Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why I vote opposition: an essay by Richard Seah

[My comment]

An excellent essay, by a contemporary of mine, on the immoral cruelty of the PAP in silencing and eliminating its opponents,  including Dr Chee Soon Juan and the SDP.

Well worth reading.

And I fully share Richard Seah's moral outrage at PAP's ruthless persecution of decent and good people.



This sharing is dedicated especially to younger Singaporeans who may not be aware of some events in Singapore's more distant political past. And to older Singaporeans who, like me, never made much previous effort to find out.

Some people are concerned about whether their vote will be secret. I am not. I want as many people to know that, on May 7, I will be voting for an Alternative Party - the Reform Party in my Ang Mo Kio GRC. I will be voting against the PAP, as I had done so in past elections. Here are my reasons why.

The past five years have given Singaporeans plenty reasons to be disillusioned with the PAP - the astronomical salaries of its ministers, their incompetence and blunders, their refusal to take responsibility for those blunders, their arrogance and disconnect with ordinary citizens, and so on… along with rising costs of living, rising HDB prices, high medical costs, the influx of foreigners, over-crowded public transport and other issues of daily living.

I, too, identify with these issues. But my primary reason for voting against PAP goes deeper. I articulated it recently during a whatsapp (similar to sms) chat with one of my younger friends, who is about 25 years younger than me. It began quite innocently…

“I dun care about the elections, hahaha,” my young friend messaged. We had, as usual, been joking and engaging in casual chat. I decided to get serious.

“You dun care because you dun have friends who were imprisoned without trial for doing social work and helping the poor,” I replied. “You dun have friends who cannot come home to Singapore, you dun have friends who were made bankrupt and had their lives destroyed by the PAP government.”

“Wah! So serious arh?” my young friend replied. She then went on to say… “But if you vote opposition you won't get upgrading… Ya I know the PAP is unfair… But I am the logic (pragmatic) type.”

Haiz! I gave up and resumed the nonsense talk. But my heart won't give up. I have to speak out what I feel deep inside.

Let me share a story… I will never forget one night, around 1990 or 1991, when my doorbell rang, I opened the door and I saw a small, timid-looking man with a sheepish smile. “I am Vincent Cheng,” he announced.

Whoa! I had been ‘forewarned’ - by a Catholic nun - that she would introduce someone to me. But she never said who it would be and I never expected that it would be Vincent Cheng, the man whom the PAP government had arrested in May 1987, accused of being “the chief Marxist conspirator” and imprisoned without trial for three years.

Vincent had sought me out because I was teaching natural health and he was interested in the subject, as he had taught himself reflexology while under detention. There were no political motives for his visit.

I was well aware of his background. I worked as a journalist with the Business Times from 1980 till 1989 and had written several articles related to his arrest, along with that of his other alleged “conspirators”, including Father Edgar D'Souza, a Catholic priest whom I knew (and who has since migrated to Australia and left the priesthood).

From the onset, I never believed the story that they were out to topple the government via a Marxist revolution. As far as I was concerned, they were do-gooders working through the church to help the poor and the exploited. As I got to know Vincent better, I became fully convinced that he was not the evil conspirator that the government made him out to be. Nor were Teo Soh Lung and the rest of the “gang”, 22 of them altogether.

As the years went by, I began to see more and more cases of people either made bankrupt, forced to flee the country or otherwise portrayed as crooks and liars simply because they opposed the PAP. The late J B Jeyaretnam, Tang Liang Hong, Francis Seow… all had their characters assassinated.

(Speaking of Jeyaretnam, I will never forget the night he won the Anson by-elections in 1981. When it was time for the news, I ran to my car and turned on the radio. The first headline story was about some development in the Middle East. Oh, he did not win, I thought. Then the news came, as the second story. So you see, the unique bias of the Singapore media is old news. And Jeyaretnam's win led to the introduction of the GRC system, yet another reason why I am against the PAP.)

Even former comrades, raised to the highest office of the presidency, were not spared. The late President Devan Nair was painted as someone who hopelessly misbehaved. The much beloved late President Ong Teng Cheong, who tried to perform his duties as a President instead of just being a ceremonial rubber stamp, was denied a state funeral while the late wife of Lee Kuan Yew, not even a public servant but just the wife, received one of the grandest send-offs that Singapore has seen.

More recently, from the 2006 General Election, the ferocious attack on then Workers' Party candidate James Gomez remains fresh in the mind, with the PAP pulling back only when it realized its attacks might have back-fired.

Still, I tended to believe the PAP. For a long time, I believed the PAP's portrayal of Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan as a disruptive force, possibly even a nut case. But the Internet changed all that. Through forum posts and forwarded emails, I began to hear good things said about Chee Soon Juan, by respected members of society that included Singapore's “father of counseling” the late Anthony Yeo. Then YouTube came along and I saw and heard Chee Soon Juan speak. I realized he is not that bad a person after all. Good, in fact.

The SDP was driven almost to the ground by the PAP and, for some years, looked like it was left with Dr Chee, his sister and a handful of loyalists. Its ability to attract some top talents in the 2011 General Election, including Tan Jee Say, former Principal Private Secretary to Goh Chok Tong when he was Deputy Prime Minister, only goes to show that Dr Chee is, indeed, a man of substance.

Or course, I could have acquainted myself better with Dr Chee through his books. Me penning this article might make it seem that I am one who takes a strong interest in politics, the sort who would read political books like The Fajar Generation. No. All I know of that book is its title and that it is about a group of political activists. As I said earlier, I never made much effort to find out.

And so I never found out about earlier PAP opponents, like Chia Thye Poh, who probably holds the world record for being the longest serving political prisoner, locked away without trial for 23 years before being “freed” to live a hermit's life on Sentosa for another nine years. Till today I don't know much about him. But I no longer view him to be the dangerous communist that, for decades, I was made to believe he was.

The Internet did introduce me, however, to Dr Lim Hock Siew, Singapore's second longest serving political prisoner after Chia, imprisoned for 19 years from 1963 to 1982. That happened only last year. First, I read an article about him - at The Online Citizen - and then I watched a banned video of him speaking at the book launch of The Fajar Generaion.

Like Vincent Cheng, he, too, turned out to be a mild and gentle man. And greatly intelligent too. Nah. Dr Lim was no terrorist. He merely disagreed with Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP.

How many Vincent Chengs and Dr Lims are there in Singapore's political history? Tens? A couple of hundred? Never mind the actual number. One is already too many.

Every life is sacred. Every person has a sacred right, not just to breathe and have a heartbeat, but also to lead a normal, regular life without unjustified persecution, harassment and victimisation. When politicians and political parties destroy the lives of innocent people in order to preserve their own power, that, to me, is evil. Or, to use a milder term, let's just say it is immoral.

This is my bottom line: The PAP has no morals and no moral authority to govern Singapore. Because it does not uphold the life and freedom of individuals. Its stubborn refusal to drop the death penalty - including mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, giving judges no room to consider specific circumstances of a case - only reinforces this lack of respect for life.

The PAP comes across as a party that looks more to numbers and statistics such as GDP growth and it will sacrifice lives and livelihoods in order to achieve those numbers. It runs Singapore as a corporation, a ruthless one at that. More evidence of this comes from the recent public tears of retired Minister Lim Boon Heng over the casino issue and his subsequent affirmation that casinos did benefit the economy. Sure, the PAP acknowledges that promotion of gambling could lead to the downfall of individuals and the breakup of families. But it's okay. The GDP will benefit.

Its pegging of its Ministers' salaries to the GDP – whilst at the same time arguing till the cows come home just to increase public assistance to the poorest of the poor by $30 a month – only makes the PAP all the more immoral.

1 comment:

Rajiv Chaudhry said...

Here is another person whose life was destroyed by Lee Kuan Yew. He paid him (Lee) unspecified damages of between $200,000 and $400,000 and then died a pauper in a welfare home, with nobody to claim his body. Sad: