Tag Archive | "WP"

PAP Hougang candidate Desmond Choo blames Diablo 3 for poor rally turnout

PAP Hougang candidate Desmond Choo blames Diablo 3 for poor rally turnout

Tags: , , , , ,


By Olbaid Tan

Fresh from his first by-election rally in Hougang, which had a disappointing turnout estimated at less than a thousand, PAP candidate Desmond ‘Baby Face’ Choo seemed calm.

Until he heard the reason why some of his supporters failed to turn up. Prior to the rally, he sent out a mass SMS exhorting his buddies to show up and cheer for him.

They never responded.

Shrugging it off, he went on stage to deliver his speech.

“I’m furious,” he says, showing this reporter his iPhone, “many of my buddies were too busy playing Diablo 3 to bother coming for the rally.” Read the full story

With Yaw expelled, Khaw gloats like a six-year-old

With Yaw expelled, Khaw gloats like a six-year-old

Tags: , , , , ,


The PAP Chairman better watch out, because karma could bite his party in the ass.

By Terence Lee

Khaw exposing himself.

By now, everyone in Singapore would have known that former Member-of-Parliament Yaw Shin Leong has been expelled from the Worker’s Party (unless you’re a self-absorbed Aaron Tan type). A by-election is expected to be called.

The pushback came fast and furious, most notably from the PAP itself. While Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong betrayed a sense of irritation — which I perfectly understand — Khaw’s comments were really the highlight of the evening for me.

They were snide, and ultimately nonsensical.

I quote the Channel NewsAsia article, which attributed this to the PAP Chairman: “voters in Hougang have been misled by the Workers’ Party… once a person enters politics, there is no difference between his or her public and private life.” Read the full story

My wishlist for Singapore politics

My wishlist for Singapore politics

Tags: , , , , , , ,


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.

Why Gerald Giam should be NCMP

Why Gerald Giam should be NCMP

Tags: , , , , , ,


At only 34-years-old, this baby-faced dude has a tremendous upside, and could benefit most from a boost to his profile.

By Terence Lee

Gerald lays the smackdown on the PAP at a rally. Photo: TERENCE LEE

OKAY, fantasy time: If I were to be Worker’s Party boss Low Thia Khiang for a day, who would I pick as Non-constituency Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC?

But before we get into the whole shebang about who to hire or fire, let’s get something out of the way first. I think the tribe of Thor should take up all NCMP seats offered. Here’s the deal: Party chairman Sylvia Lim made a name for herself in Parliament, where she gave a speech criticising the fat salaries of the Ministers.

This speech made it on YouTube and garnered about 100,000 hits, if you combine all the videos together. It gave Chairman Lim some streetcred, and may have helped Team Aljunied snatch the constituency from Georgie and gang. Read the full story

GE results

GE results

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Want to have the blogosphere in your pocket? New Nation has an app for that. Available on the Android Marketplace.

More New Nation content on GE2011 here.

Key debates at Channel NewsAsia’s political forum

Key debates at Channel NewsAsia’s political forum

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Debate centred around economic issues; Opposition wins by a whisker.

By Terence Lee

On GST

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) assistant treasurer Vincent Wijeysingha advocated a zero-rate GST for basic services like food so as to alleviate pressure from lower-income groups.

In response, finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam came out robustly in defense of the GST system, saying that most of the revenue generated from the GST comes from the top 40 percent of Singaporeans. The money collected is then given back to the poor through subsidies and handouts. He says that the poor get more from these handouts than the GST they pay.

On a related note, People’s Action Party (PAP) member-of-parliament Josephine Teo claims that the government’s Inclusive Growth programme would benefit over 20,000 low wage workers.

Vincent’s suggestion sounds interesting but I wonder how robust it is compared to the government’s existing measures? I also have my doubts about whether the PAP’s current policies are sufficient enough to tackle insufficient wages experienced by the poor.

For instance, while Workfare acts as supplementary income for low-wage workers, much of it goes to the CPF instead of to the worker’s pockets. It’s a pity that the idea of minimum wage was not discussed much.

Result: Tie

On income of the poor

Photo: SILAS HWANG / Creative Commons

Vincent highlights a UBS report stating that the purchasing power of Singaporeans is actually comparable to Russia’s, despite being a “first-rate” economy.

Tharman counters by saying that the UBS report is flawed, without going into specifics. He then mentioned that Singapore’s median income is quite high compared to other countries.

Vincent responds by questioning the validity of median income as an indicator for the well-being of the poor. He then criticises the ministers for their million-dollar salaries, a dig that was ignored.

Finally, Tharman assures viewers that the PAP cares for the welfare of the people. He smartly reemphasises the benefits of the GST system and its trickle-down effect from rich to poor.

Result: PAP wins

On housing

Gerald Giam of the Worker’s Party and Vincent both echo the view that the HDB should be non-profit, something that Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan would claim is already the case. Gerald goes on to say that prices of HDB flats should be pegged to the cost of flats and not to the resale and private housing market.

Vincent took another tack on the issue, arguing that HDB prices are too high for the lower-income group because they spend too much money from their retirement funds on housing. That’s why they work until the 70s and 80s. Ownership to the home becomes a form of slavery.

“We’re asset secure but income insecure,” he says.

Neither Tharman nor Josephine addressed Gerald’s point. Responding to Vincent, he says that Singaporeans on average use 23 percent of their income to service their housing mortgage, a figure that hasn’t changed much over the years. However, he does not say how the figure is like for the poor.

The PAP reps’ response to the housing debate was not as concise as the GST and income level issues. Neither Vincent’s nor Gerald’s criticisms were successfully rebutted.

Result: Opposition wins

On foreign workers

Photo: KODOMUT / Creative Commons

There isn’t much disagreement between the political parties here: All admit that productivity must go up, while reliance on foreign workers must go down. While the PAP highlighted existing measures to achieve those aims, the opposition (Vincent especially) was quick to point out that the PAP was slow in realising their mistakes.

Vincent, in a ballsy but effective move, interrupted Melissa at one point and mentioned how the PAP was flawed in its measurement of productivity over the past 27 years.

Indeed, a study by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy indicated that Singapore’s productivity growth has stalled over the years, despite government intervention.

Surely, a sore point for the PAP.

Result: Opposition wins

Other issues

On healthcare, Singapore People’s Party second vice-chairperson Lina Chiam’s assertion about the lack of hospital beds was countered by Tharman’s mention of statistics: Occupancy rate for hospitals is only 85 percent. Of course, this figure should be scrutinised further. Lina went on to say how healthcare costs can be reduced by discouraging medical tourism.

She then goes on a tear by highlighting a smorgasbord of other issues: More critical thinking in schools, better political education for students, more recognition for single mothers. Despite her incoherence, the ideas she mentioned are actually pretty good.

But the bad impression she made negates whatever good things she said.

Vincent, being typically SDP, highlighted exorbitant ministerial salaries and persecution of Opposition figures in the past, although he did not press the point home to the extent where it would challenge entrenched views. These issues were not addressed by Tharman and Josephine, which meant the debate was mainly centred around the economy.

Result: Tie

Final score

PAP: 1; Opposition: 2

I must disclaim that I am effectively pro-opposition. That’s my bias. So I felt the Opposition did better in this debate (whether Singaporeans vote for them is another matter). What’s clear is that Vincent is the star striker amongst them all.

For an assessment of the individual candidate’s performance, click here.

Yes, we (look like we) can

Yes, we (look like we) can

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Ear on the ground: Perspectives on Wikileaks

Ear on the ground: Perspectives on Wikileaks

Tags: , , , ,


New Nation updates you on a hotly-debated issue.

Saturday Night Live, a popular American sketch comedy and variety show, pokes fun at Assange.

TIME MAGAZINE and the Bank of America are just the latest groups to snub Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks.

Although Assange was the reader’s choice to be TIME’s magazine’s Person of the Year, its editors picked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg instead, even though he was ranked a distant 10th.

Bank of America, facing threats that Wikileaks will release confidential files pertaining the bank next year, have decided to stop all payments funneled to the organisation, according to this Financial Times report.

While Assange is undeterred about releasing more documents, claiming to possess a “thermal-nuclear device” that will be released if he feels threatened, he got a taste of his own medicine when court papers detailing how he molested two Swedish girls were leaked.

In Singapore, bloggers, politicians, and writers have been furiously debating about Wikileaks, especially when it came to the effects of its disclosures on international diplomacy:

“I find Wikileaks very interesting because I used to be the foreign service officer writing those notes. I would hate to have some of the notes I wrote released to the public – not because they are bad notes, but because it’s important for diplomats to have confidential discussions with each other… If we come to a stage ewhere we cannot speak frankly, that is when we lose a bit of our edge over other countries; we lose the ability to punch above our weight. But now that it is out, I encourage you to read it because it’s good education on Singapore’s foreign policy.” — Gerald Giam, Executive Council member of the Worker’s Party, at Face to Face

“From an ethics standpoint, do governments and the military have the right to hold information secret? I’m inclined to say ‘yes’ , purely for security reasons. Yet I’m completely aware that the very same mechanisms are also being used to keep other information that ought to be disclosed, secret. Which is why we all love WikiLeaks.” — Marthia Lee, in her personal blog

“Unless governments and higher-level authorities begin conducting their affairs in honest and direct ways, Wikileaks and similarly styled ‘leaks’ via mobile phones, instant camera videos, iPhone scanners and photos will continue exposing ‘truths’, and continue causing upset.” — Lee Wei Fen, on Kent Ridge Common

United PAP, divided Opposition?

United PAP, divided Opposition?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.