I had mixed feelings as I looked at the results of GE2011. I was happy because alternative voices (let us stop using the term “Opposition” as it has a negative connotation that they are there only to oppose) are making inroads into parliament, but sad because there is not enough to make a significant difference.
There are a couple of issues that I feel the PAP should reflect on.
Loss of feel of the pulse on the ground
Like I have always maintained and told my friends, the leaders in the PAP have lost their moral authority to lead. I think the recent election is ample proof of that. Buffered by their astronomical salaries that put them in the topmost tier of society, I feel that they are no longer able to empathise with the woes, problems and everyday struggles of the common man.
This was evidenced in the past by the insensitive, almost caustic responses that they give to questions about everyday issues like monetary handouts to the poor, the increasing cost of living and affordability of HDB flats, to name a few.
More recently Lim Hwee Hwa said "It is a surprise for us that the resentment is so deep and the unhappiness is so deep." And that she was caught by surprise at the "deep level of resentment" felt towards the ruling People's Action Party. I am indeed caught by surprise by her admission.
This begs the question that if an MP does not know the sentiments on the ground and the extent of those sentiments, then what has this MP been doing for the last 5 years? How can she claim to connect with or to represent the people when she has failed to feel the pulse on the ground?
She has failed miserably in the most basic duty of an MP. Her admission opens up a can of worms and really leaves one pondering if she is but just one of the many that have inadvertently “disconnected” with the people that they are supposed to represent.
What we want is an MP that is there to listen to us, be our voice in parliament, help us solve
issues, to put us first, ahead of blind party loyalty. We certainly do not need handshaking, baby-carrying, event gracing MPs with an “I know better than you” mentality. We want someone that sincerely wants to make a difference in the lives of people that they represent. If the PAP is in need of someone to model after, might they be so humble as to look at Chiam See Tong, who soldiered on for the good of his people regardless of the unfair odds stacked against him.
Or if PAP is indignant that someone outside the party can even be considered a role model, no matter how appropriate and fitting, then look no further than their own Dr Lily Neo.
The only important question remains if they are humble enough to acknowledge this failing and if they even possess the desire to do something about it.
Results and growth at the expense of everything else
I was quite disturbed when despite the groundswell of disapproval against the IRs, the PAP still went ahead with not 1 but 2 casinos. With the picking of supposedly the best brains in the nation, is the PAP telling us that opening 2 gambling dens (you can dress them up anyway you want, but at the end of the day, that’s what the 2 IRs are all about, thinly veiled and sorry excuses for a gambling den) is the only way they can think of to boost our economy?
To me, this is an important point. Because if the way to boost the economy is to regress to vice, then I fear that the PAP has arrived at the point where the end justifies the means, never mind the cost to the nation or its people or the fallout along the way. This also illustrates the line of thought of the PAP; people’s opinions be damned, we know and decide on what is best for the country and everyone else will just have to fall in line. These are dangerous thoughts for a country so small in physical size and population.
I dread the day when they decide that nuclear energy is the way forward. Never mind that in the recent Japan nuclear disaster, the safe zone was a minimum of 20km away from the troubled reactors. A distance that if imposed in the event of a nuclear disaster here, would mean at least ¾ of the population treading water in the sea.
A country is so much more than just economic numbers and growth. And I feel that where this aspect is concerned, the PAP has over the years, gradually lost the plot. Locals are increasingly disenchanted and jaded with the maniacal focus on nothing but numbers. Just a day after the PM said it is time to listen more to the people, it was business as usual in his first speech made after the election. The constant refrain of increasing productivity through upgrading and training jarred the ear like an old, broken record. It certainly breathed life into my nagging suspicion that the PAP said what it said before the elections just to calm the tide of unhappiness rising against it. And that this was done without much commitment, belief or conviction in the words that they were saying.
In the next couple of years, I certainly look forward to be proved wrong.
Archaic practice of threats and carrots
As recently as last month, Lee Hsien Loong said that wards not in PAP’s control would have the lowest priority in upgrading programmes - "The answer is that there has to be a distinction. Because the PAP wards supported the Government and the policies which delivered these good things."
If voting the PAP into the ward means supporting the PAP and their policies and thus be entitled to these programmes (eg. upgrading of estate), then to vote in an another party to the ward must logically mean the rejection of PAP’s policies.
If the case is such, I insist that no foreigners be allowed on Hougang’s or Aljunied’s soil because I reject their policy on bringing in that many foreigners. I insist that the government account to the residents here exactly how much of our taxes are going into their out-of-this world pay packages and to exclude that amount and return it to us because I reject their policy of needing to pay our ministers that much an amount. I insist that my taxes not be used to pay for a foreigner to study here because I reject their policy of paying school / tuition fees for a foreigner when there are enough needy local students here that need help.
I could go on, but the point I want to make is that it is silly, to the point of being downright
petty, to tie a national programme like upgrading to which party a ward voted for. In case the government has forgotten, may I remind it that it has a responsibility, a moral obligation to take care of the people and that we, the people of Singapore, have a right to demand that its policies be “based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation (and not just PAP wards)”.
The PAP would do well to stop using doomsday, end-of-the-world-if-you-vote-for-opposition arguments. Half century old scare tactics are not palatable with 21st century voters. In fact, it might just accomplish the opposite of what PAP sets out to do as borne out by the results in Aljunied in this election. Voting in an alternative voice is not a sin, there is no need for repentance. Period.
In an awakened and increasingly less fearful electorate, the PAP must stop its archaic practice of threats and carrots, especially during the election period. We will no longer be bought nor be bullied into submission. Do what is your sacrosanct duty to take care of us genuinely and sincerely and my vote for you is guaranteed. Do anything less than that and risk losing the support of the people.
Have a feel for the common man, your fellow Singaporean
It would do the PAP much good to have their ministers occasionally take public transport during rush hour, less the fanfare and the “wayang” that usually accompany such an occurrence. Get a feel of what it is like to know everyday whether or not the person next to you has showered or brushed his teeth before leaving the house. To get a feel of only being able to hop onto the 3rd or 4th train because the earlier few were simply too crowded.
Before one of your ministers shoots his mouth off to persistently insist that housing is affordable, or one of your new members expound that education and healthcare costs are affordable and low, you would do well to first remember that you, a minister, earns in one month what an average person might take a couple of years to earn. Can you even begin to fathom the disparity in income? Do you not, as Sylvia Lim said in a parliamentary debate in 2007, feel “a tinge of discomfort” or has the voice of your conscience been silenced by the millions that you get?
PAP has to remember that whatever policy or decision they make has to be tempered with the knowledge that most fellow Singaporeans are not breathing the same rarefied air that the ministers, with their million dollar pay packages, are breathing. Most do feel more than a tinge of discomfort when policies and decisions made by the PAP are not thought through with the consequences to the average Singaporean in mind.
When you are smothered and bolstered by millions every year, it is unsurprising that you wonder why there’s a fuss about the affordability of a $400,000 pigeon hole. After all, that is barely 3 months pay, loose change really, in the grand scheme of things.
In closing, remember what your leader, Lee Hsien Loong said, “You are the servants of the people.” It is high time you reflect on this and start acting like one.