The people drive us on

May 2, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Our bodies ached and our skins were tender. Standing at Toa Payoh Central for seven hours, at times under the scorching sun, would do that to your bodies. Our spirits? They never flagged.

What kept us going were the people who took our flyers, many standing rooted on the spot poring through the pages.

There were no speeches, no focal-point events and defintely no goody bags to get them to sign the Tak Boleh Tahan! petition. Yet, more than one hundred did.

They made it all worthwhile

They made it all worthwhile

Two who got everyone talking were genteel grannies. They saw what we were doing and didn’t hesitate to put their names to paper. They even stayed to chat.

Unfortunately for every one of them, there were ten others who exhibited the fear syndrome that Singaporeans have come to be known for. Everytime one of our photographers and videographers trained their cameras on them, they quickly turned away.

One even told us that she couldn’t accept our flyer because her MP, Mr Ho Peng Kee, would not be happy if she did. Another man in his 60s was cursing the Government until he noticed the videocamera. He very aggressively turned on the cameraman until we told him he was one of us. Even then he was clearly uncomfortable and we stopped filming.

One who was not afraid to speak up was a man by the name of Orlando. He talked to us on tape and said described the difficult situation that he and other Singaporeans were facing. We’ll upload the interview shortly. It’s a must-watch.

Still the T-shirts, buttons and books sold briskly. A couple of young ladies came up repeatedly first to see what the fuss was about, then to get a flyer, then to make hefty donation.

Jufrie Mahmoud meeting residents

Jufrie Mahmoud meeting residents

A few of the activists took turns to visit the kopitiams and shops. We even covered the bus interchange. Later in the afternoon, a few of us trotted up to the blocks to pay the residents a visit in their homes.

But every bright cloud has a dark patch. A female reporter shocked everyone when she said: “I don’t think our Constitution says we have the right to freedoms of speech, assembly and expression.”

No wonder, she was from Radio 93.8 Live. She was politely told to look up Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution and reminded of the National Pledge which exhorts citizens to build a “democratic society.”

To this reporter, the activities of SDP are against the laws of the country and as such they are illegal. What’s more these freedoms that the Singapore Democrats were fighting for are airy-fairy Western concepts, not suited to Singapore. With reporters like these, who needs propagandists?

SDP’s activities are illegal? Not so, according to our police who said that the activity was not “an unlawful assembly.” Baloney!

Radio 93.8 Live reporter (left)

Radio 93.8 Live reporter (left)

If this isn’t an unlawfully assembly, then why are some of the activists being questioned for the petition signing event conducted last September outside the Burmese embassy? Both events involved petitions and both clearly exceeded the four-person limit.

The police said that the Tak Boleh Tahan! campaign yesterday could be a case of illegal hawking. Illegal hawking? What about the other opposition parties when they sell their party newspapers? What about Mr J B Jeyaretnam selling his books outside Centrepoint? What do you call those?

It’s clear that Mr Wong Kan Seng and the police make up the rules as they go along.

And speaking of Mr Wong, the signatures collected for his resignation came close to one hundred. Not bad for a start.

And a start it was. The Tak Boleh Tahan! campaign is set to continue. The folks whom we met yesterday were clearly looking for a voice. We, the Singapore Democrats, will be that voice.

Quick note on our video updates

Our experience with Twitter went excellently. However, the uploading of our video clips to Youtube were greatly delayed because of the slowness of [email protected] at a nearby fastfood restaurant.

By the time we managed to get the first video up it was already a few hours into the event. In the meantime we had to look for an alternative venue to get the videos up. When we managed to get it set up again, we quickly put up the backlog of reports from Cindy, Jufrie, Jaslyn and James.

As far as technology has come, clearly there are still severe limitations. But rather than ditch it, we need to find ways to circumvent the difficulties. Perhaps, we could look into subscribing to mobile broadband for quicker uploads in future.