What we must reclaim: Seelan Palay

October 22, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Seelan Palay

Since I began to read actively in my teens, I have been keeping myself aware of civil disobedience and how it is effectively used by people all over the world. In relation, I could always see the merit, reason and rationale in the actions of Dr Chee Soon Juan. Meeting and befriending him a few years ago helped assure my opinions.

I found that we shared a vision to see a freer, fairer, more compassionate Singapore. But there was a burden to carry for that, which Dr Chee definitely carried more than me. And so I decided that I must help him as much as I can, because I could not just stand by and watch the Singapore government try to ruin this honest man.

We mostly worked together from then on and then came March the 15th – a day I knew was going to be different. On that day, we were going to send a strong and clear message to the authorities that we’ve had enough.

Almost everyone was arrested, myself being dragged on the road by police officers who refused to tell me what I was being arrested for. This Thursday all 18 of us will be tried in court, and after that, probably jailed.

But I will continue participating in protests and demonstrations. My experiences in Malaysia and Indonesia have taught me that protests are important because they give people a sense of belonging, community and hope. And through my participation in protests here I want to prove these values to be true.

In the years to come, I hope for you and I in Singapore to reclaim the term “nation building” from the government, its institutions and its media. And in doing so, open the way for Singaporeans to participate more actively in all facets of life so that we may together build a future that we can call our own.

Note: Mr Seelan held a 5-day protest (watch video here) outside the Malaysian High Commission in 2007, calling on the Malaysian government to release the five Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) leaders who were detained without trial. He also initiated the 400 frowns campaign in response to the Singapore government’s 4 million smiles program during the World Bank-IMF meeting held here in 2006. For that project, he was detained and investigated by the police, and had his computer seized. He was not charged.

Mr Seelan writes his own blog at Singapore Indian Voice.