On Thursday (4 June), Singapore newest political party Progress Singapore Party (PSP) conducted its second virtual Meet the People session via video conferencing tool Zoom.
Called “MeetPSP 2”, the two-hour online event had a number of the party’s members come forward to share their reasons and hopes behind joining the party.
PSP’s Secretary-General Tan Cheng Bock said that this virtual MeetPSP session is going to be the “new normal” if the COVID-19 continues in the current manner. He also explained how he started the party a year ago with 12 people who were primarily from his old constituency, Ayer Rajah.
He also added that the reason why he started the party was because the current situation in the country is not good.
“The current scenario is not what we felt was good enough. There were many changes made and some of the changes disturbed us badly. So we decided to form this party so we can galvanise Singaporeans to see if we can make a better life for most Singaporeans,” Dr Tan said.
He also said that the party which started with just 12 members have now grown to more than a thousand, with people coming from all walks of life.
“Some are scholars, some with outstanding academic qualifications..some are top executives in large MNCs. Each of them will bring their unique life experiences and wisdom to PSP, and later on to Singapore,” he said.
There are a total of eight members who participated in Thursday’s session, and below are some of the concerns that they’ve raised.
Leong Mun Wai, Assistant Secretary General
Mr Leong, who was raised in Chinatown, had worked for GIC where he learned how to manage the country’s huge reserve. As a Merdeka generation, Mr Leong said that by joining PSP, he hopes to help “initiate some changes because we found that Singapore is indeed moving in the wrong direction”.
He added that these changes will be initiated by them so that the next generation can complete the change, and the future generation can “inherit a Singapore that is fairer and more vibrant”.
Yuen Kin Pheng, Central Executive Committee (CEC) member
On the other hand, Mr Yuen said he, like Mr Leong, also grew up at Chinatown and had a difficult life. However, he noted that although life was tough but there was still a spirit of care and compassion.
“We were not a first world country then, but neither did we have issues like high-cost of living and huge income inequality. And there was a strong sense of belonging,” he said.
Even though Singapore is now a first world country, but the majority of people do not enjoy a first world standard of living, Mr Yuen added.
As someone who had an impressive resume from working as a business leader for MNCs to CEO of Hong Leong Asia, Mr Leong said that one way to make a successful company is to stay competitive and relevant, and the same goes to a country.
“To progress, we need free contest of ideas and rule for alternative solutions. No one party has monopoly of talent and ideas. A one-party rule is no longer serving the interest of the people and will not go well for the future of our country,” he said.
He added, “We need change and a strong voice in Parliament to put us all back on track. I would certainly like to be part of this change, and would like to help PSP build a strong alternative to the present government.”
Abdul Rahman Mohamad, CEC member
Mr Rahman is another CEC member of the party who had visited different parts of the country and witnessed their political system, education, welfare, governance, law and order as well as economy.
Due to his abroad experience, Mr Rahman said he managed to see how the different governments handle the public in terms of freedom as well as training and development in order to prepare them for the future.
Tan Meng Wah
Dr Tan is a former research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, a think-tank at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Currently, Dr Tan works as an industry consultant teaching at Nanyang Technology University, under its Master of Science in Technopreneurship & Innovation programme. He has spent extensive hours studying in the area of income inequality, public housing and SME developments in Singapore.
“From the research I realised that something is very wrong in Singapore over the years, especially after the turn of a century. In fact, there was a shift in emphasis on the economic development from income generation (GDP generation) to after the turn of a century (wealth generation),” he said.
Dr Tan explained that income generation focuses on the growth of GDP where the government creates jobs that will benefit both the workers and SMEs. On the other hand, wealth generation is when the economy accrued more to asset owners and capital owners.
Due to this shift in emphasis, income equality worsen very quickly, he said. “So now we have high income inequality, high housing cost, insufficient retirement funding, loss of job and other issues.”
During the online session, Mr Pillay said that Singapore can do a lot more and it has the capability to do so.
He said that Singapore is his home and it hurts him to see how the country has lost its way in the last 20 years.
“We don’t seem to have good ideas on how to do other new things and explore new ideas. We seem to push away suggestions and proposals because that’s not how it needs to be done,” Mr Pillay said.
He continued, “We have a lot of sacred cows that are not being addressed on how we need to get rid of them – HDB being one of them.”
As such, he said that he wants to make a change and create a better Singapore so the future generation can be proud to be Singaporeans.
Another member who is part of PSP is Gigene Wong. She is a human resource specialist who came from a poor family. Growing up in tough life, Ms Wong said she loves challenges and push to change the impossible to possible.
She also explained that she joined the party to serve the country. “I’m stepping forward to join the party, and hopefully one day I can be in the Parliament.”
She went on to state that she wants to be the voice of people and help them say things that they do not dare to utter.
49-year-old Mr Pillai is the head of community architect and leadership as well as chief technology architect at IT firm called Red Hat. He was also the former publisher of socio-political website The Independent Singapore.
One of the main points that Mr Pillai highlighted was about the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
He said that the trade agreement is “incomprehensible”, and the benefits accrued are “lopsided”.
“DBS has become the largest foreign bank in India but it is at our expense and the PMETs are left to defend for themselves in the wake of an economic downturn…What we have is that the PMETs are losing their jobs and are not being able to get back on their feet,” he said.
As such, Mr Pillai said that when the next General Election is held, a message has to be sent to the ruling party.
“You and I are going to send a message that there is no such thing as free lunch or million dollar salary for ministers. The government has no right to trade our jobs in the name of economic progress that only benefits the elite,” he noted.