Singaporeans should not be forced to join a party to speak up

June 19, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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The Straits Times refused to publish the letter below by Young Democrat Ms Chee Siok Chin.

I refer to the letter Want Change? Speak up or join a party by Mr Goh Poh Sun (ST Forum, 5 June).

I agree with Mr. Gohs call to those who are interested in change in Singapore to participate in the political process. However, the writer should also note that the political process is not confined only to politicians and political parties. In a democratic and vibrant society, non-government organizations and activists are equally important players in ensuring healthy debate on issues.

Unfortunately, the PAP government does not tolerate dissent which is the staple of democracy. This has been made apparent in how it crushes non-conforming views. If the ruling party is serious and committed to adhering to democratic principles, it must allow views to be aired without the threat of lawsuits and incarceration looming over those who speak out. This is a significant deterrent to free speech.

The writer must surely realize by now that numerous Singaporeans feel that joining a political party in Singapore other than the PAP would endanger ones well-being judging from how the party reacts to dissenting voices.

Singaporeans must not be conditioned into thinking that a political party is the only legitimate means of taking the government to task. The call for change, either in policy or government, is not the sole prerogative of politicians and political parties. Individual and citizens who make up the society have the right to participate through a free civil society in calling for change.

Instead of urging Singaporeans to join a political party in order to bring about change, the call should be to the PAP government to respect the rights of citizens to participate in the political process freely, be it through a political party or civil society, without being persecuted.

Ms Chee Siok Chin
Singapore Democratic Party