15 Sep is International Day of Democracy, as observed by the United Nations.
On this International Day of Democracy, it is prudent to take stock of the state of democracy in Singapore.
Since the last election, which was seen to be a watershed, there has been a proliferation of views from a wide range of people and groups. This is a heartening sign for the health of our democracy.
Many of these views are aired online. Needless to say, the internet is going to play a big part in shaping the issues to be contested in the next election.
Facebook, online news sites and blogs are all exceptional tools that have democratised information and people’s right to share their views.
MARUAH, a human rights organisation, is very encouraged by this level of democratisation, which has raised awareness on important social issues and highlighted the work done by many non-governmental organisations and concerned citizens.
MARUAH believes that this ongoing democratisation process should also extend to greater civic participation and advocacy. However, challenges remain, as the space for public expression is still limited. In Singapore we only have one place, Hong Lim Park, for popular protest. This still remains a space that is valued, especially for events such as Pinkdot and public protest forums such as Free My Internet.
It is a shame that Singaporeans still struggle to watch home-made films. The most recent incident is the “banning” of To Singapore With Love, which is a documentary of Singapore’s political exiles and unionists. By not allowing this film to be distributed or screened in public, the Media Development Authority (MDA) is denying Singaporeans the opportunity to engage with our own history and come to our own conclusions regarding the featured exiles. Singaporeans and the state of our democracy are poorer because of MDA’s decision.
As we approach the next election, MARUAH asks of the State to refrain from using repressive tools that discourage citizens from voicing their opinions. For any democracy to sustain itself, the next generation of citizens must feel empowered to contribute to society, and they can only do so, if they feel what they say matters.
On this day commemorating the importance of democracy, MARUAH states that the time has come for the State and its citizens not to to forget our commitment to building an open and inclusive society.