The likelihood of the general elections being held this year will dominate political conversation. The Democrats have been gearing up for the GE and we will continue to press hard on the ground to get our message across to the people despite the mass media's blackout of our activities. We will double-up efforts of our walkabouts to meet with voters in the various constituencies. The New Democrat, our party newspaper, will be the main vehicle that will carry our message.
But even as we campaign hard - and to this end we will spare no effort in chasing every vote - I want to offer a reality check. We need to remind ourselves not to get carried away by the frenzy and excitement of the elections, and in the process fall into the thinking that we actually possess power through the vote.
Our elections are far from free and fair. For one thing the mass media are still very much in the hands of the PAP. The vast majority of the electorate who still do not use the Internet as a source of information, will not be exposed to alternative views.
The Attorney-General's Chambers has decided to emphasize in its prosecution of my colleagues and I that criticising the actions and policies of the PAP Government without a permit is illegal. Tragically, our judges agree.
The impact of such rulings on the development of the opposition and civil society is far graver than many think. Consider this: We cannot even carry out the most basic of political activities, that is, the distribution of flyers critical of the Government.
The introduction of the Public Order Act, the amendment of the Films Act, and the continual chopping and changing of the Constitution are all designed to tighten the PAP's hold on power.
I have said this many times before: We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we can vote our way into democracy under the current system. Remember what Mr Lee said about sending in the troops if a freak election were to happen? Of course, he won't because he doesn't have to. He has an army but not just of soldiers brandishing rifles but of civil servants and lawyers issuing writs and charge sheets.
The PAP will continue to make sure that nothing will jeopardise its hold on power and there will be no redress through the courts. This is the hard, unvarnished truth.
Those who can't, or refuse to, see this are in denial. And denial will not allow us to address and remedy the root of the problem.
The PAP is in complete control of the election system and will not allow change through the ballot box. Unfortunately, many continue to believe that we can salvage the situation if only Singaporeans voted for the opposition in large enough numbers. This is not a realistic outlook.
The PAP will devise a system that will allow just enough parliamentary opposition (think NCMPs) to enable the people to think that we are still in charge through the vote when in reality it is the PAP that continues to manipulate the outcome.
So what do we do? The first step is to confront reality and see the problem for what it is. I repeat what I have said elsewhere: Our biggest struggle is not against the PAP, it is against what the PAP has done to our minds.
And our minds are conditioned to think that the only route to democratic reform is through elections, that confrontation of the PAP must be shunned, and that defying unjust laws is bad.
As long as we continue to keep this mindset and confine ourselves to our psychological wheelchairs, we will continue to be under the PAP bondage that we have been in for the past half-a-century.
We must cast our eyes beyond the elections. We must start now to prepare for the longer term struggle. For this we need to do the following: Build unity among the opposition parties as well as foster closer cooperation between the political and civil societies.
These are objectives that the SDP will continue to pursue because it will be through the combined effort of a broad coalition of pro-democracy forces that will enable us to breach the authoritarian wall of the PAP.
The PAP knows this too. This is why it is doing its utmost to keep the opposition divided and civil society atomised. Our fragmentation serves its purpose.
To these ends, we the Democrats and all those who want to see change have our work cut out for us. 2010 will be a busy year. If we work hard and smart, it promises to be a meaningful one as well.
I wish you and your loved ones all the very best. (1 Jan 2010)