SM Goh was reported by The Straits Times (April 19, 2011) to have urged Singaporeans to examine the motivations of the opposition candidates.
Really, what answers do you expect? Is there a pot of gold waiting for opposition candidates? Is there career advancement for any standing up for the alternative voice? Does any opposition candidate expect an easy walk into parliament?
This is Singapore. There are proven risks to being in the alternative camp, even though the political landscape may have opened up progressively of late. All Singaporeans know this. Relatives and friends have advised me, sometimes rather strongly, against being counted openly in opposition activities. I was warned I will be viewed negatively by the establishment, that my past achievements and standing in society may now count for nothing.
Having stood forward, I have so far found every one of my fellow likely opposition candidates to be full of passion, commitment and love for Singapore. I could not see any of them getting any tangible benefits from being an opposition candidate. I could not think of one for myself too. I see only sacrifice everywhere.
We do not have huge resources supporting us. We fight the battle often with our own financial reserves and with the time sacrifices of many volunteers who toil selflessly with us. There’s no huge party machinery or grassroot organisations that opposition candidates can call upon. We have no heavyweight ministers we can count on to aid us into parliament on a GRC ticket. Even if we do get elected, we know the tasks for running the constituency is much more challenging than for that of PAP MPs because we do not get access to needed resources. I have been to Meet-The-People sessions in PAP-controlled wards and have also seen those in opposition wards. There’s such great contrast to the infrastructure and resources provided that any aspiring opposition candidate knows it will take a lot more effort to fulfil the MP’s duties. Knowing this, I have already openly announced that if I do become an MP, I will do it full-time. How many PAP MPs will do this? Some PAP MPs have already said to the press that this is not necessary, as long as they can get the job done. With the resources available to them, sure they can. They do not need to sacrifice their careers.
It’s a belief that guides those in the alternative camp. For me, it’s for a stronger alternative voice, a more stable long term parliament and a fairer Singapore.
I’d like to in turn question the motives of those who choose to stand on PAP’s ticket. We often hear them say it is to stand forth and serve Singapore. With very tangible benefits for being a PAP MP and even larger rewards when one becomes an office holder, one cannot help but question if there’s true passion. The senior leaders of PAP have said such ‘fair’ rewards are necessary to attract talented people to ‘sacrifice’ their careers. We even hear their leaders say that they need to persuade these talents to step forward. I do not wish to pass judgement on any of PAP’s new candidates as I do not know any personally. But when we start to inject huge tangible benefits into being an elected MP of the ruling party, there will always be the question of the motivation for being a PAP candidate. All the more, voters should question them harder to see if it’s for true passion and belief that they are coming forth.