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Far from being downcast the 18 activists who have been charged with taking part in an assembly and procession without a permit showed they were made of sterner stuff.
The group met on Friday to discuss events surrounding the charge and their attendance at the Subordinate Courts on 11 Jul at 9 am. Their upbeat mood suggested that they were keen and ready to continue speaking up for Singaporeans in the Tak Boleh Tahan! campaign.
The activists are charged for conducting a protest outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08 against the plethora of hikes introduced by the PAP Government such as the GST, transport fares, education fees, ERP rates, gas and electricity tariffs, medical costs and so on.
These increases have exacerbated the already dire economic situation of many Singaporeans. The working poor have been the hardest hit.
The activists were determined to rally support from the people to fight back the Government’s punitive measures. One of those charged, Jaslyn Go, told everyone that “public support is our best weapon against them. Let’s stand united against them.”
Chee Soon Juan duly noted that Jaslyn showed the kind of leadership that Singapore needed.
Lawyer Chia Ti Lik jumped in: “Sometimes, I think the women folk outdo us in such things. The ladies in our midst who do so much to inspire us with their tower of strength.”
Ti Lik was, of course, referring to Jaslyn, Chee Siok Chin, and Suraya Binte Akbar who had played leading roles in the campaign for political reform in Singapore. This is despite the fact that some of them are mothers of young children.
Pointing to the PAP’s strategy in dealing with the reform campaign, Chong Kai Xiong noted that when provoked, it seems that Lee Kuan Yew will make nasty and irrational moves at the expense of his regime.
Agreeing, Ti Lik added that pro-democracy advocates needed to be bold and daring at this time: “This is a test of our wit and courage at this point of time.”
Underscoring Ti Lik’s point, Sylvester Lim said: “They just sent me the love letter. My wife told them she was expecting it and they were surprised that we were not intimidated.”
“Let them know that intimidation doesn’t work on us any more,” Sylvester continued, “because we are no longer afraid and it is our right to speak out as citizens.”
“I am ready to go to jail for this cause,” Jeffrey George weighed in. “Everyone must remember that what we did was not wrong and we did not do it for our own gain.”
Indeed the protest was to speak up for Singaporeans affected by the price hikes initiated by the Government. This has driven thousands of Singaporeans into desperation, many unable to even afford meals. The level of homelessness in Singapore is unprecedented.
But unlike in other democratic societies, citizens here have no avenue to protest against government action and exploitative policies.
Muhammad Jufri had one concern though: “We just need to make arrangements so that we don’t go to prison together. Someone needs to take care of our children. But I’m proud of what I did.”
Jufri is, or course, referring to his wife and mother of three young children, Suraya, who has also been charged. She also indicated that she was at peace with what she was doing. “The policeman who handed me the letter seemed nervous,” she told the group, “his hands were trembling.”
The group reiterated their views that they tak boleh tahan the high cost of living. The youngest of the group, 20-year-old Shafi’ie made only one short comment: “I have no problem.” Everyone applauded.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead