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The SDP has applied for a permit to speak at Fajar Road over the wet market issue. Assistant Secretary-General John Tan put in an application for party leaders to address Bukit Panjang residents on Sunday, 25 Oct 09, from 9 am to 12 noon
As the title of event, Keep our wet markets, suggests the talk would be about the impending sale of wet markets to Sheng Siong Pte Ltd and the impact the sale would have on shopkeepers and consumers.
The venue is the open square outside the Fajar wet market which is ideal for the public forum as it has a covered stage. The police have yet to reply.
But the Government’s unconstitutional decree of not allowing such activity will mean that the application will probably be turned down.
This is where Singaporeans must see the relevance of human rights in their lives. The denial of the right of the freedom to assemble and speak freely in public means that livelihood issues such as the Sheng Siong takeover of the wet markets cannot be effectively addressed.
Residents no matter how displeased with the sale cannot adequately express themselves and bring political pressure to bear on the authorities to stop the transfer.
With no pressure, the MP for the constituency can remain quiescent to the transaction knowing that come elections, he will be shielded from criticisms by the state media and with the election rules being the way they are, win the contest again without having to break sweat
The PAP and big business will push through with the sale, and the people will just have to stomach the consequences.
This is the way that people in a one-party state live – they simply have no say in matters that affect them.
Compare this to a society with all the attendant freedoms like Hong Kong. In 2006 the city’s administration wanted to introduce the GST. Hong Kongers strongly objected and made known their displeasure in no uncertain terms.
They conducted public forums, organised peaceful public rallies and marches, and the opposition spoke up vociferously on their behalf. The result? “We have heard clearly a strong opposition to the GST from the public,” Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said. The government backed down.
Singapore? Ministers are paid indecent salaries the amounts of which are kept secret, CPF savings are withheld through one scheme or other, HDB prices have become incomprehensibly expensive, billions of dollars are lost through the GIC and Temasek who incredibly refuse to reveal their accounts, and the F1 grand prix continues to be held right smack in the middle of the downtown area no matter how much losses we incur and how much inconvenience it creates.
We simply don’t have a say.
And why? It all boils down to the fact that our rights to the freedoms of speech and assembly guaranteed under our Constitution have been plundered and stolen.
Singaporeans must realise that without political rights, we have no economic rights to speak of. Politics and economics are two sides of the same coin. The sooner we realise this the happier our lives will be.
This is the reason why the Singapore Democrats continue to alert Singaporeans to the importance of human rights and civil liberties in our lives.
Make no mistake. The stallholders and vendors in the wet markets are vexed because their very livelihoods are at stake. But because they have no rights and the opposition has been shackled, they have no choice but to accept their fate.