Friday, March 17, 2006

A Singapore Story -Diary of CSJ's family

[9 March 2006, Thursday]

My daughter An Lyn is a special child. She was born in March 1999 when her father was in jail for making a speech in public without a permit.

In 2002, when An Lyn was 3 years old, her Papa was in jail again for trying to hold a Labour Day rally in front of the Prime Minister’s office, without a permit.

When her Papa is not around this time, An Lyn will continue to go to school, practice her piano, and help Mommy to look after her littler sister and little brother. She will miss her Papa very much, so will E Lyn and Shaw Hur.

[10 March 2006, Friday]

Today, SJ was telling An Lyn and E Lyn that he will be away for a while, and they need to be good girls when he is not around.

An Lyn asked, ‘When are you coming back? Like, Saturday?’ SJ laughed, ‘I am afraid it will be longer than that.’ E. Lyn said, ‘Like, Monday?’

Their Papa said, ‘Oh, darlings, you are making this even more difficult for me…’

[11 March 2006, Saturday]

My mother-in-law is a simple woman. She does not have formal education. But she is also a strong woman, for the mere fact that she single-handedly raised her 4 children.

Today, SJ told his mother that he was ‘going to jail again’, and it would be ‘much longer’ this time.

Her immediate response was, ‘Why do you have to do this?’ Then, she asked, ‘How about your own kids?’

After we assured her repeatedly that whatever happens, we hope, will be the best arrangement for the long term. She said, ‘When I pray, I always tell God that “if this is what you want my son to do, please take good care of him”’.

‘He will be in God’s hands, because there is very little that I can do.’

[12 March 2006, Sunday]

The separation from our 3 young children is the hardest for SJ during his imprisonment, especially because he always makes a point to spend as much time as he can with them.

We both feel bad for our kids that things have to be this way. They don’t get to choose their parents, and they cannot understand this struggle. However, we need to go through all the ups and downs together as a family.

But, in a way, SJ is doing this for them, too.

When they grow up, when they are in their teens or maybe older, we hope, if Singapore has become more open and democratic, then SJ can proudly tell them that he has contributed to the process of democratization in this country.

[13 March 2006, Monday]

Why is CSJ doing this?

The local media like to use the word ‘stunt’ or ‘antics’. Cynics often ask what he has achieved by sitting in jail.

In fact, the temptation of not getting himself in all these ‘self-inflicted’ troubles is so great. It will be easier for him to remain silent over various issues that will not benefit him in the first place. SJ says that he really doesn’t know ‘whether it’s a curse or a blessing’.

When SJ is accused of being a publicity-seeker, he is actually bringing much needed public attention to the causes he is campaigning for. He is not campaigning for himself as an individual.

[14 March 2006, Tuesday]

Friends are concerned for our well-being.

At one point or another, they could not help but suggested, ‘how about paying up the fines, since you will have raised your point? We can certainly help raising the money.’

After reading SJ’s court submission, one senior lawyer friend said, ‘whatever you are doing is very important for Singapore. But, do you want to aggravate your situation and maybe get a more severe sentence?’

‘Your lawyer can argue from the point of procedures. You can just state that you stand by what you said, plead not-guilty, then sit down.’

We certainly understand what angle he is coming from. But again, why does SJ suddenly get cold feet at this juncture after all we had gone through over the years?

What’s more important, is it the fear that prevents SJ from telling the truth now?

[15 March 2006, Wednesday]

“In every era, there are always those who will struggle for freedom. These people play a difficult role, their paths are paved with pain and loneliness. Their own generation will not accept them. In fact, they will be rejected, bullied, humiliated, imprisoned and even killed.

These freedom fighters plod along a narrow path. But in the end, those who follow will widen the path into a broad avenue.

Freedom fighters may suffer physically, financially and even psychologically, but their courage and commitment will enhance human civilization and last forever. Freedom fighters don’t belong to today, but they will live on tomorrow.”

Shih Ming-teh (Former Taiwanese political prisoner), excerpt from CSJ’s book, ‘To Be Free: Storied from Asia’s Struggle against Oppression’ published by Monash Asia Institute in 1998.

SJ has written several books, I still think that ‘To Be Free’ is his finest work by far. It covers political situations beyond Singapore and dates back a few decades. Most importantly, he draws courage and inspirations from the people he wrote about in this book.

[16 March 2006, Thursday]

SJ told me that he broke down towards the end of his submission in the High Court today. And he is not sure how it would be portrayed in the local news. I asked him how that happened.

He said that at that moment, he just felt that he couldn’t continue anymore, so he asked the Judge that whether he could sit down for a few minutes. It was partly because he was physically tired, after staying up the whole night writing his submission.

After his defeat in the 1997 General Elections, SJ was captured in one less than complimentary photo spread on the front page of a local newspaper. He was obviously depressed and sad. It was the result of all the hard work he had done in the previous years, including walking around the MacPherson estate and visiting residents door to door every Thursday evening.

I think it is human nature to show emotions, especially about things you care very much. Those ardent football fans in the stadium or in front of the TV are good examples.

So that’s ok with me.

[17 March 2006, Friday]

The sentence was reserved yesterday. SJ had given his submission in court and we had a restful evening with the kids at home last night.

This morning, SJ kissed each of them before he left for the High Court. Having children is an extra emotional burden when you are in this political struggle, but we are also very grateful and feeling much blessed with them.

We are going to be all right.

‘If history is any guide, however, the keys to freedom and democracy will turn ever so slowly—sometimes indecently so. Without the few who are willing to lead their peoples, justice and freedom will always remain out of reach.’

— excerpt from CSJ’s book, ‘To Be Free: Stories from Asia’s Struggle against Oppression’

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