Little things, not money or upgrading, matter

Elaine Ong /

To the skeptical, the opposition MPs’ attempts at walking the ground after GE2011 might seem like a case of new brooms sweeping clean. Whether it is the case or not, all I can say is that the people in Aljunied have been very touched to see their new MPs walking the ground even after the elections.

It is one thing to see them going door to door harnessing votes before the elections, it’s quite another to see them on an MRT train, withdrawing money from an ATM, drinking coffee at the kopitiam etc.

To the people on the ground (ordinary folks like you and me), the smile, the handshake, the effort made at striking up a conversation do not go unnoticed.

I did not want to write about this prior to the elections because I did not want what I am writing to be seen in the wrong light, as being anti-PAP because honestly I am not.

Frankly speaking, while George Yeo was an efficient and likeable MP, unfortunately, we never saw or knew much about him except for the fact that he was the Foreign Minister and that he was constantly surrounded by grassroots members who did all the talking for him.

One incident remains clear in my mind. It was after the 2006 elections.

Mr Yeo made a visit to the block (with the usual official fanfare that accompany the visit of any PAP member). Part of the car park was cordoned off and a large number of grassroots leaders was hovering around at the void deck. My then six-year old, seeing the commotion, was quite expecting to see a limousine pull up. That is the ceremonious fanfare that typically accompany the visit of the so-called government official.

That evening unfortunately, not many residents were home (it being a Friday). It was a rather inconvenient time for my family when the doorbell rang and we were quite reluctant to open it. When we did, a grassroots member practically pleaded with us to welcome the arriving minister since, according to his words, the minister had knocked unsuccessfully on several doors only to find that nobody was in.

I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to ask about my lift upgrading programme (LUP).

To my surprise, the grassroots leader told me Mr Yeo would not be answering my questions on the LUP but would be addressing this question at his meet-the-people session (MPS) on another night the next week.

When Mr Yeo did turn up five minutes later, it was a hasty visit. A few words exchanged and a perfunctory handshake and smile. The impression I got rightly or wrongly was that it was not the place and time to ask anything regarding my neighbourhood. (I still quite regret having listened to the grassroots leader and not asking Mr Yeo my questions….then again my family was right in the middle of dinner).

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that these things, the attitude of the grassroots leader, was especially annoying. There was always this barrier between the ones above, and the mere mortals like me below. Hardly what I would call engagement. Surely the MPS is not the only place for questions. Anyway the incident left a poor impression on me.

All I can say is sometimes the little things in life do matter to the average man on the street. We can do away with all the pompousness and fanfare. I still do not understand why till this day PAP MPs need such huge gathering of grassroots leaders to pave the way for the MPs’ visits. If it is to impress upon the ordinary folks the importance of their visits, then I for one am clearly not impressed.

The people in the middle and upper echelons of government should take a leaf out of Chen Show Mao’s book. Visit his Facebook page and you will know what I mean.

The little things do matter and it has got nothing to do with money and upgrading.