Tag Archive | "SDP"

S’poreans react to PAP Lawrence Wong launching personal attack on SDP Chee Soon Juan on TV

S’poreans react to PAP Lawrence Wong launching personal attack on SDP Chee Soon Juan on TV

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Three thoughts that must have went past your mind at some point.

chee-soon-juan-lawrence-wong

PAP minister Lawrence Wong launched a personal attack on SDP’s Chee Soon Juan during a televised Channel News Asia policy forum debate on Sept. 1, 2015, featuring various political party representatives.

According to Chee, Wong cited a matter that happened 20 years ago as a way to continue the PAP’s tactic of character-assassination.

Here are three thoughts Singaporeans have:

 

sian-half-auntie “At least Chee Soon Juan is happily married and not a divorcee.”
Lee Hun, 45-year-old marriage counsellor

 

sian-half-uncle “I would watch a debate where various politicians personally attacked one another for one hour straight as it will allow me to better know who I am voting for.”
Jiang Bie Ren, 62-year-old undercover police

 

happy-bird-girl “Once again, the PAP prove they don’t need a credible opposition to discredit them.”
Mei Xin Xing, 19-year-old faith healer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 











Opposition icon SDP shocked to be featured in TNP

Opposition icon SDP shocked to be featured in TNP

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This is after Fandi is shocked to be featured on SDP website.

tnp-sdp

The New Paper has decided to feature one of Singapore’s most famous opposition political parties – the Singapore Democratic Party – to promote its shit-stirring brand of writing.

This occurred after SDP had recently featured ex-footballers Fandi Ahmad, 50, and Terry Pathmanathan, 57 to promote its pro-Singaporean policies, who said they were shocked to learn that they had been featured on the SDP website.

sdp-fandi

In turn, the SDP said they had no idea they were featured by TNP and are a bit shocked.

An anonymous SDP supporter said: “I’m taken aback TNP is using SDP as an example to (convey) their own shit-stirring message.”

GE results

GE results

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Find out the election results here, as well as who your MPs will be. Map updates will lag.

2011: PAP: 60.1%, Opposition: 39.9%

2006: PAP: 66.7%, Opposition: 33.3%


View Larger Map

White: Constituency goes to PAP

Blue: Constituency goes to Opposition

Update:

2.49am – PAP wins Potong Pasir at 50.36% while SPP garnered 49.64% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 81, Opposition – 6

2.21am – PAP wins Jurong GRC at 66.96% while NSP garnered 33.04% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 80, Opposition – 6

2.10am – WP wins Aljunied GRC at 54.71% while WP garnered 45.29% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 75, Opposition – 6

2.03am – PAP wins Choa Chu Kang GRC at 61.20% while NSP garnered 38.80% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 75, Opposition – 1

2.03am – PAP wins Holland-Bukit Timah GRC at 60.10% while SDP garnered 39.90% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 70, Opposition – 1

1.56am – PAP wins Nee Soon GRC at 58.56% while WP garnered 41.61% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 66, Opposition – 1

1.54am – PAP wins Sembawang GRC at 63.89% while SDP garnered 36.11% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 61, Opposition – 1

1.48am – PAP wins Pioneer SMC at 60.73% while NSP garnered 39.27% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 56, Opposition – 1

1.45am – PAP wins East Coast GRC at 54.83% while WP garnered 45.17% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 55, Opposition – 1

1.38am – PAP wins Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC at 56.94% while SPP garnered 43.06% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 50, Opposition – 1

1.34am – PAP wins Punggol East SMC at 54.53%, WP garnered 41.02% of the votes, while SDA got 4.45% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 45, WP – 1

1.28am – PAP wins Ang Mo Kio GRC at 69.33% while RP garnered 30.67% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 44, Opposition – 1

1.22am – PAP wins Sengkang West SMC at 58.08% while WP garnered 41.92% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 38, Opposition – 1

1.19am – PAP wins Yuhua SMC at 66.87% while SDP garnered 33.13% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 37, Opposition – 1

1.12am – PAP wins West Coast GRC at 66.57% while RP garnered 33.43% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 36, Opposition – 1

1.04am – PAP wins Hong Kah North SMC at 70.61% while SPP garnered 29.39% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 31, Opposition – 1

1.04am – PAP wins Tampines GRC at 57.22% while NSP garnered 42.78% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 30, Opposition – 1

12.58am – PAP wins Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC at 64.79% while SDA garnered 35.21% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 25, Opposition – 1

12.56am – WP wins Hougang SMC at 64.81% while PAP garnered 35.19% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 19, Opposition – 1

12.53am – PAP wins Marine Parade GRC at 56.65% while NSP garnered 43.35% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 19, Opposition – 0

12.44am – PAP wins Joo Chiat SMC at 51.01% while WP garnered 48.99% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 14, Opposition – 0

12.30am – PAP wins Moulmein-Kallang GRC at 58.56% while WP garnered 41.44% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 13, Opposition – 0

12.27am – Strong win expected for PAP at Sembawang GRC.

12.10am – PAP wins Whampoa SMC at 66.11% while NSP garnered 32.89% of the votes. Seats won: PAP – 9, Opposition – 0

12.07am – PAP wins Radin Mas SMC at 67.11% while NSP garnered 32.89% of the votes.

12.04am – PAP wins Bukit Panjang SMC at 66.26% while NSP garnered 33.74% of the votes.

12am – PAP wins Mountbatten SMC at 58.65% while NSP garnered 41.35% of the votes.

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Singapore Democratic Party sends mixed message

Singapore Democratic Party sends mixed message

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The usually gung-ho opposition party loses its teeth over candidate Vincent Wijeysingha, who could possibly be the first gay MP in Singapore.

By Terence Lee

Dr Vivian and team’s press statement

A video has been posted on the internet showing Vincent Wijeysingha participating at a forum which discussed the promotion of the gay cause in Singapore.

The discussion at the forum also touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age.

In the video, Wijeysingha was introduced as being from the SDP.

In addition to other comments, Wijeysingha stated: “I think the gay community has to rally ourselves. Perhaps one outcome of today’s forum would be, for those of us who are interested, to come together to further consider how we can address the 377 issue as well as further rights issues in relation to gays and lesbians.”

We believe that candidates should be upfront about their political agenda and motives, so that voters are able to make an informed choice.

The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation. That is a matter for him.

The video raises the question on whether Wijeysingha will now pursue this cause in the political arena and what is the SDP’s position on the matter.

LET’S be honest: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan is a shrewd tactician.

Conscious of the fact that many Singaporeans still frown upon homosexuality (see survey by NTU), he questions the motives of the SDP and especially its openly-gay candidate Vincent Wijeysingha, who is leading a team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC against Dr Vivian.

Although liberal-leaning Singaporeans may be disgusted by this assault, there is a segment of Singaporeans who would resonate with it. These voters would be uncomfortable with having a gay MP in Parliament, and they would not overlook his sexual orientation, no matter how brilliant or articulate he proves to be.

Even the SDP knows this.

In a video response to Dr Vivian’s insinuations, SDP Secretary General Chee Soon Juan tried to downplay his party’s liberal stance on homosexuality.

“We are not pursuing the gay agenda and none of our MPs will,” he says at the beginning of the video, and repeats himself near the end: “Will the SDP pursue the gay cause? I answer forthrightly and without equivocation: No.”

He then turns the tables on Dr Vivian, daring him to be transparent about the passe issue of inflated spending during the Youth Olympic Games’ inflated spending. Red herring anyone?

Backed into a corner, the SDP seemed like it was forced to come up with a hasty, half-baked response. And it almost felt like they were outright denying their past support of the Repeal 377A movement. Trails of their previous anti-homophobia campaigns however, are still evident online.

This raises the question: If Vincent does get into Parliament, can he truly guarantee that he will not back the abolishment of the discriminatory law? And if he does support the repeal of 377A, wouldn’t that, in the minds of voters, contradict the statement Chee Soon Juan made?

On hindsight, SDP would have done better by acknowledging their support for gay rights, while at the same time emphasising that they are a political party for all Singaporeans.

The party’s response is a symptom of the identity crisis they are facing, a problem highlighted by media professor Cherian George, blogger Alex Au, and Straits Times journalist Tessa Wong. The SDP of the past has been admired for their loud, stubborn support towards issues it cares about, a stark contrast to the chameleonic tendencies of the Worker’s Party.

Yet recently, they have taken a more pragmatic stance, emphasising bread and butter issues over civil liberties.

Dr Vivian seems heartily aware of this schizophrenia, judging by his remark that Vincent’s team are “strange bedfellows”, since it is a marriage of a left-leaning social worker (Vincent) with a former civil servant (Tan Jee Say) and a psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan, a Christian.

Smelling blood, he struck first, attempting a kill before the opposition party could release their election manifesto.

Whether it will become a major electoral issue in the GRC going forward depends on how Dr Vivian, the SDP, and the media respond to this issue in the coming days.

Much also depends on the voting bloc Dr Vivian is counting on, and if they will succumb to the politics of fear: Fear that a homosexual who makes it into Parliament will not represent the interests of the electorate, and fear that a repeal of 377A will lead to the end of the world and the collapse of civilisation as we know it.

And for those who resist his tactics, is their disgust enough to sway them from the PAP vote?

So here’s where the SDP has to make a decision: Either appeal to the same segment of voters Dr Vivian is wooing, or stay the course, state their convictions, and give these voters the benefit of the doubt. Because in the long run, the SDP could become the party of choice.

Dr Vivian may be a shrewd tactician, but he’s certainly not winning the moral war. The ground is shifting beneath our feet: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who is cool with gay MPs, believes acceptance of homosexuality will grow.

In the book Hard Truths, he says: “Homosexuality will eventually be accepted. It’s already accepted in China. It’s a matter of time before it’s accepted here.”

And when that day comes, let’s see how history will remember Mister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Whose coattails would you ride on?

Whose coattails would you ride on?

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If you could be fielded in a 5-person GRC team and given the choice to pick any candidate from any of the opposition parties to be your running mates, what would your dream team look like?

OR TO put it in a more vulgar way, on whose coattails would you want to ride on?

Guess what? All three editors at New Nation have unanimously picked Singapore Democratic Party’s Vincent Wijeysingha and God, erm, no.. I mean, Workers’ Party’s Chen Show Mao as part of their dream teams.

Explanation of choices follows.

Fang Shihan’s 5-person GRC Dream Team:
1. Sylvia Lim (Workers’ Party)
2. Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party)
3. Vincent Wijeysingha (Singapore Democratic Party)
4. Gerald Giam (Workers’ Party)
5. Fang Shihan

Shihan’s explanation: Sylvia’s awesome because as an Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, she’s proven her vocal worth by saying sufficiently smart and important things in parliament. The specific substance of it doesn’t matter actually, nor does her political stance.

Because people like me will vote for her, and whatever team she’s leading, simply because she symbolises ‘a credible challenge to the incumbent’.

You know, like how it is a matter of posturing? It’s like people playing mahjong for the first time, who don’t really know the specifics of the game, but they know when they get a damn powerful set and it’s time to follow through to finish it?

So, it’ll be Sylvia leading the pack, together with Chen Show Mao, Dr. Vincent for the minority, and Gerald Giam. Yes, egos may clash and Vincent may feel out of place compared to the hammers, but hey, he being the best minority candidate now.

You could say I’d have four coattails to ride on, but in reality, it’s only the leader that counts. The leader is the face of the GRC team. Sylvia’s an alpha female, has whopped the garhmen’s arse in parliament and lived to tell the tale (unlike, ahem, Viswa), and is relatively good-looking. We’ve satisfied the lesbian population, the anti-PAP ra-ra sector and also anyone who’s superficial.

That more than covers a large voter base.

Conclusion: Shihan is a closeted Workers’ Party supporter. She doesn’t even bother to explain why she chose Gerald Giam. Gerald Giam… just because. Furthermore, she might also be a progressive at heart. Or, somewhat queer.

——————

Terence Lee’s 5-person GRC Dream Team:
1. Sylvia Lim (Workers’ Party)
2. Low Thia Khiang (Workers’ Party)
3. Vincent Wijeysingha (Singapore Democratic Party)
4. Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party)
5. Terence Lee

Terence’s explanation: For me, experience comes first. On this count, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang come to mind.

Sylvia has served one term as an NCMP and she appeals to the younger, English-speaking crowd. Low has been an MP since 1991. Plus, his Teochew is second to none, and older folk respond to that. Both are relatively young, and pretty sharp.

If this was the 2006 elections, I’d want Chiam See Tong. But after hearing him speak in person recently, I’m not impressed. He has lost a step. And he doesn’t seem as sharp anymore. A team, in my view, must also have longevity, which means I want the team to stay intact not only in this elections, but the next. So no, I don’t want him on my team.

I must confess something: I like the Singapore Democratic Party. No, not the old, slogan-chanting, placard-waving SDP of the Chee Soon Juan mould, but the new SDP featuring Danny the Democratic Bear. Policy-wise, SDP actually has really solid proposals. They have a Shadow Budget that tells us how they hope to fund their policy proposals, something that WP has failed to do.

I also like the fact that they are a principled and loud party who would stand up for the values even if it costs them in the short-run. A perfect complement to the WP’s pragmatic, quiet approach. WP is the yin to SDP’s yang. But I have an issue with Chee Soon Juan’s confrontational style. It’s off-putting, repulsive, and quite alien. Plus, Singaporeans remember him for all the wrong reasons.

So, therefore, I really like Dr Vincent Wijeysingha. He might be confrontational too, but he’s milder than Chee Soon Juan. I was impressed by the way he stood up to Tharman, rebutting him not just with platitudes, but arguments backed by actual figures at the Channel News Asia debate forum. He’d make a fine Parliamentarian, and furthermore, he’s openly gay (minority voice!). He’ll be a fine addition to my team.

Finally, since Singaporeans are such paper-chasers, we need a candidate with credentials so impressive that it would cause Tin Pei Ling et al. to shit in their pants and wallow in self-pity. More importantly, Singaporeans will swoon over him in no time.

That man is Chen Show Mao. Check this out: He graduated from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, and has tremendous experience in international securities offerings and merger and acquisitions. Here’s more namedropping from his law firm’s website:

“In capital markets, Mr Chen advised the Agricultural Bank of China on its recent $22 billion IPO, which is the largest by an Asian issuer, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) on its $21 billion IPO, which is the second-largest IPO ever, and the first global offering that involved a concurrent listing in China. He also advised Sinochem on the largest-ever international debt offering by a Chinese company and the underwriters for China Unicom in the largest-ever international convertible bond offering by a Chinese company. Mr Chen completed the global initial public offerings of Air China, China Construction Bank, MCC, Sinoma, Sinopec, Unicom and others.”

I sure as hell don’t know what the paragraph is talking about, but count me into the Cult of Show Mao. He not only had a good career, but he’s eloquent too, judging by the interviews and soundbites he has given to the media. He’s cool as blue.

Conclusion: Terence might also be a closeted Workers’ Party supporter given that three out of five choices are from WP. He should also be forgiven for favouring flair but it is obvious that Low, Lim, Chen and Wijeysingha are hot, hot, hot. They have seared themselves into many people’s brains.

———–

Belmont Lay’s 5-person GRC Dream Team:
1. Sebastian Teo (National Solidarity Party)
2. Tony Tan or Hazel Poa (National Solidarity Party)
3. Vincent Wijeysingha (Singapore Democratic Party)
4. Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party)
5. Belmont Lay

Belmont’s explanation: I doubt many people have heard of Sebastian Teo of the NSP. But from what I gather, he is a fluent speaker of Mandarin, Teochew and Hokkien. His demeanor puts heartlander folks at ease and he has worked the ground very, very hard the past few years doing his rounds and meeting the people face-to-face.

This is old-school politics and I like that style. And best of all, Sebby has a MBA from NUS! He is a self-made man, therefore, I approve.

Now, look: As a bargain-hunting Singaporean, what more can you ask for if you had EITHER Tony Tan or Hazel Poa in parliament? Tony and Hazel are a husband-and-wife team. Wherever one goes, the other will be right behind. Even if just one of them becomes an MP, I can be assured that taxpayers will be getting two MPs for the price of one.

Tony’s got a problem dealing with the figures of a new policy? No worries. We have a numerate Hazel to look through the numbers. Oh, you mean Hazel’s got a draft that needs some editing and needs another pair of eyes on it? Tony’s right on it.

Even Groupon.com can’t beat this deal, you know (Terence’s note: Belmont missed out on the fact that Nicole would be on this team, since they are a couple. What a bargain!).

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha. Ah… It’s always good to know that someone was a social worker. He would have seen a side of life not many people can even come to terms with. This parliament needs someone who is burdened by the problems of the poor and needy.

Lastly, I would definitely want God, erm no I mean, Chen Show Mao to be on my side. Chen has a statesman-like demeanour as he is someone who has been at the highest echelons of the corporate world, unlike say, someone who used to serve in the SAF.

And the last time I checked, he has more credentials than Tin Pei Ling has handbags.

And imagine if Chen wasn’t denied entry into medical school last time. Then he would have served National Service for real and be a doctor who would continue to serve the people. This is unlike some doctors who never served NS and still want to enter parliament.

I would prostrate myself in His presence, erm I mean, I would have a lot to learn from Him, erm no, I mean, Chen.

Conclusion: Belmont is a typical cheap bastard who is also god-fearing, no erm.. pragmatic and politically astute in his choices. His choices may appear wide-ranging, but he is a National Solidarity Party supporter.

Who would you pick? Join this Facebook poll!

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Finance minister and Singapore Democratic Party come out winners in political debate

Finance minister and Singapore Democratic Party come out winners in political debate

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Worker’s Party played it safe, Lina fumbled, and what’s-his-name was plain horrible. And yes, the moderator said “Domination Day” instead of “Nomination Day.”

By Terence Lee

BEWARE, the gods may not be smiling on certain opposition parties this General Election, especially if the slip-up by moderator Melissa Hyak towards the end of the one-hour debate is any indication.

Some conspiracy theorists will insist that this was a deliberate attempt to “prove” the show was uncut, but let’s not go there.

The debate, screened on Saturday on Channel NewsAsia, lasted an hour, which was way too short for me. Candidates rattled off their points quickly, racing one another in a sprint to the finish line. It makes for fun TV, but a good substantive debate? I don’t think so.

But in all honesty, I think the extra time might actually hurt some of the opposition reps. Mohamed Nazem Suki, assistant secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), was a total embarrassment.

Unable to string together even a coherent sentence or two, you wonder how is what’s-his-name going to perform at the Rally or in Parliament, if he does get in by the slimmest chance?

Right now, I can’t even recall a single thing he said, and if I am a young voter getting introduced to the SDA for the first time, that’s a bad first impression.

Let’s hope he speaks better Malay.

Lina Chiam of the Singapore People’s Party emerged slightly better-off. The bad news is: She behaved like a slightly older Tin Pei Ling, the 27-year-old rookie PAP politician poked fun by netizens for her youthful exuberance.

Except that Pei Ling had more style, fashion-wise.

She often giggled nervously and sounded unsure, and there was even once where she appeared confused and zoned out. Melissa had to prompt her twice or thrice about the question of foreign workers before she rattled off a semi-coherent answer.

And God forbid, she attributed the quote “power corrupts absolutely” to her husband. Epic fail there.

To be fair to Lina: She did say some good things. But she needs a lot of polishing up if she wants to convince voters in Potong Pasir that she is a credible candidate.

Member-of-Parliament Josephine Teo comes across as being too… nice. While she has sure knowledge of the facts, she sounded like she was there to back Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam instead of standing on her own two feet.

Although she did okay at the beginning, she wasted her last two minutes of airtime going on a self-indulgent, off-topic ramble about the Singapore Story, and how it is co-authored by many people. Vincent Wijeysingha, assistant treasurer of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), questioned her assertion later on, remarking on how scores of opposition figures and activists were silenced unfairly.

As long as Vincent and Danny the Democratic Bear continue their outreach during the elections and after, I think SDP’s chances at the voting booth in this Election and the next will improve.

In a nutshell, Josephine might’ve been slaughtered if Tharman was not there.

On to Gerald Giam, a potential candidate for the Worker’s Party. True to form, he sounded like a foot soldier espousing the mantra of his party, starting every sentence with “The Worker’s Party believes that…”

I don’t think it’s awful; it’s just too safe. Which is what the Worker’s Party has become since Low Thia Khiang took the helm. Although he was calm and confident at the debate, much like Josephine, he could have spent more time talking about his party’s proposals on policy issues.

No doubt, he was right in saying that good Opposition is necessary in Parliament, but he seemed to have fallen back on that again and again, as if he had nothing else to say. Furthermore, he did not press home the point that despite having 33 percent of the votes, the Opposition only has three seats in Parliament.

I was also a bit surprised that he stopped his final ramble at the one-minute mark. Perhaps he felt he has done his job: Present Worker’s Party as a safe choice for voters. And by the way: We’re weaker than the People’s Action Party, we admit it.

Finally, we come to Tharman and Vincent. If I am the CEO of MediaCorp, I would allocate another one hour-show just for the two to slug it out, seriously.

While Vincent was the assertive bulldog raring for a fight, Tharman was the self-assured minister who appeared comfortable but not overbearing. He displayed some subtle command over the other candidates, exhorting everyone to think in Singapore’s best interest when it came to the issue of foreign workers. He reached out across the table to Gerald at times, praising the Worker’s Party for their views on increasing productivity.

He did not address criticisms about ministerial salary and legal prosecution of Opposition members, but I’m not sure if it matters to most viewers. For the politically-disinclined, these things might just pass over their heads.

But Vincent will be the one to watch. He sounded eloquent and quick-witted. He was enthusiastic, and even promoted SDP’s Shadow Budget while criticising the mainstream media, all at the same time.

He even found time to raise the issue of exorbitant ministerial salaries at least twice, but the PAP reps have totally ignored that.

Sure, the SDP cried foul over how the debate was unfair because candidates who are not contesting are not allowed to speak. This meant that Dr Chee Soon Juan, who declared bankrupt, cannot appear at the forum.

But surely they realise that putting a fresh face on television will take the party one step closer towards rehabilitating their image in the eyes of the populace, especially how Soon Juan has been demonised by the media?

As long as Vincent and Danny the Democratic Bear continue their outreach during the elections and after, I think SDP’s chances at the voting booth in this Election and the next will improve.

For a summary of the key debates, click here.

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.

Yes, we (look like we) can

Yes, we (look like we) can

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Will the image of a Singapore politician change in the next General Elections?

By Justin Zhuang

A WEEK after a bear was sighted at Ulu Pandan, another bear was out on the loose at Bukit Panjang. This time around, no one panicked when they saw it – some stopped to take pictures, while children even went up to touch this brown bear.

Unlike the earlier sighting that turned out to be a publicity stunt for Philips Electronics gone wrong, this one got the right attention and seemingly done the impossible: getting Singaporeans to openly embrace the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) – in the form of their new mascot, Danny the Democracy Bear.

Photos: SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Two years ago, in the place of Danny would have been the political party’s secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan, who instead of wearing a cute red t-shirt printed with ‘I ♥ SDP’ would have had one hand painted in angst with ‘Democracy Now’.

But like the Ulu Pandan ‘bear sighting’, this old image of SDP only attracted the attention of the authorities to hunt them down, and made Singaporeans hysterical.

Danny the mascot marks a change in strategy for SDP.

Once notorious in the eyes of the public for being a nuisance through its campaign of civil disobedience in the last decade, it seems the SDP now wants to win over the electorate by replacing its fiery brand of politics with something more friendly and fuzzy instead.

Such ‘branding’ of politics is hardly a recent phenomenon, but it’s something less talked about in public as most politician would rather stick to their policies and programs.

In the 2008 US presidential elections, however, it came to the forefront with Barack Obama’s successful campaign that showed how branding, graphic design, and popular culture could propel a relative newcomer like him to victory.

Since then, much has been written about how Obama successfully cultivated his branding and projecting an image down to the right font that sold himself to becoming the President of America.

In Singapore, the tight laws and regulations governing political expression have restricted the marketing efforts of political parties, which have been rudimentary at best.

One of the most successful ones is the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) white-on-white uniform that became iconic when a recent history book about the party was titled, “Men In White”.

Men in White, 1988. Picture: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

This uniform with a party pin instantly bestows any wearer the status of a PAP member and its associated symbols of purity and integrity. In recent years, other parties have also put in similar efforts to cloth themselves in their party brand.

The Workers’ Party (WP) goes with light blue shirts in line with its history of standing up for blue-collared workers, while members of one of the newest parties, The Reform Party, are often seen wearing yellow shirts.

Other efforts to brand a party have turned up in pins, newsletters and posters, though its quality varies vastly.

For instance, when one looks through the archival collection of election posters over the last four decades, one can see why the PAP has been so successful in elections.

Most parties have been contented with plastering their posters with their candidate’s photo and name, the party’s logo and name (often in all four official languages), and even a plea to ‘Vote for…’.

People's Action Party, 1980. Pictures: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

Worker's Party, 1980.

In contrast, the PAP’s posters look disciplined, clear, and distinct. The party has also consciously designed its campaign posters, juxtaposing images and text to visually communicate its slogan and messages.

One reason for such professionally designed materials is probably how much resources the PAP has access to, although one also has to take into account that election rules limit the budget for each candidate.

PAP, 1980.

PAP, 2006

PAP, 1988. Pictures: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

But, of course, a poster alone cannot win you an election. If it did, the 1980s election posters of then WP’s J.B. Jeyaretnam were not deserving graphically to break the PAP’s monopoly of Parliament.

Neither were the SDP’s posters of 1991; the year when the party helped the opposition win the most number of seats since 1963. It wasn’t visually attractive materials that helped these two politicians win a seat in Parliament, but it certainly mattered how the public saw them.

The late Jeyaretnam with his fiery rhetoric was seen by many as a symbol of the ordinary man’s rage against the PAP machine, winning him two successful election victories.

A much more lasting image appeared in the 1991 elections in the form of then SDP’s secretary-general Chiam See Tong.

His party won three seats that year as Chiam had successfully sold himself in the previous elections and won it for the first time. His character and style showed how politics could be quiet and gentle, in contrast to the fiery battles between Jeyaretnam and PAP’s Lee Kuan Yew, winning over a new generation of voters.

SDP, 1984. Picture: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE.

This heralded the arrival of the new image of a Singapore politician, including the likes of WP’s Low Thia Khiang and PAP’s new leader Goh Chok Tong.

In the 1991 elections, Goh tried unsuccessfully to re-brand the party, promising a ‘open and consultative style of government’, but they still lost an unprecedented number of seats.

Perhaps, the no-nonsense politics of Goh’s predecessor was still synonymous with the PAP in the voters’ eyes. Proof that this new image of the Singapore politician was established can be seen in the fortunes of SDP since the 1997 elections.

By then, Chiam had left the party after falling out with his protege, Dr Chee. While Chiam went on to start the Singapore Peoples’ Party and continued his reign in Potong Pasir in the last decade, SDP went down the route of civil disobedience under Chee and has yet to receive popular support.

But it can be argued that the SDP has been the most innovative political party under Dr Chee. Beside cuddly bears and demonstrations, it was the first party to put up Internet podcasts before it was found to contravene elections rules. Now it publishes regularly on its website, Facebook and even produce its own videos.

The SDP has successfully caught the attention of the public, but translating it into votes and projecting the ‘right’ image of itself has been more difficult.

So what will be the image of a winning politician in the next general elections? With a Singapore electorate that is more cosmopolitan and sophisticated, it is no longer enough for a party to do nothing to take care of its ‘image’ but to build upon it.

As compared to Obama’s campaign, the political parties in Singapore have taken a very conservative view of branding and marketing themselves, if they even bothered at all.

They’ve stuck to the politics and kept it straight, and perhaps rightly so. After the 2006 elections, the PAP tried to engage the new generation of voters with its ‘P65’ Members of Parliament.

Born after independence, this new slate of MPs were supposed to be cooler, and they tried to hip-hop and blog their way to the hearts of Singaporean youths. Probably because it was an establishment project, it was an ‘epic fail’. The P65 blog has since been revamped and the P65 tag is less used now.

So will SDP and its Danny the Democracy Bear tank too? Will the electorate see it as a gimmick and even a joke? And can the image of a raging Dr Chee ever be replaced by a fuzzy bear?

Photo: M LEE

After the last two decades, the quiet and gentle politician may no longer be enough to engage an increasingly apathetic electorate.

Obama’s win has shown that a new generation is waiting to be roused, entertained, and even educated – if you’ve got the style. This is something that is missing in our politics here today.

It’s no longer just about substance, but in our image world today, you have to look like you have it too.

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.

Party pooper on Thursday, still timely on Saturday

Party pooper on Thursday, still timely on Saturday

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What has an unlikely encounter with SDP man James Gomez got to do with what New Nation is about?

By Belmont Lay

JUST THE other day I bumped into James Gomez at a mall restroom in Farrer Park. This was on a Thursday while coincidentally on my way to the first-ever editorial discussion with the New Nation team.

I have never met the man in the flesh before. But I recognised him. Enough for me to promptly violate all male toilet etiquette by striking up a prolonged conversation.

An academic discussion about the press, public relations (his forte), social enterprises and the shortest possible route to Boat Quay were preceded by the usual what gives, the weather and what you doing this General Election.

All under 30 minutes and on the way from lavatory to the MRT station.

Not too bad for two people who have never met before.

Shortly after, we shook hands (which were already washed), wished each other all the best and went our separate ways.

And here’s the kicker: What was a foregone conclusion to me at that time – that Gomez was going to be a member of the Singapore Democratic Party – turned out to be news to the rest of the country only three days later.

The “if onlys” have culminated into a publication about giving you some fresh kicks from sources in the know and letting you on to what you can’t seem to find in the mainstream press – yet or never.

The public announcement about his SDP membership at the party’s pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park that Saturday was reported by the mainstream media only on Sunday.

And here’s the point of this missive: You wouldn’t have had to wait till Sunday for that piece of news. I could have told you so on Thursday. And I would have been a party pooper.

Or I could have waited till Saturday evening, and I would still have been timelier — with better, quotable quotes. It would have been a scoop.

But it wasn’t. The news didn’t reach the public until Sunday and it was hardly timely as there was no where to put the news out.

If only there was an outlet, if only bottom-up news and views could be credibly reported, if only there was an initiative and if only…

So this is what New Nation is about. The “if onlys” have culminated into a publication about giving you some fresh kicks from sources in the know and letting you on to what you can’t seem to find in the mainstream press – yet or never.

It is not exactly alternative press either. Or anti-establishment.

And God forbid should it actually become the much hackneyed “citizen journalism” – a noun that has been so loosely thrown around it has become an adjective to be used for purely descriptive purposes. Like how fresh sushi is described as “unctuous” or a salad as “crisp”.

What it shall be is a platform dedicated to bottom-up news and views. It will be helmed by young people who are staking a claim in wanting to be heard in this country.

With a bit of boundless energy to spare and a keen eye strained on current affairs, we are going to prove that being critical, insightful and not anonymous will lead to sources in the know for the purposes of news gathering and analysis.

So the next time, New Nation shall be world-ready. And coincidence-ready.

The next restroom conversation might just result in me running back excitedly to my keyboard to type: “Mah Bow Tan said the breakdown cost of building HDB flats is…”

Maybe the next time you wouldn’t have to wait till Sunday. Or better still, never have to wait for never.

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