Hello everyone, it has been barely 24 hours after the #ReturnOurCPF ended yesterday and there has been an avalanche of news coverage on the protest in the mainstream media, not so much on the protest itself, but on the “heckling” incident. I will be as frank and honest as I can be in this statement.
It is unfortunate that the discourse was so fervently shaped by the PAP. For critical thinkers, it was obvious that PAP and the mainstream media took the opportunity to launch a massive attack and campaigned against Hui Hui and I – why they would think that the state machinery is necessary to outbid two ordinary Singaporeans who want to fight for the rights of Singaporeans is obvious.
Perhaps one would need to question – why was it so well-timed that PAP managed to get someone to film the video, and very quickly within a few hours, trampled over all of mainstream media with the news of the “heckling”.
If I may, may I remind everyone of what happened when I was fired. When I was told that I was sacked, I had to pack my things in an hour and was forced out of office. During that time, I could not bid my farewell to my colleagues. They were kept within the confines of their offices and they were not allowed near me. Some of my colleagues teared and were sad to see me leave. But they were not allowed to come near me.
Within an hour of my sacking, the first media to report on my sacking was not the state media but a blog controlled by the PAP, Five Stars and a Moon. Then, the hospital sent out a media release and the PAP, via the Ministry of Health, also sent out a media release to denounce my conduct. After I left, my computer was taken away – I am not sure by who and what they did with it.
When I was sacked, the only thing that was on my mind was – I felt really bad that this was happening to my employers. I knew that it was coming. I had spoken up at the first #ReturnOurCPF protest days earlier and I knew that the sacking was imminent. PAP needed to weed me out. When I was sacked, the first thought that came to my mind was – I needed to put up a status update to protect the hospital. I knew from external sources that the hospital did not want to fire me. They had actually wanted to protect my job, but PAP forced them to.
When PAP sent out the media release via the Ministry of Health to condone the sacking, which they have a direct hand in, that was when I realised that it was a political move by the PAP to weed me out, and that was when I realised I have apologised but this instead allowed myself to be put at the firing line for the PAP’s machinery.
Yesterday, it felt like that all over again. You would think that after months of “practice”, that I would have the smarts to “play” the politics. Sorry, but I am never a player. Even when it comes to dating, I cannot read signs. How to you expect me to read the minefields that they have planted. Silly, perhaps. But my goal has never been to play the game. My goal has always been to find out what is not right in Singapore, to fight for truth, honesty and justice and hope that things will change. It is as simple as that. I am not a seasoned politician and neither do I aspire to play the game. If I do that and lose who I am and what I stand for – to be true, how am I different from those in the PAP who take every opportunity to play politics.
As they had yesterday.
The same tactics used when the PAP fired me from my job all over again
Yesterday was a repeat of what happened all over again when I was sacked. Once again, somehow it was Five Stars and a Moon which was one of the first to report on the “heckling” – it is clear now that this website was set up as a target against me. Then the mainstream media lapped up on it. And soon, several ministers and MPs jumped on the bandwagon like lustful dogs in a dog pound, without collar restrain. But then again, in a country controlled by the PAP, the dogs have cleverly learnt to put collars on Singaporeans while the PAP run like amok in their madhouse.
If you had noticed, a clever reader would have picked up the signs – why were they all, the mainstream media and the PAP ministers and MPs, using the word, “heckled” altogether? Was the PAP’s vocabulary so limited? Similarly, why did the media keep using the word, “derisory” then?
Marketing 101 – use the same word and repeat it over and over again and people will get it.
Marketing 102 – report on nothing else about the protest but the “heckling” and the whole world will only know the “heckling” and nothing else, and it was as if time stopped and we spent 3 hours at Hong Lim Park “heckling”. Yes, #ReturnOurCPF became a “heckling” event.
Now, Singaporeans, please allow me to be a bit harsh here. We know the drill. We know the game the PAP plays. We know how they control the media. And we fell for it. And you know what, I fell for it too.
When I read news of the “heckling”, I thought to myself – that is horrible! I deserve it. It was wrong. Truth was, at the protest, when I saw the children came out onto the stage, I remembered how I felt – I felt so bad, I felt so bad that we had to protest even as they had to perform. As someone who had performed in the past, I understood the amount of effort it takes into practicing and rehearsing for an event. I understood the immense pressure and stress it takes to go up onto the stage, to let yourself shine, while trying to remember your lines, your steps etc. It was not easy.
And they were children. When I watched the playback videos, and saw how the children were asked to go onto the stage just as we got to the area where the audience was, another emotion tore through me. Wait – what, did they just push the children out onto the stage, so that they could create news for themselves? Would the PAP stoop so low as to do something like that? Of course, this is a rhetoric question.
As I watched the video, I was very saddened, very disappointed. These were children who had trained hard for this. If I was YMCA and I was truly concerned about the children being “heckled”, I might have changed the plans. I might have waited. But they got the children out.
At that point, I felt very sad. You can hurt me. I can withstand it, for hasn’t the PAP done their utmost to hurt us bad enough? It doesn’t matter. But as some online commenters have pointed out, why use the children as “shields”?
You wanted ammunition, and you go it. PAP, bravo, job well done. You wanted to use innocent Singaporeans for your cause, you got it. When it was to your advantage to arrest hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans and accuse them of something they never did, and detain them without trial, you did it as well.
Shame on you, PAP. You are a hypocritical a**hole and I am not going to mince my words here.
Video credit: Terry Xu from The Online Citizen
But is that to say that all was well and sundry on our side? It wasn’t. I am thankful for the many Singaporeans who have defended me. I know that you can see through the hypocrisy and the coordinated attack on us, and that’s why you have decided to stand up and speak up for us.
To be frank, it wasn’t easy. This morning, I read the news and comments and I asked myself – remind me again, what am I fighting for? I am not aspiring for fame or glory, to save the world and have my name etched onto some plague or bridge to be remembered for all eternity. No, I do not need a school of public policy named after me or a scholarship named after me, all the while claiming that I do not care to be remembered.
Honestly, whenever it is time for me to stop what I have to because my cause has ended, I will exit. To tell you the truth, my dream life is to live by a lakehouse reading a book by the lake, with the mountains at the back, as the cool wind blows on my face. This is my dream.
But why do I fight? The reason I do is because – it is only right to do so. You give up some of your dreams, your life, as you fight for your rights and your freedoms. Some people give up their life to fight for money, some for love, as I used to. But today, some of us fight for our rights and our freedoms. But it is nothing compared to some of the other Singaporeans who spend 10, 20 or 30 years sticking their neck out for their beliefs in prison, imprisoned for no valid reason, as the PAP continued to terrorise them.
The PAP committed grave crimes and atrocities against innocent Singaporeans, but who will prosecute them? Can we ask Lee Kuan Yew to stand trial for the past misdeeds that he has done? Will the police arrest Lee Kuan Yew? Will the courts trial him?
Yet, when Hui Hui and I fought for our legal right to speak up, the police threatened us. Fine, let them come. You would use the law against innocent Singaporeans while let those who have committed larger and graver atrocities against Singaporeans go.
I hope that it is ample clear to Singaporeans by now that our country is hitting rock bottom, when our civil service and our police can be used by simple tools by the PAP, to be made use of at their whims and fancies, to come down on innocent Singaporeans who are fighting for our rights and freedoms.
What am I to do, in the face of such treachery? Smile and move along, that is what I will do. For at the end of the day, if they want to hurt us, no matter how much we play nice, they will come down on us. You simply do not speak up against your government, if their main aim is to keep themselves in power. And once you do, you are a thorn in their flesh which they will use every means to get rid of, as they have.
There were some things we should have done better, for that I am sorry.
But back to the protest – we made some mistakes. We did. There were some things we could have done better. If we saw the children coming out, we could have moved away faster. To the credit of the other protestors, I understand that some of them had toned down and had applauded for the children when they came out. There was a show of solidarity, we are moreover all Singaporean.
Beforehand, I had thought to myself that there would be older Singaporeans and the disabled who would be attending, and so we have to also be watchful and be careful with what we did. But to be honest, I did not expect them to bring out the children just as soon as they saw us near the stage. But I do apologise for the stress that was caused to the children.
However, apologies are also in order for Hui Hui and I, and for Singaporeans. When Hui Hui, the organiser of the #ReturnOurCPF protest, had wanted to set up the tentage on Thursday, she found that YMCA had set up their tentages all over the main field at Hong Lim Park. Where we would usually set up a tentage, we could not. And so, we had to forgo the tentage.
It was only when we got to the park on the day of the protest itself that someone who identified himself as a director of NParks came to speak to us, and brought along an entourage of self-identified policemen with him (and possibly from the Internal Security Department among them). The NParks director then insisted that we use only a portion of the park in a more secluded area. It was not a choice given to us, there was no discussion or compromise. It was dictated to us like we were toothless children who couldn’t bark.
Facebook video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152445632614141
I asked the director – but isn’t this double standards? If NParks had truly wanted to resolve the issue, would it not make sense that when they realised that there were going to be two potentially big events that were going to be held, that they had arranged with the two organisers to negotiate on the use of the space? Why did NParks not stop YMCA from constructing their tentages all over the main areas of the park, so that we could discuss first?
Also, why did YMCA not come and negotiate the use of the space? Why was it NParks which had to dictate to us to move, and had to use the police to intimidate us into doing so? Were we less Singaporean and did we have lesser rights, simply because we were protesting on the CPF issue? Was it less of a concern? Should YMCA have more right to the space because they had a PAP minister as a guest-of-honour? Are PAP ministers and MPs always higher up the ivory tower than Singaporeans?
The issue could have been managed amicable right from the start, but did NParks attempted to? Just as PAP used NEA to drag the Worker’s Party into the fray, so did they use another statutory board to create another fracas yet once again. But why should our civil service be used by the PAP for their own political gains, against our very own Singaporeans and the opposition parties?
No matter how you look at it, had we been treated fairly right from the start?
But this is not even the question. Lee Kuan Yew started out his political career protesting and leading protests. But when he took control of government and Singapore, he made it illegal to protests. And then, the PAP gave us a small Hong Lim Park which if not already secluded, would allow them to effectively blindside themselves to whatever would go on there, until yesterday.
If Singaporeans are only allowed to protest at Hong Lim Park and the space is taken, where else can Singaporeans go? Is this another way of the government trying to curb our rights and to take back our space? We knew that we had to stand our ground. If we had backed off, our right to the only space we have to protest will be compromised in future. And we had to take a firm stand.
Did we ever have a chance? Did Hui Hui and I ever have a chance? We are not politicians. We are simpletons out to fight for the rights and freedoms of Singapore and Singaporeans. But the PAP knew what they were plotting at the back of their minds and they knew how they were going to get back at us. They have shown how good they are at plotting and distorting the story with the arrests of innocent Singaporeans in 1963 with Operation Coldstore, with the many arrests in the 1960s and 1970s and in 1987 with Operation Spectrum. The PAP knew their game and they were already plotting.
When they managed to use the media to swing the tide by claiming we have “heckled”, they won. Singaporeans bought it and we were defeated. When our critical thinking is marred and where we be so easily swayed (as even I was) by the PAP and their pervasive use of the media, what hope was there for Hui Hui and I?
There were so many good things that had happened at Hong Lim Park yesterday and they all went unreported. How about the hardworking volunteers from the YMCA (a friend was there) who were there early to help set up? How about the elderly and disabled who were there to enjoy the performances by the YMCA?
How about when some of the volunteers and I had helped those on wheelchair who had come to attend the YMCA event, by helping them across some obstacles, so that they could move to the stage area? Or how at the stage, there was a man on a wheelchair who waved his clappers at us and another couple who stood under YMCA’s tent who smiled and waved at us as we marched across?
There were so many human stories of help, of working together and of support. All of these went unreported, all of these the mainstream media could not report. PAP controlled the media. PAP decided how they want to make some Singaporeans look bad and went ahead with it. Whatever happened to the hard work that the YMCA volunteers put up, and whatever happened to how the volunteers and attendees at the protests had supported one another? Were these not human stories of kindness and unity that we want to see in Singapore?
For a PAP that claims that Singaporeans need to unite and yet drive a wedge among Singaporeans, is this that of moral integrity by the PAP?
Perhaps the PAP also conveniently ignored many of the salient points that were also brought out at the #ReturnOurCPF protest. At the protest, we had pointed out that not only has the PAP made money off Singaporeans from our CPF, the PAP has also made money from our housing, healthcare, education and transport. I have detailed them in short excerpts here.
Pretty much the PAP has created a system from at least 1984 to systematically cut down on Singaporeans and to earn from us, while our livelihoods have continued to be marginalised and our lives are being compromised.
Perhaps it is too convenient for the PAP to ignore these because the PAP knew that they are indeed making money off Singaporeans and they had no answers for it. They had no answers to the demands of the protestors. They could not answer Singaporeans. What were they to say to Singaporeans? – Yes, I took your money but I still want to be your government. Is that OK? (Read more here.)
To his credit, Teo Ser Luck (who has guest-of-honour of YMCA’s event) could have confronted us but as I observed Teo Ser Luck, he continued smiling and mingling with the attendees at YMCA’s event, in spite of the immense pressure. From the back, while waving the Singapore flag, I thought to myself how uncomfortable that it might be for him but this is the nature of democracy and of protests – citizens have their right to speak up and politicians should be able to withstand the questioning. And in truth, if the government does its job, would citizens fervently demand for such change? If we have to, then something is quite amiss, isn’t it?
On the overall, the protests garnered a skewed publicity because of how PAP could skew it around by their control of the mainstream media and the online platforms set up by them. There were also many spies who sent to pretend to be supporters and volunteers. Yes, we know who you are. They cut the wires of our sound system and tried to disturb the event.
The Most Groundbreaking Protest in Singapore since 1965
But in the end, what we were able to achieve was immense which the mainstream media did not report at all. For the first time since Singapore’s independence, this was the first time that we were able to march and not only march, but in front of a minister as well. The minister did not respond but being able to march in front of a minister is in itself a feat. Listen to us and we are going to make our demands!
The mood among the crowd was ecstatic. We had our right. It was a packed protest where we were able to outline clearly how the PAP has been making money off Singaporeans, and to do some of the many firsts – a first march since Singapore’s independence, the first march in front of a minister and the first time to have an audience – all of which the PAP had wanted to deny by confining the protest to a small space at Hong Lim Park.
And not only that, the volunteers and attendees to the YMCA’s event were also listening intently to our speeches.
We would most probably never have this opportunity again. PAP had a one-time opportunity to hijack both the YMCA and the #ReturnOurCPF protest for their own political agenda. And they would not let themselves have an opportunity to face the wrath of Singaporeans again, not unless we vote them out and have a new government.
For me, the protest was groundbreaking. There were some things we could have done better and planned better, so that we could take into account the other parties involved, and planned for events that could run successfully on both sides. If we had known the programme of the other party, as they could have known ours, then we could at least plan to match each other’s events better and prevent a play of what has transpired in the media.
I will be writing to YMCA to meet the children
I will be writing to YMCA to see if I could have an opportunity to meet with the children with down syndrome to volunteer with them, and to also meet with their parents. What we did could have caused the children stress. If YMCA allows, I would be able to take some time to interact with them and to give my sincere apologies. I had used to volunteer and also worked as a therapist with autistic children and would appreciate the opportunity to do so. This would also allow us to mend the bridges with YMCA. On my side, there are no hard feelings.
YMCA might have been retooled for a political purpose at the protest, but there are good people at the YMCA, as we have seen among the volunteers and attendees at the event yesterday.
This was a dear learning opportunity for me and gave me another deeper insight into the politics at play. I might have to learn from this episode more keenly but at the end of the day, my aim is to raise awareness, be able to write more and let people know more. Whatever happens is inconsequential, be it to my character or personality. At the end of the day, if things change in Singapore and Singaporeans are able to regain our rights and freedoms and to be protected, when a new government is in place, then that’s all that matters.
Other Singaporeans will need to be prepared to take a stand
But I think this episode also taught me one thing. I hope that Singaporeans understand that we cannot just rely on a few of us – Hui Hui and I, for example, to lead the change and wait for the change to happen. PAP is waiting for every opportunity to gun down on the key activists so that they are able to maintain their control and power. If they succeed this time, we will be relegated to the side.
When that happens, what will Singaporeans do? That is the crucial question. At this current time, we might be judged but that is OK – that is the natural progression of human psychology. But moving forward, who else will stand up, or will anyone stand up? Who else will lead the change, or how many more people will do so? Change does not happen with one or two but when many are ready to take on the change.
We had a groundbreaking protest and march yesterday but a few thousands Singaporeans turned up – do we have enough people? I do not mind what is done on me, for as I have maintained before, my conscience is clear. Also, this time, I do think I have things to learn and improve on and I will do that.
But Singaporeans need to think about this – the PAP wants to play a political game, we either let them succeed or we don’t. Also, when they use the mainstream media to swing the tide, it is also up to us to be able to critically appraise what happened, so that we do not fall into their trap. I say this of myself as well.
This is what I have to say for now. Meanwhile, I will take a rest for a while. This has been overwhelming and has been exhausting.
Photos credit: Tan Yunyou