What JBJ actually said at his Reform Party press con

While our local press dutifully reported about the press conference held by JB Jeyaratnam about his registration of the Reform Party, it appears they only reported the “constructive” stuff he said, but none of the 1 hour of criticisms of the PAP.

It’s pathetic that even Channel NewsAsia’s report is based on a report filed by AFP. Can’t we even report about our own country?

Here’s the AFP report:

A tough-talking new political party vowed on Friday to fight what it called the “enslavement” of Singapore after nearly half-a-century of rule by the People’s Action Party (PAP).

“Our people have been enslaved all this while,” J.B. Jeyaretnam, 82, interim secretary general of the Reform Party, told a news conference.

He said Singaporean society has been “castrated” and its people left powerless by an executive that holds “absolute power.”

For Jeyaretnam, a rare voice criticising the PAP over the past decades, the party’s formation marks his full return to politics after emerging from bankruptcy and being reinstated as a lawyer.

“We now in the Reform Party are not going to play pussy-foot with the PAP,” he told reporters at the close of a lengthy address which outlined what he sees as the country’s social, political and economic problems.

“I think it’s time now to ask questions and hold the PAP to account,” he said.

Party officials said they held the news conference a day after filing documents to register their party.

The opposition plays only a marginal role in Singapore but Jeyaretnam made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament. He was then secretary general of the Workers’ Party.

The lawyer was disbarred when he was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages to members of the PAP, including former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

During his bankruptcy, he was reduced to hawking his self-penned books outside city subway stations.

Last year Jeyaretnam paid 233,255 Singapore dollars (now 172,578 US) to clear his bankruptcy, which had prevented him from running for political office, after help from friends and his prominent lawyer son.

He was also reinstated to the bar and has resumed legal practice.

On Friday, Jeyaretnam said he did not care whether Singapore’s “obedient press” reported his comments — which continued for 80 minutes.

“Some things have to be said,” he stated as he began the speech.

He said Singapore, which prides itself on having ‘First World’ status, faces a widening gulf between rich and poor.

Government leaders earn millions but many families survive on one or two thousand dollars a month (605-1,1210 US), yet nobody speaks up, he said.

“There is, I don’t have to tell you, a fear culture in Singapore,” Jeyaretnam said. “It’s a total enslavement of the people.”

He said the party’s registration documents contained the names of only 10 people — and even attracting that many was not easy.

“People are still afraid,” he said.

Asked whether his news conference in a hotel meeting room was being monitored by police, he replied: “I’m sure that it is.”

Jeyaretnam said he hopes not only to reform the structure of the Singapore system but also people’s way of thinking, to rouse them from a PAP-induced “slumber.”

Jeyaretnam said that, if he is physically able, he will stand as a candidate in the next general election due by 2011.

He called for a complete overhaul of the electoral system, which he said places opposition parties at a disadvantage. The PAP won all but two seats in last year’s polls for the 84-member parliament.

The country’s leaders say its tough laws against dissent and other political activity are necessary to ensure the stability which has helped it achieve economic success. Thousands of foreign firms are based in Singapore, one of the most politically stable countries in the region.

The leaders dismiss criticisms from human rights groups who have said the government uses libel laws to silence critics, saying they have to protect their reputations.

Jeyaratnam spoke at a table with two other party officials beside him. To their left stood a white board which carried only two words in blue ink: “Reform Party.”

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

7 thoughts on “What JBJ actually said at his Reform Party press con”

  1. Well, kudos to JBJ. I think we’re ready to watch a fresh party as it joins the other opposition parties in our next GE.

    I’ve been wondering why he chose to register right now though, giving our ruling party ample time to enact laws/rules or map out new gerrymandering procedures.

    Seems that he’s clearly taking a completely no-nonsense stance though. I still can’t exactly identify with his harsh words like being enslaved and castrated, what about you all, though?

  2. Watcher i think you are still in a slumber if you cant identify with being enslaved and castrated, politically that is.

  3. Enslave and castrate aside; JBJ has rightly pointed out the fear instilled in the people all these years(after Independence).

    Many voters ‘dare not’ vote for Opposition Parties due to fears; fears of destabilizing the peace and prosperity. Fears of antagonizing the Government(PAP) and losing their ‘rice bowls’ and even ‘disappearing in the night’ which were hardly substantiated of course, but nonetheless fears. Imagined real fears! Mr JB Jeyaratnam is spot on here.

    To cut it short, a new political party means one more fragment in the Opposition Camp.

    patriot.

  4. I can’t identify with being enslaved and castrated either, yes politically of course. Understand what you mean by it being quite harsh. I’m still for moderate stance of MP Low Thia Khiang and his milder words. After all, it’s more effective when you’re able to get your points across without constantly ending up in some media standoff(, during which you haven’t got round to getting the chance to state your sound arguments yet).

    —-

    Hmm, this fear you’re speaking of has been mentioned a number of times since many years back, notably in Warren Fernandez’ Thinking Allowed? which revolves around that entire theme of fear. I also recall a recent review in the papers tut-tutting at Singaporeans unwilling to release their names after making harmless comments like dissatisfaction at price inflation…says a lot about this inherent fear in us.

  5. while i salute JBJ for his passion and any checks and balances on the ruling party are always welcomed, i fear that his political time and methodologies are past their “sell-out” date. His age is another factor. The composition of his party is also unlikely to spring any new surprises or choices for us.

    gerald – wat do u think of JBJ’s latest move?

    rgds,
    calamari_rings

  6. I think that it is a good thing for Singapore for this old war horse to re-enter the political fray. But I don’t believe for a moment that he is going to be able to lead a movement like Malaysia’s Anwar. I just hope that he will cooperate with other oppo parties and not just go in like Rambo spraying all his bullets without thinking who they might hit. Most importantly during the elections, he should not engage in 3-cornered fights with other oppo parties.

    I don’t think ideas like freedom and democracy are ever past their sell-by date. If he can repackage them and sell them well to a younger, much more discerning population, then good on him.

    I actually agree with him that S’poreans have been castrated and enslaved – POLITICALLY. Definitely not economically.

  7. Gerald hit the nail spot on.

    I think the Opposition needs a new make over to wow the new generation of discerning voters like he said. I mean come on. Even the word Opposition is what the press has been labelling the non ruling parties. Opposition just doesn’t connote the right message. Alternative just seems much better.

    Frankly, I’ve been toying with the idea of a People’s Alternative Party. It’s PAP although of a different tack. One which will ensure that the people who likes their vanilla plain no-nonsense economic centric government and yet at the same time one that is even bolder than LSL in creating a truly open society that is unafraid in civic discourse.

    The idea of course is that at the end of the day, people tend to vote with their stomachs and well being. So we need to build that base then bring them to a new enlighten state. It helps too then we as the new PAP are not view as been oppositional for the sake of oppose and merely an arm-chair critic.

    I’m recruiting… anyone? Seriously. Patriots for a new Singapore on the Singapore Patriot blog.

    Responsible Liberty

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