Friday, December 16, 2005

Freedom is NOT FREE

Freedom is NOT FREE

Most of the time, people take for granted many little important but seemingly "insignificant" things around them. This complacency is especially glaring in the midst of the great debate over the insignificant fine over NS defaulters. Those who have not gone through National Service have such a "no big deal" attitude, so much so to the extent of belittling the whole process.

Our Freedom as a Nation depends on the many sacrifices of many people in the National Service and regular arm forces. The issue of the NS defaulter's case is not about dollars and cents but rather the insult to those who have made sacrifices to grant us the Freedom and Sovereignty as a Nation. It is of course partly the case of emotional imbalance but it is also the values we are cultivating in the process.

Similarly, people are taking their freedom in our democracy for granted. In many occasions, there are people would approach me and say WP should contest in this and that constituencies. I could only smile at them. I ask them, are they willing and prepared to come forward to contest in those constituencies themselves? If not, are they willing to fork out money to sponsor such teams, with their name and I/C numbers stated beside the amount of money they have donated to the party? By then, they would have been speechless. If not, are they willing to come forward to help out on the background, even without the need to sign up party membership? They would say no time, too busy.

It is interesting to note that some people have always asked us about why they have to pay for our Hammer publication or pay for our manifesto. Freedom is not FREE my friend! There are already so many people making sacrifices to provide you the choice and your right to vote, what else could you ask for? Yes, by all means, if you could ill afford to pay for our publication, you could well "opt out" of the purchase. We could understand that, as many Singaporeans have either lose their jobs or taken hefty pay cuts in one way or another.

Our existence as an alternative political party is meaningful to each and every Singaporeans as it is a way to manifest the Power of the People: When you have a choice, you will have the Bargaining Power. But this platform is shouldered on by many people's sacrifices, in terms of effort, time, opportunities, family life, monetary contributions and many other forms. On top of all these, there is the important element of "risk".

One of my friend (just call him Alex for convenience sake) paid me a visit one day and we have dinner together. Alex is a typical middle class professional who is well educated and has a wonderful family. Our conversation naturally ended up with the concerns expressed on my involvement in "the risky business" of non-PAP politics.

Alex, being a good friend of mine, has always shown concerns about my involvement in "opposition" politics. First there is a question of "needs". Second, there is a question of worthy sacrifices one has to make. Third, the necessity of risking myself and most importantly, exposing my family to possible hardship just because I "go against PAP". I have asked a typical question that is always the talk of the town, "Have you thought of emigration out of Singapore before?" He said "No". I asked again, "Then your children will be living in Singapore?" "Yes", he replied. I said, "Do you think Singapore's present environment is good for your kids?" "Yes....." he hesitated. "The fact that you are concerned about I getting into trouble by merely taking part in the democratic political process, isn't that an unhealthy mindset behind it?" Paused.

I put it simply to him that if I am going to stay in Singapore and have my children live in it, I won't want my children to live in this very FEAR that almost every Singaporeans are experiencing. It would be totally irresponsible for me to subject my children to this exposure. Thus, this is the primary need to change the situation we have now for the sake of our children....not only mine, his children as well, all future generations of Singapore. I could choose not to do anything to it for the FEAR of the repercussions but who is going to make sure my children and future generations to have a better environment OUT OF FEAR?

Someone has to take the risks and sacrifices to make things better. Imagine that if our forefathers have chosen to keep quiet and stay tame in front of the colonial rulers, would we ever evolve into a Nation today? Many have sacrificed their money, time, blood and even lives for what we have right now. If we know that the present country that we have now is less than desirable or fall short of our basic expectation of a truly democratic country with true FREEDOM (from that erratic FEAR) for ourselves and our children, why wouldn't we change it, just like what our forefathers have chosen to make sacrifices to change their environment for us back then?

Yes, FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. And most importantly, FREEDOM has the element of free ridership in it. Everyone may want it, but all waiting for someone to get it for them.

I do not want my children to be caged by the very same FEAR that have arrested many Singaporeans' mind for decades. Most probably, the only most valuable gift I could give them is to fight for their liberation from this cage of Fear.

Are all these little sacrifices worthy? Freedom is priceless, though it is Not Free.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Value Of Citizenship

Value of Citizenship II ---- Voting Rights

One of the fundamental rights that constitute our value of citizenship lies in our voting rights. If we trace the political development of Singapore, this very basic right of a citizen in a supposedly democratic country has slowly diminished when the PAP government has started to introduce the GRC system back in 1988 General Elections.

PAP used the reasoning of racial representation to rationalize the need of the GRC system but most people know that they were just using the GRC to curb and prevent the drastic drop of support for it to materialize into more seats won by the opposition parties. In short, it is a game of large numbers, led by a ?heavy weight? minister.

If GRC system is really for the sake of ?racial representation?, there are many other means of doing it. In fact, by increasing the number of seats of GRC from 3 or 4, to 5 or 6 would actually reduce the proportionate representation (note, in Singapore, minority races make up of about 25% of total population). We could declare a proportionate number of constituencies to be contested by minority candidates only, without the need of grouping the constituencies together as a big GRC!

The rational that minority candidates may not be elected into parliament if they stood alone in a constituency is totally flawed. Workers? Party secretary general JBJ has won in 1981 by-election and again in 1984 GE even when he is a minority candidate contesting against PAP Chinese candidates! PAP?s own minority candidates have won many electoral battles in the past before single handedly!

Due to the GRC system together with increased election deposits demanded from potential candidates, participation of opposition parties in 1991, 1997 and 2001 GEs have decreased dramatically. This reduced of political participation translated into massive walkovers for PAP. Thus many of us would feel that PAP?s claim of ?Party of Choice? is totally absurd because in actual fact, they are the ?Party of NO Choice? or rather, ?Party of DEFAULT Choice!

It would also mean that over half of Singaporeans have eventually lost their right to vote TECHNICALLY. This has grave effects on the development of Nationhood as well as political apathy. This is, in essence, an erosion of our Value of Citizenship as a whole.

In my post on Power To The People ( ), I have stated that the only way to preserve and enhance the people?s power is to protect their right to vote and having a choice in the political system. This is important as such bargaining power derived from alternative choices would serve as the basis to protect their benefits and get better deals out of the political system. This is in fact the most important Value of Citizenship so to speak.

It is time for all Singaporeans to ponder over this important aspect of our value of citizenship while we keep protesting about the light punishment over NS defaulters.

Goh Meng Seng