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NUSS Post Hougang By-Election Dialogue (21 June 2012)

~ By Cheong Yaoming ~

The NUSS organised a Post Hougang By-Election Dialogue yesterday with special speakers Mr Baey Yam Keng from the PAP and Mr Low Thia Khiang from WP.

The following is the transcript of Mr Low's speech during that event:

Photo by Desmond Wee, The Straits Times

Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hougang SMC is a unique constituency in Singapore and is known beyond Singapore. It is unique because it represents the political conscience of Singapore!

By following their political conscience, the Hougang voters humbled both the PAP and the WP! To the PAP, their message is loud and clear – they want justice and fairness and will not bow down to bullying tactics.

The Hougang voters have also sent a message to WP that we have to do our best to live up to our promises, to serve the people and not be afraid to admit our shortcomings and mistakes, even if it embarrasses us.

The Hougang residents, in that sense, keep both the PAP and WP in check!

Voting for Workers’ Party was not an easy decision for Hougang voters. They have made huge personal sacrifices for more than 20 years in voting for the Workers’ Party. The PAP government punishes them by withholding infrastructure development and improvement to the estate.

The Main Upgrading Program and Interim Upgrading Program were not extended to Hougang. As for the Lift Upgrading Program (LUP), Hougang was thrown to the end of the queue. As of today, LUP work has not even started for about 80% or more of the HDB flats in Hougang.

The PAP leaders even tell Hougang voters during elections that the value of their HDB flats will fall behind other PAP constituencies if they voted for Workers’ Party and threatened them that Hougang would become a slum one day.

This is the reality of the PAP government. Where is the First World standard they claimed to be building? We have pledged ourselves to build a democratic society based on justice and equality. Where is the justice and equality for Hougang and how successful are we in our nation building process? I leave it to you to judge.

Hougang does not have complete covered walkways to link all the blocks in a precinct, a common facility in PAP wards. The Hougang residents are still waiting for the Lift Upgrading Program although many of them are aging as in other constituencies. Yet despite the generous offer of 100 million to upgrade Hougang estate to entice voters to vote for the PAP candidate during election, they decided to follow their conscience and not give in to the bullying and unjust tactics of the PAP.

In the recent By-election, there were some hiccups in the Workers’ Party. These were reported prominently by all media and could have shaken the faith of Hougang voters in Workers’ Party.

However, the By-election results show that the voters of Hougang are sharp to discern the truth and make their own independent judgment. I salute the voters of Hougang.

They understand that it is not easy to become a truly First World country with a First World parliament although a step has been taken at the last General Election in 2011 with the support of Aljunied GRC voters and Singaporeans in general.

They also understand that under our political system and our political climate where the ruling party, PAP, has been the government for nearly 50 years, it is not easy to build up an opposition political party, an organization with discipline and integrity and not just a grouping of like-minded individuals.

They appreciate the importance of a more balanced political system where the people are able to keep the government on its toes and hold it to account so that it will be more responsive to the needs and aspiration of Singaporeans. They believe that people, being the masters of the nation, must preserve the fundamental mechanism to enable them to exercise their power through the ballot box.

The political awakening and experience of Hougang voters in the last 20 years with the Workers’ Party has enabled them to closely monitor the development of opposition politics in Singapore and share the aspiration and vision of WP.

There are some who believe that the result of the Hougang By-Election is a personal result of Low Thia Khiang who had been there for 20 years, implying that it would have been a different story if Low Thia Khiang were no longer in politics.

People who hold this view fail to understand the people of Hougang. While it is true that I know a lot of people in Hougang over the years and have even become good friends with some, the majority of Hougang voters demand a standard of service and conduct from their MP that is worthy of their support.

It is based on this understanding that the Workers’ Party decided to expel Yaw Shin Leong and to let the voters in Hougang to decide again if they would give WP a fresh mandate to represent them in Parliament. This was a difficult decision with high political risk but we owe it to the Hougang voters.

The voters in Hougang had supported the Workers’ Party and me as their MP for 20 years; they have also supported the WP candidate in GE 2011 when I moved out to contest in Aljunied GRC. The candidate for Hougang who was then elected as MP failed to live up to the expectations of both Hougang voters and WP. If Workers’ Party had failed to do what was right, we would have shortchanged the Hougang voters and betrayed their trust.

People in Hougang are People with 义气. This is the essence of the Hougang Spirit. I do not know how to accurately translate this into English; it is more than just personal loyalty or sense of brotherhood. The Chinese meaning of 义 encompasses the meaning of justice, fairness and morality. I believe that so long as Workers’ Party keep faith with the voters of Hougang, they will continue to support the Workers’ Party candidate in future elections.

Thank you.

Mr Low Thia Khiang's speech first appeared on the Workers' Party website.

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