by Benjamin Cheah/
The National Solidarity’s debut rally was a direct challenge to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and his team at Marine Parade Group Representative Constituency. Immigration, dissatisfaction with the Government, and rising costs of living took centre stage, with speaker after speaker slamming Mr Goh and the People’s Action Party. The crowd roared with approval, and booed when Ms Tin Pei Ling’s name was mentioned.
The NSP brought out its big guns for the rally. Among them were party Secretary General Goh Meng Seng, Jeanette Chong Aruldoss, and quasi-media celebrity Nicole Seah. Every speech virtually followed the same formula: point out the flaws of government policy, stoke up anger against the PAP, and encourage voters to vote for the Opposition. The sole exception was the speech by Mohamad Shafri, who used his time to praise his fellow party members. The speeches seemed planned to work up the crowd and generate buzz, leading to Ms Seah’s climatic speech.
Much of the rally can be divided into attacks on the PAP and the NSP’s platform. The most popular point of contention was the influx of foreigners into Singapore. Gilbert Goh said that one in three jobs in Singapore were taken by foreigners, while highly educated Singaporeans were forced to go jobless or take up low-paid jobs like driving a taxi. The second most popular point was the rising costs of living. Just about every speaker provided examples, ranging from Mr Yip Yew Weng’s account of ever-increasing prices of food to Mr Goh’s recount of rising prices of HDB flats. This point was paired with the assertion that the current Goods and Services Tax is too high. The speakers attacked Mr Goh Chok Tong’s 1984 promise that Singapore would achieve a ‘Swiss standard of living’ by 1999, painting a picture of ever-increasing costs and a country that alienates its own citizens.
The NSP’s election platform was scant on details. Most of the speakers encouraged voters to vote for the NSP in lieu of talking about policies. Mr Yip said that NSP wants to reduce GST to 5% and make essential goods and healthcare exempt from GST. Ms Seah elaborated on the NSP’s other ideas in her speech. The most concrete proposal was to push for public transport subsidies for the elderly and disabled. She also said the NSP promises ‘compassionate lower prices’ for first-time home owners, and refuses to treat upgrading works to win votes. Other promises were more nebulous. The NSP promises to ‘make Singaporeans the priority’ instead of GDP growth and ‘grow wages’. No further details were provided. Most conspicuous was the lack of concrete ideas to address the rising number of foreigners the NSP was so concerned about.
The speakers also brought up the passing of David Goh, Mr Goh’s brother. Mr Goh said that his brother, who was his principal election agent, died of fatigue early this morning. The late Mr Goh was reportedly busy putting up posters the night before. His last wish, according to Mr Goh, was to see greater opposition representation in Parliament. Mr Goh said he will continue to work hard and fulfill his brother’s wish.
Near the end of her speech, Ms Seah summed the essence of the rally in three points. The PAP had made promises that they have failed to keep, and people are suffering for it. The people deserve to hold the government accountable for their mistakes, and for their voice to be heard. Therefore, she concluded, vote for the NSP.
Throughout the rally, the crowd cheered on the speakers. Ms Seah received the most attention, mounting the platform to cries of ‘Nicole Seah!’ and ‘NSP!’. The crowd jeered at every mention of the PAP, with a few members shouting vulgarities in Hokkien and English. Most of their displeasure was reserved for Ms Tin Pei Ling: when Ms Aruldoss mentioned her name, the crowd broke into loud boos. It seems that the NSP has a solid base of fans in Singapore. But how the crowd’s reaction will translate into votes remains to be seen.