Singapore Democrats hold historic workshop

May 29, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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The SDP held an historic – and successful – workshop last Saturday. Historic because this is the first time that Singaporeans have gathered together to plan for a campaign to bring about reform of the political system here.

Successful because the participants exceeded the number planned for. More important was the quality of the discussions and the ideas put forward by those present. Passionate and animated viewpoints were the order of the day. The enthusiasm was palpable.

The workshop began with a welcome by workshop coordinator Mr Michael Cheng. Participants were asked to address the problems of the political system in Singapore with reference specifically to the election system, media, the economy, political/civil rights (freedom of speech, association and assembly), and economic rights.

The end-objective of the workshop was to produce an agenda for action to reform the four areas outlined above over the next 12 months. The discussion also assessed how these areas would evolve over the intermediate-term (the next five years or so).

The workshop was broken up into four smaller groups to facilitate discussion and to involve the participants in a more meaningful manner.

Each group had two moderators to facilitate and record the discussions. The participants were asked to come up with specific, concrete action plans to address/challenge/overcome the current problems that Singapore faces vis-a-vis the four areas.

At the end of the break-out sessions, all the participants came back again for the presentations of group rapporteurs. Ideas flowed thick and fast attracting much applause and not little laughter. Some of the suggestions were do-able with little fuss, others requiring more planning and coordination, but all were very exciting and creative.

A follow-up workshop is planned for a few weeks from now. The following is a post-workshop letter from Dr Chee Soon Juan to the participants:

Letter from Dr Chee to participants

Dear Workshop Participants,

I’m so glad to have met all of you on Saturday and even happier to solicit your views on how we should go forward to bring about reforms for our political system.

I could feel the energy from all of you. The passion of wanting to democratize our nation flowed freely and it energized me. Thank you.

I had feared that a workshop like this would generate more anger about the system than concrete ideas on how to go about solving the problems. My fears turned out to be unfounded because there were many creative minds at work. Some of the ideas were absolute gems.

I have asked the facilitators to do a write-up on the discussions based on what was presented at the Big-group Session. We’ll compile them into a comprehensive whole and distribute it back to you for comments. This may take a few weeks.

When this is ready, we’ll organise a follow-up workshop to see how some of these ideas can be implemented. In the meantime, if you have any ideas on how this process can be enhanced, please feel free to email any of the facilitators or me.

By now, I’m sure you can see that the workshop and events that will follow are action-based. The word that describes this project is “Do”. The one that doesn’t is “Talk”.

The time for more seminars and forums to discuss what the problems are long over. The time for action has come – action by citizens who love Singapore and who refuse to let our nation be hijacked any longer.

This is why I feel strongly that this project must belong to all of us right from the beginning. Each and every one of you had your say on Saturday and will continue to have your say in shaping this campaign. It must and will be a campaign by Singaporeans for Singaporeans.

Wasn’t it Confucius who said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? Saturday last was that single, first step; the step that allowed us to break the mental shackles that keep us chained to the notion that somehow Singaporeans don’t have the ability or the devotion to stand up for democracy for our country.

Having taken that first step, let us now continue our journey with acumen, courage, and humility to win back what has been robbed from us for too long.

I look forward to working with you and seeing all of you again. Thank you.

Yours in solidarity,

Chee Soon Juan