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7 June 2002
I would be interested to know what the SDP would do should it become the ruling party one day. This is of course unlikely to happen in the near future, but it is something worth discussing. Can we have the assurance from the SDP that you will not persecute the other opposition parties, to truly bring about democracy during the elections as well as every normal day?
Some Singaporeans still continue to vote and support the SDP as they believe in the principles democracy. If the SDP becomes the ruling party one day, it is not impossible for you to withdraw what you claim to believe and abuse your power on other parties as well as the citizens. Should this happen, it would make no difference to vote the SDP or the PAP.
SDP: It is important for Singaporeans not to continue to play the passive role in politics. The SDP can give all the assurances that it will abide by democratic principles whether in opposition or government but this cannot be what safeguards Singapore from authoritarianism.
It is important that the media, judiciary, military, etc. remain free from government control in order to protect democracy. But these institutions can be undermined and subjugated by a government bent on autocratic control.
The best tool to protect democracy is the people themselves. Citizens must be free to organize and be able to stand up to governments that do not respect democratic practices. For this to happen the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association must be jealously and zealously guarded. If Singaporeans refuse to be cowed by any party that is in power, then no government can subject the country to authoritarian rule.
This is what has happened in many countries throughout the world. When citizens lay claim to the fact that they are the boss and are courageous and determined enough to ensure that they are not enslaved by any one politician or political party, then it is extremely difficult for a government to exert any form of autocracy.
The cases of Taiwan and South Korea are good examples in Asia. Taiwanese and Koreans bravely opposed the autocrats in their countries in the 1970s and 1980s, and today enjoy a political ‘and economic’ system that benefits the people, not just the ruling elite.
This is why the SDP speaks up so strongly on protecting the fundamental political and civil rights of Singaporeans and will continue to do so. Whether we can become a democracy and remain that way cannot be left just to political parties and politicians. Every citizen must do his or her part.