~by: Dr Wong Wee Nam~
I first met E-Jay in 2007. Chia Ti Lik had invited Bentley Tan and me to a coffeeshop in Tanjong Pagar to discuss his intention to be part of the protem committee to form the Reform Party. At this meeting he had brought along E-Jay and Jaslyn Go. Ti Lik told us that the three of them were considering forming the youth wing of the proposed Reform Party and wanted our opinion.
When I first saw Jaslyn and E-Jay, they looked very youthful but lack the exuberance young people. In fact, they were mild-mannered and remained quiet throughout the meeting. I wondered then if they could take the hard knocks of politics. Nevertheless, I was still impressed that they were willing to stick their necks out as fear was still pervasive at that time. E-Jay was then still a postgraduate student in the University.
The three of them had met online and became very close friends because they share this burning desire to do something for society. Of E-Jay what struck Ti Lik was the young man’s facility with numbers as well as his fluency with both English and Mandarin. Similarly, Jaslyn was impressed with his style of writing and with his substance even though it was just informal online discussions.
As I get to know E-Jay better, I could not agree with his two good friends any less. I found that beneath his quiet demeanour is someone who strongly believes in what he says and is not afraid to put his name to what he writes. There is steel beneath his velvet exterior.
For some reason, the proposed youth wing did not take off and the five of us decided to register a society called The Active Citizen. Unfortunately, the Registrar of Societies tried to put too much restriction on our activities that it was meaningless for us to go ahead the registration. The idea was aborted.
After this, E-Jay decided to start a blog, sgpolitics.net, because he wanted to pen his thoughts on the social and political issues that everyone was talking about.
“At that time, one hot topic was CPF Life, the compulsory annuity scheme implemented for all CPF members upon reaching retirement age. Another item on the agenda was the 13th ASEAN Summit held in Singapore in November that year, which attracted considerable attention because civil activists were campaigning for a concrete human rights programme. I wanted to put my ideas down and offer them for debate,” he said.
To him writing is a method of training the mind, as it forces one to organize one’s thoughts. The fact that he is such an analytical writer is because he is a strong believer that one should study at least a few disciplines and develop multiple skills to broaden one’s horizons. For a person of science and mathematics, he writes very well and articulates his thoughts very clearly and logically.
When he told me he was starting a blog, I told him I would try to write some articles for his website. He was so generous that he actually dedicate a column for my articles.
E-jay is no bookworm or armchair critic. In spite of his busy mentoring students, giving tuitions and researching for his theses, he finds time for walking the talk.
He attended SDP’s Labour Day Walk in 2007. Subsequently, Dr Chee Soon Juan and his sister, Chee Siok Chin became his inspirational figures and his initial political thinking was based on their ideas. Though being tied down by graduate studies to do very much he tried his best to participate in SDP’s political events and activities, including being a speaker at a forum organised by them.
His political awareness and social realisation were enhanced by meeting with ex-detainees like Teo Soh Lung and Vincent Cheng.
“I guess being one of the Tak Boleh Tahan 18 was his biggest test and I am very proud to be standing alongside with him throughout his struggles from police investigation to the pressures from his parents,” Jaslyn said.
However E-Jay has no regrets, “Each of us are doing our own stuff and trying to find our own footing, but it is has been very enjoyable mixing around and rubbing shoulders with this unique group of concerned Singaporeans who have collectively taught me many, many things.”
So does E-Jay see blogging as an influential vehicle to contribute to policies? This is his encouraging words to future bloggers:
“The government is beginning to respond more actively to feedback gotten both online and offline. Blogs, forums, all play a role in highlighting key issues and airing grievances over existing policies. Blogging is one good way of reaching out, engaging and shaping opinion. TOC for instance has done such a good job, the authorities feel they must be gazetted. More changes will come when grassroot leaders finally pluck up enough courage to tell their political higher-ups the real concerns that bug residents and the broader community, and not just provide feedback that the higher-ups want to hear. Civil society must also continue to play the critical role of addressing issues like fair treatment of workers, etc. Political change will come to Singapore with a collective effort from all corners of society especially the opposition parties, because at the end of the day the ruling party will listen to the ballot box.
“Writing helps me crystallize my understanding of current events and provides a sense of satisfaction. As for future bloggers and other online participants, I would like to share some thoughts. First, don’t be afraid to be partisan, and to announce that you are. Second, keep inter-personal disagreements and conflicts away from forums and online spaces including facebook, as there are always people who like to exploit such things and blow your personal life out of proportion. Third, make sure whatever you write can stand up to scrutiny, namely, you would not mind your boss reading it.”
It is no surprise that the TOC has decided to award Ng E-Jay “The Blogger of the Year” Award on their TOC Awards Night. He is, indeed, a deserving recipient.