by Roy Yi Ling Ngerng
What really struck me this General Election is that it wasn’t just the blogger or activists who were speaking up, but what was more amazing was how our fellow Singaporeans were speaking up as well.
We saw the unfairness of how the PAP was using the POFMA law to accuse people who were very obviously NOT spreading fake news, and we saw how people who spoke up about the ethnic discrimination in Singapore were also attacked unfairly.
This struck many Singaporeans as unfair and awoken the sense of injustice among many of us. It’s amazing.
Perhaps what can be said is that the PAP went too far and they no longer knew where they need to draw the line. They went too far and Singaporeans were not going to tolerate it. They tipped the balance between what people people were willing to tolerate, and the point where people felt things were so unfair they could no longer keep quiet.
However, it is not that the things that JBJ and Dr Chee Soon Juan went through in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were fair.
Perhaps it was the Internet that galvanized our voices, perhaps it is that social conditions are no longer favorable enough for people to keep quiet about their livelihoods, or perhaps it is a new globalized middle income who feel empowered to speak up.
What matters most is that we have finally found our voice this election, and I think there is so much we can be proud of.
What matters next however is how we will keep exercising our voice, and to ensure we use it to protect one another, and the people who represent us, from unfair treatment and political persecution.
If you trace back Singapore’s history, when the opposition gains more than 40% of the votes, the PAP would start using its legal tools and smear attacks to weaken them, and it has largely been successful. Chee Soon Juan was dismissed from his job at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and then sued and made bankrupt. So was JBJ sued, charged, bankrupted, and jailed.
From what we know today, many have come around to understand Dr Chee means well for Singapore, but for 30 years since 1992, he was demonized by the PAP. It took 30 years for Singaporeans to finally be willing to come around that he means well for Singapore.
The PAP has made us think that speaking up is wrong, and that we should be fearful of people who challenge the PAP’s discourse. But this election, we finally see for ourselves that speaking up is important, and that challenging the PAP’s discourse is important.
With the Workers’ Party (WP), the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), as well as Dr Chee Soon Juan and Paul Tambyah achieving more than 40% of the vote share this election, you can be sure the PAP will not stop at persecuting the opposition.
The question is, what will we do next to speak up for them, and protect them?
Let’s entertain this thought for a bit – let’s imagine, if after the WP and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) gained one of their highest vote shares in the 1980s, and the PAP did not attack the opposition, and let’s say if the PAP did play fair, if the votes had gone as they had from 1984 to 1991, Singapore today would have a government where there is equal competition between the PAP and the opposition (refer to the dotted lines in the chart below). Of course, growth would not have been linear, but this is one possibility.
However, today, 30 years later, we are only back at square one, in 1991 where the PAP’s vote share was where it is today.
Will we have to wait another 30 years to see fair and equal political competition in Singapore? You can be sure that the PAP is now brainstorming how it can push back the opposition’s votes to suppress them for the next 30 years, or more.
The question for us however is whether we can finally kick-start and rejuvenate this political change that has stagnated over the last 30 years.
And to do so, Singaporeans would need to continue to speak up when it matters, and to say no to injustice. It means we have to continue to take a stand, and stop tolerating when we see unfairness being perpetuated.
Only then can we continue to see political transformation continue to occur, to a stage one day, where we do not have to take sides, but where we can have a fair and equal discourse on ideas that can transform Singapore.