Confessions of a Freedom Walker II

December 20, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Teoh Tian Jing
19 Dec 06

It worries my family whenever I decide to “put my head on the chopping block” to participate in some of the peaceful activities organised by the very determined human rights campaigners either from within or outside of the party.

Yet, I know there is nothing to be afraid of. For the more you cower and play by the rules and boundaries that the Government sets out, the more the noose will tighten around you.

The Internet, one of the only outlets left for freedom of expression in Singapore, is also going to be more restrictive for freedom of expression when the new set of laws is passed.

The truth is that the general public is not interested in the legalisation of bungee jumping, bar-top dancing and such like. The more important issue of restrictive laws of democratic freedoms are still in place.

It’s like placing Singaporeans in a prison cell. The Government opens the cell door for for us because it says we want more freedoms. Singaporeans then come out of the cell and find ourselves surrounded by yet another enclosure – this time an electric fence with no doors and a clear warning: You will be hurt dearly if you try to breach it.

What has been rightfully ours, the right to freedom of assembly and speech has been taken away, and Singaporeans need to come forward to tear down the fence that has been built around us.

Although Singaporeans have lived inside the fence for so long, we have not been institutionalized and will never be. However comfortable we are inside the enclosure, the natural urge for freedom will always reside within.

A couple of days ago, I met a very intelligent and vocal 17-year-old junior college student on the train and asked him how is the general opinion of his peers regarding the system in place.

He said, “Most of us are not happy with the government. But we recognize they get things done. But I’ll give 15 or 20 years, and if they continue with the way they are, they will not hold power for very long.”

This about summarises what the younger breed of Singaporeans feel about the Government, and yet it beats me why they are still adamant about not doing anything about things.

During the vigil outside Queenstown Remand Prison, I had a chance to meet up with fellow young Singaporeans who also feel the urge to stand up to speak out against the abysmal lack of freedom in Singaporeans.

Instead of relying on the Internet to speak to an already overwhelming anti-PAP crowd, these youths have renounced their initial fears and are willing to take concrete action to do their little part for this country.

However small this step is, if more people are willing to stand up as they did, we should not need to feel helpless. Instead, we should be hopeful that some day, a strong opposition will rise up. This is what active citizenry is all about.

PM Lee Hsien Loong should remember and fulfill his promise of “an open and inclusive society”, “where Singaporeans are free to be unconventional”, without being persecuted.

Until then, I will steadfastly continue to lend and garner support for the sake of transparency, freedom, democracy and human rights in Singapore.