Last week, I read an account of a protest march for human rights by an activist in Singapore from the Singapore Democrat website (linked under “Stuff I Read” on the sidebar) and I can’t help but be struck by the following observations.
On the issue of distributing flyers:
Recognizing that children are in general more charismatic and that people may be more likely to accept strange-looking papers from them, I quickly passed all of mine to Monica’s son who took them unbegrudgingly. Children are fascinating like that. They do not question and push responsibilities around as much as we do.
(Well, adults tend to rationalise too much and find excuses for their failings.)
On peaceful demonstrations:
So with this march, I hope to convince Singaporeans that protests need not always involve an exchange of Molotov cocktails and tear gases, smashing of glass or even overturning of cars.
(Which is quite contrary to the fear that the Singapore government tries to instill in its citizens.)
On Chee Soon Juan and his book:
They are not sold elsewhere I believe, except by the man himself. The reason behind this, I was told, is that no other [bookstore] dare to sell them.
I also wanted to read what interesting things our well-known heretic had to say that our government would prefer us to not hear at all. Plenty in fact, in a well-argued and less angry manner than our mainstream media would often portray. Personally, I think this is why the books are literally banned. They are both critical (of the government) and persuasive.
(The compliant mainstream media in Singapore has a habit of painting opposition politicians in a very bad light, which is hardly surprising. If you choose to believe what you have read, your perception of things will no doubt be skewed.]
On illegal assembly:
… we took special care to walk in fours in order to sidestep the law…
[and later on]
Regarding illegal assemblies and that seemingly arbitrary limit of 4 people, I couldn’t help but wonder as I walked what the police would say to a family of five (say Dr Chee, Mrs Chee and their 3 children) walking together in our shirts. Just imagine telling the family they constitute an illegal assembly. The absurdity is profound.
(Indeed. I’ve not seen a government that passes legislation in such a self-righteous manner. The U.S. government may commit political kamikaze at times, especially during the recent wiretapping episode, but that’s because the policy makers don’t have a clue [pardon the pun]. For lawmakers in Singapore, it’s a different story. Want another example? Someone please explain the chewing gum ban and why a similar ban was not imposed on Flag day.)
With the freedom to question and criticise publicly, the government for example is forced by law to defend their policies publicly and rigorously. They cannot escape with explanations that seem plausible to the less knowledgeable but dubious to the well-learned.
On the police:
We made our way through a great part of Tanglin Road uneventfully. There was no one around save us. The day was coming to a close without incident.
Then almost without warning, Uncle Yap caught up from behind to alert us of the large group of plainclothes policemen that had appeared at the back. We immediately understood what it meant and quickly broke up in anticipation. It was our first real encounter with the police for the day. They’ve now come undeterred because we were alone. Because no one else was looking.
(I’d thought only crooks hit on people when they’re alone. Never knew policemen did the same thing.)
A chronology of authoritarian rule in Singapore
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