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If the PAP think they can run roughshod over Singaporeans like they did in previous decades, they are sorely mistaken. The younger generation of citizens are no longer content to obey this regime like serfs.
Two recent cases stand out: Mr Abdul Malik and Mr Abdillah Zamzuri (left). Mr Malik was arrested for his much publicised “burn” comment while Mr Abdillah was questioned by the police for his criticisms of the way a photojournalist was treated.
Like many younger Singaporeans, we find these two gentlemen unwilling to sit by and let the PAP run this country like a fiefdom. Where they find the authorities stepping over the boundaries of power, they will speak up.
In the latest case Mr Abdillah was questioned for his comments involving the handcuffing of Lianhe Wanbao photojournalist Mr Shafie Goh when he was taking photographs of a recent flood in June this year. The police said that the photographer was handcuffed for his own safety. Mr Goh disputed this as he said that he was never in a dangerous position nor was he obstructing the work of any police officer.
A Police National Servicemen himself, Mr Abdillah was incensed that our officers could act in such a dreadful manner towards a photographer who was just doing his job. He posted on his Facebook that the officer “acted stupidly” and that the police should be sued.
This earned him a questioning session by the police who said that Mr Abdillah was still a reservist and therefore under the Singapore Police Force Act, his comment was “prejudice to the conduct of good order or discipline” of our men-in-blue.
The Singapore Democrats salute Mr Abdillah for his courageous stand. As a citizen of this country, Mr Abdillah is not only right but it is also his duty to speak up when he sees the authorities abuse their power.
The encouraging note in all this is that these two men are in their 20s. Mr Malik is 27 and Mr Abdillah is 26. Not only are they young, they are also articulate. Most important, they care about this country.
The Democrats see this trend growing. There are numerous other young Singaporeans who have taken the lead in advocating and working for change. Ms Rachel Zeng is one of them. Still in her 20s, Ms Zeng has been working tirelessly to bring the issue of the mandatory death penalty to the fore.
Mr Seelan Palay, also a twenty-something, is a leading socio-political activist who has been speaking out against repression in Singapore. He produced a video entitled One Nation Under Lee (ONUL) which is one of the most viewed videos on Singapore on the YouTube. Indeed several youths were politically awakened after watching ONUL.
The chief editor behind The Online Citizen (TOC), a popular progressive portal pushing for a more open and democratic Singapore, is Mr Choo Zeng Xi who is also in his 20s.
Mr Shafi’ie, one of the three activists who was convicted for contempt of court and served a seven-day jail-term for donning the now famous kangaroo T-shirt, is one of the youngest activists in Singapore. He has yet to finish his full-time National Service duties.
IT specialist Mr Chong Kai Xiong has been in the thick of protests in Singapore. The 29-year-old was found guilty by High Court Judge Choo Han Teck on appeal by the prosecution for walking down Orchard Road together with other SDP leaders in 2007.
Another young activist is Mr Alex Tan who caught the attention of netizens when he repeatedly challenged members of Young PAP on the Internet to debate him. He subsequently started the Vote for Change, Vote the PAP Out group on Facebook.
There was Ms Natalie Koh who after reading Dr Chee Soon Juan’s A Nation Cheated decided to, under great familial opposition, speak out on the unjust system created by the PAP.
Students are the Nanyang Technological University went a step further. When the university’s president banned a report on Dr Chee’s visit to the campus in 2009, the students held a protest at the Speakers’ Corner to express their frustrations at the lack of freedom of expression.
Also the majority of members of the SDP’s Young Democrats are in their 20s, many of whom are not afarid to stand for their rights. For example, Mr Teoh Tian Jing was charged together with SDP’s leaders for taking part in the WB-IMF protest at the Speakers’ Corner in 2006.
Likewise YD vice-president Mr Jufri Salim chose to go to prison to demonstrate his resolve to fight for his right to peaceful assembly after he was fined for taking part in the Tak Boleh Tahan protest in 2008.
We are even seeing a number of teenagers expressing interest in joining our youth wing. This is despite the heavy-handedness exercised by the ruling party and the social conditioning exercised at home and in school.
So if the PAP thinks that it is going to run Singapore like before and that its actions are going to frighten Singaporeans into silence like before, it should think twice. With the burgeoning of the Internet and its communication tools, youths in Singapore are proving adept at using them to steer the political discourse in Singaporean cyberspace.
The autocrats of this country must either keep up with the times, that is open up democratic space in this country, or force greater political conflict that will not be healthy for this country.
Unlike previous generations, citizens are able to obtain information that would otherwise have been covered up by the Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorps. News about the dismal handling of the Youth Olympic Games, for instance, are being reported by netizens. This has forced the traditional media to play catch up and report on the happenings. It was either that or risk discrediting themselves even more.
Younger Singaporeans are beginning to feel that power does not just reside in the Government’s hands. They realise that they too have the power to affect the course of political action in Singapore, even if only by calling out the shortcomings of the authorities.
PAP’s leaders would do well to heed this signal. If the ruling party wants to govern this country wisely – and that’s a big if – then it will know that it cannot prosecute the Maliks and the Abdillahs into silence, not without running Singapore into the ground.
Young Singaporeans are no doormats.