Singaporeans should be allowed to speak for themselves

March 7, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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Chee Siok Chin
Head, Women Democrats





In his letter, Singaporeans should speak up in their own way, Mr. Raymond Lim (ST, Feb. 26) suggested that protests are banned in Singapore for national interests.

If the interests of the nation are paramount, which they are, then the government should not prevent citizens from claiming ownership of this country. One of the most important rights of citizens is the freedom of speech and assembly, in the absence of which national interests can be hijacked and defined by the government, and the real wishes of the people subverted.

It is because of this lack of opportunity to participate in the political process that many Singaporeans feel disenfranchised. As a result many have left to build their lives elsewhere. Those who remain adopt an attitude of fear and apathy towards social and political issues here.

Mr. Lim also says that Singaporeans express their views differently. Without a genuine opportunity for people to express themselves, how does Mr Lim come to the conclusion that Singaporeans dont want to voice their concerns through peaceful protests?

Mr Lim says that the avenue through which other societies express themselves are not necessarily better. Maybe. But who should decide this, the people or the government? Is the PAP saying that Singaporeans are not mature enough to choose the way they want to express themselves (so long as it is peaceful)?

These avenues are the rights enshrined not only in our constitution but also in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of which Singapore is a signatory.

Who we are and what we are as a people must not be dictated to us by the PAP. I believe Singaporeans are mature enough not to look to others for a stamp of approval and going with every fashion, as charged by Mr. Lim. It is sad that he has little confidence and faith in the independent mindedness of Singaporeans.

Mr. Lim urges Singaporeans not to be uncomfortable with upholding our own social norms. Unfortunately, what he fails to say is that these norms are forced upon the people by the government. In Singapore we are compelled to conduct ourselves in a manner the PAP sees fit. The government assures serious consequences if we fail to conform.

The absence of spontaneous public action that we have seen in many democratic societies is certainly the norm for Singapore. But let us not delude ourselves that this has not been extracted by the government through threats and intimidation.

This letter was sent to the Straits Times Forum but was refused publication.