Looks like the outcome of the next General Elections, whenever it may be, is a foregone conclusion. Nobody will dare bet against the PAP repeating their performance in GE2015, when they won 70% of the votes. Perhaps, they may even improve their vote share to 75%. The fixing of the opposition began in earnest with the legal onslaught against the Workers' Party (WP). Alex Tan and his Straits Times Review came up next. Now, another alternative voice, Terry Xu and his platform, The Online Citizen (TOC), is being silenced. Again. Xu and TOC are stalwarts in the civil activism scene. Despite the brickbats and the political pressure, TOC has never wavered. It has been at the forefront of the growth of civil activism and democracy in Singapore. Now that they are no longer there, what are we left with?
Indeed, as many netizens have articulated, the investigations against Xu and TOC are politically motivated. Whatever the public justifications may be for launching the investigations, there is no denying the fact that at its core, this was a politically motivated move. You have to hand it to the PAP. This was a smart, if not ingenious move. It is a move characteristic of the PAP. It is a move totally in line with the PAP's handbook of fixing the opposition. We have come to expect this, yet, there is nothing that Singaporeans can do about it. After all, PAP has become the hegemonic influence that it is by design, not by accident. Singaporeans may protest and complain but there's nothing that some SG Bonus cannot pay for.
This is the sad state of political affairs in Singapore. It is not that Singaporeans are politically apathetic. Singaporeans have gotten over that stage. It is that Singaporeans are a politically savvy bunch with their hands ties behind their backs. Our options, in terms of the quality of opposition slate, are already very limited. With the PAP's intervention, we are practically left with nothing. How can Singaporeans develop their political and social consciousness when it is demonstrated to us that dissent and having a contrarian point of view to the government is met with the full force of the law? How can we develop our political voices when time and again, instead of engaging and debating and learning to live with opposing views, the platforms where we communicate gets taken away from us.
We are legitimate citizens of Singapore with legitimate concerns on our lives and the future of our country. Why are we not allowed to speak up on matters that are important to us. In many other legitimate democracies in the world, an engaged, active citizenry is valued by the governments. Here in Singapore, the narrative is such that opposition voices = trouble makers. That, to say the least, is unfair to the many people who really care and who have the interest of the country at heart. People like Terry Xu.
In a almost prophetic interview with RICE in December last year, Xu remarked that he was prepared to go to jail for an indefinite period, for what he was doing with TOC. In this endeavour, Xu is not overwhelmed by riches, even though the IBs will vehemently argue otherwise. His is story of a one-man demonstration of grit and tenacity. He ran TOC alone, and mostly from home, when many other partners or co-founders have moved on because TOC could not, in Xu's words, "provide a living". His, is not a sacrifice that Singaporeans should take flippantly.
Unfortunately, as long as the PAP remains in power, the sacrifices by people like Xu will continue to be taken for granted. People like Xu will just be an inconsequential footnote in the history of Singapore. Democracy, will remain an ideal that Singapore and Singaporeans aspire to, but will never achieve.
The writer, Faith, is a millennial convinced that providing an alternative voice for the people is in good faith.