I love how the author hit every nerve (both good and bad ones) with her honest, mature and sensible take on the upcoming Singapore General Election. Would want to see more of these please!
(Reposted with thanks from motherinc.org )
My take on the Singapore General Elections.
by Daphne on April 29, 2011
I’ve been mulling a long time over whether or not to do a post on the General Elections seeing how politics is such a contentious issue and this is after all a happy family blog.
The truth is, I’ve never been this interested in local politics in all my 28 years and this political awakening (if you can call it that) is a big deal for me. Not that I don’t like politics as a whole because I spent days camped out in front of the TV watching CNN during the last few American Presidential elections and my entire Final Year Thesis was on the topic of American politics. I’ve just never been interested in local politics because it seemed like such a lost cause to me. It was always just a bunch of disgruntled old men yelling at other less disgruntled old men – something I had very little interest or time for.
This time though, I’m excited because not only do we finally have a chance to vote (instead of being told we have no options), we’re also seeing young voters being interested in the voting process. I’ve been reading so many political opinions of late that it didn’t seem right to just sit this one out.
For starters, here’s what I’d really like to see in government.
1. I want a government that knows how to man up and say “I’m sorry” when they’ve made a mistake. For example, a mistake on the scale of busting the YOG budget by 3 times needs to be addressed with a decent amount of compunction rather than dismissiveness. With this current crop of PAP leaders, sorry really does seem to be the hardest word. Hey here’s a thought, people are more forgiving when you take responsibility and say “I’m sorry, I messed up big time.” You see, only after I hear the apology, I’ll be ready to hear about all the wonderful things you’ve done in your 5 years in office, not the other way around.
2. I want a government that really listens. The only defense that the PAP constantly falls back on these days is “I know better so just sit down and shut up.” Even if you genuinely believe that your Cambridge degrees and life of entitlement makes you better and smarter than everyone else, it would still do you a lot of good to listen to the struggles of your people. And by listening, I don’t mean walking around a week before election wearing flowers and doing your presidential wave.
3. I want a government that’s accountable. Ok, that’s my beef with a one-party system right there, a complete lack of checks and balances. It may have worked 57 years ago when you were ruling a country who didn’t know any better but we do know better now and one of the pitfalls of such a system is beginning to manifest itself in the form of disconnected, arrogant leaders who assume they have a right to lead just because they have kissed enough bottoms and made the right political connections. Connections like um say, marrying the private secretary of the Prime Minister.
4. I want a government that rises above the need to resort to threats in order to get votes. It’s insulting that you think our votes can be bought by shiny new lifts and a fresh coat of paint. If the price to pay for upgrading is my integrity and sense of justice, I’d much rather walk up that extra flight of steps and carry both my kids to run in the rain, thankyouverymuch. Also, what about your supporters living in these opposition constituencies? It’s a tad mercenary that you would sacrifice them as collateral damage just to prove a point, isn’t it?
5. I want a government that understands the value of humility and servitude. Often, it’s not just what you do but the manner in which you do it that counts. It bugs me that our Ministers talk down to the very people they are supposed to serve just because they don’t share the same opinions. You don’t get to be all high and mighty and demand that Singaporeans kiss the very ground you tread on. After all, we were the ones who put you in office and we will take you out if you alienate enough voters.
To all the people who think that voting the PAP means voting for stability, my only question is this, stability for who? If I were an incompetent Minster drawing $1.4 million of taxpayer’s money annually, I’d be yelling about stability too. I mean, it’d be mighty unstable for me if I had to one day *gasp*, take a ride on a crowded train like all my minions. And then I’d actually have to walk from point to point because where will I ever find the money to have people carry me around on their shoulders while I wear this ridiculous garland around my neck. I can’t be certain but even if Desmond Choo did momentarily lose the use of both his legs, there’s a whole range of fancy motorized wheelchairs that can serve as perfectly good modes of transportation. There’s really no need to rely on a human sedan these days. Last time I checked, you guys were supposed to BE public servants, not HAVE a lot of public servants.
Now lest you think that I’m dissing all the good work our government has done in years gone by, I’m not. I have a lot of respect for MM Lee, SM Goh, PM Lee (Jr) and a select handful of Ministers. I’ll be the first to say that I’m terribly proud of how far Singapore has come with all that was going against us so props to y’all. On my recent flight back from Florida, I was seated next to an elderly American gentleman who was thrilled to be sitting next to a “tiny Asian girl who didn’t take up too much arm room” (exact words, I promise) and decided to reward my lack of size with a spirited discourse about our Minister Mentor’s awesomeness the moment he heard that I was from Singapore. He went on and on about MM Lee’s political acumen, sharp thinking and fabulous policy-making skills. I have to admit that it was nice to know how much respect people all over the world have for one of us. Finally, he asked me “so what do you think of him?” To which I replied, “I agree with everything that you’ve said and even though we sometimes don’t like him very much, he is the single most respected man in all of Singapore.”
That said, I just have a teensy weensy problem with the argument that just because they’ve had a proven track record, we should blindly cast our vote for all the subsequent leaders that they pick out for the sake of stability. First of all, we all know that past successes don’t necessarily guarantee future success. Second, for all their success in ruling the nation with a tight fist, the leaders in PAP don’t seem to be particularly adept at picking the next generation of leaders. If you’re saying that after scouring the entire list of under-30 Singaporeans and the best you can come up with is a Tin Pei Ling, that tells me all I need to know about your selection skills. I have nothing against Pei Ling as a person and I’m sure she’s every bit as saccharine sweet as her photos suggest but I have a lot against her ability to serve the needs of the people. Underneath the hollow-sounding rhetoric she dishes out, I see no substance or even real desire to better the needs of Singaporeans. It seems to me that the only criteria to be selected as a future leader in the PAP is to be able to memorize and regurgitate the party’s rhetoric (that is starting to sound as empty as a big fat black hole of emptiness).
I’m also not surprised by the popularity of her direct opposition candidate, Nicole Seah. After hearing her various speeches and interviews, I am suitably impressed. Yes, I get that she’s even younger, has no track record or experience, gets a little nervy during some of her speeches and is probably this popular only because of the seeming incompetence of Tin Pei Ling. All fair criticisms, but if if I could vote in that constituency, she would still definitely have my vote for the very fundamental reason that she’s got heart – something that’s sorely missing in our incumbent party. I respect the fact that with all her inexperience and practically zero chance of drawing a $13,000 monthly salary, she was willing to offer her candidacy simply because she wanted to make a change for the benefit of the people. Her agenda is not a fat paycheck but to put right the things that have gone so very wrong in our government. I’d go as far as to say that even if she made it into parliament and doesn’t accomplish all the things she set out to, that’s ok because damnit, she tried.
I’m growing tired of hearing the PAP say that change can only come from within. After 57 years as the ruling party, the most notable change I see is in relation to how their paychecks are getting larger. The only way to show that Ministers don’t have to draw an obscene salary from taxpayer’s money is to have brilliant Ministers who are not in it for the money and yet no less committed or capable than those who demand to have their coffers padded.
This is definitely going to be a watershed election and I’m proud to have candidates like Sylvia Lim (in my opinion, the best public speaker in the local politics scene), Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao offering their services to the nation. For the first time, I feel like there’s a chance we as the people have the power to effect change. Instead of sitting around and complaining that things aren’t right and we can’t do anything about it, we see candidates who are willing to step up to the plate to make a difference. And more importantly, we see voters (especially younger ones) who aren’t ignorant or apathetic.
On this note, I’d like to point out that identifying certain glaring faults in the incumbent party does not make one anti-PAP or pro-opposition. Voters are a lot more discerning these days and just because they question some facets of your leadership does not make them the enemy. The bottom line is that I vote for progress and if that comes in the form of non-PAP politicians, that gets my vote. And I can honestly say that if the PAP can indeed bring change from within and address all the issues that have been raised, I’d be happy to be called pro-PAP.
For now though, there are several PAP candidates that don’t deserve a seat in parliament. A lot has been said about the GRC system and for all its merits, it doesn’t seem right that mediocrity is rewarded just because the right alliances are made. To be more precise, it would be a great disservice to Singaporeans if Tin Pei Ling gets a parliamentary seat and Sylvia Lim doesn’t.
In any case, this election is going to be more exciting than an episode of 24.
PS. Also, PAP, just cut it out with the comrades thing. The only people I know who went around calling everyone comrades were perpetrators of genocide. Seriously, just stop it.