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Yesterday’s Straits Times‘ report ‘SDP’s new CEC under scrutiny’ is yet another example of how the press is used to help the PAP maintain its grip on power.
The report cited Mr Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University, as saying that the new CEC line-up was a sign that “moderate voices” are being “sidelined” in the party.
Is this true? Are there “radicals” and “moderates” within the SDP? What, in the first place, is a radical or a moderate in Singapore’s political context?
To answer these questions, we must first examine the media’s intentions. It is clear that more and more Singaporeans are beginning to understand and support the SDP’s coherent and well-defined alternative ideology.
Among some of the objectives that we are working towards is an egalitarian economic system where wealth is not amassed in the hands of a few, a democratic polity where citizens are the boss, and a social/educational system that ensures equal opportunity and a fair go for all.
If the SDP is successful in achieving our objectives, it would mean the dismantling of the PAP’s autocratic, elitist and non-transparent system.
Thus to ensure that the PAP’s power remains unthreatened, the ruling party finds in necessary to portray the SDP as a radical or confrontational party. It does this through labels like:
confrontational = destructive = bad
moderate = constructive = good
Once it has planted this notion in the public’s head, it can then peddle the falsehood that the SDP is confrontational and, therefore, one that must be rejected because we are out to destroy Singapore. Not only is the party confrontational, but moderates within our ranks have been sidelined. This is the classic divide-and-conquer tactic.
Singaporeans must be aware of this PAP strategem and not be misled. Is what the SDP does radical? Is it our policies make us confrontational?
We pivoted our GE2011 campaign on alternative policies such as implementing a Singaporeans First policy, introducing minimum wage, and reducing or abolishing the GST – policies that establishment figures (and even the PAP) have now embraced.
Ambassador Tommy Koh, for instance, has joined in our call for minimum wage; the NTUC, President Tony Tan, and Dr Tan Cheng Bock are all now echoing our call for Singaporeans First; and some PAP MPs have even voiced their support for a reduction in the GST.
If what we propose are now repeated by the establishment, can we really be radical?
If not our policies, then perhaps it is our defiance of the PAP’s ban on public protests that make us extreme? Again the evidence does not bear this out.
By challenging the prohibition on public protest, the SDP has pressured the Government to relent on the ban and allow demonstrations at Speakers’ Corner.
Myriads of groups including opposition parties have since used the venue to stage protests. As a result, protests are no longer viewed with fear, protesting at Hong Lim Park is no longer such a radical idea.
Again, if what the Singapre Democrats championed becomes the accepted norm, can we really be all that radical?
The truth is that we must guard against the PAP’s continued hijacking of the political discourse in Singapore. We must not allow it to define what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not.
Think about it: Prior to the PAP announcing the relaxation of rules at Speakers’ Corner in 2008, protests were illegal and unacceptable. After the announcement, protests at Hong Lim Park suddenly become legal and acceptable. Why do we judge what is good and bad according to the PAP’s say-so? Can we not think independently and critically?
In a similar vein, we must break from the ruling party’s characterisation of what is radical and moderate opposition.
The truth is that opposition parties that it deems a threat will be labelled confrontational and bad. Parties that it approves of will be complimented as moderate and good.
Mr Lee Hsien Loong admitted as much during the TV forum just before the elections in May 2011: “Not all opposition parties are the same. Some work within our system and try to play a constructive role; others try to pull down the system and bring it into disrepute. And I think there’s a difference in the way they approach politics and the way we approach them.”
Singaporeans must not fall into this trap. Just because we seek to change the system – a system designed by the PAP for its own benefit rather than for the benefit of the people – does not make the SDP radical or confrontational.
Rather, it makes us effective and responsible.