After listening to so many rallies and the various parties’ questions and responses, I need this cooling-off day more than ever. The photo above was taken from the Punggol Park Connector Network (PCN) and this is an example of good planning. As you can see from the photo, the scenery is nice and I love it. But it’s not perfect. The river gets polluted occasionally with algae (boom) as in the photo. But after some cleaning up, it will be back to the little nice greenery corner in our concrete garden. I thought this is quite apt to illustrate the current political environment in Singapore where PAP has done a great job but still, there are problems here and there. Are we right to expect a perfect government (aka PAP) ? Are we wrong to demand a proper check and balance in the parliament for policies that are, hopefully, more sound ?
On this cooling-off day, I am going to think through these questions and cast my vote on 11 Sep 2015 carefully. I belong to the “sandwich class” where I am likely to get the least subsidies/benefits but pay the most taxes. Am I complaining ? No, I am not. I am more than happy to contribute to the nation’s building towards SG100. I am, too, worried about my children’s future, and my own future. I am also want to do my part to build a better environment for the future generations, and for myself when I retire.
What should I look for in a Member of Parliament (MP) ?
Fundamentally there are 3 requirements that are important to me.
- Ability to plan and formulate sound policies
- Passion to serve the people
- In touch with the ground
Some people have the ability to lead but don’t want to serve. Some people have the passion to serve but lack the ability. Some people have both the ability and passion to serve but are out of touch with the ground. Most, if not all, PAP candidates possess #1 without a doubt. #2 and #3 may be questionable for some PAP candidates. For example, when Dr Lily Neo called for the government to increase public assistance handouts to the poor in 2007, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan asked “How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?”. It’s scary when these words came from the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. Dr Balakrishnan clearly lacks #2 and #3.
On the other hand, we have oppositions like Mr Tan Jee Say making irresponsible comments such as giving $300 monthly allowance to help the elderly in their retirement. He said the money will come from the additional “profit” that GIC have made with our CPF monies. I hope he doesn’t spend every single cent he has in his bank account and leave nothing for rainy days.
So if I see a candidate with all #1, #2 and #3, it will be a no-brainer for me to vote him/her into the Parliament, regardless of his/her party.
Party or Candidate ?
I was constantly reminded that we should vote for PAP as they are proven ( for the past 50 years ) and only they have the qualities to form the government. There was even a note circulating around to warn voters on the possibility of having a freak result where PAP loses the majority of the seats. In the industry I work, we call this FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubts).
Am I voting for the party or candidate ? Is PAP going to lose the election ( and rights to form the government ) if I vote for opposition candidate in my constituency ? I can only influence the 1, 4, 5 or 6 seats out of the 89. How can my vote over-throw PAP ? If it really happens, then it can’t be a freak result as it means the majority of Singaporeans actually voted for the oppositions. With all the careful planning of the electoral boundaries, this freak result will never happen. Besides I also believe that the majority of the oppositions are not ready to win their constituencies (yet).
Thus, am I voting for the party to form the government or candidate to represent me in Parliament ? Like it or not, PAP will form the government with the majority of the 89 seats. I don’t see how PAP can lose AMK, Tampines, Pasir-Ris and many more. Surely we don’t have that many irrational voters ? The question is just how many seats will be taken up by credible ( I hope ) oppositions.
Voting for the past or future ?
For the past 50 years, PAP has done a fantastic job in governing Singapore. With the limitations we have, nobody could have possibly done a better job than LKY and his team. While we reminisce our achievements for the past 50 years, we also need to understand that the election tomorrow is about the team who will lead us to the next 50 years, not the team who had led us to success in the past 50 years. If the candidates standing for election today are LKY, Toh Chin Chye, Goh Keng Swee, Devan Nair, S. Rajaratnam, Ong Teng Cheong or Tan Cheng Bock, I will vote for them regardless of their party. These forefathers of Singapore served with passion and were always on the ground to understand the needs of the people. But seriously how many MPs today really serve with passion? How many really know what the people want ?
So I say, follow my heart and vote for the person with the 3 attributes mentioned above. If all the candidates don’t ( which is the case in many constituencies ), then vote for the lesser evil which should be PAP in most of the cases.
Check and Balance
I am a firm believer of “check and balance”. No matter how many times I check my work, there will always be mistakes ( some are even very simple and glaring ones ). Thus, I always believe in having a third party to provide alternative view and perception. We learnt in school that groupthink is bad, isn’t it ? However, we also don’t want to hinder progress with the endless and mindless debates as well. So where’s the balance ?
As far as I can remember, the oppositions in Singapore have never been very strong. Even if they were voted into the Parliament, they rarely make noise for they only make noise during rallies. Once in a while, we may get a credible and responsible opposition candidate ( with the 3 attributes above ) who will challenge status quo, provide alternatives ( not just empty talks ) and not veto for the sake of it. Chiam See Tong is a good example but oppositions like him are few and far between. Sylvia Lim and Dr. Chee Soon Juan are two whom I think also fit the bill.
I am a JIT guy; never do homework way in advance and 临时抱佛脚 is my strength. This time is no different. My impression of Dr. Chee Soon Juan had never been positive. Though I don’t think he is the “madman” that the media made him out to be, I was skeptical about his character and even feared that he would create havoc in the Parliament much like J. B. Jeyaretnam. *** Please do not get me wrong. I have huge respect for people who made sacrifices to build a better Singapore and JBJ is definitely one of them. ***
However, my impression of Dr. Chee has somewhat changed after hearing his rallies, doing some reading and research on him for the past week. Whether it is his sacking from NUS, his hunger strike, how he ousted his mentor, how CST denounced him in parliament, his acceptance of the invitation from the students of the Williams College to the so-called “alternative panel” discussion in 1995 or his imprisonments, I feel that I can give him the benefit of doubt that he was victimized. He is definitely not a saint but I feel I can trust his character, his belief for democracy and his care forb the people. I could be wrong but here are some links for you to judge for yourself what kind of person he is. *** Please watch the video in link #1 and #4 below, at least. ***
- A video of his family life. This is what triggered my curiosity for this man.
- CSJ’s first rally in GE 2015. Skip to the 19th min if you just want to listen to his speech in English.
- CSJ’s lunchtime rally at Raffles Place
- A surprise video message to Dr Chee Soon Juan by his family. Can you sense the warmth and sincerity?.
- CSJ’s explanation of CST’s “sacking” from SDP
- A recent interview with CSJ where he shared a lot of his views, which I find them consistent with what I read
The Road Ahead
We have just celebrated 50 years of independence and the next 50 years will be more challenging.
I don’t want groupthink in the Parliament but not at the expense of synergy either. I want credible opposition to provide check and balance but not at the expense of mindless debates.
Much as I like LHL, I think his party is lacking in people who have the passion to serve. He put scholars to run ministries that they have no experience in. Is it fair for Lui Tuck Yew to take the blame for our transportation woes when he is a SAF Navy scholar with major in Chemistry? Dr Ng Eng Hen is a medical doctor and yet he doesn’t run Ministry of Health but the Ministry of Defense. Gan Kim Yong was the CEO of NatSteel before he joined politics and now he is the Minister for Health ? These people are highly successful in their own areas of expertise but does it mean that they will also excel in any other fields ?
Why not give the people within each ministry a chance ? Even if they do not have the same number of aces in their academic certificates as these scholars, surely their experience can make up for them ? You need to be part of the system to know what nuts are loose, isn’t it ?
After the dust is settled, I hope LHL will put the right people to the right jobs and ministries. Ability and passion to serve are equally important to leave behind a legacy, as demonstrated by the founding members of modern Singapore. Majulah Singapura !