Monday, May 9, 2011

Vincent Wijeysingha's "A Coil of Rope" speech (video and transcript)

In this speech (May 2), Vincent Wijeysingha talks about the politics of fear, how to overcome that fear, and the need to move forward confidently into the future.

Video: here

Transcript (source):

The PAP has used, and we have heard Mr (Vincent) Cheng give a first-hand account of it – many, many methods over the last 52 years to frighten you.

My teammates and I today have focused on this aspect of government in Singapore because that is the root of the PAP’s power – not the raising of the prices of your flats, not the stability that you guarantee rather than them – but the fear that they have put into our hearts over 52 years.

In the ‘50s they told our grandparents that if they didn’t vote for the PAP, there would be colonial domination.

In the ‘60s they told us that if we didn’t continue to support them, the communists would come down from Vietnam, and there would be no more rice.

In the ‘70s they said we were susceptible to Euro-communists who would take over the government.

And in the ‘80s they accused Soh Lung, Vincent and their friends of a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the state by force.

In the 1990’s they told us our jobs were at stake if we voted for the opposition.

And today they say to us that the values of our homes are at stake, and that Mas Selamat might have escaped if they weren’t in power.

Mas Selamat did escape.

Today they are telling us if we vote for the alternative parties, we will live to repent. But they didn’t say how we would live to repent. I think they will regret it more — 3 million dollars is a lot of salary to lose.

But they didn’t just tell us — they also showed us examples of how they deal with people who disagree with them.

In the 1960’s they threw more than a hundred people into jail including Dr Janil Putucheary’s father. Dr Puthucheary is now their candidate in Pasir Ris-Ponggol.

In the 1970’s and ‘80s they put more people into jail including Vincent and Soh Lung.

None of these people did anything wrong. None of these people broke any laws.

Mr Chia Thye Poh was in jail for 32 years. But today, my friends, there are no more Chia Thye Pohs in our country.

They have frightened us into thinking that without the PAP, the value of our lives will go down. You will lose your job. You will lose your business license. Your child will find it difficult to get into the school of your choice. And when you have no school and no home, no business license, and you’re still standing tall, they will bankrupt you. And when they have taken away your money, and you are still standing tall, they will send you to the Whitley Road Detention Centre.

Now, I have listened very carefully to what Dr Ang (Yong Guan) said earlier from a psychiatric point of view.

Let’s examine these statements – are they really saying, is the PAP really saying that if Vincent Wijeysingha is in Parliament, that people are less likely to pay the price over valuation for your home?

Are they really saying that when Tan Jee Say is in Parliament, you will lose your job? If you lose your job, who is going to do it? The nation depends on people working and contributing to the economy, and it is in the PAP‘s interest and in Mr Tan’s interest for people to work.

Are they really saying that they will take away your business license just because Dr Ang Yong Guan is in Parliament? What’s going to happen on the 8th of May? The Registry of Companies is going to go round Singapore shutting down businesses?

Are they saying if Michelle Lee is in Parliament, the school principal will ask you how you voted before they give your child a place?

Of course we know none of these things are going to happen — because even when my teammates and I are in Parliament, the PAP itself will want to protect the value of their own investments, their own homes, their own directorships.

People still believe that the vote is not secret. People believe the government will check who voted for whom. But then some people also believe in UFOs.

Now, I’m not trying to be funny, this is a serious point – fear as Dr Ang told us is an irrational thing. It is not based on a sober assessment of the facts.

We have heard the Minister Mentor threaten us with knuckle-dusters and hatchets and big sticks, and then finally very recently he threatened us with our own army.

The important thing about these threats is that they are not true. Of course he doesn’t have a knuckle-duster – knuckle-dusters are illegal in Singapore!

But the important thing about fear is that we believe it and then act upon it.

If you go into a dark room, and you see what looks like a snake, you will come out of the room. All you do is switch the light on, and then you realize it’s not a snake, but a coil of rope. The PAP’s threats are like a coil of rope.

They are terribly frightened that you will put the lights on – the lights in your heart and in your head, and then you will see that those threats are harmless, and will be harmless after the 7th of May.

Information is the key. Once you know something, once you have felt something, it no longer frightens you. I am told by my colleague John Tan, who is a psychologist, this is cognitive behavior therapy – you change your mind, you get rid of your fear, by acting as if the fear does not exist – like the PAP, just a coil of old rope.

In the last few months, people have been thanking me for my courage in standing up for the people of Singapore. My friends, I am not courageous. And all I did was to switch on the light.

I asked myself: what if I voted for the opposition? I asked myself: what if I joined the opposition? Sylvia Lim has been in the opposition for a long time, and Lee Kuan Yew did not use his knuckle-duster on her. She is still in the opposition, still in Parliament, and still in Temasek Polytechnic.

I joined the opposition and no one sacked me from my job.

I joined the opposition and no one follows me in an unmarked car.

What did it do to me? It has liberated me. It has allowed me to experience what is on the opposite side of the PAP – nothing, absolutely nothing! Which means that the divide between voting for the PAP, and how you want to vote, is a dark room with nothing in it, except a coil of old rope.

I can tell you from this place, and I ask you to go home to your families and your communities and tell them too – your vote is secret. No one will check how you voted. And we know that in this elections, Maruah, the human rights charity in Singapore, will be checking the elections to ensure that there are no shenanigans, no one looking at your vote paper on Sunday morning, no one reporting to Mr Shanmugam and Mr Wong Kan Seng.

My friends, Mr Wong Kan Seng cannot keep one man in a high security prison. He cannot monitor two million votes!

And, my friends, the world is also watching these elections. In 2006 and in previous elections before that, it took days for information to leave the country. Today, the internet has reduced that to seconds – and the PAP knows that.

But the PAP also knows that it doesn’t have to check your vote – all it needs to do is plant an idea in your head. Switch on the light, and you see it was just an idea.

I want to say to you from this place, it is by not speaking up that your home, your job, and your children’s school are in trouble.

We all saw what happened in the Philippines in 1986, in Indonesia in 1997. Until people were willing to speak up, their leaders were able to bully them, steal from them and reduce the value of their national assets.

We know what happened in China in 1949 – the imperial household brought untold misery to the people until those people spoke up.

We all saw what happened in the U.S. in the 1960s – the African-American people could not even use the toilets in the petrol stations. Today, African-American people can even use the toilets in the White House. In fact, I know that there is a whole family of African-American people who use the toilets in the White House.

In Singapore, before independence, if you were not Ang Moh you could not enter the cricket club. You could not be a member of the Governor’s Council. You could not be the boss of your own company.

Today, we are banned from a different place – a place in our minds, because that is where decisions are made, and that is where we decide to join in that decision making or not to join in that decision making. And what has that done to us? We have allowed the PAP to make all the decisions.

Yes, the value of your home went up, but your children cannot afford one of their own.

Yes, we have state reserves, but no one will tell us how much they are, and they tell us to mind our own business. They told President Ong to mind his own business.

And Dr Balakrishnan from this constituency told us all to mind our own business when he squandered two hundred million dollars of our money!

The Minister Mentor told us we are economic digits. You are not an economic digit, you are a human being! But if you continue to believe the fears in your hearts, then you will only be an economic digit!

And the only thing that stands between you and better government, between you and affordable prices, between you and the arrogance of the PAP, between you and an overcrowded city, the only thing that stands between your salary of four dollars an hour and their salary of one thousand dollars an hour, is yourself.

On Saturday, when you go to the polls, I want to give you a piece of advice that was given to people just like ourselves in the 1960’s by Lim Chin Siong – the man that would have been our Prime Minister had he not also been thrown into jail. He said: “Saya masuk first gear, lu jangan gostan” – meaning, when your leaders step up to take you forward, don’t throw yourselves into reverse.

I don’t want our country to go into reverse, because to “gostun” means more people who cannot afford to live, it means another five years of silence in Parliament, it means a widening gap between the rich and the poor, it means the deafness of the government and the dumbness of we the people. That is not what I want for our country.

Let us move forward confidently into the future with no one left behind!

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