My 12 tips for Political and Human Rights Activists in Singapore.
1. Read the law thoroughly, particularly the ones that the PAP will use to trip you up, namely Sedition Act, the new Contempt of Court law, Public Order Act (holding a public indoor forum featuring a foreign speaker is illegal), defamation laws, Films Act, MDA Licensing Scheme, Cooling-off Day regulations, Penal Code.
2. Being an activist is a good way to filter your friends. If certain people start avoiding you, then you know they are not worthy friends anyway.
3. Family members and close friends will try to dissuade you. They are usually the biggest fearmongers in your life. Listen politely but always follow your own conscience.
4. Bear your own responsibility for your speech and action. Never implicate others.
5. Live your life as you normally would. If you labour under the (imaginary) fear of being under constant surveillance, you already short-changed yourself and the people around you.
6. Campaigning should be fun and energizing. If it becomes a begrudging chore or bore, take a break and recharge.
7. Yes, there are government moles within the opposition ranks and in civil society. They usually have friendly and pleasant personalities. They are likely to stay in the background and will not be too strident in their political views, but will offer to photograph, video or take notes. Most people unwittingly allow them into their organisation because they are short of manpower. But do challenge these dodgy types to display a public commitment to the cause. Otherwise, keep them out of the inner loop.
8. From time to time, organise leisure activities with fellow activists from other fields. Watch the tension, friction and squabbles dissipate, like magic.
9. If you haven’t had run-ins with censorship or the police, the government probably does not take you seriously.
10. Be thoroughly prepared for your home to be raided by the police one day, to face arrest, and most of all, to spend time in prison. To be at peace with such a prospect frees you up to speak your mind fearlessly and to make decisions without regret.
11. Draw inspiration from the ones who have suffered and sacrificed so much before us. For example, whenever I think of what Chia Thye Poh, Said Zahari, Lim Hock Siew and their families had to go through, my own worries become embarrassingly trivial.
12. Forget about the results and the rewards. These things are out of your control. Do the work because your conscience is pricking you and is keeping you awake at night.