Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Tale of 16 Former Detainees

Wait, some time last month Dr Lim Hock Siew, who was detained for nearly 20 years, and Presidential candidate Tan Jee Say call for this ISA COI already and no one seemed to move, materialistic Singaporeans were not stirred.

Sadly the truth of the Marxists arrests do not interest Singaporeans primed to the brim with PAP propaganda, expensive dinners and shopping malls. Try telling the towkay who bid $3888 for bags of rice and charcoal during Hungry Ghost month. WP has probably got the formula more right, they picked the right fight with PAP-controlled-PA which got the attention of almost the whole Internet and much of the nation. In a way, they have operationalised the chest-thumping democracy of SDP. Take a look at their popular grassroots activities photos with bountiful party volunteers. Political indoctrination would come much easier after mooncakes and children dancing.

To mount a credible challenge for GE2016 SDP's Yuhua SMC candidate Teo Soh Lung and SDP Vice-Chairman Vincent Cheng should take a leaf from WP to pull themselves out of the political fringes. Real problems like housing, transport, and the social economic woes of the underclass need to be solved. Our population has hit 5.18 million, surely more needs to be done about the widening income gap. While the ISA can be a SDP pet topic, along with democracy and human rights, it has failed to capture the imagination of middle-ground voters and reiterated its corporate identity as a far left organisation divorced from the heartlands. Even WP agreed in principle to detention without trial with stringent checks and balances.

When stalwarts like Dr Lim Hock Siew, detained for nearly two decades under the ISA, has failed to rock the boat (add in Barisan Socialis Dr Poh Soo Kai and Said Zahari), I don't see how short-term detainees like Teo Soh Lung and Vincent Cheng (less than three years) can do much. After all, they have recanted fairly quickly and lived a largely peaceful life for two decades after their release. Even canned food has expiry dates. Only the insurmountable lion JBJ has that special place in the heart of Singaporeans and for all his troubles he was not even detained under ISA! And among the 16, you can't find even a single recent terrorist ISA detainee - you mean all of them agree with this stupid draconian law?!

In all irony, our neighbours up north have already called the bluff of Najib expressing their scepticism over any real change and termed the move as an attempt by Najib to bolster his reformist image ahead of the polls. 

Politicians do things for votes and political mileage. That is only normal. And although GE2016 seems eons away the battle really begins now with the 'new normal'. Who knows, 20 years down, when WP romps into parliament, we might see Teo Soh Lung made a heroine. After all, she was a WP member and supporter before her detention in 1987, and more recently she resigned from Reform Party before joining the SDP for GE2011. It seems that the political landscape of Singapore can only get more interesting.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Open letter to Singapore's Civil Society - Wake Up & Screw the Hibiscus

As with most Singaporeans, my initial reaction to Malaysia's decision to repeal the dreaded ISA was one of pleasant surprise; is this a sign of progressive liberal democracy? Does this mean that Singapore will follow suit? Looking at how our fledging civil society has reacted, fists pumped and rhetoric flowing, it does seem that they genuinely believe that the winds of change are nigh.

Let me prick this euphoric bubble a bit. The only reason why Najib made this decision is to keep UMNO in power. Forget about liberal democracy. Without the ISA, a corrupt and crap government can and still will stay a corrupt and crap government. This is a political move to sucker us into this kind of euphoria and by the looks of it, we've been hooked, line and sinker...and by a Malaysian politician for goodness sake! My relatives in Malaysia surprsingly said that they would rather have the ISA than a divided polity now willing to give UMNO a chance. Going by how the country operates, how wheels and deals are made in kampungs, having an ISA is not so bad after all, especially if you are a minority community forever living in the racialist past. It's all politics. There was no sudden intervention by the heavens to make Najib realise suddenly that the ISA is an evil legal instrument. It was pure politics, simple as that.

So even as our civil society gets all hot and horny and starts parading ex-detainees like Chia Thye Poh and Teo Soh Lung as victims of the ISA and let's just say that they do get their wish and the ISA is repealed; does it change the political landscape of Singapore? Nope, except that the PAP will get political mileage and our civil society will be left sucking their thumbs. Are we so stupid not to see that it is the people wielding the ISA, and for that matter, any other legislation? After Spectrum, can we not see that political dissidence is dealt with by court of law under crippling defamation suits?

If our political culture is to evolve and we are to become a mature citizenry, political moves like this should be exposed for what they are; stop-gap PR measures to hide a more severe rot in the political machinery. Can our civil society please stand up?? Your role is not ape a political manoeuvre by our abang neighbour; think more strategic, your role is to make citizens more politically aware and mature, to see through these political shennanigans rather than be sucked into it!