The campaign grows

March 22, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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By all measures, Saturday’s protest was small – a total of 30 people took part. But it was unprecedented.

In a society where fear is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the people, such a turn-out is tremendously uplifting.

In truth we had not expected more than 15 persons to show up. We had underestimated the courage of our fellow citizens, a miscalculation we happily acknowledge.

A few showed up that afternoon and asked for the Tak Boleh Tahan T-shirt. We had only printed 20. Undeterred, several of them walked with us in their own attire.

This is a very encouraging sign: There is a growing number of Singaporeans who know their constitutional rights and are eager to assert them.

Among these people were some new faces who quickly became targets of police arrests. They are the leaders of tomorrow’s Singapore.

Mr Chia Ti Lik is one of them. He is emerging as a leading civil rights activist in his own right. His composure and astuteness makes him a valuable asset to the democracy movement in Singapore.

Another is Mr Sylvester Lim who was an oasis of calm. If he was frightened, he never showed it. He was a rock that the other protesters found reassuring. His quiet but steely resolve to bring about democratic change is inspiring.

Then there is Mr Seelan Palay. His gentle demeanour belies a passion for justice that is seared into his very being.

Mr Chong Kai Xiong is another soft-spoken man. And like Seelan his commitment to democracy is unshakable. Kai Xiong firmly stood his ground when the police confronted the group and refused to submit to the bullying and intimidation. 

Perhaps the most encouraging factor is the participation of 19-year-old Mr Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi. A polytechnic student, Shafi’ie represents a growing segment of youths who are becoming more politically active. This augurs well for Singapore’s future.

Mr Muhammad Jufri came with his wife, Suraya, and their three children. Asked whether he felt bad that his children had to witness their father being arrested, Jufri replied: “I’m very proud that my children got to see their father arrested by a undemocratic regime and when they grow up they know that their father stood up for freedom.”

We will not fight back with violence. To do so would undermine everything that we stand for and believe in.

Instead we will fight back with non-violence and goodwill, armed with only our abiding faith in democracy and our love for our country.

As for those of you who walked with us, with or without the T-shirts, your presence made us stronger and your courage made us even more determined. Thank you.

Mr Lech Walesa, former dissident who subsequently became Poland’s president, once said: “The day the police hit us was the day I knew that the regime’s days were numbered.”

The day the Singapore police dragged young and peaceful protesters into their vans was the day that signaled the beginning of the end of the PAP’s strangulation of Singapore.

For the police’s ignominious behaviour on 15 March was calculated to scare the protesters and others into submission as well as to put a stop to future assemblies.

Instead the opposite happened. The show of aggression has made us even more determined to fight back.

But we will not fight back with violence. To do so would undermine everything that we stand for and believe in.

Instead we will fight back with non-violence and goodwill, armed with only our abiding faith in democracy and our love for our country.

The PAP has forgotten the truism that that which does not kill us, makes us stronger. This is not hyperbole. Neither is it trash-talk.

It is simply a statement, made with serenity and clarity of mind, that we will take whatever knocks and make whatever sacrifices to win freedom and justice for Singapore.

Make no mistake. The campaign is growing and will continue to grow.

Sure, there is still much work to do and our goal is distant. But let there be no doubt as to the outcome of this undertaking.