Thursday, October 16, 2014
I remember years ago right after GE2006, during one important WP CEC meeting, there was a debate on whether WP should "draw a clear line" from "Non-Violent Civil Disobedience". I was against such move and argued passionately that WP should NEVER draw that line.
The reason I gave was that WP might not utilize NVCD there and then, but it cannot discount the possibility that there may come a time that the rules and laws set and changed by PAP may become so ridiculous that the only possible way is to fight it via Non-Violent Civil Disobedience. The example I gave back then was the constant interference and disturbance of NEA officers on opposition parties' regular political outreach in selling our political newsletters. SDP was charged and fined for selling their publications and books in public places and there is absolutely no guarantee that PAP will not do the same to WP or any other party.
In fact, it has been proven that NEA tried to use exactly the same law "illegal hawking" on NSP during my tenure as Secretary General. NSP back then, stood steadfast and challenged NEA for the summon and was prepared to go to court to fight it out. We continued our regular selling of North Star while Reform Party did that as well. Both RP and SDP supported our position that regular political grassroot outreach activities like selling party newsletter IS NOT ILLEGAL HAWKING.
However, regrettably, WP kept quiet and stopped all its Hammer sales activity for almost two months. WP members were quietly BLAMING me on my back of "dragging" them down into the mud. I was utterly disappointed. Instead of fighting against the unjust and unfair PAP law enforcement, they chose to stab fellow opposition parties instead.
Nevertheless, that saga has proven to be very important in setting the new norm for ALL Opposition parties, including WP. WP was basically the FREE Rider of this good outcome. Well, it is ok for me as the important point is about opening up more space for all serious opposition politicians.
Fast forward to 2014, WP was charged for "illegal trade fair" without a permit from NEA. WP has apparently, through the Town Council it controls, initiated Non-Violent Civil Disobedience against UNFAIR and UNJUST law as well as regulations. It is Deja Vu. They have chosen to go ahead with the trade fair without the permit, knowing that they will definitely get charged for such offence. Maybe they are bold in doing so because it is under the cover of the Town Council and nobody will be or can be disqualified for candidacy in coming General Elections for such fine to the Town Council.
I will support WP in this fight against the unjust law, not because I am a fan of WP or anything like that. It is because PAP is "playing cheat bully". It has manipulated the law and regulations to suit its political agenda and this is detrimental to Singapore's democratic development. Rule of Law must be upheld to effect a level playing field for ALL political parties.
The only thing regrettable here is that residents of Aljunied GRC may have to pay for such expensive court case if the team of seven lawyers engaged by WP is not doing this Pro-Bono. It is a bit lopsided to engage a team of seven lawyers to fight a case which only involve a maximum fine of $1000. Even if WP won this case, residents of Aljunied GRC would most probably still the biggest losers if they have to foot the bill of this team of seven lawyers.
I do not think WP can win this case in the court of law but it could well win in the court of public opinion. But apparently, the COST of this victory, is going to be very high for the residents of Aljunied GRC.
Freedom is not Free and it depends on who is going to pay for it.
Afternote: I have been informed that the Town Council does not need to pay the legal fees. Either the lawyers are doing Pro-Bono or someone else paid their fees. The following is what Sylvia Lim said:
Ms Lim told reporters outside the Subordinate Courts. "I would also like to clarify that the lawyers we have hired are from the same firm that I am associated with. We will not be touching any town council's funds to mount this defence. We will be raising funds from elsewhere. Neither me nor any Workers' Party members will have any share in any fees that are paid to the law firm."