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Dear fellow Singaporeans,
By the time you hear this message my colleagues Gandhi Ambalam, Yap Keng Ho and I will be in prison. We are serving a sentence for speaking in public without a permit.
If ever there was a politically motivated charge, this is it. We had been selling our party newspaper The New Democrat just prior to the elections in May this year. Even this is deemed illegal by the Government. How else can we reach out to the people?
This is where the problem lies. In Singapore, legitimate political activities have been banned and criminalized so much so that it renders elections meaningless. The election results in the past 40 years attest to this.
Without genuine free and fair elections your grievances with the high cost of living, the widening income gap, the withholding of our CPF savings, the secrecy surrounding the use of our national reserves, and so on cannot be addressed.
How can we rectify this situation? The truth of the matter is that without the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly there is little that we can do to hold the PAP accountable for its actions.
This is why my colleagues and I put in so much effort and resources into fighting for the political rights for our fellow citizens. And how are we going to use these rights to benefit the everyday lives of the people? Here’s how:
First, we raise awareness on the need for Nonviolence among Singaporeans and train activists to conduct Nonviolent Action campaigns to win back the citizens’ rights to freedoms of speech and assembly.
The people can then exercise their right to organize mass public protests to compel the Government to make elections free and fair.
When elections are finally made free and fair, Singaporeans can then vote for the party that best represents their interests. Their choice will then be genuinely reflected by the votes unlike in the sham elections that we presently have.
Only when we have genuinely free and fair elections will the Government be responsive to the people’s needs and only then can the people have a say in the policies that affect our everyday lives.
Dr Toh Chin Chye, former Deputy Prime Minister and founding chairman of the PAP said: “When the PAP and the opposition were 26-25, the government was sensitive to issues and was circumspect. When you’ve got a strong opposition, there’s consultation.”
But to make our elections free and fair, we must first challenge the unjust and oppressive laws that forbid citizens to come together to protest. We need to defy the Government instead of rolling over and jumping through hoops everytime the PAP cracks its whip.
To do this, we need courage. Courage to tell the Government that no matter what it does to us, we are willing to pay the price to win our freedom and to establish democracy in this nation of ours.
To this end, I call on all opposition parties and civil society organizations to join in the effort. Our leadership and vision at this juncture will mean whether we build a nation strong and free, or one that continues to live under fearful one-party control.
Free and fair elections benefit not just the SDP but also all political parties. More important, it benefits the people whom we have been called to serve.
I was born and bred in Singapore; I know of no other home. I have three children who mean the world to me. And it’s because I love them dearly that I cannot – I will not – allow them to grow up in a society where they know not what justice is, where they have not the courage to speak up against oppression and exploitation, and possess not the freedom that enables them to live in dignity. In other words I want them to know what it is to be upright and caring human beings.
This is why I have chosen this path. Along the way I have received my share of knocks – and I’m sure there’ll be more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I do what I do willingly and I regret not one moment of it. This is but a minor inconvenience, a small price to pay for standing up for the truth and for freedom.
When my 7-year old daughter was younger, she asked me, “Papa, why do you have to go to jail? Only bad people go to jail, right?” I tried my best to explain to her what I was doing but I don’t know if she understood what I said. I do know, however, that she believed me when I told her that her father was not a bad person.
Despite what the PAP leaders have called me, I know who I am. More importantly, God knows who I am and because of this, I shall not fear. Mr Lee Kuan Yew can sue me, he put me in jail, and he can make me a bankrupt. But he can never make me bow down and submit to him.
The PAP’s continued repression will not deter my colleagues and I from speaking out. In fact every hour, every day, every month that I spend in prison, my thirst for justice only grows, my hunger for democracy only increases, and my resolve to fight for justice only strengthens.
They can jail us, but they cannot jail our spirits. And our spirits remain free with you, our fellow Singaporeans. We are citizens of this country, not serfs. Citizens have rights and should not fear the Government. It is the Government that should serve us the people, not the other way around.
Take care and I wish you and your loved ones all the very best. Don’t be discouraged. One day, we will be free. We shall overcome.