Singapore has stumbled upon a rebel, a real one, for that matter. While other rebel-rousers have dedicated their entire careers to it, Gilbert Goh almost effortlessly organized the largest protest in Singapore (since independence) through online social media and other socio-political blogs.
Now, old and new rebels want to perform at his events, but he is careful that his platform is not hijacked by any other political parties. He wants to keep his platform party-agnostic and does not want to be dictated by other political agendas.
He thinks that there are elements out there who want to portray him as a racist. “Make no mistake, “he says, “People are trying to ‘sabo’ my efforts. “ It is no accident that he has been subject to online vitriol by other netizens who think some of his pieces are written in bad taste. His article Characteristics and behaviour of our 1.8 million foreign population is definitely a “must read” for anyone following the political developments in Singapore.
However, Gilbert is not the first to profile the different races in Singapore. Former Prime Minister Lee has also written about the customs and mannerisms of the different races here. One opposition politician said that the main difference between Gilbert and LKY was: Gilbert is a political novice while LKY is a master at this game.
I have asked Gilbert some questions and do read them to find out more about Gilbert.
1. A lot of local politicians have gone down this path of staging public protests but have had limited success with it. You on the other hand have been wildly successful. What is your secret to success?
I am fortunate as we did the protest which affected a lot of Singaporeans i.e. the 6.9 million population White Paper (walau, no space bring more people some more). Many people are unhappy with the overpopulation issue and it sort of broke the camel’s back for many Singaporeans.
We also have done several protests the past years e.g. minimum wage, foreign influx, retirement issues among others but the attendance seldom went past 200 people.
2. You seem to have a quite a sizable support base online. What is your primary message to them when you ask them to participate in your protests?
We use socio political blogs like TRE (Richard very helpful one), Feed me to the fish, TOC, The Real Singapore and Facebook to promote the event and it was also widely publicised via the international media e.g. Yahoo, BBC, CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and others.
I just appeal to the protestors to save Singapore and come out with courage to protest in person than complaining behind their keyboard. We can do something together and this time round I am proud Singaporeans came out even though it was pouring (i.e. raining).
Something changed and I guess the fear factor disappeared after that historic event (Feb 16 Protest).
By now, many Singaporeans see the power of public protest done peacefully and we are able to send a strong message to the ruling elite.
3. What made you organize the protest on the 16th of Feb? Was that politically motivated?
Like many Singaporeans, I was enraged by the 6.9 million projections that was flashed on CNA (aiya, they neber listen one) and decided that I must do something.
We also did an indoor event on the 6 million population target earlier in Dec 2012. So when I saw the higher 6.9 million population target I knew that something is very wrong here.
I slept over it for two days before finally deciding to announce the event on my website (Gotto do it ah bro, the Government does not listen one… siow siow ah) and Facebook page and the rest was history.
4. I understand that you’ll be organizing yet another forum on the 23 of March. This would be the 3rd in this series. So what is new this time?
The 23rd March event will be held indoors and the venue has a maximum seating capacity of sixty. So, do sign up for it quickly.
The session will be more of a discussion – a Transitioning.org “conversation” if you like. The press will be invited (of course). Most of the speakers are from the first protest and now they’ll be given more time to expound their ideas using audio visual tools. It will be more in-depth.
5. Tell me more about the May Day Protest that you are organizing? Who are the speakers and what kind of support are you looking for?
We are doing a sequel protest on May 1st on the 6.9 million White Paper plus other issues that affect Singaporeans e.g. lack of a minimum wage, sky-high property prices, and huge income gap. We hope to attract a crowd size of ten thousand. So far, Mr Leong Sze Hian, Nizam ismail, M Ravi have confirmed that they’ll be speaking.
We are still trying to get other civil societies on board and will announce them once it’s confirmed. We will continue to use social media to publicise our event via Facebook and other socio-political sites. I am glad that ST has also reported our event in their papers few days ago. I also heard that Media Corp radio has also announced about our Labour Day protest.
We will also do a press conference one week before the event to generate more publicity.
6. A lot of people think that you harbour racist or xenophobic feelings deep inside. But, I understand that you have lived and worked abroad and based on my interactions with you, you seem like a guy who gives equal opportunity to all. So, what is your response to the people, do you think you were unfairly criticized?
I guess when we stand against the 6.9 million population White Paper people will accuse us of being xenophobic as a lot of the population growth is accomplished through foreign influx. This is unfortunate.
Yes, I have lived and worked abroad in Sydney via a 4-year work visa tied to my ex-wife’s visa as she was posted there for work. They are PRs now but I am not a PR. The work visa has since expired.
Having worked abroad, I experienced the same kind of frustrations our foreign friends face here.
I apologise if any of my articles appeared xenophobic in the past and have tried to be more careful with what I say now.
It was never my intention to turn the movement into an anti-foreigner one and we have always advocated both online and in the open that we want to be seen as anti-policy rather than anti-foreigner or anti-government. All foreigners are welcomed to attend any of our events organised by Transitioning (admission is free).
Gilbert’s protests come in instalments – there are sequels and prequels to it. Just in case you miss the one on the 23rd of March at NVPC, you can attend the next show on the 1st of May 2013 at Hong Lim Green. Admission is free.
With movie tickets selling at $8.00 and above, Singaporeans are turning to protests as their main source of entertainment.