This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.
My dear fellow Singaporeans,
This is the first time that I am addressing you on our podcast since the PAP banned podcasting during the elections in May. I cannot tell you how much of an honour it is to have you listen to this message, a message that has enormous importance to our future and the future of Singapore.
Our nation is at a crossroads and we, the citizens, have a decision to make. Go down one path and we will end up in a nightmare situation where the oppression makes us all live a life of lies and deception.
Go down the other and we have the opportunity of creating a society where we are free to question the government, one where we can demand transparency and accountability of those whom we elect to power, and one where we can don’t have to live in fear of the PAP.
That opportunity will come this Saturday. I cannot tell you how crucial it is that you come down to the Speakers’ Corner to join the rally and march.
I know that there are many of you realize the importance and the significance of this event. But I also know that many of you are afraid of getting into trouble with the PAP. It would be a lie to tell you that there is nothing to fear.
But I also need to tell you that if you allow fear to be your master, our nation will go down the path of social and political ruin which will ultimately lead to economic decline for all of us.
Remember, a strong and prosperous country is never built on a foundation of fearful citizens.
But I hear many of you say Singaporeans are not worth fighting for. They are selfish and apathetic and it’s silly sacrificing for such an unappreciative lot.
Allow me to relate to you what some activists in other countries have said about their own peoples. Do you remember Benigno Aquino, the Philippines politician who was assassinated by Ferdinand Marcos?
His image now appears on the country’s 500-peso note and beside it are the words “the Filipino is worth dying for”. Many of his countrymen had told him that the Filipinos were not worth sacrificing for because they behaved so cravenly in the face of Marcos’ bullying.
His colleague the late Senator Jose Diokno was so incensed by the lack of courage of the Philippine people to stand up to Marcos that he once remarked that his country was made up of Quote 49 million cowards and one sonofabitch!”
Similarly in Taiwan , an activist once scolded her fellow Taiwanese during the Kuomintang dictatorship Quote I would not encourage anyone to sacrifice for the 20 million Taiwanese who are so cowardly that whenever I see them I want to give them one big slap. Unquote
In 1997 when I attended a conference in Melbourne during a time when trouble was brewing in Indonesia, someone suggested that Indonesia could have its own People Power to get rid of Suharto. But an Indonesian scholar stood up and lamented that this could never happen in his country because, unlike the Filipinos, his fellow countrymen were too fearful to stand up to Suharto.
There are many more examples. In each case, people despaired over the weakness and lack of courage of their fellow citizens. Yet in every case, the people ultimately found the courage to say enough was enough and stood up to their oppressors.
How did this happen? It was always the few who felt compelled to do what was right and who would not look the other way when injustice was perpetrated that started the wheels of people power turning. Wasn’t it Martin Luther King who said: “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
Taiwan’s Shih Ming-teh who struggled for democracy for his people and was imprisoned for nearly a quarter of a century by the KMT government said that Quote freedom fighters crawl along a narrow path, but in the end those who follow will broaden the path into a wide avenue. Unquote
It always starts with a few drops that will collect into a trickle. Before long that trickle will turn into a stream that will eventually become a raging torrent for freedom.
Don’t despair. Instead believe. Have faith in our fellow Singaporeans, that like peoples elsewhere, our own will one stand up to the oppressors.
For now the few of us must take that first courageous step. Don’t wait for the next guy to come forward for if everyone waits for everyone else, then we will forever be standing still.
Let me, for a moment, take my message to Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Prime Minister, if you are listening, you too have a momentous decision to make. Make the right one to bring freedom and justice to this country and history will commend you as a great leader. Make the wrong one and I guarantee you will face increased resistance. This is a fight you cannot win. A great leader is not just a strong one, but also a wise one. And wisdom is telling you that the time is come for Singapore to be free. I pray that you will exercise sound judgment and that wise counsel will prevail.
And to all my colleagues in the opposition, I would like to humbly urge everyone to come together to demand change. Only when we claim our right to exercise our freedom of peaceful assembly can we exert concerted pressure on the PAP to carry out reforms of the election process, the media and the legal system. When such reforms are in place, it will benefit the opposition as a whole.
And when the opposition benefits, Singaporeans can finally find their voice in parliament.
The only ticket out of this hole that we are in is to fight for our rights to peaceful public protests. With this fundamental tool in hand, we can compel the Government to make elections genuinely free and fair. Until then, we will all be forever condemned to running in circles.
We owe it to our fellow citizens to make the sacrifices and to suffer the pain before democracy can be won.
And so to all my fellow Singaporeans, I want to remind you that we are citizens of Singapore, not serfs. Citizens have rights. Let us stand up for our rights. Let our citizenship mean something. Let us respect the Government but let us not fear it, for only serfs fear their governments.
There comes a time when one refuses to be humiliated any longer, a time when she cannot tolerate the intimidation any more, a time when he refuses to continue to lie to himself and to his loved ones.
That time is now. I ask you to come and join my colleagues and I this Saturday because we are those men and women. We will gather at the Speakers’ Corner in peace and humility but with an indomitable resolve to assemble and speak freely in our own country.
Whatever happens on Saturday we have already won. Why? Because we have become more aware of our right to freedom of peaceful assemble and begun to think more deeply about the concept and practice of civil disobedience.
Remember, it is not our bodies that have been crippled but our minds. If we can overcome our fear, our battle is won. The genie is out of the bottle and not even the PAP can put it back in.
You take that one step and I will take a hundred. I will be there standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with you, holding high our heads and to show what it really means to stand up for Singapore.
They can sue me, they can jail me and they can take away everything I possess. But the one thing that they can never have is my obedience. As long as democracy is suppressed, as long as justice is mocked, I will not be silenced.
Join me and together let us make history. I’ll see you on Saturday. Thank you and God bless.