S’POREAN POET: WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE BY BEING LESS AFRAID & STAND UP TO OPPRESSION

Today I had tea with Teo Soh Lung, who lives near my place. She wanted to go buy a new laptop because it’s likely that the police forensics are going to take their own sweet time with the laptop (and desktop) that they confiscated.

I think the raid they conducted was outrageous. Just for something posted on Cooling Off Day, a post that couldn’t have been read by any more than a couple of hundred people at most (there were around 100 likes), of which only a small percentage could have been actual voters in the Bukit Batok by-election.

And a question still lingers and has yet to be addressed–why the need to scour through Soh Lung’s electronic devices when she has already admitted that she was the one who made the posting? If anything, it’s the ones who claim that their COD posts were put up by a ‘bug’ (Vivian B) or a ‘friend’ (Tin Pei Ling) who should have their equipment seized, if only to ascertain the identity of the uploader.

Also, in the 2015 elections, violations of COD were committed by the PAP, PPP and RP. According to a Today report on 10 September 2015, “upon noticing these postings, the Election Department’s assistant returning officer had reminded these candidates and parties of the rules of Cooling-Off Day. ‘These have since been rectified,’ it said.” Why were these warnings not extended to Teo and Roy Ngerng?

Anyway we didn’t buy a laptop because Soh Lung wanted to shop around somewhere else and get the advice of her more computer-savvy friends. (I am so not–my computer-buying approach is ‘Can internet? Can do word processing? OK I buy.’) But we did have a good chat over coffee and cakes.

“Soh Lung, what’s on your bucket list?”

“I want to trek across the Himalayas.”

“Wah…I saw this documentary once where these Tibetans made a pilgrimage to Lhasa and every few steps they would prostrate themselves.”

“Siao ah? I can’t do that lah. I’m 67 already. Just trekking. Just take in the beauty of the landscape.”

So I had this mental image of Soh Lung swathed in cloaks and holding a trekking stick. And there is a blizzard swirling around her but she keeps on walking. It is a postcard of what her life has been. The thing about police raids and seizures is that they often create a chilling effect, and some of us think that we have to avoid the people affected or we’ll bring the winter back to our homes. But I think it’s very important that we all band together—lawyers, activists, writers, artists, academics, citizens.

For too long the ones who have been standing up to oppression have been lone individuals of extraordinary courage and conviction. But we can also make a difference just by being a little less afraid. But there must be many of us. Because then this is how fear dissipates. It is the combined warmth of the many that will keep out the crippling cold.

“In the depths of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer…And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus, ‘Return to Tipasa’

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