The Singapore Opium

Posted On: May 1, 2011
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If you study the history of China, you will no doubt read about the Opium Wars, otherwise known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars, which consist of the First Opium War from 1839 to 1842, and the Second Opium War from 1856 to 1860. According to the history books, the English became the major drug-trafficking cartel of the world by the 1830s, and brought opium produced in Bengal to the shores of China. Although the trafficking of opium was outlawed in 1836, inflow of the poison continued to pour into China, despite the efforts of the Qing government. The ensuing battles ended in defeat to the Chinese, which resulted in the Treaty of Nanking and later the Unequal Treaties, that marked the start of the “Century of Humiliation”. I will not regurgitate the details of the Opium Wars here, which can be read in Wikipedia. What is of note is that the treaties were considered unequal in China “because they were not negotiated by nations treating each other as equals but were imposed on China after a war, and because they encroached upon China’s sovereign rights … which reduced her to semicolonial status” (Hsü, Immanuel C. Y. (1970). The Rise of Modern China. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 239).

How is this related to the subject title, you may ask? In Singapore, drug trafficking is regarded as an extremely serious offense, the conviction of which will result in the death penalty. Most definitely, we do not have ready access to illegal drugs. Yet, come every General Elections or By-Elections, the Singapore version of the opium addiction will surface.

In order to present its case to secure more votes, other than bringing references to its past performances, the ruling party will coerce voters by offering plans to upgrade their housing estates, such as a fresh coat of paint, lift upgrades and new landscaping. This is coupled with subtle threats that constituencies who vote for opposition parties will end up at the back of the queue, and possibly no upgrading at all. Examples of how these threats have actually been realized include the constituencies of Potong Pasir and Hougang, which have been under the care of opposition parties for years.

Minister Mentor Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has verified this tactic and justified it by telling Singaporeans to ask themselves why the value of properties in Hougang is lower than those of neighboring estates (The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2011, Pg A8), as well as suggesting that voters will “pay the price” when their lives are affected by voting in opposition parties.

On top of public housing upgrades, the PAP instills doubts, uncertainties and fears into the electorate, suggesting that bringing more oppositions into Parliament will rock the boat. They claim that in order to enjoy continued economic success, more employment opportunities and more handouts in the form of its one-time election Grow and Share programme, they need a strong mandate from the electorate. They are suggesting to limit opposition parties to the NCMP (Non-constituency Member of Parliament) seats.

Unfortunately, many Singaporeans are consuming this opium, just like in China back in the 1800s. Many people are sadly opting to get high and reap short-term personal rewards in the form of housing upgrades, but losing sight of the bigger picture of freedom, of democracy, of standing up for their own human rights.

By choosing upgrading plans and voting in the PAP, what is the unequal treaty that the electorate is effectively signing? Unknowingly or knowingly, the voter is effectively giving up the right to reject, to question, to fight against any proposals put forth by the ruling party once they are elected into Parliament. In fact, the voter will not be able to doing anything except to meekly obey and follow, as a subjugated drug addict that he or she is.

To those who inevitably buy into the PAP offer of goodies and upgrading plans, imagine if one day the opposition does win majority of votes in the constituency (which is a real possibility this election), how do you feel when the ruling party decides that your constituency will not get upgrading just because it lost by 0.5% vote? Does such a party deserve your trust after you have given them years of support? Is it not correct to expect your elected government to treat each and every citizen with equal rights and to provide them with equal opportunities regardless of their individual beliefs? That, to me, is the very basic requirement of a democratic government. Non-bias, non-vindictive and non-elitist.

True freedom and democracy can only be achieved by rejection of this opium. The only way forward is by refusing to take this drug any further. This will clear the fog that has been plaguing Singaporeans and allows each and everyone of us to make the right choice. Like taking the initial cold turkey treatment, the initial steps may be hard. But with unity comes power. A tipping point will one day be reached such that the voices of Singaporeans will not be left unheard. The earlier we take the first step towards a free society, the earlier future generations – your children and grandchildren, will reap the benefits.

 

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