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GE 2011, Remembering May 21st, Singapore's Human Rights

{Video} Chee Soon Juan addresses members and volunteers at SDP’s Thank You Dinner

http://yoursdp.org Dr Chee Soon Juan addressed about 350 members and volunteers at the SDP’s thank-you dinner on 14 May 11. He noted that the SDP had become a party of professionals and thinkers. He also called on everyone to be do-ers

Text of speech

The following was published in Teo Soh Lung’s facebook group page. Soh Lung was the SDP’s candidate for Yuhua SMC in GE2011. She is also an ex-ISA detainee and recounts her experiences in her book.

Civil disobedience and the SDP
Teo Soh Lung, 18 May 2011

At last Saturday’s SDP dinner to thank volunteers, there were incessant questions about SDP’s belief in human rights and civil disobedience. One after another and repeatedly, speakers urged Dr Chee to abandon civil disobedience and move on to turn the SDP into an ordinary opposition party that will discard civil disobedience and human rights into the bin.

Sitting amongst the audience, I was a bit surprised at the earnest pleas and good intentions of the speakers. I wondered if 50 years of PAP rule have subdued all of us and turned us into obedient followers of all dictates of our rulers. The PAP has banned in recent years, one-person protests under the Public Order Act. This legislation was the direct consequence of a two-man protest outside the Ministry of Manpower against the deportation of Burmese workers in Singapore. Like so many other laws that were passed by the PAP government as immediate reactions to curb a repeat of what they called ” unlawful acts”, I was surprised that such a law which was passed without much debate in parliament could be so willingly accepted and embraced by members of the public.

In America, the law reserving seats exclusively for whites on public buses was consciously disobeyed by black woman activist Rosa Parks in 1955. That act was of course frowned upon by the white establishment and Parks lost her job as a seamstress. But that defiant act gave momentum to the black civil rights movement. It gave rise to many more peaceful street protests and ultimately earned the blacks their freedom to live as free people and not as slaves. Throughout the history of the civil rights movement, thousands had gone to jail. Freedom was earned through struggles of the blacks and not given to them on a platter. And today, we have President Obama in America.

Most of us appreciate the struggles of the blacks in America and South Africa. But when it comes to the struggles of our people in our own country, we don’t seem to appreciate or understand the sacrifices of people like Dr Chee, J B Jeyaretnam and many others. We laugh at them. We described them as “stupid” and “stubborn”. We tell each other that “they never learn”. It is tragic. It is like blaming a raped victim for bringing about the rape upon herself. Yes, the PAP government gets off scotch free while Dr Chee and others are labelled “incorrigible” and are jailed. Why cannot we cast doubt on the government that gives us such unjust laws and thank those who disobey such laws and sacrificed their freedom for us? Why cannot we stand up against injustice instead of blaming the victims of oppression?

At the height of the black civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr said : “Good laws are to be obeyed. Bad laws are to be disobeyed.” It is time for us to distinguish what is good law and what is bad law. It is time for us to check if every law the PAP passes is good for us and for our country. It is time that we question why we cannot stand at street corners with placards telling our fellow citizens and our government why we are so unhappy. It is time we reflect on our past and examine ourselves before we tell Dr Chee and those brave men and women to change their ways.

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