It is difficult for me to believe that it has already been more than one and a half years since I joined the Reform Party. It feels like it was only yesterday that I joined as an ordinary member, inspired by the speeches and articles that Kenneth Jeyaretnam had placed on the RP website. His speeches were not in the same fiery mould as the late JBJ’s speeches, which I remember attending as an 18-year-old at the 1988 Eunos election rallies, but regardless, the dream of bringing pluralistic democracy to Singapore shone through the rhetoric.
At that point, we had less than 20 members and volunteers in this fledgling party. I recall the RP team’s tireless efforts to organize the 2nd Annual Reform Party dinner in early 2009. Although we had limited resources, it turned out to be a successful event, with many dignitaries, other opposition party members, local and foreign journalists, party supporters as well as Singaporeans from all walks of life attending. All the leaders from other opposition parties were present, and raised a symbolic toast to opposition unity. As the organizers, we were satisfied that we had managed to attract more people and attention than we had for the Inaugural Reform Party launch dinner, when JBJ was at the helm. The perception that the RP was on the way out after JBJ’s passing was put to rest that night. Kenneth Jeyaratnam’s rousing speech to all Singaporeans, “Wake up! Stand up and be counted!” was exhilarating. To me, that night was the beginning of a solid promise, of an unshakeable belief that a better future lies ahead for all of us.
Since taking over the post of Organizing Secretary earlier this year, I have witnessed the party going from strength to strength. Our membership has grown 7-fold to a 100 members, which is a major achievement, considering the fact that the Reform Party is barely 2 years old. Taking into account the political environment in Singapore, this is a very positive sign indeed. With the next General Elections due soon, we have seen a massive increase in enquiries. In the previous month, alone we saw 20 people applying for membership in the Reform Party! In addition, 85% of our members are below 30 years of age. This augurs well for Singapore’s political future and clearly destroys the fallacy that younger adults don’t care about local politics. I am confident that we will soon see our ranks swelling to break the record for membership numbers in a local opposition party!
Walkabouts are an important way for the Reform Party to interact with Singaporeans. This is something that the Reform Party has been doing actively over the past year. On these walkabouts, we visit residents, talk with them and listen to them in order to pinpoint the everyday issues and obstacles that they encounter. We have also given them assistance and practical solutions to help them alleviate their situation. The feedback that we hear during walkabouts is gathered and discussed, and is the guiding force of our policy formulation. In other words, we strive to make our policies serve the people, instead of the other way around. Since July 2010, we have been on the ground, with three walkabouts per week in the West Coast, Hong Kah GRC and Chao Chu Kang, as we want to listen to the concerns and feedback of as many citizens as possible. We will be talking to Singaporeans on walkabouts five times a week as the elections draw nearer. During the election period, we want to hear from you every single day on daily walkabouts. However, all change needs momentum to see results. For real, positive change to happen, we need your support. We need you. I would like to take this opportunity to ask for more members and volunteers to join us.
If you are worried about what is happening to Singapore, and you want to help bring about change but are unsure of where you fit in, don’t let that stop you from volunteering. We have come up with a novel method of engaging and empowering you to contribute. To date, we have successfully conducted two Volunteer Recruitment Drives, during which we have already recruited about 100 volunteers.
It doesn’t matter if you already have a busy schedule. Volunteers are free to get involved as much or as little as they want, according their own schedule. There is a wide variety of activities to choose from as a volunteer. You can join our walkabouts, or contribute your unique skills to our other activities and outreach programmes. For example, we have a media team, which requires web designers, writers, and public relations professionals. You could join us as a stage designer or driver, which are just two of the diverse roles in the logistics team. Whether you would like to help us with office work or speech writing, we want you as part of our team. If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer, you can visit us at www.thereformparty.net or drop us a message on the Reform Party’s Facebook page. We will also be conducting more recruitment drives in the months ahead.
To engage the public and listen to their opinions, we hold a weekly open house at 18A, Smith Rd every Thursday at 7 p.m. This is a chance for you to walk in and get to to know more about the Reform Party and the RP team. At our weekly open house, you can meet our Secretary General, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, and the rest of the RP candidates in person, as well as our RP members and volunteers. Our open house is an opportunity for you to tell us whatever might be on your mind. The Reform Party is an inclusive party that is prepared to listen to you and act if they correspond to our manifesto. We wholeheartedly believe that ‘Every Singaporean Matters!’
One of our services to Singaporeans is a free legal clinic. We have a panel of 3 lawyers who provide free legal advice. Our free legal clinic is held every 2nd Thursday of the month, and is open to the public. The RP is also very mindful of the need to address women’s issues in Singapore, and thus, we have also created a Women’s Wing, to ensure that women are represented at every level of decision making within the party to empower them and to nurture women for positions on the CEC and as candidates where they are under represented.
Singapore is at vital crossroad in its history and we need to look at the state of affairs in our country and think about our future with urgency and honest reflection. New ideas and new ways of doing things must to be explored. Being content with dated methods and ideas that do not improve the quality of our life will not suffice. The current one-party rule does not bode well for the future of Singapore. I am gravely concerned about the direction that this country – our country is heading towards, and about the PAP’s ability to propel this country into a truly first world country where every citizen matters.
For decades we were continually being fed by the tired line by the ruling Party that it is necessary to surrender liberty to have security and prosperity. Along the way, Singaporeans have surrendered not just liberty but many fundamental rights and the capacity to organize for change. And clearly we have not achieved prosperity for the majority of Singaporeans – just empty growth. In fact, over the last twelve years, for the bottom 20%, real income may have fallen as much as 20%.
The Reform Party is a reset button for a system that has “hang”. We not only to reset the vision of our country, we need also to reclaim our capacity to participate in charting our future. Look around you. Listen to the sentiment on the ground. Change is in the air. The tide is turning inevitably towards true democracy, and I want to be a part of the historic era in which Singaporeans stood up, woke up, and reclaimed their birthright – a Singapore created by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans, that is truly ours!