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What prompts a young mother of two to stand up for her rights and the rights of her fellow citizens in a country known for crushing dissent with frightening efficiency? This is a question that many Singaporeans will ask if they met Jaslyn Go Hui Leng.
This is because Ms Go is one of the 18 Singaporeans charged with taking part in an assembly and procession without a permit on 15 Mar this year.
That event launched the Tak Boleh Tahan! campaign which is aimed at highlighting the PAP Government’s raising of prices and fees that has thrown hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans into economic disarray and hardship.
And what will be her answer?
“I will not live by the fear the PAP seeks to instill in its citizens,” explains Ms Go. “They can try to cripple me with arrest, jail or fine, but they can’t stop me from speaking up.”
So what does the financial plight of workers have to do with a successful businesswoman who leads a more-than-comfortable lifestyle with her family?
“I used to be very poor when I was young,” explained Ms Go, “now that I am better off, I hope I can do my part and highlight the plight our elderly and poor in Singapore are going through.
“If we continue to allow the PAP to rule with an iron fist, the people’s problems will not be addressed and I fear that the younger generation will suffer more than we are now as the cost of living are skyrocketing and our jobs are being taken over by foreigners.”
The Singapore Democrats first came to know Ms Go during the vigil outside the Burmese embassy in September 2007. Since then, the vivacious and determined advocate of democracy has been actively helping to promote human rights in Singapore.
“Prior to the protest, I tried in my own ways to engage the government by writing to my MP, Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs, and the Straits Times. But time and again they refused to reply to me, or publish my letters,” she writes in her blog.
There is a steely quality about Ms Go that pushes her on. And it is not just starry-eyed ideals that propels the lady’s actions; she makes no bones that she is also doing this for the sake of her two children, aged 3 and 5.
Children in Singapore have been deprived of quality life which is so stressful even for young children, she points out.
“Child suicide has been on the rise. The root of the problem lies in the stiff competition that our children are being put through in school,” says Ms Go. “I hope this can be a thing of the past.”
Asked what she hopes for in the next 5 to 10 years, Ms Go replies that she would like to see elderly folks who have contributed to Singapore’s progress be taken care of by the government and not reduced to collecting cardboard boxes and empty drink cans to eke out a living.
And how does she think this can be achieved?
“I hope to see a change in government to a more humane one that puts the country and the citizens first.”
Ms Go will appear in Subordinate Court 23 together with the other 17 activists.
Many Singaporeans shy away from engaging in the public process by claiming that they have their families to think about. Such fear is a damning indictment of the PAP. Be that as it may, Ms Go’s example and courage should be a ringing call to citizens of this country to overcome their fearful inertia and become actively involved in matters that concern their everyday lives as well as their future.
Singaporeans can get involved by taking the first step next Friday, 11 Jul 08. Come down to the Subordinate Courts at 9 am to lend your support to this woman of incredible courage as well as to the other activists who have stood up for justice and democracy in Singapore.
If Singapore had more committed citizens like Ms Go, this country would be a much better place to live in.