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The Miserables

The passing of the opposition political figure J.B. Jeyaratnam last week has stirred a lot of <a href="http://singaporedaily.net/2008/10/06/daily-sg-6-oct-2008/">emotion in the Singapore blogosphere</a>. Hundreds of Singaporeans turned up at his funeral. Alex Au even thinks Jeya could end up being <a href="http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2008/yax-943.htm">Singapore's own Che</a>.
I must admit I do not know much of the man. Like most, I have seen him peddling his booklets outside shopping malls, where curious tourists would stop to browse and paranoid Singaporeans would avoid him. I know he paid an immense price for his efforts to champion individual freedom and human rights in Singapore; and that the powers that be have been extremely heavy-handed in meting out disproportionate (from my opinion at least) sentences.
I suspect most Singaporeans, like me, do not know what Jeya stood for. What exactly did he oppose?
Crowd reactions aren't always about the issues. Like fans of the musical Les Mis&eacute;rables, the reason for the fight is lost in the emotion of the revolution. Support always sways to the underdog.
It doesn't help that even in the time of mourning, little was done to reconcile the man to his homeland. Goliath chose to pen a <a href="http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2008/10/rest-in-peace-j.html">letter of condolence</a> which for all purposes and intents manifested itself as the utterance of a true Philistine. The Straits Times chose to label him as being oblivious to his irrelevance to Singaporeans. The bashing of a man now deceased leaves an extremely bad taste in our mouths.
It is obvious that Jeya's work is far from irrelevant. Jeya's fight for individual freedom was perhaps ahead of his time, but what he stood for then is now increasingly relevant to the Singapore people.
Perhaps it was necessary to concentrate our efforts on maintaining harmony and economic progress during the formative years of our nation, but it is high time we took a good look at why the "building of a democratic society based on justice and equality" should no longer be neglected in order to "achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation". (Quotes from the <a href="http://www.sg/explore/symbols_pledge.htm">Singapore Pledge</a>).

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