Sunday, July 18, 2010
illegal hawker? My Story
In the past two weeks, when my party, National Solidarity Party, went on our usual political outreach on Sundays to promote our publication North Star, we were warned for illegal hawking and our Vice President Christopher Neo was eventually summoned for this offence of "illegal hawking". I shall not deal with the details of the case here but it is pretty bizarre that political activists who make sacrifice of their time and effort to be involved in public service of politics were charged for "illegal hawking".
It is pretty insulting actually. Most probably someone in National Environment Agency doesn't really know what exactly an illegal hawker is. I will illustrate what it means to be an illegal hawker here.
I am born in a poor family of 10. My parents have to feed and send 8 children to school. I am proud to say that my parents have given all they have to provide these 8 children the best education that each could achieve and that include sending 1 to polytechnic, 2 to local universities and 1 overseas.
They could only do that by becoming illegal hawkers. There is nothing shameful to admit that I was also an illegal hawker since I was 5 years old, helping my parents to mend our temporary "stall" or going around the flats to sell their lasi lemak, ottah kwei and bee hoon. I am the youngest and thus I have to help out in the morning before I go to school. I spent most of my holidays hawking these food "illegally". If there is anything PAP or ISD want to dig, this is the ONLY DIRT they could find about me, a young illegal hawker at the age of 5 till 11.
My parents have to wake up 3am in the morning to prepare all the food for sales to the morning working crowd.They have made a name for themselves in the neighbourhood for selling the delicious nasi lemak and dumplings. Pre-orders for dumplings during the festive season were in the tens and hundreds. Well, I did receive orders from my fellow Primary School classmates quite frequently as well. They still remember my parents' nasi lemak and will mention it each and every time without fail when we have our occasional reunions!
Beside helping out the sales, which trained me to be very quick in mental Maths calculation (yeah, that's why I scored full marks for my Maths in Primary school!), I have to help out with the carry of bags of chili and endure the strong smell of belachan when they prepare the chili for the nasi lemak. All 10 of us have to squeeze in a small two-room rental flat with only 1 bedroom.
Life was tough but enjoyable though. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially going up that 20 storey high flats to shout out "Ottah, Ottah kwei, Nasi Lemak!" Even the avoidance of the "dee gu" (law enforce officers from NEA) was just like hide and seek or playing catching for me.
My parents have tried to apply for hawker license many times but failed. They were not granted the license or any hawker stall at the market. But for survival sake, they have no choice but to become illegal hawkers to bring 8 children up and provide them with all the education they could get. If they haven't done that, there might be another 8 delinquent youngsters on the streets and eventually add on to the social problems of Singapore!
It was all pure hard work and determination of earning enough money to raise 8 children with proper education that make them carry on with that label "illegal hawkers". To me, I am proud of my parents for their dedication to us, their children. "Illegal hawkers"? Who cares! When the system fails to provide the adequate means for the family to survive, then we will have to find our own ways to survive.
Nobody wants to break the law unnecessarily. I do not view my parents as "law breakers" but rather survivors of the system on the fringe. They did not choose to cheat, rob or become criminals but just "illegal hawkers" to earn a living for all of us. When the survival of the family is at stake, you will have to find ways to fight the lesser evil of the law.
I write this to illustrate one very important point. As far as possible, we will be law abiding citizens. But when the circumstance is such that our survival is being threaten, the only way would be playing on the fringe of the law. The situation NSP and all other opposition parties are facing due to the inappropriate enforcement of "illegal hawking" law on us is pretty similar to my story.
The survival of NSP is being threaten now due to this "illegal hawking" summon. The only difference is that WE ARE NOT HAWKERS but VOLUNTEERS in Political Public Service. The law is inappropriately applied to us and it would mean that politically, NSP will face closure if its political activity of promoting its messages and publications are being curtailed.
Just today, I have met an old gentleman who accused us of appearing just before elections. I explained to him that we have been selling our North Star all around Singapore for years! PAP has always sneered at opposition parties by saying we only work when elections come. That is totally untrue and PAP knows it. Be it walkabout on the ground or various press releases on policies and current issues, NSP has been pretty active doing all these.
It is now NEA trying to curtail our political activism on the ground by issuing such silly summon of "illegal hawking". Choosing between becoming a totally law abiding of silly law which make us politically inactive and being an effective political party actively engaging the ground but risks being summoned as "illegal hawkers" by NEA, I would choose the later. I am not here to make NSP just a flower vase of PAP's farce pseudo Democracy. I am here to make NSP an effective party that would actively challenge and put proper checks and balances on PAP's dominance of power.
This is not only about the survival of NSP or any other opposition parties alone. It is about the sustainability of the healthy political development for Singapore. If there is a small price to be paid as being insulted as "illegal hawkers" by the unreasonable PAP's rule, so be it.
Goh Meng Seng