Congratulations to Dr Vincent Wijeysingha for a new chapter in his activist career
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Written by Ng E-Jay
28 August 2013
I would like to congratulate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha for opening up a new chapter in his career as a social activist. Dr Wijeysingha resigned from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Wednesday in order to afford himself a much greater opportunity to be involved in human rights issues, civil liberties, and LGBT rights in particular.
Some have mentioned that Dr Wijeysingha’s departure is a loss for SDP and a gain for civil society. While I agree on the latter part, I don’t see why the former should be true.
Dr Wijeysingha made his mark on Singapore’s political scene when he contested the 2011 general elections under an SDP ticket. His entry was clearly seen as a threat to the PAP, which immediately resorted to very underhand tactics to smear him and the SDP, insinuating that they had a “gay agenda” and questioned their motives.
Despite this vicious personal attack on Dr Wijeysingha and on the SDP, the SDP went on to perform well in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, scoring 39.9% of the vote.
Nonetheless, the PAP’s attempt to stoke up homophobia in order to discredit the SDP and Dr Wijeysingha in particular was a step backwards for civil liberties and tolerance for LGBTs.
Dr Wijeysingha contributed significantly to SDP during his tenure with the party. He was instrumental in formulating their position papers on many bread-and-butter issues and helping the SDP better articulate its philosophy and political ideology.
But he was not just all brains. He was also about action — in every event that SDP organized, he would not hesitate to roll up his sleeves and help out in the hard, nitty-gritty work of logistics and organization, helping to move chairs and set up tents, helping to rally people together. He was truly an all-rounded contributor to SDP — never failing to give his best to the party both in brains and in physical work.
While a few people in SDP will miss Dr Wijeysingha, it is clear that their paths have to diverge at some point.
SDP has chosen to move away from civil rights toward bread-and-butter electoral politics. It now has to concentrate on winning votes.
Dr Wijeysingha, on the other hand, must remain true to his convictions and move towards civil liberties and human rights. In our Singapore context, a more natural place for him to operate in, therefore, is civil society. In a more mature democracy, perhaps Dr Wijeysingha might be able to pursue his objectives within the umbrella of an opposition party.
Therefore I do not see this as a loss for SDP, but rather a natural evolution that is healthy and beneficial for both parties.
Politics should include civil liberties and human rights. Our socio-political landscape needs to evolve beyond artificial divisions, and people need to be more tolerant. Perhaps some day, when our socio-political climate has matured, SDP’s and Dr Wijeysingha’s paths may yet converge again.
Letter from Vincent Wijeysingha
My Facebook post about my sexuality attracted some debate on LGBT rights. The shape of the discussion shows there is misunderstanding of these issues, primarily because of lack of mainstream access to appropriate information. Misunderstanding leads to discrimination that works its way into the lives of LGBT people, resulting in anguish and distress.
I believe that, as a nation, we have a limited appreciation of civil liberties: they have not penetrated deeply into our civic discourse and public administration. There is a great deal of work ahead if we are to achieve the full range of our fundamental liberties.
During the last three years that I have been a member of the Singapore Democratic Party, I have been engaged in social and economic bread-and-butter policy issues. I hope I have contributed in some small way. But after reflection and consultation with friends and colleagues, I have come to believe that I should participate in the more intangible but no less important work to promote our civil liberties.
Therefore, I would like to inform you that I have taken the difficult decision to resign my membership of the SDP in order to explore how I can be of service to the wider cause of our civil liberties, a project which I believe to be the dominant mission of this present period.
I continue to share deeply the values of the party which gave me a political home and the opportunity to learn an ideal of service which I have tried to carry out. I intend to explore ways in which I can honour those values in the civil liberties sphere.
I have discussed my decision extensively with party leaders who have given me their blessing. I would like to ask you also to support me in this decision.
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha