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The NUSPA’s Young Guns Forum 2018, chaired by Dr Gillian Koh from the Institute of Policy Studies, was consisted of 3 panelists: Dr Janil Puthucheary from the PAP, Mr Gerald Giam, chair of WP’s Youth Wing and our SDP’s CEC Member, Mr Damanhuri Bin Abas. Below is Mr Daman’s speech.
Good evening everyone. It’s good to be back in Campus. Thank you NUS. Pol. Assoc., for inviting SDP to join this very important but extremely rare forum to discuss politics in Singapore.
I studied here from 91-94 in Archie Fac. Was very active in the Malay Lang Soc. of NUS. 23 years ago, the word then was, the walls have ears so don’t talk politics in campus. Rumors had it, your course mates could be, an active ISD informant. Enough to kill any political activism in campus.
Most Varsities in the world are hotbeds of political activism and society’s reform are inspired by amazing dynamism of undergrads taking actions, concerned about issues in their society.
Arguably the most iconic symbol of our democracy is, Speaker’s Corner, which recently, had a planned protest against the race-based Presidential election, cancelled. I was to speak there. The police issued warnings to the organizers, don’t touch race or religion.
Having a parliament and elections every 5 years are just basics for democracy, don’t forget, North Korea too, have them. It is not enough. Real democracy is depoliticizing the PA, depoliticizing the Civil Service, depoliticizing the business sector dominated by GLCs led by ex-politicians or ex-generals all connected to the ruling party, and allowing space for politics in Campus.
So my young friends, how politics and political parties remain rooted and connected must be framed correctly. Our take in SDP is, the undergrads must get to the real meaning of democracy beyond symbolism. Rooted as towhat our politics must be and connected to know how it affects us daily.
Political space for our nation to grow and mature politically, is at the core of our democratic need. Democracy needs space for ideas to flow and be challenged, not exclusive to an elite group that dictates to us, what democracy is, on their terms. The people is the greatest arbiter in a democracy, not the government. When the government thinks they only need themselves, then we are in trouble.
Our nationhood was not a given. Our nation’s founder(s)fought against colonial rule of the British. There was rigorous effort, struggle, pain and sacrifices, to get our rights for our people, to decide ourselves, collectively, what we want to be as a nation. We defy being instruments for enriching the British elite. We kicked them out democratically.
The battle for independence from British rule began in Campus, the then Nanyang campus. We wanted a system that will ensure the people will check the government. Not the other way round. Today, we the people, have little means to check this government.
The outcome after 50 years of own-self check own-self?
Conflict of interest across sectors and segments of government and non-government. Check and balance seems gone. Singapore Inc., that we gloat about, has become something else.
Corruptions in Keppel, SMRT, the world’s most expensive dustbin at NAC, Oxley-saga, etc., etc. Have we abandoned all that we once stood for? Did it happen overnight? It took 50 years of systemic erosion as we compromised and believed that a one party system could do the job, against all wisdom of history, littered with numerous examples of abuse of power, when one party rules for far too long.
Meritocracy? Or meritocrazy? Cronyism seems in vogue? Are our best still in charge? Has greed taken over? We must save and take back our country. Let’s talk about it. Thank you very much.