Why I left Singapore

January 14, 2005
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

14 January 2005

Dear Singaporeans,

There is no doubt that the purpose of the PAP is to prevent Dr. Chee from standing for elections and to make life as difficult for him as possible. We know that the PAP uses this tactic of heavy damages against opponents in the past, and to a large extent they have worked against the vast majority of their opponents.

Most of Lee’s opponents have given up politics or fled the country when faced with such “punishment”. But these people are not the people such as Dr. Chee and Mr Jeyaretnam. This tactic of punishing by bankrupting people would work even against the very courageous. But there are those whose courage is greater even than the ordinarily courageous. These are men like Dr. Chee and Mr. Jeyaretnam. For them, their belief in what is right is more important than anything anyone can throw at them. So here, I will say that Mr. Lee has sorely misjudged Dr. Chee and Mr. Jeyaretnam. And that will be the PAP’s downfall.

Another reason why the PAP must fail, is the reality of the Internet. In the past, you could have bankrupted someone to silence him, and the world would not have known. But now whatever you do, is published worldwide. Dr. Chee having to pay this enormous sum has already been known in Anchorage Alaska, that is for any Alaskan resident interested in Singapore politics. Let me give you my personal experience.

I practice law in Fremont, California. When I say to someone that I am from Singapore, the immediate reaction is their asking me why is Singapore so intolerant of dissent. Now these clients of mine are usually highly educated company owners. Now if they have such a bad impression of Singapore, it is unlikely that they would want to invest in Singapore,
since Singapore has other added disadvantages, such as very high cost.

The need for Singaporeans to become “alive”

Without wanting to insult any Singaporean, and apologizing beforehand if any offence is taken, let me say this, because it must be said. The average Singaporean is no longer “alive”. Yes he walks, works and speaks, but he has been stifled for so long, that his thought processes have changed. Let me give you an example. If I am a taxpayer, surely I have a right to ask why and how my money is being spent. As I live in America, Americans ask their government where their tax dollars are being spent, since it is their money. Why then does it turn into a libel case merely
because someone who is a taxpayer demanded to know this? Now, when you tell an American about Dr. Chee’s case, or Mr. Jeyaretnam’s cases, they are shocked. They cannot understand why the Singapore leaders should have such delicate nerves for wanting to sue everybody who criticizes them. The American would object to this. I am, sure everyone in the free world would object to this. But in Singapore, the individual has learnt to accept this status quo without complaint. It is surprising. It goes against human nature.

{B]Dr. Balakrishnan’s appeal to Singaporeans to speak up

I believe you must have read Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan’s bizarre request that students and others in Singapore should have the courage to voice their opinions openly. Surely a very strange suggestion to make to Singaporeans by a government minister and a rather dangerous activity to
engage in.

Surely everyone in Singapore knows what has happened to Dr. Chee and Mr. Jeyaretnam when they had the courage to do just that. Surely they know the heavy price that one has to pay, for the suggested activity by Dr.
Vivian Balakrishnan. Dr. Balakrishnan is therefore wrong in even suggesting that Singaporeans should speak up, if the undeniable result of such activity is bankruptcy and oblivion. Please read my letter posted on this site which I wrote to Dr. Balakrishnan after reading the recent Straits Times article where he had told some school children that they should speak up and criticize the government!

Why I left Singapore

Some who disagree with my leaving Singapore, say that I am a coward and I ran away from the fight. This is partially true, because otherwise I will still be in Singapore, and still fighting side by side with courageous men such as Dr. Chee and Mr. Jeyaretnam. However, quite truthfully, I did not have, at that time the willingness to endure a life of poverty and constant harassment that the PAP would undoubtedly have thrown at me.

I was a lawyer in Singapore from 1981 to 1991. In 1985, I joined the Workers Party. I contested 2 elections, in 1988 and 1991. Since my publicly joining the Workers’ Party, my life began a downward slide. My law practice suffered and I was constantly being harassed. But what was
most important was that I was not happy practicing law. The law was not being applied fairly. And what is worse was that since my entry into opposition politics, I was constantly losing all my cases in court. And my clientele declined to a trickle. Those clients leaving me, told me that they were going to other lawyers because they felt that coming to me, an opposition supporter, would damage their chances of success.

You will appreciate that a career is very important in a man’s life. That is what we have studied for and trained so hard for. But continuing to live in Singapore would mean, for all intents and purposes, giving up my career. Also I had young children. They too would suffer if I remained in Singapore.

If I intended to stay in Singapore, the thing that I should do was to join and praise the PAP like the sycophants and flatterers that make up their members. I was not prepared to do that. The other alternative was for me to give up opposition politics and be entirely apolitical and apathetic. In this case, I could have continued in Singapore but my changes for great success at the Singapore Bar will not be there. I am and was very ambitious. I could not have realized my ambition in Singapore being a nondescript non entity of a lawyer in Singapore.

Also I was not prepared to sacrifice everything like Dr. Chee and Mr. Jeyaretnem are doing so courageously and admirably.

So on balance, I left for California, USA in 1992. I obtained political asylum in the US for what the Singapore government had done to me. I passed the California Bar Exams and commenced my own law practice in Fremont California since the last 10 years. As far as my work is concerned, I have a rewarding and satisfying life. Of course, I miss Singapore very much and go there at least about 4 times a year.

It appears that the PAP uses a great number of psychologists in their formulating policies on how to deal with their people. It does appear that they have made a mistake in my case. I would have been a great asset to Singapore. I loved the country. I was born there and I have very fond memories of that place. I would have worked very hard for the betterment of Singapore. But when the PAP do what they do, to good honest decent people like me, who could have contributed greatly to Singapore, it backfires. They leave the country. And it is the host countries, such as America and Australia who benefit from our presence there. It is not only me. There are thousands of others who have left Singapore and continue to leave, even as I speak. Singapore cannot afford to lose good people at this rate. And importing workers from China and India will not do the trick.

I work very hard in my law practice here in Fremont, California. My practice is in immigration law. I have clients from all over the world. I manage to help many Mexicans and others from other impoverished countries in getting legal status in the US, among other things. These people, although not my own, are people too. It gives me satisfaction from helping them. It would have given me even more satisfaction, had I been able to help Singaporeans. But because of the stupidity of the PAP, they chase us away, instead of making it comfortable for us.

So if anyone of you, do still question my sincerity in having left Singapore, I hope that this explanation can make things a little clearer. And I trust you will understand.

Those of you who want to contact me directly, can do so at my email: [email protected]

Very Best,

GOPALAN NAIR
Attorney at Law
Fremont, California