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28 July 2002
Dear Dr Chee,
I am very encouraged that you are so willing to take the stand to voice out your opinions about Singapore and to share with the world via CNN your views on Singapore as well. I do applaud your courage to stand out like that.
However, I do have a few queries that I would like to hear from you. Firstly, considering the geographical factor of Singapore is it possible to have a multi-party government to run the country? Can a small country like Singapore afford a major upheaval in the light of the current world political situation? (ie the post 9-11 world)
My concern is that being a small country like Singapore, we rely very much on a cordial, conciliatory foreign policy towards our neighbours. In such a case, can we afford to have the views of ALL people being aired publicly? What if these views are thoughtless insensitive remarks about our neighbours? Can we afford that?
And finally, do you think that we are a nation that is ‘matured’ enough to accept the opposition views and to think ‘adults’. In another words, do you think that our government has prepared our people enough to accept criticisms about ourselves?
I know that there are a handful of us who are able to sieve through constructive criticisms and malicious ones, but I am also aware that there are a large number of us out there who are like Orwellian sheep and go on bleating the ingrained propaganda that have been fed to us. With that, do you think it is safe to let opinions of the various groups to run amok, and risk foreign relations with our neighbours?
Of course, my points seem to suggest that I am just as draconian and authoritarian as the current ruling party, but considering our position–the smallness of our country– what methods should we adopt, in terms of domestic and foreign policies? How different can we run the place?
Lastly, I thank you for taking time out to read this mail. I wish you all the best in all your campaigns.
SDP: Dear Angela, you are right that being a small nation, Singapores foreign policy needs to be geared towards building bridges with other countries.
However, having a democratic system doesnt necessarily hamper this effort. In fact, it is apparent that democracy fosters peace and prosperity. It remains a fact that no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other.
This is because the majority of humankind does not want to see hostilities breakout. If they have a say in their governments decision-making process, it is most likely that they will pressure their governments into diplomacy and negotiations rather than armed conflict (which will involve their sons, husbands, fathers, and boyfriends risking their lives).
There will always be thoughtless people spewing hate and advocating violence. The good thing about humanity is that most of us are rationale, peace-loving persons and as long as we have the ability to organize ourselves, voice our views, and democratically choose our leaders (as opposed to the current PAP system) good sense and peace will prevail.
It goes without saying that the SDP feels that Singaporeans are mature enough to think for ourselves. We always have been able to do. If we werent, how did we claim independence from the British? Our fathers and mothers rallied behind the David Marshalls, Lim Chin Siongs, and Lee Kuan Yews to wrest political power from our colonial masters. Without the Singaporeans maturity to stand up to the British we would still be a colony today and the PAP would not be an independent government.
It is after it became the government that the PAP became addicted to power and started implementing undemocratic measures to retain its hold on the country. One of the best tactics is to instill doubt and suspicion among the people. A fearful people, lacking in confidence to determine its own destiny, is a people easily controlled and manipulated. This is why it keeps asking the question of whether Singaporeans are mature enough to handle free speech and democracy. Sadly, many Singaporeans have come to believe this propaganda.
Once people start to question their own political maturity and believe that without authoritarian control there will be chaos and despair, it is easy for the PAP to mop up and manipulate society for it own benefit and interests. This is what Singaporeans must resist.
Indeed, the question of whether we Singaporeans are mature enough to deal with democracy and openness is a question the PAP wants to constantly drum into our heads. It is insulting and demoralizing to our society and nation.
The sooner Singaporeans shake off our mental chains and see that democracy is indispensable for our future, the safer and better off our country will be.