Hougang by-election: Nomination Day and Workers' Party Press Conference

By Cheong Yaoming ~

Rather than give a chronology of events that happened, which can be found in almost every mainstream media piece, I will attempt to address certain rumours and myths, backed up by events witnessed on the ground and online.

Myth: The Workers' Party supporters are always more fired up.

One charted bus and a mini-van carrying white rolled up flags and middle aged people dressed in white first arrived around 10.30am. The PAP supporters seemed coy about being present.

"Are you here to support the PAP?" I asked one of them.

"No…I just happen to be in the area…"

"But you're carrying a white PAP flag!"

"Is it a PAP flag? I don't think so…"

"Yes I can see part of the blue logo with the red lightning bolt!"

The awkward silence that followed was deafening, so I raised my white flag and headed over to the people dressed in blue. Their numbers grew with each passing minute and the buzz of excitement they generated was growing as well. When a blue lorry carrying wooden placards and bundles of red furled up flags arrived, a huge cheer erupted from the WP supporters.

While waiting for the nominees to be confirmed by the Elections department, the WP supporters sporadically broke out in chants of "Workers' Party! Workers Party!" and even mixing it up with "Ole ole ole ole". Even with a foghorn, the PAP supporters' chants of "Hougang! Desmond Choo!" were often drowned out by the WP supporters

Conclusion: Myth confirmed

Myth: Singaporeans are not easily satisfied.

It was no mean feat trying to upload photos on the TOC Facebook, post live updates of newsworthy events, get quotes and reactions on the ground – all at the same time. I was trying my best to meet the demand for content by our readers. While some of you may have the luxury of sitting in front of a computer, the TOC team, comprising of mostly of unpaid volunteers who just do not have the same resources available compared to the mainstream media, braved the elements and the odds to meet the high expectations of our readers.

Yes the quality of some photos could have been better and mistakes were made while reporting (Hokkein and Teochew do sound quite similar) but deriding the efforts of the TOC team was unfair as we tried our best on the shoestring resources that we had.

Conclusion: Plausible. I was heartened by the advice, encouragement and even offers to help of some TOC readers, we greatly appreciate such readers and will use their positive feedback as a catalyst to improve.

Myth: PAP politicians are automatons bad at interacting with 'mere mortals'.

Despite my initial encounter with that 'may-or-may-not-be' PAP supporter, I soldiered on and was determined to tell the PAP's side of the story as well. As I forged into 'enemy' territory, I did not feel the eyes of hundereds of PAP supporters dressed in white burning holes in me even though I stuck out like a sore thumb dressed in black.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan shook my hand firmly and warmly thanked me for coming down the support the PAP. Even though he mistook me for a PAP supporter I felt there was a change in engagement through his actions. His bodyguards were not overly protective and did not form a protective barricade; instead they were casually trailing behind him.

Conclusion: Myth busted

Myth: The Workers' Party had Dr Poh Lee Guan as their secret back up nominee.

"We were not informed of his intention to contest in advance" said Mr Low to the press gaggle. Just like everyone else, the Workers' Party was caught off guard by Dr Poh's actions when TOC first broke the story yesterday morning.

While conspiracy theories and speculation will continue to be circulated, we will follow up with developments very carefully and not jump to conclusions until facts have been established.

Conclusion: Myth busted

Myth: What is Mr Png Eng Huat's strategy? Does he have one? 

Very focused in defending Hougang with a low key no frills campaign lots of walkabouts, house visits, basically he will cover as much of Hougang as he can within the next 9 days. Rather than dictating which issues were important, Mr Png would be listening to and letting residents bring forward issues which matter to them. 

So is the Hougang by-election local or national?

Mr Png said "I view Hougang as a very important constituency…lots of upgrading were thrown at Hougang to the tune of $100 million but the residents rejected it because they wanted a voice in Parliament. That is special and I don't think you can find it anywhere else."

I then posed the question "What message do you have for residents that are undecided on who to vote for?" He said “Give me a chance to serve you to the best of my ability.” That's a campaign slogan right there.

Conclusion: Myth busted. 

TOC thanks Sebastian Song for allowing us the use of his photos.

Video of Nomination Day for By-election in Hougang (2012) 

This article is published by The Online Citizen, 20 Maxwell Road, #09-17 Maxwell House, Singapore 069113.