By Howard Lee
Having left the National Solidarity Party late last year, Ms Noraini Bte Yunus decided to join the Democratic Progressive Party recently.
Both push and pull factors were at play in Noraini’s move, a customer service professional in the service industry. She left NSP at a time where the leadership was seeing some uncertainty and she was not comfortable with the working styles of some members.
“After I left, I did think about which party I should join, which suits me better,” she said, “DPP with its current leadership is a relatively new party, and that to me offered a lot of potential, as we have the chance to do things differently.”
DPP is currently headed by Chairman Mr Mohamad Hamim Aliyas and Secretary General Mr Benjamin Pwee. Both where formerly from the Singapore People’s Party and contested in GE2011.
The team at DPP offered her “stability in turbulent times”, a term she used to describe the current flux in opposition parties in Singapore.
“The team was very welcoming,” she said. “The people do not have the angst that you usually find in those who have left on negative terms. It is like they have founded a start-up and are keen to help build it’s structure.”
Noraini felt that her industry experience in branding and marketing would be of use to DPP in its current stage of development, and she could also possibly help with the party’s online efforts.
“Right now, my key focus would be to try and gel with the other members, get used to the way they work.”
GE2011: An eye-opener
Citing her first dip into politics in GE2011, where her NSP team polled 33% of votes in Jurong GRC, Noraini felt it offered a different experience. “It was quite a big transition from being a supporter to becoming a candidate,” and to quickly acclimatise to political life, “I read about what some of the other candidates said, what they did and did not do.”
Noraini also credited her learning to her online presence, which became a place to get support as well as ideas. “I was initially very intimidated by the people who commented on my Facebook page. They were very direct, and not all agreed with your views. But I tried to engage them and through it learnt from them.”
While she is currently not walking the ground for any constituency – she felt it would be more appropriate for the DPP leadership to first decide on where she should be assigned – she hopes to continue working on some areas that she continues to feel strongly about, particularly on issues that affect the Muslim community.
“The quota for Haj has decreased. As Singapore becomes more affluent, there are a lot more among us who want to make the trip, but the quota means that we actually have fewer opportunities. I’m currently trying to see how we can increase the choices available, including approaching NGOs for assistance on behalf of Haj participants.”
She is also concerned about the rising divorce rates among her community, and would like to explore how she can help families caught in such unfortunate circumstances.
Dealing with such daily issues did not blind Noraini to the fact that a lot is at stake for opposition parties in Singapore. Media attention has increased, and while she felt that speaking to media can be exhilarating, it also carried risks.
“The advantage of media is that it can help you get your views heard, but it can also go wrong. I have had journalists who, after an interview, chose to dissect the entire conversion and focus on only one aspect that did not really represent what I was trying to say.”
She is also concerned about what she perceives to be an over-emphasis on party personalities, where a few decide on the image of the party and leave the party itself in a precarious position should they leave. “I think the challenge for parties is about how to hold the party together without breaking up (into different groups).”