It appears I have upset a few anonymous readers (presumably SDP supporters or members) for suggesting in my previous post that Chee Soon Juan should concentrate on being a political activist rather than a politician.
My suggestion is not new. I know several other people — none of whom are PAP supporters — who have suggested the same thing.
I believe there are two main ways of engaging in politics in Singapore, and elsewhere: One, by contesting elections; and two, through civil society activism. (The PAP, through the Catherine Lim affair in the 1990s, believes only the first is valid. I strongly disagree.)
Fortunately in Singapore, both avenues are available to citizens. In some countries like China, North Korea and Cuba, only the second method is possible, albeit very difficult. One reader pointed out that Chee and company will never get their application to start a civil activist group approved. For someone who advocates non-violent civil disobedience, this should be the least of his concerns.
To build a democratic society — as we have all pledged to do — Singapore needs both politicians and political activists. Neither is more or less important than the other. In fact, the two often have a symbiotic relationship.
Thus, when I say that Chee should quit politics and start an activist group, I mean him no disrespect. For the reasons explained in my previous post, I believe he will serve Singaporeans better as a non-partisan political activist.
Since Chee likes to compare himself with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, he would be aware that neither of these men was a politician, nor did they have plans to become one. They were above partisan politics.
I have seen Chee speak on several occasions, and I know he is not the crazy person that most Singaporeans think he is (probably stemming from the way the media paints him to be). I agree with many of his beliefs on freedom, democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, unless these ideals are translated to dollars and cents for “pragmatic” Singaporeans who make up the majority of the electorate, he will make no headway at the polls.
Having said that, there is a great and pressing need for more political education in Singapore. Most Singaporeans are not aware of their civil and political rights. They don’t know where the law stands on issues. I frequently get asked by well-meaning friends: “Won’t you get in trouble for criticizing the government on your blog?” I also know of ex-colleagues in the Civil Service who think civil servants and NTUC members must vote for the PAP during elections. (That is not true, by the way.)
Chee and his colleagues could help fill this gap. In fact, they are already doing this quite well. The One Nation Under Lee film which they supported (or some believe, made) is an excellent example. That film chronicles all the strong arm tactics used by Lee Kuan Yew to suppress dissent in Singapore during and after his reign. These are important historical issues that every Singaporean, regardless of political affiliation, should at least be aware of.
It would be much less distracting if Chee didn’t appear to be doing that to win votes at the polls.