Protesters walk past a mock gravestone that reads “RIP Freedom of Speech” during a protest against new licensing regulations imposed by the government for online news sites, at Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 8, 2013. Human Rights Watch on Friday said that Singapore is undercutting its status as a financial centre by expanding media censorship to the web and urged the city-state’s government to withdraw the new licensing requirements for online news sites. REUTERS/Edgar Su

by Roy Ngerng Yi Ling

Some people think that it does not matter that bloggers in Singapore are sued by the Singapore prime minister or that news sites are charged by the Singapore government.

Don’t worry, we can read something else. Another website will appear, they say.

Alex Waipang Au wrote for the Yawning Bread blog. His first post was in 2004. In 2012, he was charged by the Singapore government for scandalizing the court and was found guilty in 2015. He was fined S$8,000. The last post on Yawning Bread was dated a year ago, in January last year. Alex wrote for 14 years.

I started writing on The Heart Truths in 2012. In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for civil defamation and I was found guilty in 2015. The court ordered me to pay S$180,000 in damages and costs to the prime minister. I continued writing until August 2016, and took a hiatus before posting a few more articles in October last year. I wrote for only 4 years. Over this period, I wrote more than 700 articles.

Leong Sze Hian writes for his blog, “Leong Sze Hian“. His first post was in 2007. In December last year, he was sued by the Singapore prime minister also for civil defamation. He faces damages and costs in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. The last post on his blog was in November 2018. Leong has written for 11 years.

Leong is only the second blogger to be sued by the Singapore prime minister.

There are many risks people take when they choose to write in Singapore, but some continue because they believe it is important to continue to voice out on the issues in Singapore. Other than the bloggers, there are brave souls like Terry Xu and Kumaran Pillai who continue to write and publish for news sites like The Online Citizen SG and The Independent Singapore. You would also remember Richard Wan of TR Emeritus.

But people continue because they want society to have a chance to operate differently, to enable others who are not spoken for to have a voice, so that there could be more even development in Singapore that will benefit everyone and not just some.

But we cannot rely on just a few people to speak up, while the rest of us cheer them on. We need to show our support to them, and be part of the movement to show our solidarity to them. We need to believe that it is in our interest to come together, to unite, and to support one another, so that together, we can make that change.

The current PAP-led Singapore government believes that by attacking one, they will scare the rest of us. But it is only because we allow them to. But we forget – Singapore might not be a full democracy, but nonetheless we have our votes. They might be a few in power but we are hundreds and thousands who have the power.

After decades of bliss, we forget that it is us who hold the power. We forget that if all of us move together, we can move mountains.

We forget our power. It is time we remember.

The people who speak up for you can only keep speaking up for you if they are protected by you, and if you stand up and defend them, and if you put a face to support them. Support Leong and donate to his legal defence in the fight against the Singapore prime minister, as you have supported me.

But it is not enough to support us in monetary ways after we are sued. If we want change, we need to do more than that.

There are just a few more months before Singapore’s general election will be held. Over these few months, you need to seriously consider the future you want for Singapore, and the kind of society you want. And then, the kind of government you want.

Do you want a government that keeps bullying the people who speak up for you? Do you want a government that keeps trying to cut off your source of information?

Do you want a government that does not show basic respect and decency to your fellow citizens?

Do you want a bully as your government?

They think they can break us apart because we are only one or two. And we mistakenly believe that we are only one or two. What we do not realise is that in our minds, many of us feel the same way with one another, many of us want a Singapore that is more caring and righteous. Many of us want change.

It is time we remember the many that stand among us, and remember the power we have as one people.

It is time we remember our strength, and believe that each and every one of us have the ability to fight back in each and every of our own way.

It is time we stand up for justice and equality, and remember our power.

We need to take this time to seriously consider what we want for Singapore, and not to just keep cruising along with what was done. We need to take a good look at what we want, and to do right by ourselves.

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