By Richard Seah
Kenneth Jeyaretnam was a man transformed when he spoke at the Reform Party’s rally on Friday (4 Sep) at Yio Chu Kang Stadium.
Four years ago, during GE2011, I listened to him speak at the same stadium. He spoke like an English gentleman. He was very articulate but I felt he didn’t connect with the crowd, particularly not the older aunties and uncles, probably not even with the younger generation Chinese who tend to speak Mandarin among themselves. His attempt to reach out to Malays and Indians was just a one-word greeting.
But on Friday, he was a different man – like a mouse transformed into a tiger. His voice was at least five times louder and 10 times fiercer. A few times, his voice broke.
Perhaps he was trying too hard. His new manner of speaking seemed somewhat rehearsed and deliberate. But the fire in his belly was real enough. He spoke with passion and conviction. And with anger and contempt as he recounted how, in 1997, his late father, J B Jeyaretnam, was robbed of an election victory in Cheng San (today Ang Mo Kio) GRC.
Mr Jeyaretnam said the Reform Party contested in Ang Mo Kio in 2011 with the intention of not leaving any seat uncontested. The second time, he said, the intention is “not to sacrifice itself for the sake of democracy. We are here to win!”
He added: “Now, a lot of people are making the comment that I have deliberately assembled the (AMK) team to give Mr Lee Hsien Loong nightmares! Well, maybe I have. But I ask you, why should Lee Hsien Loong sleep soundly at night, in his bed, at the top of an ivory tower? Protected by foreign mercenaries!”
Mr Jeyaretnam took swipes at the PAP AMK candidates, saying they included “a game show host who doesn’t represent the ethnic minority who gave him the ticket to stand. And the doctor who told everybody that he believes everyone owns two cars. Then there’s Dr Intan, most known for her service to the Ang Mo Kio residents by giving them a grassroots leader who was a fraudster.”
But he saved his harshest attacks for Lee Hsien Loong. As a prelude, Mr Jeyaretnam noted that candidates like Dr Koh Poh Soon, Mr Daryl David and others at least had real careers and had to work hard to progress, submit themselves to peer review, pass professional exams and so forth.
“Mr Lee Hsien Loong, by comparison,” he added, “has never had to take a job interview in his life. He has never taken a job in the real world. His only job is to be professional son. And professional heir to what can only be enormous wealth.”
Making references to PAP warnings that the opposition would lead Singapore towards bankruptcy, Mr Jeyaretnam said: “There is no need to take the road to Greece. You can join us in our community outreach. You can come down with (RP candidate) Mr Siva to Block 318 (in Ang Mo Kio) and see conditions that any Greek citizen would consider unacceptable.”
The Reform Party leader spoke to a large and responsive crowd that included teenage blogger Amos Yee. After the rally, Mr Jeyaretnam took the opportunity to pose for a photograph with Amos.