The following was first published as a blog post by Kirsten Han.
As Singapore is wrapped up in the middle of what is widely seen to be a “watershed election”, we begin to see many, many instances of fear-mongering. Warnings of “freak elections”, despite the fact that there is no such thing in real democratic countries. Analogies of driving cars, and car crashes. Mentions of violent quarrels in Parliament with chairs being thrown. Threats of not getting any upgrading in your neighbourhood estates. Accusations of our precious reserves being “raided”. Even Mr Lui Tuck Yew has come forward with a thinly-veiled and highly inept analogy aboutnice shady trees and poisonous colourful mushrooms, possibly the closest he has come to being “artistic” in all his years as the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts.
Yesterday, our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew came forward to say that the voters of Aljunied GRC would “regret it” if they voted for the Workers’ Party. Again, he pointed out that the WP team had “little track record” compared to the PAP. He also said that the residents of Aljunied GRC would have 5 years to “repent” voting for WP, because they would learn that the PAP would always take care of PAP constituencies first. So much for serving all Singaporeans.
As a young Singaporean, and a first-time voter, I have had enough of this. I have already had a lifetime of fear instilled in me: you might fail your exams and never find a good job, don’t speak, don’t question, don’t get in trouble. I am not taking any more. I am too young to be so afraid.
If the Singaporeans of the 1960s had been so fearful and so concerned about “track record”, we would not be where we are today. Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP would not be where they are today. This city, Singapore as it is today, is a testament to what Singaporeans have achieved – and we did not achieve all this because we were afraid.
I wish the PAP would stop with their fear-mongering. They aren’t doing themselves any favours. It makes them look like the alternative parties have got them on the run, like they have nothing left but to fling threats and doomsday scenarios at the electorate. With the complicit mainstream media to help them propagate these baseless fears, it is sneaky and dishonourable, and does not reflect well on the maturity of the PAP.
I used to live my life afraid. When I was packing up my bags in New Zealand ready to move back home, I remember saying to my friend that I did not want to say or do anything against the government because I am too young to get in trouble and “burn bridges”.
Then I came home and found out about the homeless, the aunties and uncles collecting cardboard, working day-in day-out when they should have been enjoying the fruits of a lifetime’s labour. I read about the skyrocketing housing prices, the new young families unable to have homes of their own. The people who lose their life savings just because of one surgery, one hospital stay. And I watched, as our Ministers (all of them PAP) blew budgets, allowed terrorists to escape, brushed floods off as “once in 50 years”… then told Singaporeans to not complain so much, and gave themselves fat, hefty bonuses on top of their already-inflated paychecks. There was very little I, along with fellow Singaporeans, could do to protest this – because the PAP government has also passed legislation that restricts our freedom of assembly, association and expression.
When I saw all these things, I realised that I was wrong. I was wrong to have said, “I am too young to get in trouble.”
I should have said, “I am too young to bury my head in the sand.” I am too young to live my life dismissed as mere “noise” on the Internet.
I am not saying that I am not scared any more. I am. When I join campaigns, when I openly support the opposition and when I write entries and articles criticising the PAP, I still have worry and anxiety that I deal with. No matter what I do, there are still mental hurdles that I have to overcome.
But I will not be intimidated and fear-mongered into backing down from doing what I believe is right. Not anymore.
I have seen the effects of the PAP government’s policies. I have seen what happens when there are no alternative voices in Parliament to speak up, to raise debates and to force the government to reconsider and re-evaluate policies. I have seen the people who are suffering the effects of these policies, who are unable to have their own home, or afford three meals a day to feed their families.
But we will be taking a chance anyway. How do you know, when you vote PAP, that the housing prices will not continue to skyrocket, that the wages of the lower-income will not continue to be suppressed, that sick people will not continue to be bankrupted by healthcare? How do you know, when you vote PAP, that they will fix all these problems, be accountable and start to connect with the people?
There is no “safe” vote. There are no real guarantees. We cannot know for sure how the next 5 years will turn out.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
Have you heard/read this quote before? I believe that it is true. We have already seen how things are under the PAP: how people are suffering, how help is not forthcoming, how the Ministers pay themselves with no accountability. Can you say that things have been fantastic for all Singaporeans in the past 5 years? Can you say that it could not have been any better?
Insanity is voting for the same party over and over again, and expecting things to be different.
I cannot tolerate all this fear-mongering from the incumbent. I cannot tolerate all this bullying and gerrymandering. I cannot tolerate being just “noise” in my own country, bossed about by holier-than-thou Ministers who don’t understand the sort of lives and problems that normal Singaporeans face.
I believe that there needs to be a change, and I stand by my belief. I will not stand for all this fear-mongering to try to get me to back down.
I am Singaporean. It is my right to have a say in where my country is heading for the next 5 years, and I will vote according to what I believe is best for my country’s future. I will not give in to fear, and I hope you won’t too.
If they want to keep talking about “freak elections”, then let’s get freaky.