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Before the main speakers spoke at the SDP pre-election rally held last Saturday, the Young Democrats took the stage and presented their views on youth and politics in Singapore.
The YD segment was also to commemorate the Liberal Solidarity Week (LSW) organised by the International Federation of Liberal Youth’s (IFLRY). Singapore was chosen together with Cuba and Azerbaijan as the focus for the week to highlight the undemocratic systems and on-going repression in these three countries.
YD Honorary-Secretary, Mr Jarrod Luo, was the MC. Mr Jufri Salim, Vice-President, read out a statement (below) by IFLRY’s President, Bart Wood.
Mr Muhd Shamin spoke next. Shamin, who had just returned from attending the Young Liberals and Democrats of Asia (YLDA) Workshop in Pattaya where he had the opportunity to meet Thailand PM, Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Mr Shamin spoke about youths being agents of change in many countries. He encouraged young Singaporeans to come together and make our hopes and dreams of a democratic Singapore into reality.
A latest addition to the Democrats’ family, Mr Abdul Malik also apoke. He called on employers to give ex-offenders like him a second chance. He related of his own offence where he was convicted and imprisoned for taking his clients’ money where he was in the insurance business.
He said that he wanted to make amends and to repay society for his offence by helping Singaporeans realise the dream of becoming a democracy.
In a poignant and touching moment, Mr Malik thanked his employer for giving him the second chance to realise his own potential and show to Singapre the kind of person that he really is.
Young Democrats Program Director, Mr Muhd Khalis, continued with the theme of calling youths and students to step forward and be part of the change that Singapore needs.
“Youth can be leaders of today,” he said, “and lead us to a better tomorrow.”
A prominent local activist, Mr Seelan Palay, took over the microphone and spoke of his experience in the activism scene and why it is crucial for civil society to work alongside the political parties and bring change to Singapore.
This is the first time most of the Young Democrats have addressed a crowd at a public rally. Judging by their performance, they will become a feature in the SDP’s future rallies. The youth wing has grown from strength to strength over the past few years.
We would like to encourage Singaporean youths to come forward and join the group.
IFLRY Statement on Liberal Solidarity Week
Dear friends from Singapore,
Welcome to IFLRY’s first Liberal Solidarity Week. This annual happening is taking place around the world this very week and is united by a single message: democratic rights for every human being on this planet.
As you may know, the International Federation of Liberal Youth has 3 key priorities:
(a) It provides the latest insights to our member organizations with regards to campaigning, mobilization of young people, political management, fundraising, etc. , so that you are always ahead of your competitors;
(b) Second, we discuss topics of international interest and try to bring together the best ideas from around the world to provide you with the most sophisticated political viewpoints. Also, we take these to the global level by advocating for them at the UN and its various agencies;
(c) Thirdly, we provide what we like to call ‘liberal solidarity’ to young liberals living in authoritarian countries. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, a free and independent press: these are all part of the democratic space necessary for liberals to flourish. Those living in democracies cannot stand aside when their fellow young liberals are being imprisoned for exercising their natural rights. Those living in those very conditions, like you, can share their experiences with fellow young liberals in the same tough situations.
It is in this spirit that the International Federation of Liberal Youth, which consists of liberal, democratic, centrist, radical and libertarian youth and student organizations, has called for this liberal solidarity week, and its fantastic that you are taking part in it.
I had the honor to meet many of you in Singapore last April and it was a great inspiration. It was just as inspiring as the time when I lived in Azerbaijan, the country that I know you will be talking about today.
As part of IFLRY’s work on supporting young liberals in authoritarian environments, I spent half a year to get to know more about their situation. I observed social and political street actions where they were taken off the streets by the police with such swiftness that it was almost absurd. The powerful position of the central government, defended by its financial capacity and the division of the opposition, made me feel so powerless. The more I felt deep admiration for those young women and men who defied the reality and believed they could make reality different if they just tried hard and long.
I encourage you to use this Liberal Solidarity Week also as a starting point for the cooperation with our three member organizations in the country.
Good luck! You can always count on our support!
Muhd Khalis is the Programme Director of the party’s youth wing, The Young Democrats (YD).