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.

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