Tag Archive | "Potong Pasir"

Mending a broken Potong Pasir

Mending a broken Potong Pasir

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Sitoh Yih Pin remains silent while police try to disperse petitioners in Potong Pasir.

By Fang Shihan

Sitoh Yih Pin has some very large shoes to fill

THE show ain’t over till the fat cat sings. It’s been 3 days since Potong Pasir was lost to PAP man Sitoh Yih Pin and still, the former opposition bastion seethes with indignation. It’s not difficult to see why this would be the case: Sitoh won by a mere 114 votes, or 50.36%.

The winner could have been either party had the 242 spoilt votes been properly cast. Or if the rumors that after including overseas voters, the winning margin was only 79 votes, were true.

Potong Pasir’s split along political loyalties – between the Chiams who’ve served the longtime residents for a good 27 years, and any PAP man who’ll dispense infrastructure upgrades like Santa Claus.

Since the ol’ fort fell, various pages have been set up on Facebook in support of Chiam, including one petition calling for a re-election (http://www.facebook.com/PotongPasirPetition). The petition has nearly 14,000 likes at this point.

Beyond a Facebook page, the organizers have also called for residents to sign a physical petition at Block 108, where Chiam’s Meet the People’s sessions used to be held. This message spread via Facebook as well as SMS.

According to one resident, Tim (not his real name), a crowd of less than 50 people were peacefully gathered outside the office around 630pm on Tuesday. The crowd consisted of residents, former residents and supporters of Chiam who had travelled down to sign the petition.

Yet when he tried looking for the petition, all he saw was a piece of paper was pasted on Chiam’s table, stating that the petition was cancelled for the day.

photo courtesy of Faris Mokhtar of Yahoo News

This was apparently because the police had been visiting the area every half hour, asking the crowd to disperse since 4pm. There was no riot van (the big red one) present but 8 white police vans and a few traffic police motorbikes were spotted.

When New Nation called one of the organisers at 815pm, she denied that the petition was seized, though the campaign was now restricted only to the residents of Potong Pasir. Non-residents were advised not to come down.

Now with the facts established, you’re probably wondering: what’s the fuss about? Elections are over so shouldn’t people move on?

Put it this way. Sitoh Yih Pin is a difficult man to like. Especially if you’ve been a longtime resident of Potong Pasir. After the results were announced, he thanked the residents for giving him a “strong mandate of more than 50%”, and subsequently went on to deride Chiam supporters by saying “for those who didn’t vote for me, please cooperate” in another speech.

No transcripts of these juicy bites can be found so you’ll have to take New Nation Man’s word for it. Because he watches a lot of local TV.

Residents who were present during the 2006 elections would also remember the street lamps that were built, and then left unrepaired when Sitoh lost the battle, leaving in a huff. Even longer-term residents would recall the NTUC supermarket that was yanked from the estate when the constituency fell to Chiam, and the bus services that were discontinued.

If you’ve been in Potong Pasir your whole life, you’d hate the PAP for their discrimination, and you’d worship Chiam for his village chief attitude towards even the most menial of things, like clearing the rubbish with the residents.

But the votes have spoken, and 50.36% of Potong Pasir has voted for Sitoh to be the next chief. The man has some huge shoes to fill, and nearly half the local population to charm over.

For a start, he’ll get some massive street cred by doing his MPS at the ramshackle void deck that Chiam has been using. Then maybe follow up by chillin’ at the hawker centre with a cold beer before overseeing the cleaning of rubbish personally. Unlike other PAP constituencies, merely kissing babies just doesn’t cut it in the former opposition stronghold. Respect must be earned.

If that’s not enough, Sitoh could also extend an olive branch by enlisting Chiam as consultant-at-large. After all, like George Yeo in Aljunied, the man has years of experience running the town and would be an invaluable resource. This could potentially save Sitoh from a lot of embarrassment as Chiam knows what flies in the town (keeping S&C charges low, keeping the kampung spirit, rustic environment and unique identity), and what doesn’t (multi-million dollar shopping centres, promenades and facelifts into facelessness).

More importantly, Sitoh must understand that wounds must be healed. He has not spoken a word since yesterday and one can only assume he’s waiting for the tide to blow over before plonking his ass in town, expecting all to be hunky dory.

The silence sir, is haunting.

Vote for the opposition: PAP will not lose

Vote for the opposition: PAP will not lose

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong needs to have more faith in the political system his dad built.

By Fang Shihan

Like it or not, PM Lee has plenty of supporters. Photo: SINGAPORE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES / Creative Commons

IN HIS dialogue with 12 Singaporeans who supposedly represent various sections of the population, PM Lee remarked, as a reply to a question about having a level political playing field, that it cannot be equal.

He also noted: “If you ask the people in Potong Pasir, whom do they want to make the government of Singapore? I think they’ll say they want a PAP government, so too in Hougang. But then you ask them who do they want to vote for, they’ll say Mr Chiam or Mr Low. In other words, they’re counting on someone else to vote for the PAP, so they can get the luxury to vote for Mr Chiam or Mr Low….”

Replying to a question of why opposition wards get bumped down the upgrading queue even though opposition voters are Singaporeans too, he replied that this is to incentivise residents in opposition-held wards to vote for the PAP.

Quite frankly, PM Lee has nothing to worry about. Wearing a pink shirt as a lucky charm all the time is actually quite unnecessary.

While there are plenty of keyboard warriors and TV critics out there who will make a song and dance about voting the opposition (and some have their minds made up, judging by the comments posted online), the PAP is in no serious danger of losing just yet.

Opposition supporters, go ahead. Enjoy your luxury of ticking the box under “Worker’s Party” or “Singapore People’s Party” because MM Lee has put in place a robust system to ensure the continued longevity of his son’s party.

We have the lazy voter to thank. Not just your usual ‘politically apathetic youth’, but also the contented Malay welfare recipients, the uncles and aunties who’ve lived in walkover wards their whole life and couldn’t give two hoots about the new opposition candidates, and the white-collar baby boomers who’re too busy keeping their salary in step with rising COE prices. People who wouldn’t bother reading political information, and consider the elections only marginally more important than the season finale of a soap opera.

But one has to applaud PM Lee for his honesty. He does not resist taking jibes at the opposition and their inability to provide upgrading services, simply by being the opposition. This time, at least, he has more tact and no longer claims to ‘fix’ the opposition, unlike 2006.

Political constructs built with the purpose of keeping the incumbent authoritarian party in power do not disappear overnight. Lazy voters especially, only take the path of least mental resistance, towards the only party they’ve been familiar with their whole lives.

If you’re the biggest bully in the playground, and your father happens to be the contractor who built the playground, there’s no point pretending to be humble.

Each and every fixture in the playground has a purpose, and this is for the good of all who have a stake in it. Non-Constituency Member-of-Parliament schemes? A good transition for opposition politicians to break into ‘real’ politics. Nominated Member-of-Parliament provide more substantive debate than NCMPs?

But of course! That was by design. Using public infrastructure as incentives for the public to vote for the incumbent? Ah-bor-den? Without the PAP, you wouldn’t even have public infrastructure because politicians would be too busy tearing each other apart to take care of you.

The PAP system was built so well that the best losing and nominated opposition MPs can speak but not vote on budget and constitutional matters. This results in a wayang for public entertainment, without the government policies being actually affected. Lacklustre entertainment as it may be, with MPs falling asleep in parliament, this wayang provides fodder for political conversation yet spares the lazy voter from thinking too much, or taking time off from more important matters.

Why? Because it’s only talk, no action. Don’t need to worry.

Unlike our neighbours up north, so frequently cited as an example of freedom gone wrong, Singapore has little chance of becoming an actual democracy even though PM Lee might actually have a chance of losing. Political constructs built with the purpose of keeping the incumbent authoritarian party in power do not disappear overnight. Lazy voters especially, only take the path of least mental resistance, towards the only party they’ve been familiar with their whole lives.

So why fret? Root for the quiet kid building his sandcastle in the corner. He doesn’t have that many friends, and the bully doesn’t need you anyway.

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