Why does the Singapore Democrats focus on human rights issues and not bread-and-butter issues?

August 8, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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The SDP focuses on both issues because they are equally important; they are two sides of the same coin. We have repeatedly brought up pocket-book issues such as cost of living, withholding of our CPF funds, jobs for Singaporeans, minimum wage, ministers’ pay and so on.

Our newspaper, The New Democrat, regularly focuses on these issues as we are aware that these are matters that Singaporeans are concerned about. Our flyers and speeches during the elections discuss nothing but such issues.

Our Campaign Against Repression and Exploitation of Singaporeans 2008 (CARES ’08) as well as the People Against Poverty (PAP) campaign in 2002 testify to our intense interest in such issues.

The SDP has even published an Economic Report in 1995 specifically on matters related to bread-and-butter issues. SDP also fought the Government on healthcare costs in Parliament in a Select Committee hearing.

Dr Chee’s books such as Dare to Change; Your Future, My faith, Our Freedom; and A Nation Cheated regularly focus on economic issues

In fact, Dr Chee has been repeatedly prosecuted and jailed because he insists on talking to Singaporeans about cost-of-living issues. So it is untrue to say that SDP does not bring up kitchen-table issues.

At the same time, however, issues about the people’s civil and political rights are just as important. Without these rights Singaporeans cannot pressure the PAP Government to listen to them. this allows the PAP to continue to raise the GST, introduce price hikes, increasing the salaries of the ministers even as the poor continue to see their wages shrink.

Elections are controlled by the PAP to the extent that there is little for the opposition candidates to be elected in enough numbers to make any difference in parliament. One way to resolve this problem is to pressure the PAP to reform the election system to make it free and fair. To do this, we need to first claim back our political rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

So it is crucially important for the opposition to talk about bread-and-butter issues while at the same time emphasize on the need for the people’s civil and political rights.