Thursday, 28 September 2023

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The Singapore of our National Pledge

Choo Zheng Xi / Editor-at-Large / New York

The Singapore we know will change.

This revelation wasn’t immediately apparent to me, reading reports of this Parliamentary session’s debate.

A continent away, the anger and helplessness I felt at our Finance Minister’s stonewalling over the Temasek debacle threatened to overwhelm me. I felt like I was punched in the gut when MM derided our “high-falutin” Pledge. I despaired at Ng Eng Hen’s colourless and pedantic rebuttal of Mr Viswa Sadasivan’s moving speech.

Surely Mr Ng must have felt some sense of irony in praising the PAP’s accountability, when just two days before his colleague had thrown a blanket over the eyes of Parliament?

One would rightly ask, for how long more are Singaporeans damned to suffer such arrogance and insensitivity?

It is precisely this visionless and petty bullying that has convinced me that soon Singaporeans will be able to take it no longer.

Even as I write, there is a new generation of Singaporeans who are willing to stand up and say: not one day more will we stand for this. These are Singaporeans who believe that the words of our Pledge are meant to be lived, not laughed at. Around me I see Singaporeans who give me hope that our country will change.

Singaporeans like Bernard Chen, a 24 year old polytechnic student and member of the Workers’ Party Youth Wing. Bernard gives his weekends to WP walkabouts, and is actively trying to get young people interested in the future of our country. He believes in a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

Singaporeans like Wee Yeong Wei, a 20 year old who has just finished his National Service, waiting to begin university, but already embarking on the second phase of his National Service: giving time and energy to help civil society group Maruah organize public forums to share the message of human rights with Singaporeans. He believes in a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

Singaporeans like my friend and colleague Andrew Loh, who devotes every single day to working full time on creating an open media culture and truly accountable and transparent government. He works with a team of Singaporeans who believe in a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

Singaporeans like those who serve Parliament and the People more faithfully than PAP MPs bound by the party whip: former NMP Siew Kum Hong and now Mr Viswa Sadasivan. Intelligent and successful professionals who do not need a Ministerial salary to fight for a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

Singaporeans like those in opposition, who have chosen to stake everything to face overwhelming odds because they believe that every Singaporean deserves to be heard. And every day, their numbers increase slowly but surely with new faces who believe in a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”.

As the ranks of patriotic Singaporeans who share these ideals swell, the fear will fade, as it is beginning to.

All that is missing now, readers, is you. Do you share that vision?

If you do, then I promise you, surely change will come. Change will come from those citizens of our country who put their hands to their chest and mean every word of our National Pledge, not from those who deride it as impractical aspiration.

Change will come despite those who deride the impracticality of a “democratic society, based on justice and equality”. The day has come, a line has been drawn in the sand, between those who believe in living Rajaratnam’s vision, and the men who see it as empty rhetoric.

And the day will come when those callow men who toe their party line realize that their hollow repetitions of the creed of an ailing patrician has to make way for a new Singapore: the Singapore of our National Pledge.


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