Tag Archive | "NSP"

My wishlist for Singapore politics

My wishlist for Singapore politics

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No more football analogies, no more treating Chen Show Mao like God, and no more dumb tweets.

By Terence Lee

The Church of Show Mao at Bedok Stadium. Photo: TERENCE LEE

LIFE is meaningless again.

After days of doping on election news, attending rallies, chanting “Kate Spade!”, and getting teary-eyed when Aljuniedians gifted their GRC to the Worker’s Party, Normalcy feels incredibly mundane.

And it’s this normalcy I dread.

Soon, the rambunctious politician in all of us will hibernate, only to climb out of the cave again in another five years.

Soon, we will be concerned only about earthy, shallow things like getting that BTO flat, finding that succulent buffet spread, and watching Transformers 3. No one will care anymore about the fairness of the political system, high ministerial salary, and the intricacies of our HDB policy.

Of course, I sense that this time, things will be different, and more people will actually care. So, before we turn into amnesic, apathetic drones, here’s my wishlist for Singapore politics over the next five years:

1) No more football analogies, please

First, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong got started about Singapore only needing one national team. Then Ah Mao rebutted him by saying that the national team wears red and white, not white and white. Finally, WP supremo Low Thia Khiang complained about the People’s Action Party changing the size of the goalposts.

Honestly, I felt really left out throughout the campaigning period. While there are millions of Singaporeans that care about football, what about those who don’t watch the beautiful game?

And no, I don’t drive either.

So, for the sake of national unity, I hope campaigners will use analogies all Singaporeans can identify with. Like food for example. And please, don’t get me started about trees and mushrooms.

Seriously, what I’m hoping for is more inclusive politics. No more gerrymandering and grassroots network bias towards the PAP. No more painting the other side as dubious.

And for goodness sake, I hope the WP team in Aljunied gets proper Town Council offices. I also wish that Hougang and Aljunied will not be penalised in terms of Town Council funding.

2) Chen Show Mao is not God. So, stop treating him like one

Will he become Chairman Mao of the Worker's Party? Graphic: CARTOON PRESS

I think the team at New Nation must repent. We got a little carried away during the elections, and started worshipping Ah Mao. Someone I knew even called him “Jesus”.

Sorry, fangirls and boys, but he is mortal like all of us. He can’t walk on water, and should he fumble and fall, it’ll be hard to resurrect his political career.

Same goes for the entire Aljunied team. Anything can happen in five years. Aljunied may not be well-run, and they may lose the GRC in 2016. Lee Kuan Yew may prove to be prophetic when he said residents will need to “repent”. The PAP may raise their game by the next elections, and voters could swing back into the warm embrace of the ruling party.

So, the WP better bulk up and improve.

3) No more petty catfights within the opposition parties

There’s too much pettiness within the opposition. For goodness sake, how old are you guys, 12??

Leading up to the 2011 elections, Goh Meng Seng left the WP to join the National Solidarity Party. Chia Ti Lik, too, left the men in blue to form the Socialist Front.

Many moons ago, J.B Jeyaretnam, unhappy with the lack of support from Low Thia Khiang, left the party he led to kickstart the Reform Party. After he passed away, his son Kenneth snatched the leadership role from Ng Teck Siong, and he got kicked out in the process.

And more recently, prominent Reform Party members like Tony Tan, Hazel Poa, and Nicole Seah left Kenneth’s party to join the NSP. As for Ng Teck Siong, he joined the Socialist Front but resigned soon after finding out they are not contesting in this elections.

There’s enough material here for a 20-episode drama, something we don’t need.

So by the next elections, I hope the opposition candidates can move beyond party hopping. It’s stupid to squabble over scraps when they should be gunning for the PAP. Although there’s recent talk of a merger between the SDP, SPP and NSP, these parties have a lot to prove.

And now we’ve received news that Eric Tan of the Worker’s Party has resigned because he was passed over for the NCMP position. Yet another episode to the long-drawn drama.

4) No more dumb tweets

Social media has given us unexpected stars like opposition darling Nicole Seah and Returning Officer extraordinaire Yam Ah Mee. But there’s a raw, unrestrained, and downright ugly side to it as well.

Case in point: Xiaxue resorted to childish name-calling when lamenting over PAP’s loss in Aljunied:

What a way to prove to her haters that she’s no dumb blond: Calling the other 54.71% of Singaporeans who voted for the WP “moronic” and “blind”. She blames voters for the loss of George Yeo, but does she realise that even the Straits Times, in at least two editions, have hinted that the GRC system could be responsible for his exit from politics?

5) Reform within the PAP

This is the major biggie. To earn the respect of opposition supporters, they need to reform the political system. Cut ministerial salary, reform the GRC system, and respect the opposition parties. They also need to listen to young voters, who don’t take kindly to high-handedness and arrogance.

Policy-wise, Workfare must be enhanced to give more aid to the hardworking poor, and housing costs must be reined in. Censorship of the arts and the media must be adjusted to keep pace with the times, and more help has to be accorded to disenfranchised groups like AIDS sufferers and single families.

If the Men in White are serious enough about reform, my vote in the next elections might just go to them.

PAP, be warned

PAP, be warned

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Eff around with the people again, and you can be sure we will do another George Yeo on you.

By Belmont Lay

What do Tin Pei Ling and Annoying Orange have in common?

THERE’S no other polite way I can put this: 7th May, 2011 will go down in history as the day when close to one million Singaporeans tore the PAP a new asshole.

For the ruling party to have won only 60.01 percent of all valid votes this General Election, is a very pathetic showing.

It’s akin to Man U beating Swansea City 1-0. And only because Man U played Swansea on the condition that Man U uses a futsal goal post.

And the Swansea goalkeeper must be a Paralympian.

Simply put, this result is telling. It is an indication of the beginning of a new era where Singaporeans, which includes Yours Truly, refuse to take any crap from anyone, less so from the ruling elite.

And truth be told, the supposedly biggest and most powerful machinery is not delivering the goods to the people who are increasingly empowered to hold it accountable.

To start this discussion proper, let me give you vivid examples instead of harping on trite analogies.

The PAP’s Marine Parade GRC team led by the lanky titan Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who still appears a bit gormless to me, scored a mere 56.6% win against a new NSP team led by Spencer Ng (Hey bro! Sup man?!).

But looking only at the figures for valid votes is half the story. Let’s also look at the number of votes that were not cast.

For the record, 8.6 percent of the 154,451 voters (or 13,282 residents) in Marine Parade GRC decided they were going to stay home to make love or clean out the cardboard or pat the dog or cook pasta or go to JB or do dirty dancing for the rest of Polling Day. This makes the Marine Parade GRC the holder of the title for the lowest voter turnout.

To put this no-show number in perspective, the Workers’ Party led by God Himself, won Aljunied GRC by 12,433 votes.

And this no-show is serious.

Voters would rather abscond with the poll card than bother to show up to spoil the vote. And they would rather run the risk of being struck off the electoral list the next time round for being absent this GE than having to choose between NSP and PAP.

And I know why.

The no-shows of Marine Parade GRC didn’t want to vote for the NSP team led by Spencer (You the man, bro!) because he might be relatively inexperienced. And also partly because the NSP team showed up two weeks before Nomination Day and their quality was hard to judge.

But neither did they want to vote for a drooling vegetable known as Tin Pei Ling, who also happens to look and sound like Annoying Orange.

More importantly, Goh Chok Tong, Fatimah Lateef (who has teapot ears), Seah Teh Peng and ex-SAF regular Tan Chuan-Jin are not attractive enough, especially not so because they were coercing people to choose Annoying Orange too.

And let’s look at the other stats: The Workers’ Party secured 45.2 percent of votes in East Coast GRC.

The Singapore People’s Party managed 43.1 percent in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC against PAP led by Wong Kan Seng (who also has teapot ears).

The National Solidarity Party scored 42.8 percent against Affordable Mah in Tampines GRC.

In other words, PAP almost lost four GRCs overnight.

Now that the report card is out, there is talk that PAP is doing some soul-searching to find out what caused the overall slump.

Why not consult me? I am a true blue Singaporean. I can tell you what went wrong having spent my whole life under the PAP regime.

Simply put, the politics of misdirection, arrogance, entitlement and double standards must stop if the PAP wants to woo the younger voters and not look like ingrates and turd-like in the eyes of older ones.

1. Misdirection: When WP came out with their manifesto about wanting to move towards a First World Parliament, what happened? As WP chief Low Thia Khiang put it, His Leeness was “jumping up and down” and getting livid over WP’s show hand gamble and harping on Aljunied GRC’s property prices.

Singaporeans no longer appreciate this kind of politics of misdirection. Address the issue directly, especially about a First World Parliament, rather than trying to beat us over our heads with a stick.

Graphic: CARTOON PRESS

2. Arrogance: Never, ever promise the electorate you can provide them with everything. Never only say sorry three days before Polling Day and never force the electorate to accept another Annoying Orange.

The method of picking candidates has to change. No more tea sessions that obviously don’t work because it cannot even spot God Himself from a mile away and the psychological testing should go the way of the typewriter.

3. Entitlement: Trying to justify why ministers make so much money is going to blunt PAP’s appeal to anyone who makes less than $30,000 a year.

Having front page say in the national newspaper is not helping either because it makes you all seem more powerful than you really are and having the mandate of Heaven to be featured ad nauseam.

For PAP to be able to pick and choose which candidates stay and which should be pawned in GRCs would give us not much choice except more Tin Pei Lings and less George Yeos.

Shouldn’t the people who are voting be entitled to choose instead? More SMC contests anyone?

4. Double standards: Vivian Balakrishnan, who annoys the hell out of a lot of people, straight or gay, got a direct answer from Chee Soon Juan when he wanted to know if the SDP had a gay agenda (Which is utterly nonsensical because there is no such thing as a “gay agenda” to begin with).

And when Vivian, who has a girl’s name, is asked to reveal the accounts for YOG, he hams and haws and acts like $300 million spent is all worthwhile.

Plus, for all the PAP talk about scrutinising opposition candidates for this GE, they couldn’t practise a little introspection.

Annoying Orange flouted campaigning rules at least twice, once before Nomination Day and then during Cooling Off Day as well, and then what happens?

Nothing. Precisely.

The Elections Department claims to be unable to deal with it, so they can take their rules and shove it.

So, that’s the round-up. But there’s more.

Yam Ah Mee, who is the new sex, has his stellar announcements to thank when more women (and some men) approach to bed him.

And this annoys the hell out of a lot of people as well because Ah Mee kept announcing PAP the winner for every GRC even when they only received 60.14 percent of the valid votes.

So, herein lies the point of today’s missive: 81-6 annoys a lot of people.

But that’s okay for now because the journey Towards A First World Parliament means more PAP candidates will be George Yeo-ed in 2016.

I can’t wait.

Caveat: Author is the boyfriend of Nicole Seah and her election agent for GE2011. Read with discretion.

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Hard truths and figures from Steve Chia

Hard truths and figures from Steve Chia

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The NSP candidate for Pioneer SMC questions the PAP’s attitude towards minimum wage and welfare for the poor.

By Grace Chew

A 2,000-strong crowd heard from National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Steve Chia some “hard truths” at Sunday night’s rally at Jurong West Stadium for Pioneer Single Member Constituency (SMC).

Citing a slew of figures from the Department of Statistics, the Central Providence Fund Annual Report (CPF) and the Credit-Suisse annual report, Steve Chia showed the crowd that the focus of the ministers was no longer on them, but “on themselves”.

“The median income is $1,506. This amount is earned by ministers in an hour or two, with car park fines, taxes and levies imposed on you. There is something very wrong here!” Mr Chia said, drawing echoes from the crowd: “Something very wrong!”

As a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Mr Chia had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong why some ministers were drawing pension schemes and “multi-billion dollar salaries” at the same time, to which PM Lee replied that it was “in the contract”.

Emphasising the apparent double standards of the government, he proceeded to talk about the CPF scheme, where the minimum age for withdrawal has been raised from 55 to 65.

“They suka-suka changed the rule. It is a contract but yet they changed it unilaterally. They decided that (Singaporeans) cannot take care of their own money!” He declared, to which the crowd angrily responded: “Bullshit! We’re not stupid!”

In addition, he said that certain statistics were flawed as it did not truly reflect the situation in Singapore.

“While the mean wealth looks good, the median paints a very sad picture of $43,000 (net worth per person): 50% of people in this rich and first-world society has only $43,000. How could that be? Can the ministers rebut this report?” he asked.

He suggested that statistics cannot be purely based on the income of top owners, but should add in other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as per capita income, quality of life and stability of housing and food prices, in order to allow Singaporeans to know the truth.

He also pointed out that the feasibility of the Minimum Wage Scheme needs to be studied, with the support of data from the CPF Annual report that one in four members above 45 are having employment problems.

“Your vote is powerful. Don’t give them full monopoly of power. Don’t let them cover the sky with their hands. Pressure them with your vote!” – Steve Chia

“Below all the beautiful infrastructure and magnificent building, many families are falling through the cracks. That is why you see many people living in void decks and on the beach. Deficits can only get worse, not better. Without decent paying job for Singaporeans, the lowest 20 percent (of the population) cannot live with self-respect.” He observed.

Addressing incumbent Cedric Foo’s remarks, he said that installing Closed-Circuit Television (CCTVs) would not solve the problem of monitoring the behaviour of foreign workers.

He said that when he was distributing his flyers the previous night, he still saw foreign workers urinating at the coffeeshops even though they’ve installed CCTVs.

He suggested having active citizen patrol with the MP leading the way, and questioned whether Foo would have time to do that.

An alternative solution he proposed would be to shift dormitories to Upper Joo Koon, as “it would not cost anything.”

“With CCTVs, your SMC fees will go up.”

He also questioned Foo on the demolishing of the old Majarpahit mosque and the new primary school Mr Foo has promised.
“It is all wayang!” he declared.

He also promised a 5-day meet-the-people session, and if problems continued to persist, he would call the civil servants in front of residents to ask them about it.

Finally, he dispelled rumours that the People’s Action Party (PAP) knew the decision of voters, much to the cheers of the crowd.

“It is bullshit. They are just testing you – Your vote is secret, nobody knows who you voted unless you open your mouth to tell people. If you don’t want people to know who you voted, keep quiet.”

Indirectly calling on residents to vote for him at his conclusion, he said in English and Chinese, “Your vote is powerful. Don’t give them full monopoly of power. Don’t let them cover the sky with their hands. Pressure them with your vote!”

Nicole Seah: Ground is sweet, looking forward to competition

Nicole Seah: Ground is sweet, looking forward to competition

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Enthusiastic crowd and international media greets National Solidarity Party Marine Parade GRC team at Aljunied and Serangoon walkabouts.

A New Nation exclusive.

Little Nonya shakes some hands at a hawker centre

The hottest thing in Singapore right now, besides the darn weather and Chen Show Mao (who is God-like), is Nicole Seah.

Nicole, an advertising executive, is going toe-to-toe with Goh Chok Tong (not Tin Pei Ling, mind you) as one of five candidates for the National Solidarity Party in Marine Parade GRC.

Who would have thought, right?

What began as an unassuming informal introduction on Tuesday to announce her candidacy, Nicole’s Public Figure profile page on Facebook has since turned into a socialsphere fiesta with 15,000-plus fans and counting. (In contrast, New Nation, has about 333 fans in five months. Nicole took like what? Fourteen minutes after her FB page went “live” to surpass that number?)

She is still trending on Google, trending on Twitter and she even has her own Wikipedia entry.

Best of all, she might just make one of our editors eat his own words for stating rather prematurely that “social media would have limited influence on this General Election“.

Here’s the Little Nyonya, as netizens have dubbed her, in her own words, after today’s Sunday morning walkabout at Aljunied market and Serangoon central where about 50 party members and volunteers turned up to show their, erm, solidarity.

By the way, Nicole (who is goddess-like), is only 24 years old. And she speaks better than Chan Chun Sing, an ex-SAF regular and PAP candidate to be potentially fielded in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

——————–

Question: There was a huge turnout at today’s walkabout at Aljunied market. What do you think about it?

Nicole: We expected a crowd as this walkabout had been publicised over Facebook. The response was really warm and encouraging. For the past 19 years, Marine Parade GRC residents did not get a chance to exercise their vote so we as the opposition don’t know how it would turn out and neither does the incumbent know what to expect. But I think the ground is sweet this time at Marine Parade.

How is the ground sweet?

I’m quite sure some of those who turned up found out about the walkabout online. They were really friendly and supportive and we chatted a bit. But there was a large number of those at the market who had no idea we were turning up. And they were happy to see us there.

And CNN turned up too, no?

Yes, there was a video interview but this is not something to be unexpected. Things are changing, the local media senses it, the people on the ground can sense it and the international media too. And if you saw what the people on the ground had to say, I mean, I’ll describe a lot of them to be “relieved”. Relieved that there is going to be some form of competition this time round.

So what is one issue you noticed in Marine Parade GRC that is of concern to you?

Even as you look at how developed the place is, there are clusters of lower income households and young people who are struggling. The policies that have been implemented in recent years have also affected the middle class to a large extent, with many factors such as rising property prices, rising goods and services taxes, and the depression of local wages due to competition from a liberal immigrant policy. You can see it for yourselves on the ground. If this country wants to focus on economic growth and success, I’m sure many people would not disagree. But what is the point of all these development when you can’t raise the base?

You will also notice that many of the issues specific to the constituents of Marine Parade GRC has expanded to a nationwide scale. What has happened is that the use of GDP growth as a KPI (Key Performance Index) has given many in the public sector, especially officeholders, fat bonuses, while the man in the street continues to feel the pinch from ever-rising costs and stagnant wages. The NSP is pushing for a national focus on wage growth and abolishing taxes on basic necessities such as food staples, so that no Singaporean is deprived of their basic necessities because of the lack of money.

What about your Serangoon walkabout? How did that go?

The funny thing was people in Serangoon didn’t even know which GRC or SMC they belong too. Some were confused that they fall under Marine Parade (GRC). And there was this lady who is well-travelled and calls herself a heartlander, she approached the NSP candidates, shook our hands and even went in front of the media cameras and spoke her heart about what ails her. She said she doesn’t understand what this country has come to. And she was just passing by on her way home.

What is one message you have for the young volunteers here today?

Always remember what you are doing this for. This is not for ourselves, but for our country, for the people who cannot speak up for themselves. We may not see the fruits of our labour in the immediate future, but let that not deter us from putting forward our best shot to make this a Singapore that we can truly call home.

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The battle for Mountbatten could be the closest of all

The battle for Mountbatten could be the closest of all

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The Single Member Constituency is gearing up for a fight between two lawyers. The best part? Both candidates are well-known for being very nice.

IN A Group Representation Constituency, it is a fact that the heavyweight candidate fronting the pack will always hog the limelight and publicity.

So if you cannot hold your own, especially in a SMC, you’re more or less done for.

Which is why the battle for Mountbatten might just be the most exciting to watch yet.

Lim Biow Chuan from the People’s Action Party is a lawyer who first stepped into the shoes of an MP after the 2006 General Election when he was fielded in the Marine Parade GRC that went uncontested.

Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss from the National Solidarity Party is facing her first fight this election in a constituency she knows like the back of her hand. And she is planning to take it on as a (even more?) well-qualified and credentialed lawyer.

Here are some interesting facts: Both candidates are 47 years old, which means they have crossed paths professionally and personally many times before this GE.

Based on their replies, both candidates advocate for more to be done for the elderly.

Lim obtained his Bachelors of Law from the National University of Singapore. Chong-Aruldoss has a Masters in Law from the London School of Economics (gasp!).

And from what New Nation has seen on the ground, both candidates have their fair share of supporters.

This fight could be the closest of all among the 12 SMCs that are being contested.

Click on the links below to view the questions New Nation posed to both candidates and their replies.

Q&A with Lim Biow Chuan | Q&A with Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss

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Q&A with Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss

Q&A with Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss

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New Nation speaks with National Solidarity Party’s candidate for Mountbatten SMC.

Q&A with Lim Biow ChuanQ&A with Jeanette Chong-AruldossMain story

What advantages do you think you have contesting in Mountbatten SMC?

I spent my childhood living in Mountbatten and I also lived in Mountbatten in the early years of my marriage. I know the area very well. I also have many friends living in Mountbatten including some former neighbours who are still there.

The demographics in this area have changed drastically over the years. Although much physical progress has been made, there are still people in this community that needs help for very basic things in everyday lives, such as getting around or paying their bills on time.

There is also much to be developed in the Mountbatten community spirit after being in the shadow of distant cousin Marine Parade for so long.

What is your view of Lim Biow Chuan as your political opponent?

Both of us are part of the law fraternity and I respect him for his work both professionally and in the field of serving his residents.

We are even because this would be his first contest for the mandate of the residents of Mountbatten SMC.
What are some issues you would raise in Parliament if you were elected?

For a start, we would scrutinize every policy and start getting the government to listen to the people. I would like to be the voice of the people to hold the government accountable and to ensure that there are ‘checks’ and ‘balances’ in Parliament.

Specifically, I would like to advocate for our senior citizens to enjoy well-deserved privileges, having contributed their most productive years to the development of our society.

What are the two most pressing issues affecting Singaporeans at the moment?

Housing is definitely an issue that Singaporeans are very concerned about because this is a long-term issue that affects very much how they are able to live their lives in terms of whether they are able to settle down to start a family, to pursue their goals and reach their true potential and have enough for their retirement after 30 years of mortgage and interest payment.

The other issue would be the cost of healthcare, particularly for the lower-income families. It is not so much the quality of the healthcare service, but rather, the affordability of these services.

What is the most difficult aspect of contesting in Mountbatten SMC?

It is an area with a wide distribution of residents from all walks of life and each of these segments has their own set of issues and concerns. When I look at the issues affecting Mountbatten residents, I realised that they are not peculiar to the constituency but symptomatic of some of larger issues faced by the nation.

To be effective, I know I need to step up to address them on a national dimension. However, this is where I think I have the advantage over Mr Lim in offering alternative views challenging the dominant power.

Why should voters vote for you?

I am a wife, a mother and a practicing lawyer. I am well qualified and credentialed. These include a Masters in Law from the London School of Economics. I have been in legal practice for over 20 years. Over the teo decades of professional work, I have dealt with many types of cases and I have seen too many real-life cases of hardship.

This is especially so, as I specialise in Family Law in my legal practice. What I offer Mountbatten residents then is my experiences as a lawyer and my understanding of their bread and butter issues as an ex-Mountbatten resident, a wife and mother of four children. I believe I have what it takes to do the job of an MP for Mountbatten.

In addition, I would like to serve the constituency by ensuring the delivery of a high standard of upkeep and maintenance of public amenities. I will also ensure that Mountbatten residents will benefit from greater access to public services which will be more responsive to their needs.

I intend to be the voice for Mountbatten and speak up on both national issues as well as municipal issues.

Q&A with Lim Biow ChuanQ&A with Jeanette Chong-AruldossMain story

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Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

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NSP Sec-Gen Goh Meng Seng needs to stop scoring own goals; the enemy’s the other way.

By Terence Lee

Will Goh Meng Seng (third from left) still be smiling after the General Elections, or will his antics come back to bite him? Photo: TERENCE LEE

BACK in the good’ol days when Singapore football actually meant something, you wouldn’t see Fandi Ahmad tackle  Sundramoorthy on the pitch, even if the opponent were minnows. In fact, underdogs often raise their game when facing a far superior team.

Which makes the recent catfight between the National Solidarity Party and Worker’s Party all the more mind-boggling.

It seems that the People Action’s Party (PAP) was forgotten the week after the new electoral boundaries were made known, despite being the fattest sumo wrestler in the ring, and the most dazzling (or the most kayu) football player on the field.

Instead, you get a silly blog post by NSP Secretary-General Goh Meng Seng criticising the Worker’s Party and its arrogance, to which Low Thia Khiang, his counterpart at the WP, rebutted in Lianhe Zaobao.

Meng Seng, fresh off a press conference on Thursday when he announced NSP’s slate of candidates for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, is unapologetic.

“It’s just an emotional, sentimental post. But people mistaken it as an attack. It’s not.”

Really? Even when you said they have “lost sight” of their mission, or that they are thumbing down on other parties? Even when you insinuate that they are “arrogant”?

He continues: “When you speak your mind of course it’s going to be critical. If I don’t speak my mind I’m a politician. But when I write I’m not a politician, I’m a human.”

What shall I call you then? Uncle Meng Seng? Pops? Granddaddy? Koyok Seller?

So, here’s a veteran politician pretending to be a ranty emo-kid with a personal blog-plaything. He waved away my suggestion that he was trying to use his blog to pressure the WP to give up Moulmein-Kallang. Shrewd politician? Or am I giving him too much credit?

The usually smooth auntie-killer also trips himself up by saying: “There’s nothing (in the blog post that’s) critical about anybody. It’s just a very emotional piece. There’s nothing to do with arguing who’s right and who’s wrong.”

I rest my case.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

But let’s give Secretary-General Sir credit where it’s due. His party is the first to officially announce their candidates at any constituency, beating even the PAP. He has managed to attract credible candidates who left the Reform Party, which indicates some semblance of leadership ability.

His experience probably helped. While Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam comes across as a true noob with poor media management skills, Meng Seng appears slightly better.

He has another thing going for him: He looks like someone you can talk to. He’s not as dashing as PAP man Michael Palmer, but he’s cute, in a cuddly Teddy Bear kind of way.  He’s the uncle who sips kopi downstairs, Wanbao in hand. About as heartlander as you can get.

Ah Seng’s certainly someone who seems down-to-earth, or at least gives that impression. Kenneth on the other hand, seems like the opposite: He uses his poker face and impressive qualifications to hide his political inexperience.

But as much of a veteran as he is, I think the blog post is ill-timed and poorly conceived; a symptom of a deep-rooted problem within the opposition camp: Rampant egos. Calculated move or not, there is no room in politics for undisciplined emotional outbursts. It distracts both opposition parties from the real fight against the ruling party. It gives the impression of a fractured Opposition. It could be a tool used by the PAP against him.

And there’s no guarantee WP will be pressured to give up Moulmein-Kallang, despite NSP’s shenanigans and media posturing. Which means we could be headed for a three-way fight.

In fact, both parties seem to be so focused on their petty squabbles that they literally ignored PM Lee Hsien Loong’s recent jibe: “It seems to me rather exciting day-to-day changes, transformations, quarrels, squabbles, new friendships and old enmities all surfacing at the same time. I look forward to the next installment.”

Perhaps opposition members are suffering from guilty conscience. So I related my concern to a person within the NSP. And guessed what he told me? Be patient. Sure, you can tell me that, but try saying it to the thousands of first-time voters who have watched every episode of this oddball family drama, and who actually appreciate what the government has done for them so far, despite the rising costs of living. Voters are not stupid.

But as far as I’m concerned, there’s still time to get their act together.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

Anything but criticise your fellow opposition member in public, and pass it off as a touchy-feely moment. Even Singapore Democratic Party man James Gomez’s horrible piece on how Singapore will experience a revolution akin to the Middle East will suffice, although it sounds like empty election rhetoric that signals how out-of-touch with the ground he may be.

Yes, I’m that desperate.

More New Nation content on GE2011 here.

United PAP, divided Opposition?

United PAP, divided Opposition?

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More work needed to increase credibility of the Opposition.
By Terence Lee

Chee Soon Juan (left) and Chiam See Tong talk after being presented with appreciation gifts by The Online Citizen, organiser of the Face to Face forum. The two had an acrimonious past while working together at the Singapore Democratic Party.

Chee Soon Juan (left) and Chiam See Tong talk after being presented with appreciation gifts. The two had an acrimonious past while working together at the Singapore Democratic Party. Picture from THE ONLINE CITIZEN.

LAST WEEK’S Face to Face forum, which gathered all the major opposition parties into a hotel ballroom, was fascinating in many ways. Rarely do you find them gather in such posh settings, under air-conditioning that actually works.

I am more accustomised to see them hawk party newspapers at the food centre near Bedok MRT and shouting party slogans in their polo-tees.

Images of Chiam See Tong, secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party, conducting his Meet-the-People Sessions at the HDB voiddeck comes to mind too.

The forum was orchestrated down to the minutest detail – including how the opposition members came in, which seats they occupied, and the time allowed to ask and answer questions. The format of the Q & A session was deliberate: Choo Zheng Xi, moderator of the forum, told me that it’s same model used for the US elections.

But the event seemed like a kick-ass public relations exercise for the Opposition.

Chiam, the most seasoned of the group and the first to come through the front door, was promptly greeted with warm applause. As he sauntered up the stage, he was helped to his seat by Goh Meng Seng of the National Solidarity Party.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, whose arrival at the political scene once led to Chiam’s ousting from the Singapore Democratic Party, shook hands with his former mentor. Chee exchanged pleasantries with Chiam, displaying no sign of animosity.

There’s no doubt who was the star that night. Although Chiam’s voice was sometimes weak and muffled, the audience hung on to his words and heckled when he poked fun at the PAP. Although past his prime, his piquant wit was still on display.

…given the similar ideologies and outlook of these political parties, I am surprised more isn’t done to promote common causes between them.

The event painted a picture of a united opposition front, and Chiam is the leading advocate of that unity. His formation of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), a conglomerate of three political parties, represents his crowning achievement in bringing together disparate tribes.

But conflict had erupted around the totem pole. Late last year, rival factions from the Singapore Malay National Organisation, or PKMS, took their infighting literally to the streets. Five people were injured.

This year, a spat between right-hand man Desmond Lim and himself became public. Chiam attempted to oust Lim as the sec-gen of the SDA, but the Supreme Council of the Alliance rebuffed him by voting that Lim serve out his full two-year term.

The Alliance’s inability to keep their house in order has hurt the Opposition’s image, especially among those with a mild interest in politics. The PAP, on the other hand, have presented themselves as a cohesive fighting team. You don’t see Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan strangulate National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in public.

Internal dissent, if present, is either congenial or unpublicised. Perhaps the presence of strongman Lee Kuan Yew and an obliging mainstream media helped.

Such public spats wouldn’t matter if this is the United States, where senators and representatives frequently clash with one another and vote against party line. But here, disunity is seen as a sure sign of weakness.

Seen in this context, the forum became a perfect opportunity for the Opposition to rehabilitate their image. And they took full advantage of it.

Speaking to Goh and Gerald Giam of the Worker’s Party, I seemed to get the sense that all is well and dandy within the Opposition. Oh, we’ve never gotten along so swimmingly well, they said. They mentioned as proof about how cross-party talks occur frequently behind the scenes – an uncommon occurence in the past.

Goh added that no singular platform for the Opposition is necessary, and avoiding three-cornered fights is a sufficient form of cooperation. Diversity is good, he said.

But given the similar ideologies and outlook of these political parties, I am surprised more isn’t done to promote common causes between them. Lower ministerial pay, greater civil liberties and political freedom, a stronger social safety net, and greater transparency in governance – these are pillars around which a common platform can arise.

Perhaps a flexible arrangement that takes into account the differences in the factions while spelling out the similarities would work. Putting up a common, broad manifesto would be a good first step. Establishing cross-party research teams to develop alternative policies is a possibility, and so are issuing joint press releases to denounce certain government policies as the situation calls for it.

These small, but workable ideas could help convince a skeptical electorate that the Opposition is worth voting for. When all the streams flow as one river, you hear the deafening rush of water.

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

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HDB’s housing policy skewered at townhall meeting between opposition party leaders and ordinary Singaporeans.

By Terence Lee

What Mah Bow Tan would have said

We can be sure the minister would put up a spirited defense for HDB if he was there. Looks like imagination will suffice. Below is a summary of what he probably would have said:

HDB has good reason to resort to market-based pricing.
“A cost-based system means that the same price would be charged for different flats in the same project, regardless of their location, floor, direction, and other attributes. It would be unfair for the buyer of a second-floor unit to be charged the same price as a 40th-floor unit with an unblocked view, because the latter would clearly fetch a much higher resale value.”

HDB’s financial reports show that the housing agency has been losing money.
“Some have contended that with the market-minus pricing, the HDB is making money from Singaporeans. This is quite wrong. Every year, the HDB publishes its audited financial accounts. In these accounts, the HDB’s proceeds from the sale of new flats are shown to be far below what it costs the HDB to build them. Over the last three years, the average loss on the sale and development of HDB flats was about $600 million a year.”

HDB flats are affordable.
“Whichever objective measure we choose, it is clear that there are enough HDB flats within reach of today’s homebuyers. They range from smaller, no-frills flats in non-mature estates to premium flats in mature estates, catering for different aspirations and budgets (see table above). I hope buyers choose carefully, taking into account their budgets and aspirations. Housing affordability is decided not just by the options offered by HDB but also the choices of homebuyers.”

For deeper reading

If you want to understand the issue better.

Pricing flats according to their value. By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Are HDB flats affordable? By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 1. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 2. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

HDB Annual Report : Deficit has doubled – really? By Leong Sze Hian for The Online Citizen.

IF THE Housing Development Board (HDB) was a lady, then she must have felt dejected. Opposition party leaders let rip yesterday at the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) for over two hours, with the HDB bearing much of the criticism.

Curious timing indeed, considering how National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan was just recently left out of the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee for obscure reasons.

Exciting theatre might have resulted if he, or at least a Member of Parliament (MP), was there to defend her. But while one MP did express interest in attending, he was “unable to seek clearance”, said Mr Choo Zheng Xi, co-founder of The Online Citizen, the current affairs website that organised the event.

Not to say that the meeting, dubbed the “political event of the year”, wasn’t exciting enough. Turn by turn, opposition leaders lampooned the government in response to a question from the floor on HDB pricing.

More transparency, please

Mr Chiam See Tong (Singapore People’s Party), Dr Chee Soon Juan (Singapore Democratic Party), and Mr Chia Ti Lik (Socialist Front) expressed concern about the apparent lack of transparency in the government outfit’s financial accounting.

“We need to make sure that the HDB remains a zero-profit venture,” said Chee, adding that this can be achieved if they reveal the exact breakdown of development costs for HDB flats.

Chiam, an old stalwart of the opposition force, was more biting in his criticism.

Wary of what he calls “paper subsidies” issued by the government, he illustrated how the HDB prices flats at $3 when it is in fact worth only $1. They then sell the flat to Singaporeans at $2.50, calling that a discount.

“We’ve all been hoodwinked to believe that the govt is helping them with housing but actually they are not,” he warned.

Another common criticism raised by the opposition leaders was the supposed lack of foresight by the HDB, which led to the rapid rise in resale flat prices earlier this year.

Said Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam (Reform Party), who graduated with Double First Class Honours from Cambridge University: “They’ve done a poor job of managing supply. Over the last ten years, house-building has tapered off while population has grown enormously.”

The government’s immigration policy, which saw a massive influx of foreign workers and expatriates into the nation, was a major factor in the population growth, charged Mr Gerald Giam (Worker’s Party).

Offering solutions

In order to mitigate the high costs of flats and make them more affordable for Singaporeans, Giam advocated that these apartments should be fully paid with a 20-year housing loan instead of the usual 30.

“The price of new HDB flats should also be pegged to the median income of Singaporeans rather than price of surrounding flats,” he said.

More solutions were offered by the other political parties, although insufficient time was devoted to explaining these alternatives in great detail. The audience, consequently, were left with little chance to consider whether these policies were half-baked or solid.

Chia, for one, promoted the idea of create a separate category of flats for young couples and needy Singaporeans which has a lower price scale and a shorter lease period which further drives down costs.

Jeyaretnam, on the other hand, saw merit in allowing residents to own their flats indefinitely so that they can enjoy the profits reaped from rising property values. But Mr Goh Meng Seng (National Solidarity Party) does not favour this approach.

“You do not use home as investment; you use your property as an investment,” he said.

In addition, Goh added that couples applying for resale flats should not receive housing grants because such practices inadvertently raise prices by fueling demand.

Implementing something like that though could be tricky, considering how unpopular such a policy might become. But he is undeterred, believing that politicians are responsible for selling difficult measures to the skeptical masses.

Giam agreed that unpopular policies are usually flawed ones.

“The government’s immigration policy was bad, but they had this dogma that they must bulldoze an unpopular policy through Parliament. They did not consider that if many people voice out, then it may be wrong,” he said.

Do share with us whether you agree with the Opposition’s proposals on lowering HDB flat prices.

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