Dhevarajan Devadas / Guest Writer
On November 4, we all witnessed history being made. The US elected its first ever black president. A nation that once regarded its black citizens as slaves has elected an African American to the nation’s highest office. I salute Mr Obama for his inclusive and positive campaign that has invigorated the normally apathetic youth voters to come out in droves to exercise their democratic right to vote.
His victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago, struck a chord in me with its message of inclusiveness and bipartisanship. I find this severely lacking in Singapore. PAP leaders don’t really bother with campaigning really hard and fighting for votes. They appeal to Singaporeans to support them during campaigning and then spend the next five years talking down to us, making important decisions without meaningful consultation (remember the casino issue?) and chiding us for expecting the government to help when we are in a crisis (minibonds and high notes issue).
While Obama vows that “to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too”, former PM Goh Chok Tong openly threatened constituencies that voted for the opposition that their HDB estates would “become slums”. His exact words were, “Your [housing development] through your own choice will be left behind. They become slums. That’s my message”.
He said this on Nomination Day in 1996. He had the audacity to threaten Singaporeans because he was confident that Singaporeans would not complain too aggressively against such blatant discrimination and would vote for the PAP anyway.
Obama also graciously thanked his opponent John McCain for his congratulations and promised to work together with him in the future. I can only dream that PM Lee can thank his opponents for a worthy and challenging campaign. He is highly unlikely to stand in a rally and say, “I thank my worthy opponents from [insert political party] and promise to work closely with the opposition to ensure the progress and prosperity of this nation which we all call home”. PAP leaders are never really gracious anyway.
The PAP titled its 2006 election manifesto “Staying Together, Moving Ahead”. But it has failed to live up to this promise.
1. It has denied our gay community the right to equality.
2. It has failed to ensure that the rights of all Singaporeans to freedom of speech, assembly and association are protected.
3. It has failed to keep the population informed by not disclosing information such as GIC and Temasek Holdings’ full financial records, the breakdown of HDB flat costs and even the financial statements of town councils that invest our money.
4. It has denied the rights of Potong Pasir and Hougang residents to public housing upgrades available to PAP constituencies, violating their right to equality.
5. It has prevented non-PAP politicians from playing a decisive role in Singapore politics by trying to create and maintain political hegemony. This denies Singaporeans our right to take part in public affairs and isolates us from the political space and process.
PAP leaders, especially MM Lee, love to claim that the Western model of democracy is bad for Singapore as it is too individualistic and that Singapore‘s model safeguards the welfare of society as a whole ahead of the individual. Barack Obama has shattered this lie. He has shown that when the situation demands it, Americans can and will elect a president who promotes the welfare of society as a whole while at the same time protects their fundamental liberties.
Obama is promising to do in America what the PAP has consistently failed or refused to do in Singapore. As a Singaporean youth who will be eligible to vote in 4 years time, a message of hope, inclusiveness and change appeals to me more than the message of political restrictions, blatant discrimination and threats.
I await Singapore‘s Obama and our moment of change.
About the author:
Dhevarajan Devadas is a Year 1 student studying mass communication in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. He is 17-years old.
Read also: The contrast between Singapore and American politicians by blogger Singapore Citizen.