by Joseph Nathan
Since the last election in 2015, many Singaporeans and academics have become more vocal about our 3G government being too elitist and raised their concern about them being too out of touch with the reality on the ground. This discourse is growing.
The Hard Truth is that the majority of Singaporeans toil hard just to make ends meet and many parents have made many unimaginable sacrifices for their children, with the singular hope that they will have a better future. The discourse has led some to lament and wonder if the Singapore Dream is now a mirage that is out of reach even for themselves. Some have even stopped aspiring for anything meaningful for their children and future generations to come.
This should have woken up any grounded politicians into taking affirmative action to address their various concerns. After all, as in any democratic society that is truly based on justice and equality, then the people have a constitutional right to vote those who are “gone-case” out of office during election.
With the announced 4G politicians now supposedly taking charge of our country, many like me are even more concerned for very obvious reasons – they are even more out of touch than their 3G counterparts and this does not augur well for us as a nation. If they are not going to put in real effort to resolve issues and our concerns, then who will?
With this weekend being Mother’s Day, the well-oiled machinery of the People’s Action Party (PAP) was busy rolling out their various programmes to target parents, especially mothers. From free two-year membership at Home TEAM to giving out of PAP Foundation’s grants to female-centric Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO)s and the naming a purple orchid to commemorate mothers, the “slipped-up” by the 4G politicians show why Singaporeans ought to be very concerned.
If any of them were to just ask any kid what is the colour of Mother’s Day, they would have known that pink is used to celebrate Mother’s Day worldwide. Yet, our 4G politicians, led by Manpower Minister Teo were all smiley as she watched as PM Lee officially unveil the purple Aranda orchid. Purple is a colour reserved for grieving. Is she celebrating or grieving mothers’ contribution? I can understand her frustration that our replacement birth rate is low but for her to be proposing purple as the colour for Mother’s Day is just a stretch off as it is also a taboo for many, culturally and religiously.
Is she being insensitive or simply displaying her cultural ignorance in this instance? Isn’t there anybody in the organizing committee that is not even able to advise her that the colour purple may be offensive to many? If she cannot understand such basic cultural importance of being Singaporean, how can she empathize or understand issues that transcend deeper cultural or religious complexities? Is she merely projecting the presumptuous behaviour of the 4G politicians that “they know best” and what they do is final?
Presumptuous Vs. Reality:
Parents know well that this is likely to be an election year and the grandest scheme of things being the Bicentennial Celebration and the Merdeka Generation Package, with the scheduled finale likely being 3Q of 2019 so that the PAP politicians can nicely step in to call for an election while the nation is caught up in their planned celebratory moods. It is true that when people are happy, they are likely to keep to status quo, and in this sense, vote for the PAP. But with many Singaporeans facing harsher reality on almost every front daily just to make ends meet, has the PAP become too presumptuous with its scheme of things?
Here is the irony. The 4G politicians know well that the middle 40% of swing voters are the hardest segment of the population at every election. The 3G PAP politicians had experienced their pushback during PE 2011 and also GE 2011 where they show their displeasure at the ballot boxes. This segment also does not tune in to mainstream media (MSM)s for news like the older generation but are savvier in seeking balance opinion of issues that concern them and the country. If the 4G politicians think that they can “sweeten” the frustrations and concerns of the middle ground with its election handouts, then they are definitely mistaken.
By doing so, the 4G politicians are underestimating the love and concern of Singaporeans parents. They are no fools or gullible to fall for these short term benefits. In fact, such trivializations only antagonize the more concerned ones. The outpour of grieves and sympathies for Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) during GE 2015 was an exception and cannot be re-engineered by such lavish extravagances or sweeteners. It only goes to show the insincerity of the 4G politicians that they care more of their own party-prosperity but not the well-being of Singaporeans.
What most parents want is simply for the government to start addressing their many concerns and demonstrate, not just talk, and assure them decisively that they and their children matters. In short, concern Singaporeans are only asked for the government of the day to take them seriously and demonstrate explicitly, by the results of their social-economic policies, that they are competent in governing and sufficiently concern about the well-being of Singaporeans, today and also tomorrow.
Parents within this middle ground are more concern about hard issues like cost of living, quality employment, their children rightful access to public education instead of being constantly outplaced by foreign students, their safety at schools and when they serve the mandatory National Service and their future when they become adults in their own rights. Election sweeteners are nice but these issues are more critical and matter more. Parents need explicit demonstration and not more empty assurances of things to come or election sweeteners.
I hope the 4G politicians will stop trivializing the various concerns of parents and get down to resolving them explicitly. They have lost the trust of the people and more motherhood statement or empty promises will not work. If the politicians want to demonstrate their sincerities, then they have to show real explicit results that their policies are working and things can get better.
Otherwise, I think parents and the middle ground will be making this upcoming election a Purple Occasion for the 4G PAP politicians as collectively, Singapore does deserve better.
This was first published on Joseph Nathan – Hard Truths of SG’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.