What kind of politics do we want in Singapore?

It is now just past 8 pm. Polling for Punggol East By-Election has closed. I wish Li Lian well.

While this by-election is relatively mild in terms of the hustling, it has nevertheless generated some negative incidents.

Former NMP Calvin Cheng FB messaged me in the afternoon today to let me know that he had just made a police report. Someone had threatened to kill him and burn him over his article published in Yahoo criticising the performance of WP in parliament. Earlier, Reform Party’s candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam had filed a police report over online threats to his family in London. An arrest had since been made. Reporter Kor Kian Beng had written about the Boo boys of the opposition, referring to the booing that took place during nomination day, mainly by supporters of WP.

I was not spared either. Last Saturday, I was campaigning in the flats next to Rivervale Mall for Li Lian. My car was vandalised. I had just gotten out of my car in the HDB multistory carpark and was walking towards the block where a group of WP volunteers were waiting for me. I received a call from a WP party member. A Zaobao reporter friend of his was in the carpark, his car parked right next to mine. The reporter had seen someone come towards my car shortly after I had left and looked at my parking coupons. The person then walked to the side of the car away from the reporter and took out his phone, seemingly to call HDB to come and summon my car. Out of concern, the reporter who had recognised me, called the WP member to inform me to check if my coupons were valid.

I was sure they were but I went back to my car anyway. No one was around my car when I reached. There were sufficient time left on my parking coupons, so I went back to join my group to canvass for votes. It was only when I drove home that I realised the back left door of my car was rather badly scratched. Apparently, the person had taken a sharp object and while pretending to call on one hand, he made a number of scratch marks on my door with the other hand. He would have known I was a WP member. I was in my WP uniform and my car had Li Lian’s calling cards exposed in the back seat.

I called the reporter. Unfortunately, he did not take any photograph of the vandal and the vandal was not dressed in any obvious party colours. The candidates of two other political parties, with their entourage of volunteers were campaigning in the same cluster of flats as I was that afternoon. I could not be certain who would have done that to me. I deliberated for a while and decided not to make a police report.

Emotions run high during elections. Politics get people high. PAP MP Seng Han Thong was once even set on fire by someone in a community centre. That action simply cannot be tolerated.

I do not like to see such behaviours. During nomination, I was in the midst of the crowd. We had made announcements to the crowd not to jeer the other candidates. That was to no avail. Perhaps it did get them to be milder than they would otherwise have been. The jeering came anyway. A few of us tried to “Shhh” the crowd when the booing got too loud. It got quieter for a while but it came back again shortly afterwards.

I can understand why they are angry. Many Singaporeans had spoken to me about politics in the 2 years that I had stepped onto this arena. Many felt helpless at their situation. They were angry at the ruling party but could do little to bring the PAP down, or get them to change tracks. Elections offer them the chance to vent their frustrations.

The PAP is not helping in the situation. Some of their practices simply turn people off. Long before I harboured any interest to participate in politics, I was already turned off by the way the PAP used upgrading to buy votes. I was turned off by what I considered as overly harsh tactics on people who disagreed with them. I wrote in to the Straits Times forum during GE2006 to criticise the use of upgrading carrots. To me, linking votes to public funds was simply incorrect. Whatever respect I had for their earlier economic achievements was negated by these practices. Now that I have formally entered this arena, finding out that there are contracts such as the software arrangement with AIM strengthened my conviction that such practices are wrong.

The Prime Minister had said in his party seminar in November last year that Singapore can’t have a blue constituency and a red constituency. His party has been trying to make sure Singapore’s constituencies are about the same colour, because all constituencies should share the same interest. He was referring to the Democrat versus Republican politics of the USA, where there are often policy gridlocks due to party politics.

Being the one party that had overwhelmingly dominated Singapore’s politics since independence, one could also interpret that to mean that the PAP hopes to see Singapore as all white. While we can criticise the Democrats and the Republicans for forcing policy gridlocks due to party’s interests, I also respect that way power is handed over smoothly whenever there’s change of power effected by the results of balloting. The losing party will simply hand over control of the office and come back to fight another day. The president would even appoint members of the opposite camp to become his office bearers. This is a level of maturity which Singapore politics has yet to reach. And I believe the days of a monotone colour for our constituencies map is gone. For the sake of Singaporeans, we need to get to the stage to have a smooth handover of control when constituencies change hand. And that should includes grassroots organisations funded by public monies.

Perhaps it is because people are turned off by Singapore’s brand of politics that they vent out their frustrations at election time. However, this is no excuse for some of the behaviours we had seen. All parties should work together to educate people to eradicate such actions. But understanding what lies beneath their frustrations will be useful towards stemming the behaviours.

Now, back to my car. My wife told me to leave the ugly scratches alone. Now that I had chosen to walk the path of politics, she said the marks on the car will serve as a reminder to me of what politics can be like. It is the ugly side of politics that we should be reminded of, an ugly side that everyone should work together to eradicate. So if you see a Honda Odyssey on the road with ugly scratches on its left side, you may also wish to ask yourself what you want Singapore’s politics to be like.


13 comments on “What kind of politics do we want in Singapore?

  1. You’ve put this whole thing well. And gently. Unfortunately, this is the level of Sporeans today: Fifth World. I speak as someone who’s had her tyres punctured and mailbox glued, among other things, simply for speaking out against an en bloc of my estate. Others have experienced worse. If one throws in the increasing animal abuse to what you experienced, you realise this place is being stretched too far.

  2. i can see you use a mac? anyways, yes as much as i’m displeased with what some parties and their supporters attitude and behaviour, it’ll be a long trying path ahead for us to eradicate such immaturity when handling opposing views. this is apparent in not just politics but many other areas as well. and teaching Singaporeans how to handle and accept opposing views is probably the 1st step forward.

  3. Nice article Sir,
    To move forward as a nation we first have to have a agree-to-disagree mentality….I’m in full support of WP’s political positioning, Despite reading about how WP supporters have negative reactions, Singaporeans collectively is not ready to accept extreme left wing voices yet. Cheers and congrats on working towards a First World Parliament WP!

  4. Sorry to hear what happen to your car, having volunteered myself during the last elections and walking the ground, knocking on doors, I had a fair shared of doors being slam on me, being asked to go away and etc but it is nothing comparing to what you expereince, since it affect your personal property. I get my strenght to carry on knocking on the door by reminding myself how much worst the other camp supporters gets. I myself used to slam my door at those supporters when I was asked to standby at the door as a minister coming for house visit. My answer was, “If he want to visit me, ask him to knock on my door!” and I slammed my door. I know my action is not right but as highlighted by your post, it is the frustration, that lead me to behave that way. But to destroy another person property or even to hurt a person physically never cross my mind nor will I ever do that.

    I can roughly guess which side of the supporter had done that, we had our pamplets being collected and thrown into dustbin right after we placed it at people houses previously and more. This actions are actions of coward who do not have confident in themselves nor the party that they support.

  5. Hang in there! chin up… as long your moral compass is set right… you can bear the brunt of all things… I am sure you somehow have anticipated that this path isnt all rosy…. soldier on knowing the layman like me and many others depend on courageous leaders like you to clear the path ….. ALL THE BEST my S’poean brudder!

  6. Emotions are running high. I feel there’s little you can do except to lead by example and diligently remind your own supporters. Personally, i am quite concern about the jeering by wp supporters. It comes across as uncouth. I suggest wp look into it seriously. No matter the good that wp may be striving for, it casts a negative image on the party. Cheers!

  7. Time and space decide. I wrote a piece on reap what you sow, which apply to plants, so too it applies to humans. One sows. One reaps. It is in my tankoktim.blog.com under Religions & Faith category.

  8. Nice balanced writeup. IMHO, PAP doesn’t need to lose power, it just needs to wake up its ideas to the many underhand actions to win votes and keeping the people at bay.

    People aren’t cattle and don’t like being treated like that.

    Well, it’s no longer the Singapore at independence, the community is now mostly educated and well know whats happening behind the scenes. Basically, no one wants to see a Singapore where the bottom income earners are suffering when the people in charge of everyone’s livelihoods are only making things tougher. It is no doubt they are losing support, after forging a path they cannot undo.

    The only thing Singapore can hope for is a (AS SMOOTH AS POSSIBLE) change in direction.

    You and your party is the hope for this cleansing and redirection for future generations to come, please push forward for Singapore and never sway towards such practices!

  9. This kind of dirty politics is no surprise. Don’t ever think the colour is white is clean.That is why i always believe never be kind with your opponent. No matter what good job they have done NO NICE WORDS about them. They have their henchmen. It is just that their position is not critical. If you can recall in one opposition rally in Jalan Besar, it was reported unruly behavior by NSP supporters at the election rally damaging mediacorp van. Are they opposition party supporters who did it? But when such reports were published in ST what will the voters think of the opposition party? But the only good thing here is they cannot use hit man to do the job like in say Philippines, Thailand or other country because Singapore image will be badly dented. From here you must work harder to win Joo Chiat to sent a message to them that you are not easily cowed. That is why if WP cannot always be the co-driver. Plan big, take over as govt.

  10. Good post but you are probably not being very objective. Compared to what KJ suffered, some scratches on your car is not a big deal. Did WP speak out against the state of politics in Singapore when he received death threats against him and his family? That would have been a very “first world parliament” thing to do. Not sure if WP is really serous about democracy but a safe and level playing field for all candidates should be priority number one and most observers infer, probably not unreasonably, that the death threats against Kenneth (and I think also Desmond n 2011) came from fans or supporters of WP not other parties.

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