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Lim Tean: What Singapore need is not any hyperbole on false sentimentality but a rebirth of the Singapore spirit

Below is the transcript of the speech made by Lim Tean, a lawyer and opposition politician, in response to the National Day Rally Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

My fellow Singaporeans,

I am sure by now that many of you have had the chance to watch Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech last Sunday. Though in truth, as many of you have already realised, this was not a National Day Rally speech, it was an electioneering speech, laden with election gimmicks because vote-harvesting time is around the corner and he is trying to entice vulnerable Singaporeans to vote for him and his party. I expect that elections will happen very soon, and all of us that strive for a better Singapore should ready ourselves for the most decisive political battle of the last half century.

It was not a speech that sought to inspire, to uplift Singaporeans to meet the future with a hopeful spirit. It was a defensive speech, one that shamelessly attempted to buy the votes of the very people that the Government has been short-changing for years.

It borrowed heavily from the past, speculated about the future, but said nothing about the issues of today, issues that the PAP regime themselves have created. They say that we need them for the stability of our country, but what they have given us is instability in our own homes. A raft of large price hikes on water and electricity do not show stability. What it demonstrates is reactionary thinking and incredible short-sightedness.

Singaporeans also see this and their online comments have been rightfully derisive towards the PAP’s latest vote buying scheme. We heard about this newly-minted ‘Merdeka’ generation the PAP just created. Lee Hsien Loong realizes that this generation represents 500,000 voters that he’s is in trouble with. To him, rather than the ‘Merdeka’ generation, they are actually the ‘mediocre’ generation, because his party has treated them with contempt for decades, allowed their jobs to be taken away, not returned their CPF at 55 as promised, and kept them on stagnant wages while the cost of living accelerated as they laboured to build a first-world country.

So, in truth, rather than the ‘Merdeka’ generation, they are the forgotten generation. For so many in this forgotten generation, they laboured incredibly long hours for their families, missed time with their children to build this nation. Yet so many in this generation today are reduced to driving Grab to make a living, despite their qualifications and their ability. They are many of the best and brightest of our country. Many of them do not have retirement adequacy today because the bulk of their CPF went to paying for overpriced HDB apartments. They may wish also to speak with Singaporeans from the Pioneer generation who realise the grave limitations of the Pioneer Generation Package, and that at the end of the day it did not amount to much, because of the astronomical increase in healthcare costs. A glass with no bottom will never be full or even half full.

And so now Lee Hsien Loong has given them a grandiose name, he’s evoked the image of his late father and created some paltry package, all in a desperate attempt to appeal to their emotions and win back their votes. But Singaporeans are smarter than he gives them credit for, and they see this scheme for what it is. I am sure that the forgotten generation realise that what the PAP is giving them now is what the PAP took away from them in terms of higher taxes and relentless price increases over the last few years. It is the proverbial “I will give you one chicken wing and take away the whole chicken!”

My fellow Singaporeans, how unoriginal of him! Isn’t it blatantly obvious that he’s trying to recreate the conditions of 2015? Isn’t it pathetic that LHL and the PAP, as they realise that their grip on our society is weakening, desperately try to win us back with nostalgia rather than real policies that we desperately need? But hey – at least they changed the CHAS card from yellow to orange.

But I want to talk about the other main fixture of LHL’s speech, an issue that cuts ordinary Singaporeans to the bone: HDBs. We heard about an alphabet soup of new acronyms: VERS, HIP, HIP 2. But, my fellow Singaporeans, all he is doing is sugaring the pill. In an attempt to appease you, he has offered to simply recondition your flats, refurbishment, which, at the end of the day, you will still be paying for with your CPF and hard-earned cash! All this to distract you from the fact that, at the end of the day, they’re still worth nothing after 99 years. What LHL fed us yesterday is nothing more than a David Copperfield sleight of hand. I don’t need to remind any of you that there was once a time, a very recent time, when the PAP claimed that HDB flats were investments. Even as recently as 2011, Lee Hsien Loong’s father told us that HDB prices would never go down. LHL said the same thing only a few years later. That they were assets that would continually appreciate in value. Now, only a few years later, he is not even trying to sell that idea.

He has retreated to appeasing you with schemes that avert your attention, that talk about nothing but reconditioning your flats and ignoring the REAL problem – that your flat is still reduced to zero value at the end of the day. That you’re a lessee, not an owner. Although I may add, Lawrence Wong is still trying to continue with the fairy tale. But all fairy tales end when the cold winds of reality hit our face. The PAP is not offering a solution to the housing problem. They’re kicking the can down the road. HIP 2 in 10 years and VERS in 20 years. And none of these are any real solutions to the problem! LHL won’t even be around when these schemes kick into operation. What does it solve? It solves nothing, but it does show the mediocrity of LHL and his government. They need 20 years to even plan for VERS! Where is the brilliance of his so-called 4G leaders, or is the PAP’s creativity limited to only inventing more acronyms?

But HDB reconditioning and vote-buying handouts were not the only feature in LHL’s speech. You heard from LHL who suggested the main problem with the cost of living issue is peoples rising aspirations and lifestyles. So, he is blaming us for not making better decisions! But Singaporeans let me ask you, does your 50 dollars today buy as much as it did five years ago? Did your income keep up with the costs that are being heaped upon you almost day by day? Do you think that your wage increases have kept pace with price hikes on water and electricity imposed by an uncaring government? And how does Lee Hsien Loong suggest that we cope with these cost increases? “Use Wi-Fi instead of 4G when you watch movies.” That’s ridiculous! That statement alone is a testament to how out of touch LHL is with the common man. He wants to take the rest of us back to the dark ages. All these cost increases don’t matter an iota to him! The multi-million-dollar income of he and his wife has left him out of touch with the lives of everyday Singaporeans! It’s absurd to be lectured on our expenditures by a prime minister who earns more in a single day that most Singaporeans do in a matter of months. Once again, the likes of Lee Hsien Loong and Goh Chok Tong and the PAP live in a different city from us. These people who lecture us are the same people who say that teachers should be paying more for car parking at their school so that their wages will be ‘clean’ when they themselves get to park in many places for 1 dollar per day!

What we need now is not any hyperbole on false sentimentality. On the eve of the bicentennial of our founding by Raffles in 1819, what we need is a rebirth of that Singapore spirit which created our Nation and which binds us as a community based on the shared fact that we are all Singaporeans. I know that many of you do not have that sense of national pride anymore — that most of you chose not to hang the National Flag out on National Day. That many of you do not feel at home in your country now. And yet that human spirit is an eternal flame in all of us which will never be extinguished.

That Singapore spirit is able to bring about change so that conditions can improve. That human spirit was what drove the colonial British out nearly 60 years ago. If we are determined, we know that together we can defeat the dark forces which intend to keep ordinary Singaporeans down and under their control. Together, we can take back our country. That will be our true Merdeka and we will all be the Merdeka generation!