Dr Chee Soon Juan addressed cadres at the party's biennial conference where he laid out the vision, values and mission of the Singapore Democrats. Below is the full text of the speech.
Dear friends, colleagues, fellow CEC members, Mr Chairman,
I am happy to report that since we last met at this conference in 2007, we have grown. But that's not really earth-shattering news. After all, many political parties can similarly report an expansion within their ranks.
Our situation is a little different, however. First this is Singapore we are talking about and second it is the Singapore Democratic Party we are talking about. We have grown not because of the freedom that we enjoy or the media coverage that we get. We have grown despite the persecution and harassment of our party.
This party has been sued, its leaders and members repeatedly prosecuted, and our beliefs and activities viciously vilified. Yet despite all this we have seen a more than healthy jump in the number of Singaporeans coming forward to serve the party and its cause. Why is this so? Looking around and talking to our new members, I can identify two things: Vision and values.
Vision and values
Firstly, we have articulated our vision clearly and, more important, shown determination to work towards it:
A vision where social, economic and political justice thrive.
A vision where our elderly can live dignified and meaningful lives in their retirement years rather than having to wash urinals or sell tissue paper or clean tables at hawker centres just so that they can eke out a living.
A vision where our youths are free to realise their potential and aspire to great things rather than be mere digits for economic production.
A vision where our economy works for all the people, not just the elite and the rich, where we have economic growth that makes sense, growth that is authentic, sustainable and shared by all – not growth at all cost.
A vision where society is deeply engaged in matters of public interest and where intelligent, civilised debate is the norm; where our rulers are accountable and responsive to the needs of the people.
Secondly, our values – values such as courage, integrity and self-sacrifice – are also what attracts Singaporeans. The sense of loyalty to one another and the fact that when one falls the rest rally around him or her is an important quality that we must continue to nurture and cultivate.
We proudly claim that ours is not a convenient vehicle for members to get on so that they can achieve their own self-centred goals. It is a party where self-interests are subordinate to the collective work of making our dream of democracy a reality.
The shared purpose of fighting for justice and freedom has created a bond among the young and the veterans, the new and the experienced in the party. Our abiding love for what is fair and just is what keeps us together.
This sense of togetherness and belongingness will serve us well both in good times and bad. It is what will make more Singaporeans want to become a part of our growing family.
There are no prima donnas, no indispensable stars in this party, just a team of never-say-die defenders of democracy who happen to care deeply about our country and who will go to incredible lengths, walk extraordinary distances and make whatever sacrifices in order to achieve our vision.
The Internet age
With newcomers come new skills and with new skills, come new capabilities. One of these capabilities is the more efficient and productive use of the New Media.
We have a group of activists who are developing a programme for our Internet campaign. The face of politics and how we campaign has irrevocably changed. The Internet will figure prominently in the next election.
For this reason, we have been and will continue to use the Internet to break the hold that the PAP has on information flow in Singapore. Because the mass media will do their utmost to turn voters against us, we will have to turn to cyberspace to help us get our message across.
But let us not be under any illusion. The reach of the Internet is still very limited. But we have no better option, not when the PAP-controlled media are bent on seeing our destruction.
We will not yield, we will not break. We will fight back. It will not be an easy task and our success will not come overnight.
We must be patient as we are diligent and we must continue to build on our Internet capability to reach out to our fellow citizens. Every year more and more younger Singaporeans who are Internet savvy are coming into voting age. The Internet is a natural source of information for them. We need to focus our energy and resources on the new technologies that will better help us reach out to these people.
Whatever happens at the next elections we must run the best campaign ever in the history of our party, one that Singaporeans will talk about in the years to come.
For that we call on our Young Democrats to come to the fore and present yourselves boldly. We ask you to take the reins and do what that fire in your belly is calling you to do and that passion in your heart that is crying out for you to achieve.
You have to be leaders of the youth of Singapore – and leaders don't wait to be called, they step forth and do.
Where there is darkness, they burn just a little brighter; where there is no path, they make one; and where there is fear, they bring forth hope.
And when you have forged your characters in the crucible of the struggle, your reward will be a Singapore that is strong, open and just.
Destined to succeed
The next elections is not far away. Now is not the time for us to take a break. We must step up our efforts to get our message out.
We must step up our campaign for our Singaporeans First Policy where our citizens are not discriminated against in our own country and not sold out for cheap labor from overseas.
We must make louder our call for minimum wage so that the poorest of our poor can earn a living that will allow them to feel like human beings, rather than coolies.
We must push harder to rid our society of the greed epitomised by our ministers, the greed that brutalises society and pushes people to flee their own country and make home somewhere else.
We must confront the Government with these truths. We must confront it with reason, not aggression; with conviction, not destruction. But confront we must for we cannot stand up for democracy on bended knees.
For this we will get hit and we will get battered but I have never been more proud to stand with all of you as we overcome prejudice and hardship to win freedom, justice and democracy for this nation of ours.
We must assume our role as leaders not just as a political party but as a community leader to encourage civil society and individual citizens to get involved, to care about what's happening in society and to work to bring a new politics to Singapore.
So tonight, I ask all of you, members and friends, supporters and volunteers, to re-dedicate yourselves to the cause – a cause that is at once noble and enduring, a cause that we the Singapore Democrats have come to call our own. It is the cause of freeing our nation, one that is destined to succeed.
I say this not out of hubris but out of a firm knowledge of history which favours those who stand on the side of right. This doesn't mean that success will be automatic. Far from it will depend much on how hard we work and how smartly we do it.
We have laid the foundation and it is sound. We must continue to strengthen this foundation while simultaneously erect the pillars that will allow us to build a party based on our vision and our values, one that Singaporeans will come to respect and cherish.
Thank you and God Bless.