Protests are a lifeline for the people, not a waste of taxpayers’ money

March 25, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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To: Mr Yap koon Hong
Forum Editor
The Straits Times
[email protected]

Dear Sir,

Please publish my reply to Mr Paul Antony Fernandez’s letter dated 20 March 2008. As before, please do not edit my letter without my consent before publication. Thank you.

Chee Soon Juan

Chee’s reply

I thank Mr Paul Antony Fernandez for his advice (Advice to Chee: Don’t waste taxpayers’ money, ST, 20 March 2008; see below). Unfortunately, it is misplaced.

Just because Mr Fernandez is “grateful” and “appreciative” of the Government does not mean that it is right for the ruling party to ignore the Constitution that guarantees the right of Singaporeans to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly.

For every Paul Antony Fernandez who is leading a “trouble-free life”, there are several others who toil under an unforgiving economic regime that strips them of all dignity and hope.

The writer has a well-constructed channel to express his love for what benefits him. What about those who disagree with him?

They have two ways of making their views heard: One is through the elections. The other is through peaceful public assembly. Both are guaranteed under the Constitution and absolutely essential to a functioning democracy.

Just as Mr Fernandez does not think that elections are a waste of taxpayers’ money, why should he think that way about public protests?

Perhaps its because in elections the PAP can bribe and intimidate voters, fix the opposition, and make up the rules as it goes along in order to achieve a certain outcome.

The result is that, in such unfair and unfree elections, issues important to voters become submerged under the onslaught of misinformation propagated by the PAP-controlled media.

Note that Freedom House, in its annual report, states that “Citizens of Singapore cannot democratically change their government.” The Asia Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) observed the 2006 general elections and concluded that reform of the election system is needed.

Such control of the citizens’ views and the production of a predetermined outcome in elections is much more difficult to achieve in public protests.

In addition, it is only through peaceful mass protests that the people can compel the PAP Government to reform the election system.

Mr Fernandez also wants the SDP to “form a coalition and work in tandem with the ruling party.” This sounds curiously similar to what Mr Peh Shing Huei had advocated in his piece “The partitioning of the opposition.”

There seems to be an effort to try to get the SDP to accept the ruling party as the unchallenged power and for the opposition to be a political ornament in a PAP-state.

It must be made absolutely clear that under such a one-party system, the only way for the opposition to work in tandem with the ruling party is for us to abandon our democratic principles and become client-party of the PAP.

In case it is not already clear, let me reiterate the party’s stand: The SDP is not for sale.

We make this pledge to the people of Singapore: We will continue to fight to empower Singaporeans so that they can have a voice in the policies that affect their everyday lives.

Peaceful assemblies, especially in an authoritarian state where elections are manipulated, are far from a waste of taxpayers’ money; they are the lifeline of the disenfranchised, the weak and the voiceless.

Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party

Advice to Chee: Don’t waste taxpayers’ money
Forum, The Straits Times
20 Mar 08

I refer to Sunday’s report, ‘SDP holds illegal protest against rising consumer prices; 12 held’, on the protest march held by Dr Chee Soon Juan and his supporters last Saturday.

As a Singapore-born citizen since the 1960s, I and many others are grateful to the Government and appreciative of what it has done since Independence.

No government can appease all. A good government will do its utmost to ensure that the majority are taken care off.

My advice to Dr Chee and his comrades is that instead of periodic publicity stunts which waste taxpayers’ money, they should form a coalition and work in tandem with the ruling party to make life here more interesting and peaceful for all.

Until then, let us continue enjoying a trouble-free life under our current Government, which is in touch with the ground through grassroots organisations, and addresses the concerns of those who fall through the income gap.

Paul Antony Fernandez