By Ravi Philemon
I was unveiled by the leaders at Singapore People’s Party as their candidate for Hong Kah North today. In introducing me as the candidate, Mrs Lina Chiam said, “the party has fielded a very strong candidate to contest Hong Kah North against the PAP.” I am humbled by the confidence the Party has in me.
The journey here had not been an easy one for me. I come from a disadvantaged family and went to work after completing my GCE ‘O’ Level, at the age of 16, despite qualifying for higher education. I worked as a store-hand making just $300 so that I can help my mother. With an absent father in my life, my mother was my hero, and being the eldest child, my sense of duty compelled and pushed me into the adult world.
Even then, I knew that education was the great leveller. I pushed myself and completed the GCE ‘A’ Level and other diploma courses while working. Today I hold a Bachelor of Arts (Management) from Heriot-Watt University.
The Singapore back then, the political leaders and policies back then, provided various opportunities for me and allowed me to dream. With hard work and perseverance, I rose from being a store-hand to be the Director of a welfare agency.
Our children and their children must not lose this ability to dream. Our leaders today are telling them that they don’t need a degree, that you can be a hawker, or a crane operator – that good qualifications no longer guarantee a good job. While saying all these, they are granting S-Passes, employment passes and permanent residency to foreigners with degrees.
With this being the situation now, what is the kind of a future that awaits our children? Will there be enough opportunities for them in their own country? Or will they be subordinate to better-qualified foreigners?
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew feared that an incompetent Government will mean that, among other things, our people will become foreign workers and maids in other people’s countries. Today our Government – while acknowledging that working overseas may not be comfortable given that pay or living environment will not be as good as in Singapore – still tells us to go overseas.
Are we losing our ability to dream?
Singapore must continue to be a land of opportunities for our own children. It is this conviction which has made me to step forward to challenge the PAP.
I am not a General who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and so may have substantial savings to fall back on in case he resigns. But still, I have paid a heavy price by resigning my job to contest in this election.
I face an uphill battle in Hong Kah North, but by taking this little step forward, I hope to inspire Singaporeans.
That together we can dream of a better Singapore.
Mr Philemon is Singapore People’s Party’s candidate for Hong Kah North SMC, he is also a former Chief editor of The Online Citizen in 2011/2.