Thank you message from CSJ

June 17, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Dear friends and supporters,

It’s been an exceptional few weeks. The courtroom tension, the coffee-laden nights, and my conviction for speaking in public (my fifth one) will make May 2008 a month that will not be soon forgotten. And oh yes, there was also Siok Chin’s and my imprisonment for contempt of court.

But rather than feel drained and despondent we are energised. For us the fight has only just begun.

And the one thing that keeps us going is your support. For this we say thank you. Your messages, articles, court attendance, presence at the vigils, etc are the oxygen that feeds the burning ambers of this campaign, ambers that will one day flare up into the bright flames of freedom and democracy.

Ironically, however, the PAP is helping to fan the fire. Much of what we have been doing in the campaign would have gone largely unnoticed if not for the reaction of the PAP Government and its media.

The Government takes punitive action against my asociaties and I in the hope of deterring others from joining the cause. But it seems that the opposite is happening. For every time it cracks down on the campaign, our ranks grow.

This is because when right-thinking Singaporeans see the cruel hand of injustice being slammed down on defenders of democracy, they are sickened. Unable to look the other way, they step forward and say, “Count me in!”

Consider this: When I was first imprisoned in 1999 there was no such thing as a vigil. Last Friday, 30 people showed up, and several were new faces.

But why do these people stand up? Because they know that our future lies in a democratic and open political system. Sitting back and cowering in fear of the PAP is not going to bring about the change that we so desperately seek.

For the first time in the history of Singapore, citizens are coming alive because they see that there is indeed something that they can do to bring about such change. They are beginning to realise that if we apply ourselves strategically and intelligently, that if we persevere, we can succeed. They see the hope.

In other words people are beginning to realise that we are not completely powerless. They see that adversity can be turned into opportunity for further action. They see the liberating value of overcoming their fear.

In short, they see the power of collective Nonviolent Action.

This is why we are witnessing the growing number within the group of activists and party members. I work with such individuals and my heart brims with excitement when I see the eyes of these Singaporeans filled with determination and hope.

Among them are real patriots who do not look the other way when they see injustice committed. They will not keep silent. They are leaders.

They don’t need tea sessions at the Istana or be head-hunted and bribed with million-dollar salaries. They step forward because they love this country and want to serve its cause.

The days of living in a system of unquestioning obedience to Mr Lee Kuan Yew are numbered. This much is clear. Singaporeans are no longer willing to be dragged hither and thither just so PAP can maintain its grip on power.

Many more will join this campaign of change before the end of this decade. This is not an idle boast or words born of machismo. It is an observation made from hard examination of reality. In an age where the world is clamouring for openness and participation, and where technology now facilitates such practices, Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP is desperately out of sync.

It is clearly not possible to rule Singapore the way it was last century. Singaporeans, especially the younger ones, have seen the benefits of a democratic system and they want it for themselves. More important, they are willing to make sacrifices for it.

To be sure, the journey to democracy is still long and the travails many. We must not lose heart when the going gets rough. We must press on. Our goal cannot be achieved it if we remain submissive and timid. As long as we, the foot soldiers of justice and democracy, determine not to relent in the pursuit of our dream there can be but only one outcome in our struggle.

Let us fight with passion and courage. But let us also fight with grace and dignity.

I glanced through some of the things written about me by the press over the least week or so. Of course, this is not the first time that epithets have been thrown at me. But the degree of venom this time round is surprising.

The appeal to (pseudo) medical grounds in a concerted and coordinated manner to further blacken my person is unprecedented and quite without shame. Just when you think that the low road cannot get any lower, it takes another dip.

How do I retaliate? I shall not. Because to do so would be to engage in the politics of evil that I detest.

Instead, I want to focus on the objectives that we have set out to achieve, to reform our political system into one where both ruling and opposition parties have a role to play to build up Singapore, and where both camps, even as they fight tooth and nail, acknowledge that both have the interest of Singapore at heart.

This latest media blitz on me is, however, not totally negative. At the very least, it provides Singaporeans a glimpse into the level of anxiety with which the regime views this campaign for political reform.

A government assured of its position and legitimacy will not react in such a crazed manner. On the other hand dictatorial regimes, desperate to stymie democratic change, often resort to spreading poison about their opponents and dissidents.

This is something that activists and reformers should take heart from. We are obviously doing something right to earn such vile disapprobation from the rulers.

I take this opportunity to thank you again for all your support. I will not tire of speaking up for what is just and right. I hope you won’t either.

In the next few days, I would like to spend a little more time with my children. Their being away in Taiwan, the time spent in court and my subsequent imprisonment has ravaged my time with them this school holiday break. I look forward to being a normal father with them these next few days. At least, there are three little people in Singapore who think I’m sane.

I wish you all the very best.

In solidarity,

Chee Soon Juan