I knew what I was getting myself into, but I still fought.
In fact, when I first started writing 2 ½ years ago, I knew that one day I would lose my job. But I still wrote.
When I first started writing, I wanted to advocate to the government for change. I thought that perhaps the government hasn’t heard us, so if I could reach out to them, they would start listening to Singaporeans and change the policies to protect Singaporeans.
How naïve I was.
Less than a year into my writing, I realised that the PAP government does not care about Singaporeans. After analysing the new policies that they would introduce, I realise that there is always a caveat – the policies will always be crafted in such a way that would benefit the PAP at the expense of Singaporeans.
I still remember that after Budget 2013 was announced, I broke down.
It was then that the shock sunk in – they didn’t listen. They were not going to! I cried. To think I had naively believed that the PAP would actually listen.
That night, I met a friend. We discussed how Singaporeans needed to vote right so that we can vote for the opposition into the government, to protect Singaporeans.
But I went home dejected.
I did not know if I could continue writing, after realising the truth – the PAP was not going to take care of us.
Thus I snigger when I hear the PAP say things like, “The PAP will always be on Singapore and Singaporeans’ side.”
If the PAP is truly on Singaporeans’ side, they wouldn’t have come out with policies since the early 1980s to hurt Singaporeans.
For the past 30 years.
When I got home that day, I did not know if I could write again. For the next few days, I felt betrayed. Could I write again? The PAP would not listen.
[Photo credit: Channel NewsAsia]
But soon, I picked myself up. I started compiling the statistics about Singapore. I was on a new direction – I needed to let Singaporeans know the truth.
If the PAP wouldn’t listen, at least I needed to let Singaporeans know.
The journey wasn’t easy.
First, I had to learn to think all over again.
When I first read about how it is the responsibility of the government to subsidise its citizens so that we would be taken care of and protected, I was taken aback.
“You mean, the government is supposed to take care of us?”
After being told for years that you either rely on yourself or you fail, I have learnt to believe that if I am not good enough, then it is because I simply wasn’t good enough.
The more I read, the more I realised how I have been taken for a ride all this while.
A government is supposed to take care of its citizens. Why weren’t we ever told that?
Why were we only told that if we fail, that’s because we are stupid?
By May this year, I was on a rampage. I had gone on a crash course over the past two years, learning what the PAP has been doing to us for the past 30 years.
I needed to let Singaporeans know! I had to let Singaporeans know that we are being abused!
What I didn’t know was that Singaporeans weren’t ready to know.
Or to face up to the reality of things.
When the suit finally came, I thought to myself – I have to fight this.
I fought because I believed that a few months down the road, the people would rise and fight together.
It never came.
When I first discovered that the government was taking our Central Provident Fund (CPF) retirement funds to earn 6% in the GIC while only giving back 3% to Singaporeans, I couldn’t wait to let people know.
There was no reaction.
Or what about how the government was taking our CPF to keep for themselves and how we are losing as much as half of what we should have gotten back? This would have gone into the hundreds and thousands or even millions for each Singaporean.
Still no reaction.
Or what about how the government is also on the GIC Board of Directors? Isn’t there a conflict of interest?
Still, there was none.
I was disillusioned. I fought because I had hoped.
I had hoped that Singaporeans would join in in the fight.
If they knew how their lives were being marginalised, maybe this would compel them to stand. Maybe this would make them rise and take their lives back.
And as I kept writing, I started to question if this was ever going to happen.
Since May, I have written about a hundred articles which exposed how the government was taking our CPF to earn for themselves.
With each protest I spoke at, I asked myself – so what? Would things change? Would people stand?
But I needed to keep up with it. I needed to give people hope.
But within me, the fire was flickering. How could I keep fighting, when people aren’t? When they wouldn’t?
But I pressed on.
By the end of September, we made some bad mistakes. We got ourselves cornered.
The bad publicity rushed in like the mad cow disease. So did the PAP ministers and members of parliament run amok in their criticism.
They had a field day tearing us apart.
But that was fine.
What could be worse than what I was already going through?
Moreover, I have always believed that my conscience is clear. And I know that I could hold my head up high because I have always done what I believed was right and always acted with integrity.
I have done what I could.
But what disappointed me was not the PAP. I hold no grudges against them.
I even waved at Deputy Prime Minister Tharman when I saw him in parliament once. His head a bit shiny but otherwise a nice smile he would always put, that was until I questioned him at the forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.
Still, it wasn’t the PAP that disappointed me. I had grown accustomed to their actions by them.
When some in the opposition parties and civil society activists also criticised us, I was … shocked.
Of all people, I would expect them to … at least understand.
I wasn’t doing this just for myself. Yes, I want a more equal society, I want a more just society. I want our people to be treated right. I want the poor and the old to be able to live with dignity in our country.
I want a better place to call home.
Yes, I was also rash, impatient, impulsive. I ran too fast. I didn’t wait. And got myself into all sorts of trouble.
But it shouldn’t be about me, should it?
I was doing it because I believe in a better future. Could we all invest in this future together? It doesn’t have to be me fighting for the cause. It could be someone else. I just happen to be the face of it, for now, for then.
But I would gladly have someone take over.
When even the opposition and activists criticised us, my heart sank.
Now, I am not angry with the opposition and activists. But … I was disappointed.
In this time of oppression in Singapore, the least we needed to do was to unite against the oppressor – the PAP.
We might have our differences but I believe that we need unite against a common goal, so that once we achieve freedom, we would be able to recreate our home.
But I do not blame the opposition and activists.
I understand why they did what they did. If I am a politician, I would do the same.
The PAP has created a culture of fear where even the opposition and activists have internalised it. You have to play on the safe side so that you won’t be eaten up alive.
That was something I never understood. I only knew how to barge. I was impatient. I have seen their cruelty and I didn’t want to wait.
I understood why the opposition criticised me – if they could distance themselves, at least it protected them from the wrath of the PAP to come.
It worked, and I am glad for them.
I will soon become unelectable, but the opposition parties need to preserve themselves for Singapore and Singaporeans. They know that. And they know that they needed to play the game.
And so I understand.
And Singaporeans, you must understand.
The opposition has done a great deal.
Some might think that the Worker’s Party has been quiet. I personally wish that they could speak up a bit more.
But in the two years that I have written, it is also because the Worker’s Party has spoken up that has allowed many among us bloggers to shed light on what the PAP is really doing.
Because of the Worker’s Party and the Singapore People’s Party’s questioning in parliament, we get to know things like how of the $66 billion we have contributed to Medisave, we are only allowed to use 1.3% in a year. And we are only allowed to use 3% of the Medifund funds that have been set aside.
I also thank Dr Chee Soon Juan from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for speaking up for us when the incident happened.
For all his life, Dr Chee has dedicated his whole life to fight to bring democracy to Singapore. I do not think that I can ever live up to what he has done for Singapore.
I will be honest here – it has been unfortunate that Dr Chee has been labelled as crazy by the PAP and this image he stayed with him.
Have any of you met or spoke to him before? I have, briefly. But from what I have seen, this is a very smart man who has a vision for Singapore – he wants to bring equality to the people. You can see it in the policy papers that the SDP has released.
But has he deserved the respect that he should rightfully have? Because the media gatecrashed his image and Singaporeans fell for it?
Just as they have once again.
The National Solidarity Party has also taken pains to meet with the SDP and the Singaporeans First Party (SingFirst) to look into collaborating more intensively with the other parties.
The parties are doing what they can, in quiet steps, to see to it that change can come to Singapore.
I understand why they have to do what they do. I hold no grudges.
But what disappointed me as well – when Singaporeans as well were swayed by the PAP’s propaganda.
I wrote for two years and fought for five months precisely because I hope that we could awaken to the truth and straighten out our minds.
But when some Singaporeans got sold to their depiction of the story, I became dejected.
No! I fought because I wanted Singaporeans to know.. but now, it was going down the drain.
They knew it, they had planned for it, and they managed to turn things around for themselves.
They won. I lost.
That doesn’t matter.
What matters was that Singaporeans would understand.
But when that started being lost as well, I realised what it all meant.
I don’t know if Singaporeans are ready for change…
I fought because I hoped that a few months down the road, Singaporeans would rise.
It wasn’t going to come.
But again, I understand why Singaporeans do what they do.
The people closest to me have told me too – you have to understand, I have my flat to pay for, my children to take care of. I can’t stand up. If I do, what will happen to my family and my children?
Which is why I envy the Hong Kong people. In interviews with the media, they say – because of my family and my children, because of my future, I will stand up. I will fight.
I was touched when I read that.
But this is the state that Singapore has become – the fear so deep-seated that our logic is now ruled by fear.
As much as we put the blame on foreigners for coming into Singapore, many are able to come in, and recognise what is wrong in Singapore almost immediately – they can tell how the PAP is f***ing Singaporeans up. They do what they need to do here, then they leave.
They can go back home.
But Singaporeans, this is our home. We do not dare to acknowledge what is going on, because we feel powerless to do anything about it. And so we decide that things are acceptable, we hope that things will go away, hoping that one day, Singapore will become a better place.
And so, we backtrack on our anger sometimes. We turn our anger into repressed feelings of frustration.
But by doing so, we are doing ourselves in.
Over the past few months, as I waited for Singaporeans to rise and join the fight and when nary a few came, this is what I learnt to understand.
The foot soldiers were never going to come.
Now, my friends, let me tell you a grim reality – your hero is going to die. And you know it.
But you were waiting and watching, hoping that maybe he is strong enough to fight the battle and will come out alive.
I am sorry to disappoint you. I am only one person. And they know that they can beat me up alive. And they have.
I thank you for your support. I thank you for raising funds for me to fight this battle.
But you need to understand, as long as you don’t join in, there is little else I can do.
When the battle is over and done, I will be left in a corner, picking up the pieces.
Another hero bites the dust and you will be left going back to your days of silent repression.
You might also hate me – why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I plan better, so that I wouldn’t allow myself to fall into a trap? Why wasn’t I smart enough?
And you might blame the people around me. Why was Hui Hui so impulsive? Why did she not think for Roy?
For the faults that Hui Hui has, she was one of the very few people who stood by me and fought.
And the some of the people who have come for our events and have been dragged down with us as well.
The reality is that no one can save us, unless we save ourselves.
I was a blip, like many of the blips that had come, some survived and are living to fight another day, like Dr Chee, while some died fighting for Singapore, like J. B. Jeyaretnam.
Some have continued strong and silently, like Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong who remains in our hearts and minds.
But no matter who comes along, only you can save yourself.
Only you can help yourself.
But will you?
Someone asked me – I am worried about my job, my house, my life etc. I want to stand up but I am afraid of losing this. Can you tell me what I should do?
I cannot give you an answer.
But what I can tell you is this – I have lost my job and my life here (for how many will employ me again?), but I stood my ground.
What Singaporeans do not realise is this – if hundreds and thousands of you decide tomorrow that you want to rise against the tyranny of the PAP, what can they do?
Send in their soldiers? These soldiers are the boys, and men, and women in Singapore – our family. Will they lift a finger to hurt us? Maybe the few aligned to the PAP will but the soldiers who really matter? Will they?
The PAP knows this as well. They know that if Singaporeans decide tomorrow to stand and fight back against them, they will fall.
And Singaporeans will be liberated.
You will keep your jobs. And your homes.
But they are also betting that if they can continue to scare one or two people, they can set an example for the rest.
They didn’t succeed with me. I fought. And I fought because I thought you would.
To your question on what you can do if you do not want to lose what you have? Fight together, that’s the answer.
When all of us rise and fight, we get the PAP out, we will still keep our jobs and our lives.
Will Singapore collapse without the PAP? Don’t kid me, c’mon. You honestly think that after the years of education that only the PAP is good enough to run the country?
If no one else among us can run the country, then I will say our country never had a future to begin with.
The PAP knows this as well. And that is why they try their darndest to fix the opposition.
You have a chance, Singaporeans. You know it, but you don’t dare to take that step.
Fear is very powerful, but fear can also become a source of strength. Do we want to wait for our lives to collapse before we finally see the reality of things?
Many among those who went to Hong Lim Park to hear us speak went because they have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. And that is when they finally feel the pain.
Before they lost what they had, they were also believing in the PAP, trying to hope that if they do not see the bad side of things, the bad will never come to haunt them.
But you know that it is only a matter of time that if you do not do something about it, you will be the next one on the chopping board, or your children.
It is only a game of hide and seek.
Remember how mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you are still playing with it.
But I don’t hate the PAP.
The PAP is doing what they do because they have to. If you want to fight for your own survival and your own wealth, you would do the same.
It will be selfish for us to blame the PAP for doing what they did to us. When it is us who gave them the chance to.
If our first instinct is to scold the PAP and get angry with them, without first doing it to ourselves, then we are hypocrites.
Then we are cowards. Which we are.
The PAP are only a few people who have been enshrouded in a belief system that they have been brought to believe in and which makes sense to them.
Just like I have a belief system which makes sense to me – and a few others. I believe in a more equal society, a fairer place where the young and old, the unemployed, whether you are gay, lesbian or bisexual, or transgender, or whether you are disabled, or whether you like animals, are a cyclist, etc, that this is a place we can share and grow together in.
At the end of the day, it is our growth as human beings that matters.
This is what I believe in.
Does the PAP believe in that? Maybe some of that but they have other priorities as well – how to grow their own wealth, for example. Every time they increased their own salaries in 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2007, income inequality in Singapore rose with it. So did the share of income that goes to the rich.
Today, the rich-poor gap in Singapore is the widest among the developed countries.
But a country is not made for only a few who control the resources but is made up of all the inhabitants that live in the country.
A country’s pathway has to be decided together by all its beings.
And this is where we have gone wrong, but no means only the PAP’s fault. For we let them.
If Singapore is the way it is today, you have a part to play in it. It would be unfair to blame the PAP.
We had a chance but did we take it? We could speak up but did we do it? We could speak to others to change things but did we do it?
If things are the way they are today, every single one of us have a responsibility as to how things turn out.
It would be childish and irresponsible to keep blaming the 60% of them. Aren’t we all Singaporeans? If we truly believe in a Singapore, why are we dividing by ourselves?
Yes, they might use the divide and conquer method. But that doesn’t mean we fall for it.
You really think 60% of Singaporeans voted for the PAP? I reckon it is much lesser. Or would have been.
Thing is, does it matter who the PAP is? Does it matter who the opposition is? Does it matter what this country is.
At the end of the day, the question you have to ask yourself is – what do you want of this country and what are you willing to do for this country and for your fellow countrymen?
If you wouldn’t do it, then don’t expect it from others. If you wouldn’t speak up, then why complain?
If we truly want change to come to Singapore, then we have to decide what we want to do for it. For if we choose to remain silent, then silence it will be for Singapore and change will not come.
I am tired. I have fought but I have had also a unique opportunity to look at things from a vantage point – to observe how Singaporeans have acted, and how the PAP has acted.
It has been an eye-opener.
I have fought but I do not know if I have the energy to keep fighting, or if I should shrivel away into my hole, and hibernate for a while.
I have to tell you the truth. The PAP has managed to press down on me. They have won this round.
But my life doesn’t matter. Someone told me this and I agree with him – one day I will be forgotten as I will soon be, and as many others have.
Now and then, you see people from the looney fringe – yes, you can feel free to call me that – come out and do some stupid things like challenge the government (or rather, the PAP) because you want to stand for integrity and justice and you fight your way through.
Some people fall, some people get co-opted. Some people fade into oblivion.
But change will come not by one or two but by the many who believe enough in it to want to stake their lives and fight for their lives.
Perhaps some are right to say that in Singapore, our tolerance level is so high that even as our lives are even more marginalised by the PAP, that we are willing to take our tolerance to a whole new level – and this is not a compliment.
For until collapse comes then, only then will Singaporeans and the PAP alike feel the pinch.
I want to appeal to Singaporeans and the PAP to come to our senses and to come together for our country’s future.
But I do not know if I still have the energy to do this.
I write this with an aching heart, as a soreness drills itself into the depths of my chest, disheartened.