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It is ironic that while the World Bank’s (WB) main tagline is ‘working for a world free of poverty’, its next meeting is held in Singapore, a country whose authoritarian government does nothing to stop the poor from getting poorer.
The poorest of the poor in Singapore have seen their incomes plummet over the last decade rendering many homeless. It is not unusual to see poor Singaporeans sleep in HDB void-decks, camp out on beaches and pitch make-shift homes underneath bridges. (See more photographs at Poverty I and Poverty II.)
The working- and middle-class groups are also experiencing unprecedented economic hardship. An indication of this is the number of citizens having to go to prison because they cannot afford to pay their fines and bills.
The income gap has hit a record high since Singapore became independent.
What is especially indigestible is that while all this is happening, PAP ministers continue to lavish themselves with salaries that are the highest in the world. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s income is more than that of President George Bush’s, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s, Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s, President Jacques Chirac’s, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s put together!
Yet, Singaporeans have no voice. Opposition parties have been decimated, civil society is all but dead, and the Government continues to deny the people their basic democratic rights of free speech, association and peaceful assembly.
Even more incredible is that while foreigners are allowed to conduct protests in Singapore, Singaporeans are banned from doing the same in our own country. Is there any government that does this to its own people?
The world must know of the plight of Singaporeans. Singaporeans must also be encouraged to take charge of our own problems, including claiming back our democratic rights.
To achieve this, a group of Singaporean democracy defenders will conduct public rallies and marches to coincide with the WB-IMF meeting. An application has been submitted to the police on 22 Aug 06. Below are the details of the application.
Event: Empower Singaporeans Rally and March
Dates: 14 to 20 September 2006
Participants: Open to Singaporeans from all walks of life
Objectives: One, to highlight the fact that the Singapore Government denies Singaporeans their freedoms of speech, association, and peaceful assembly. Two, to highlight the plight of poor and working Singaporeans.
Itinerary: 1. Assembly and rally at Speakers’ Corner.
2. Walk along South Bridge Rd to Parliament House.
3. Rally outside Parliament House.
4. Walk along North Bridge Rd, Stamford Rd, Nicoll Highway to Suntec City. 5. Rally outside Suntec City.
6. Walk along Bras Basah Road and Orchard Road to the Istana.
7. Rally outside the Istana and dispersal.
More details will be announced on this website as the event approaches.
Chee Soon Juan
22 Aug 06