They came for Raeesah Khan, we stood with her, and now we elected her to Parliament.
In the days leading up the election, the police began investigating Workers’ Party candidate Raeesah Khan for posts she had made two years ago critiquing unequal treatment on the basis of race in Singapore. In a statement, the police announced that they “consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which advised that an offence of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race under Section 298A of the Penal Code is disclosed.”
Indeed, in PAP-Singapore, minorities who call out institutional and structural racism will themselves be accused of inciting racial conflict. It ought to be clear that the fetishisation of “multiculturalism” and “racial harmony” in this country represents a tool for the PAP to quell dissent. In order to “protect” this “harmony”, all forms of coercion are permitted. True “harmony” will only come in the post-PAP era.
What happened to Raeesah was not an isolated event. It has happened to many others, including, most recently Preeti Nair and Subhas Nair. This is how minorities (racial, religious, sexual) in SG are consistently told to stay in their place and accept their situation. But we must always remember that if one of us is not free, none of us are.
We were rightfully outraged and out of this anger came the hashtag #IStandwithRaeesah. We made our voices heard far and wide.
The ideological state apparatuses did their best to reframe Raeesah’s astute observations as “highly derogatory [towards] Chinese and Christians.” Raeesah was forced to apologised. But we stood in solidarity with her and continued to state again and again that racism is systemic and institutional in SG. For once, we took hold of the narrative.
Now, we must continue to make our voices heard in the days, months, and years to come. The struggle for a more equitable society will be long, but, like Angela Davis, we are done accepting the things we cannot change. No, we will change the things we cannot accept.
When the witch-hunt against Raeesah began, a fellow Singaporean created a powerful image in solidarity and sent it to us.
They told us: “I’m not brave enough to share it publicly. Please feel free to use it, I don’t need any credit. Workers of the free world unite.”
This was one of many powerful pieces of art, commentary, and satire that flooded the internet in support of Raeesah. The relentless outpouring of support in the face of police intimidation suggests this political moment is different. #IStandWithRaeesah signals to the establishment that we are done sitting back and watching the character assassination, intimidation and silencing of opposition voices. This is a new Singapore.
When political prisoners Said Zahari and Lim Chin Siong reconnected in 1979, Lim talked about building a movement again, but realised the political context then was not propitious.
Today, we elected Raeesah Khan and other Workers’ Party candidates to Parliament and, in doing so, we sent a strong message to the establishment.
All power to the people.