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In our continuing effort to raise awareness among our youths and to get them more interested in the nation’s politics, several of the SDP’s leaders visited the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) today. We paid a visit to the Singapore Management University last week.
Plunging into the packed canteen the group handed out flyers, chatted with the students, posed for photographs, and exchanged emails.
“Here’s something for you to read,” Mr Gandhi Ambalam told the students, “it’s important to read alternative views and to open up your minds.” Most of the students took the flyers and started reading them, curious as to what an opposition party was doing on campus.
Their reaction is not surprising given that the Government has for years clamped down on political activity in our universities.
When lunch was over and the party began to leave, a student reporter from the Nanyang Chronicle, the university’s flagship student publication, came up and wanted to do an interview with Dr Chee.
In the space of a few minutes the group of journalists-to-be, photographers and cameramen sat around with the SDP members for the interview.
“What brings you here?” one of them started off.
“We’re here to raise awareness among the students and to get them interested on national issues,” Dr Chee replied.
“Did you have to ask for a permit to come in here?”
“When I go and pick up my daughter in school, I need to ask for permission if I want to wander around the school’s premises. But that’s because she is in a kindergarten!” Dr Chee explained. “Don’t keep asking for permission for everything you do in Singapore, it’s not the way if we are going to succeed in the future.”
“What do you hope to see among the students?”
Dr Chee explained that students in any society are always the ones to question authority, push the boundaries, and challenge the status quo. It’s only in dictatorial systems where students are brow-beaten into submissiveness.
Even the academics are bullied, he pointed out and cited the example of the university’s economiic professors who had, some years back, cited data that showed that the majority of jobs created in Singapore went to foreigners working here. Then Minister for Manpower Ng Eng Hen challenged the dons and bullied them into retracting their data.
It is this kind of attitude that cripples the intellectual climate in this country and, unfortunately, prevents our academic institutions from becoming first-rate ones that they have the potential to be. Dr Chee then called on the students to rise to the challenge to shape their institutions and their own lives.
When asked what other ways the Democrats could reach out to the students, Dr Chee said that coming to the campus was much more personal but asking students to visit the SDP’s website was the only way that the SDP could present its views to them.
Another way would be to address students through forums organised by the student unions. The SDP leader asked if the students would organise such an event. The student reporters said that they would convey the message to their leaders. Of course, this would need the approval of the school’s administration.
The SDP will continue to visit the various campuses and educate our youths about their role in the nation’s politics.