Saturday, November 5, 2011

“We pursue everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” – Freedom Award winner Dr Chee Soon Juan

Posted by theonlinecitizen on November 5, 2011 (source)

Dr Chee receiving the award from LI President Hans Van Baalen

A few years ago, after picking up his children from a well-to-do friend’s birthday party Dr Chee Soon Juan’s eldest child turned to him and asked if they were rich. It took him a while before he answered, “Yes we are rich and you know why? Because we have you.”

Dr Chee, who is also Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) shared this story towards the end of his acceptance speech after being awarded the Prize of Freedom 2011 by The Liberal International (LI) on 3rd November 2011. Past recipients include Sam Rainsy of Cambodia, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Dr Chee was given the award for his work in “tirelessly advocates for democracy in Singapore, engaging civil society and campaigning for democracy and the right to speak freely”, according to LI.

Speaking to a packed room comprising of members of the SDP, Presidential candidate (and former SDP member) Mr Tan Jee Say, representatives from LI as well as prominent members of Singapore’s civil society, Dr Chee drove home the point that the real riches that mattered most cannot be measured by material wealth, but “by the number of minds that we unfetter, the number of young lives that we give hope to and the number of the poor whom we empower.”

Unfortunately, the Singapore Government had adopted the worst that the West offers in terms of greed and exploitation but rejects the good that it espouses in the values of human rights and democracy, he said. These negative values fosters Singapore’s pursuit of riches, consumerism, and materialism, but have also made a society bankrupt in morality.

We pursue everything except that which makes life worthwhile,” he added.

Citing two examples on the non-reaction of Singapore – allowing the entry of Robert Mugabe and Burmese generals to shop, rest and recreation regardless of their merciless actions in their homeland, Dr Chee concluded that “as long as there is money to be made, nothing else quite matters, does it?”

However Dr Chee was quick to point out that the SDP is not opposed to wealth, but “wealth inequality.” Singapore’s widening income gap will harm the common good and create a highly polarized society. In order to demonstrate that egalitarianism is a more effective way to organise economic society, there is a need for a “national conversation on morality.”

The case for a more egalitarian system where the laws are not stacked in favour of the rich and where society is less economically polarised must be vigorously advocated,” he continued.

But in order to achieve that, Dr Chee said, people must be willing to speak out without fear of marginalization and being seen as confrontational or worse, destructive.

We have enough politicians in Singapore, what we need now are leaders,” he added.


Read the full transcripts of Dr Chee’s speech here.

More photos: here


A ceremony of reflection and hope (here)

"I long for the ultimate prize of freedom for Singaporeans" – Chee (here)


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