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We Are Not the Enemy: The Practice of Advocacy in Singapore

Publisher: Ethos Books
  • Description
  • Praise
  • About the Editors
  • Advocates and activists in Singapore contribute to policy discussions and positive change through a combination of deft manoeuvres and patient politics. Yet civil society is often unacknowledged, their skill and labour instead frequently misunderstood, even earning them the label of “troublemakers” or “enemies of the state”.

    This collection of essays and interviews is a candid reflection on the intentions, beliefs and strategies behind the practice of advocacy across a spectrum of causes. The contributors come from varying backgrounds and include academics, artists, lawyers, journalists, non-profit and advocacy organisations, student and community organisers. They share practical insights into their aims and community-building work, and the tactics they employ to overcome obstacles, shedding light on how to navigate a city-state with shifting socio-political fault lines and out-of-bound markers.

    The contributors to We Are Not the Enemy come from diverse backgrounds, including academics (Cherian George, Ng Kok Hoe, Kenneth Paul Tan, Walid Jumblatt Bin Abdullah), artists (Alfian Sa’at, T. Sasitharan), lawyers, journalists (Kirsten Han), non-profit and advocacy organisations (Alex Au of TWC2, Corinna Lim of AWARE, the Disabled People’s Association), student and community organisers (the Community for Advocacy and Political Education, Pink Dot, QUASA, the SG Climate Rally, Your Head Lah!).

    With an introduction, “It is Time to Trim the Banyan Tree”, by Constance Singam, and a conclusion, “Their Struggle is Ours to Continue”, by Suraendher Kumarr.

  • “Advocacy to foreground the needs, grievances and injustices of those overlooked socially and politically, whether intentionally or unwittingly, is an essential flip side of healthy governance. This book brings together the personal journeys and reflections of well-known and novice advocates across a range of issues both widely and lesser known. Beneath the seeming complacency of a largely middle-class society and the hegemonic monologue of a parliamentary state dominated by one party, there exists, gratefully, a group of citizens committed to seeking equality, social justice and greater freedom for all Singaporeans.”
    —Chua Beng Huat, Emeritus Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, NUS Visiting Fellow, School of Social Science, Singapore Management University

    “The title We Are Not the Enemy reminds me of a story of an elderly couple who told my pastor, after his sermon, with deep sorrow, ‘We didn’t realise all these years when we were fighting each other, we were fighting the wrong Enemy all this while.’

    You may disagree with these essayists. They may disrespect your favourite ideas and challenge your cherished narratives. They ask us hard questions and refuse easy answers. Yet while they’ve been given so many reasons to walk away—they choose to stay and advocate another day for another way.

    In a world full of divisions, our small city needs more of us to walk towards each other, seeking to understand—and not walk away.”
    Kuik Shiao-Yin, Former Nominated Member of Parliament

    “Singapore is for every Singaporean. This book tells the stories of Singaporeans amongst us who have been blessed with an instinct, a calling for advocacy, organisation and participation in matters of civic interest. It tells the stories of Singaporeans, who in response, have been moved to take action. Collectively, their work and advocacy is an important and critical component of the participatorydemocracy we seek, and a wholesome, fairer and more just Singapore for future generations. Views may and often do differ, but we are undoubtedly far better off as a country and as a society with these Singaporeans.”
    —Pritam Singh, Leader of the Opposition & Workers’ Party, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, Parliament of Singapore

    “Reading these essays made me feel both proud, and ashamed, to be a Singaporean. Proud that there are so many Singaporeans willing, even eager, to devote time, effort, skills and compassion to making the country a better place for all, including the marginalised and foreigners. Ashamed that they are so often hampered in these efforts by other Singaporeans—chiefly the state and its acolytes, as well as religious ideologues—and suffer consequences for doing so. Anyone who thinks that Singapore is a free society where individual rights, free expression, equality and social justice prevail, will have their eyes opened. Those who believe that “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” may be heartened by getting to know some of those who, in the civil society work recounted here, seek to help us find what we have lost, or never had.”
    —Linda Lim, Professor Emerita of Corporate Strategy and International Business, University of Michigan

  • Constance Singam is a writer and civil society activist. Constance has led women’s organisations, co-founded civil society groups, been a columnist in national publications, and co-edited several books. Her nonfiction works include Re-Presenting Singapore Women (2004) and The Art of Advocacy in Singapore (2017). She has written two memoirs, Never Leave Home Without Your Chilli Sauce (2016) and Where I Was: A Memoir About Forgetting and Remembering (2022), and three children’s books including Porter the Adventurous Otter (2021). She was inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

    After two years of trying to be useful as an investment analyst in the Monetary Authority of Singapore in the mid-1970s, Margaret Thomas found her calling in journalism. She spent some 25 years in the newsrooms of The Business Times, The Singapore Monitor, and TODAY, mostly in senior editing positions, and was also in the founding team of Singapore Press Holding’s Internet arm, Asiaone. She now works on book and related projects. Having inherited her father’s do-gooder genes, she is active in civil society. She was, in 1985, a founder member of AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) and in 2003 of TWC2, which promotes equitable treatment of migrant workers in Singapore.

ISBN: 9789811885402
Cover Type: Paperback
Page Count: 300
Year Published: 2024
Size: 210mm x 150mm
Language: English