, resolution of conflicts are more uneventful.
And because our members and activists are deeply involved in working towards an ideal that we all share, we continue to see an enthusiasm as well as expansion in our ranks quite unprecedented in the party’s history.
As a result we have been able to become more productive and effective in ways not possible before. The step-up has given us a new-found pride that continues to drive us forward.
All this because we stand for something.
Dr Chee Soon Juan’s address at SDP’s 30th Anniversary Dinner:
SDP’s 30th Anniversary Dinner:
Democracy – Let’s Do it!
SDP’s 30 Years of Democratic Service