Why TBT protesters look forward to going back to court

February 25, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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The 16 Tak Boleh Tahan activists who protested against escalating costs in Singapore last year are looking forward to the resumption of their trial tomorrow at the Subordinate Courts.

This is because legal battles are one way through which Singaporeans can fight for their rights and work towards the rule of law, however long the process may take.
The trial is heard by District Judge Chia Wee Kiat. It commenced last year from 23 Oct to 7 Nov. But because it could not finish in the allocated period, the hearing  was adjourned to 26 Feb to 12 Mar 09. The protesters face two charges: one for participating in an assembly and another for a procession outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08.

While some may not yet comprehend why the Singapore Democrats and Friends are determined to challenge the PAP’s unconstitutional ban on freedom of speech and assembly, we are convinced that with time and effort these Singaporeans will eventually understand what we are trying to achieve.

We don’t do what is easy, we don’t do what is safe. We do what is right and necessary. And we do it because it will benefit our fellow Singaporeans in the long run. This is what true leadership is all about.

Leaders must lead and an important aspect of leadership is bringing to the attention of the people the pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead for our nation. These include the total lack of political rights for our citizens.

Think about it. Despite the enormous amounts of reserves the Government has lost through disastrous investments, no one is held accountable. Everyone goes about their work as if nothing happened. Even Ms Ho Ching’s stepping down as chief of Temasek is billed as a strategic move. She has not been called to answer for the losses incurred.

This happens only because Singaporeans have been stripped of their rights to freedom of assembly. In any democratic nation, the people would have congregated in public and demanded answers from the government.

What about elections? Can’t we just vote in enough opposition MPs and change the laws from there? If only it were that simple. A government that has no qualms in ignoring the Constitution will have no hesitation in changing the rules governing elections. Already PM Lee Hsien Loong has openly admitted that he needs to fix his opponents and buy his support.

This is why the PAP has been in power for half-a-century with almost zero opposition representation in Parliament. Do we learn nothing from this?

Leadership is not about bossing people around. It is about educating and persuading the people, and making the necessary sacrifice so that our fellow citizens may see what we see and heed our urgent call.

This is not to say that we don’t believe in elections. As we have stated repeatedly we will continue to put up candidates and fight the elections. In fact we have already started preparations for the coming GE.

But over and above contesting the elections once every four or five years, we also need to work towards political reform. An opposition in an autocratic system must fight on all fronts, not just the elections. Our strategy must be wholistic.

This is why we go back to court tomorrow enthused and determined, filled with the knowledge that history and right are on our side.

We will continue to expose the police as a tool of the ruling party. We will continue to demonstrate the selective prosecution by the AG. We will continue to urge the Judiciary to uphold the rule of law in Singapore and to enforce the letter and spirit of our Constitution and, indeed, the constitution of the free and civilised world.

For without the rule of law all the house-to-house visits, posters, flyers, etc will come to nought and the PAP will continue to rule without an opposition in Parliament for another 50 years.