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The carrot and the stick

Lim Suat Hong

PAP election scare tactics are a fact. If you vote in opposition, your flat prices will slump; your estate will disintegrate into slums. We have heard this refrain often enough, trotted out at every election by the men in white.

What concerns me now is what a friend shared with me during a rally which speaks of how fear of the stick is emerging on the ground in other areas.

Among the people he had met was a 23-year old art student who did a three-month internship programme with the Ministry of Education and was encouraged to apply for the Art Education grant (local or overseas). It comes with a bond but is a good deal - tuition/allowance/fees - the whole package. He believes the ballot is secret but is still one per cent unsure. The student’s words were: "Better not take chances, call me paranoid, if you like, but I don't want to risk my chances."

He is also concerned about Internet surveillance and has stayed away from political commentary on Facebook and blogs, any indication that would give away his political leanings while waiting for his interview should the committee run an online check.

Then there is the self-starter who is in his 20s, a graduate from Shatec hoping to further his culinary career with a Lee Kuan Yew grant.

And finally there is a Peoples Association kindergarten teacher in her 40s who is grateful for the opportunities which she has been given with only O levels.

Sponsored by the PA she got a diploma in early childhood education followed by a Masters.  She does not agree with how PAP kindergartens are run, but will vote PAP because she feels both beholden and is worried about her rice bowl.

Three encounters with people with different hopes and dreams but who all share one thing in common - fear.  The two younger ones are fearful that when it comes to the awarding of scholarships and grants, committees given a choice of two candidates of equal standing will apply the upgrading “principle” of the PAP and pick the candidate who expresses support for them.

I don’t know one way or the other whether this is true or whether the interview questions will touch on political leanings but given the modus operandi of how the PAP government works, it is plausible. And it would certainly be foolhardy to go to interviews expressing discontent with the system. These are two young people who have come this far because of their hard work and they have and will take responsibility for the conduct of their own lives. I wish them wisdom. The teacher with her credentials should have no problems finding work with private kindergartens unless she is bonded. The question of breaking her rice bowl does not really arise and maybe she should just wait it out till the bond is over.

But all three need not fear the ballot box, it is where they can truly express their hearts and head and hopes. Our votes are secret. And this explains why and how it is so http://theonlinecitizen.com/2011/05/your-vote-is-secret-dont-be-afraid/

To this group of people, or anyone who is looking for financial assistance from the powers that be and feel that voting with your head and heart will diminish your chances, think of it as a handout – the same way  the “care and share” package which is in your accounts today is a handout. It comes once every five years and it may look good, but think how hard you have worked, how much we have all already paid for this package and ask yourself: can you really afford to pay the “true cost” of this package which comes with a PAP government which has increasingly lost touch with the ground, made monumental losses to our reserves, totally miscalculated the YOG budget, allowed a dangerous terrorist to limp out of Singapore and have basically run out of ideas and now  stand on morally shaky ground?

And some final words of encouragement from the experience of one Mr Joshua Chiang: “I always believe that it may be a good thing not to be so dependent on the government so much. I gave up on Media Development Authority (as funding for my projects) after some time and it really made me more creative and less risk-averse.” I believe Joshua is now the business manager of TOC, one of many hats he wears.

For more TOC news about the general election, please visit our GE website as well. Click here.