The following is the full transcript of the speech that I had given at the #FreeMyInternet protest at the Hong Lim Park on 8 June 2013.
Singaporeans Need Step Up to Protect The Independence and Freedom of Our Internet
Hello everyone, I am Roy and I am the author of The Heart Truths.
I am honoured and humbled to be here today to be a voice among Singaporeans, to speak up on the MDA Licensing Rule. The MDA Licensing has to go!
For more than 40 years, Singaporeans couldn’t protest in Singapore. And in the past, if you speak up, what will happen to you? You will be arrested, you will be jailed. You will be thrown into prison. You will be sued and you will be made bankrupt.
This year is the first time in Singapore’s history since our independence that we are able to come here in the thousands to speak up and to voice out for what is right for us.
The Government Wants Us to Trust Them
Now, the government tells us that it’s ok. Trust them. Give them time. After a while, when the licence takes effect, we will know that we can trust them. So, this is what they say.
But Singaporeans, how many years have we given the government to makes our lives right? They want us to read the right thing? But are they doing the right thing?
Singaporeans’ Wages and Retirement Funds Are Very Low
Over the past more than one decade, Singaporeans’ median wages have remained stagnant. In fact, for the poorest in Singapore, since 2000, their real wages have actually dropped! Dropped!
The percentage of people who are able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum and Medisave Minimum Sum have also dropped. Yet, healthcare costs have climbed up but the percentage of the government’s spending on healthcare has dropped!
Is it any wonder why, that many people, especially the elderly, do not even dare to go and see the doctor?
So, the government wants us to read the right thing. But are they doing the right thing? If they are not doing the right thing, then what do they want us to read?
Today, our retirement funds, and that is our CPF, is the smallest among ALL the developed countries, and not only that, but our retirement funds are even lower than developing countries like Malaysia and Philippines!
Our CPF is invested in the GIC and Temasek Holdings. And do you know that GIC is ranked 8th largest and Temasek is ranked the 11th largest sovereign wealth funds in the world? But our CPF is the lowest is the developed countries!
Our Elderly Earn Low Wages and Are Forced to Work
Now, we must not sit down and we must not wait for the government to change, and to treat us better. We need to stand up and we need to ask the government to change, if not, we need to change who is in the government!
The government cannot, I repeat, the government, cannot, expect to tell the people to sit down and listen to the right thing when there is no right thing! When there is nothing right about how there are more and more elderly who have to work at our hawker centres to be cleaners. And be paid very low wages!
My question to you is this – are you willing to work long hours everyday and get paid only a few hundred dollars in Singapore? Are you willing? Of course, our government ministers won’t understand this. Because why? Because they are paid millions of dollars. Will they know how hard it is to be poor?
The government tells us that the elderly want to stay active. They want a hobby. And so the government say, we should encourage them to work.
But do you know that in 2005, when the government conducted a study, 62% of the elderly said they had to work because they needed the money. This is an increase of more than 20% from 1995! 62%!
What about now, after another 8 years? Will there be an increase of another 20%? Does it mean that today, 80% of the elderly have to work because they need the money?
Many of our elderly are working in “blue-collar” industries. Many of our elderly are very lowly-paid.
Now, the government wants us to read the right thing. Will you know all these if you had read the right thing? Will you know that there are Singaporeans who are suffering if we had the right thing?
If there was no speak up for them, who will speak up for them?
What Are These Online News Sites and What Are Their Unique Visitors?
In this new rule, the government wants to tell us to take down our articles within 24 hours. Think about it, if you are not happy with something someone had said, would you tell the person to shut up? Or would you want to talk to the person to find out why? So, why doesn’t the government want to talk to us? Why does the government want us to keep quiet?
The government says that “online news sites” need to be licensed. But which are these sites? Obviously, the government would already know which these sites are because the government is monitoring them. So, why not let everyone know which these sites are? Let us know which these sites are. Let us know what the unique visitors are. Let us see if we agree whether these should be called “online news sites”.
If the government had bothered to speak to anyone of us, we would have told them – who says we want articles to be taken down? If we don’t want to read something, we won’t read it. If there is something we don’t agree with, we will talk about it. We are not like them. Who says that we want articles to be taken down? The people don’t need the government to prevent us from reading. We have our minds to decide what we want to read. But, if that is the case, who does the government really want to protect?
Now, today, there are only 10 news websites that the government wants to license. Now, that’s today. But what will happen tomorrow? Or, what will happen in GE2015 or 2016? Will there suddenly be 100 sites? 200 sites? Who will know? Only the government will know. When there are too many sites which are licensed, will we still be able to read? Will we still be able to know what is going on in Singapore? Will we still have a stake in our own country?
Maybe the question that the government should ask is not – how do you censor the Internet so that more people will read the newspapers. Maybe the real question that the government should ask is this – why are people choosing to read the Internet instead of your newspapers? What is wrong with your newspapers?
Press Councils in The Nordic Countries
The MDA says – Singaporeans, let us decide what is good for you. We will make the decision for you, and we will decide what to remove, because it is for your own good.
Now, let me tell you how a truly democratic country works. In the Nordic countries, the newspapers have a “press council”. These press councils are independent of the government. All the newspapers sign on to this council because they want to show the public that they are responsible with what they publish.
So, if a member of the public believes that a newspaper has written something which is “not right”, the individual can write to the council. The council meets every month to discuss and if the newspaper has been found to have breached the code of conduct, they have to print a notice on their newspaper.
So, you see – in a country where everyone has their rights, and not just some people, as an individual, your voice gets heard. You get to speak up.
Now, many countries have adopted press councils. But in Singapore, why does the government want to censor instead of let the people consult with one another?
In Singapore, the MDA expects Singaporeans to listen to them. The MDA believes that they know everything. Should this be the way, Singaporeans? Should this be?
No! The MDA is not in a position to make such a decision. The people should have the right to do so!
If the government doesn’t trust the people, how can the government expect the people to trust the government?
Singaporeans Will Lose Our Independence
Singapore has been independent for almost 50 years. In 2015, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our country’s independence. But what is there to celebrate? On 1st June 2013, the government imposed a licensing rule on “online news websites” What does this mean for us?
This means that we will not be able to read what they do not want us to read. We will not be able to know what they do not want us to know. We will not be able to think because – will you really know what is happening in Singapore? Will we know the truth about what is happening in Singapore?
Now, if the government doesn’t take this rule down, Singaporeans, WE WILL LOSE OUR INDEPENDENCE. We will lose our independence to read, to know, to think and to be who we are.
The People Need to Step Up to Govern the Country
But there are some people who say, but the opposition is not strong enough. I won’t talk about the opposition today. Mr Tan Jee Say had said in his speech at the Labour Day protest that there are many capable opposition politicians with sterling qualifications, and I agree with him.
But my question to you is this – many of us have a very good education. If we think that we cannot be responsible and also help to run this country, I think we are in a very dangerous position. There are 3.5 million Singaporeans in Singapore. Do you think that we can only rely on 90 people in the government to make all the decisions? Are we saying that among the 3.5 million people in Singapore, we are not good enough to think about how this country should be run?
Even if we don’t have a degree, I know there are some people with ITE certs or are from Normal Technical stream, who are equally very smart. Some of them have set up their own businesses. The Population White Paper had called our nurses “low-skilled workers”, but I have also seen smart thinkers among our nurses.
No one is not good enough to help run this country. Everyone is good enough. And we need to believe in ourselves. Whoever is in government, we make sure that the government will listen to us.
The government should be asking us – is this what you want?
The government should not be telling us – this is what we want you to want.
So, whoever is put into government, we make sure that we also help to provide solutions and help to run the country. We cannot just rely on the government.
We Need to Protect Our Freedom Of The Internet
But isn’t this already what we are doing online? Many of us are writing articles, and many of us are commenting on blogs, forums and Facebook, to provide solutions to run our country.
Which is why it is so important that we need to protect the freedom of the Internet. We need to protect our right to read, to find out more, to think and to help make all of our lives even better.
We need to FREE OUR INTERNET.
And this why it is so important that we have to speak up and stand up against the licensing rule. The licensing rule HAS TO GO. Our right to know and think have to be protected. If we can continue to play an important role in our country, we can make sure the country will continue to survive and succeed.
And in order to do so, we must protect the independence of the Internet, and we must protect our own independence!