As a young man in the 80s, I had very little interest in politics. I had experienced the Singapore economic miracle first hand. I stayed in a kampong without paved streets, without street lights at night and without toilets with flushing systems. While the PAP govt was in charge, the streets became paved and lighted. The toilets were later upgraded to have a flushing system. Consumer goods such as TVs, radios, fans and refrigerators began to appear in homes as incomes rose. You don't think too much about politics when you can see your life improving year after year. I grew up not knowing the difference between a socialist and a Marxist.
For the many young Singaporeans of today, their political awakening came in the past decade when the Internet and social media began playing a bigger role in politics and the great economic miracle ended without any clear vision by the PAP on how the country should progress. Years of fumbling along followed with only one clear goal to grow the GDP by any means possible - expanding the foreign influx, casinos, tax haven for the rich and so on. The end result of rising income gap, rising cost of living and deteriorating quality of life woke many people up and they become interested in politics and political alternatives.
My own political awakening came in 1987 when a group of young men and women were arrested and detained without trial. I had great difficulty believing the official story presented to me that these people were out to overthrow the Singapore govt by force and they were part of a Marxist Conspiracy. For many Singaporeans, it was hard to believe how a small group of unarmed men and women can take on and defeat the Singapore Police Force and the SAF which was armed with billions worth of equipment. It didn't matter whether there was proof or no proof. It didn't matter whether ordinary citizens believed what they were told. It didn't matter what international human rights organisations or foreign govt concerned about human rights said. They were locked up and abused and there was nothing anyone could do to help them. The event ignited the fear in many people of the authoritarian govt that will go after people for doing what they believe is right for the country to preserve its own dominant power.
The WP winning Aljunied is a major political milestone in 2011. The other great milestone of equal importance is the demise of fear. 24 years after her unjust detention, former detainee, Teo Soh Lung, contested in Yuhua SMC. Ordinary Singaporeans came out in full force to attend rallies and capable people stepped forward to say and do what they believe is right and good for this country. The demise of fear ushers in a period of hope and change for Singapore.
Demise of fear
by Teo Soh Lung on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 3:48am
The recent retirement of MM Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong from the cabinet was welcome news to many Singaporeans.
Both men would like to be remembered as having brought Singapore to what it is today. Certainly we will remember them as having contributed to the economic success of Singapore. History will no doubt remember the good deeds of the two men. But history will also slowly but surely reveal the dark deeds of the two men.
There was a time when MM Lee as the first prime minister of Singapore could have achieved unparalleled greatness in this region if only he had been kind to his friends who helped propel him to fame. I am thinking of the greats of Lim Chin Siong, Dr Lim Hock Siew, Dr Poh Soo Kai and Loh Miaw Ping, who together with so many others helped him win his first general election in 1959 and unselfishly let him assume the office of prime minister. What he did to them in 1963 and to hundreds if not thousands more in the years that followed was unforgiveable. We know today that they were locked away under the Internal Security Act for decades and silenced for more than half a century.
Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong who was First Deputy Prime Minister in 1987 learnt to be ruthless from MM Lee when he agreed to arrest and detain 22 innocent people that year. For three decades thereafter, the PAP appeared to be invincible. GE 2011 changed all that. In a matter of days, the prime minister and other ministers came out to apologise for their mistakes. It took many by surprise. Have leopards changed their spots?
I don’t know. All I know is that the young have taken control of Singapore and are determined to put a stop to the arrogance of the PAP. The young and articulate opposition candidates came out in full force. They campaigned without fear. The people responded and suddenly, fear disappeared and they regained their voices. Both the people and the candidates realised in the course of just nine days that they have the power to change Singapore.
For me, GE 2011 is the most important GE after 1984 when two opposition members, namely J B Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong were elected into parliament. With six members of the Workers’ Party in parliament this year, we, the people of Singapore can have the confidence to feel free once again and to look forward to a PAP government that will be more accountable to us in the next five years. We can be sure that if they do not listen to us, the next GE will see more losses for the PAP.
As for the passing of MM Lee and Senior Minister Goh, they will soon be forgotten except in the pages of our history book.