Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Jose Raymond said that the central theme of his manifesto for the people of Potong Pasir – “Your Voice, Your Friend” – has been built up based on feedback from residents on the ground since he started engaging with the people in the last couple of years.

“Of course, helping them with the problems, understanding what their needs are, and so I’m actually approaching it at that level, in a way, I am different and I am their voice,” noted Mr Raymond during an interview on Yahoo Singapore’s On The Mic podcast.

Sharing his experiences when doing community visit in Potong Pasir, he stated that he had received the warm welcome from the residents which kept him motivated. Residents would hug him, bring out drinks for him, and even invite him to their homes.

However, Mr Raymond did offer an advice to those who wish to be involved in politics, saying that they must recognise that “not everyone will be your supporters”.

“Not everybody is going to trust you or know what you stand for, and we must be ready that we’re going to face rejection,” he added.

Nonetheless, Mr Raymond expressed joy in the work he does. He said, “But I’ve enjoyed helping people in Potong Pasir. I have enjoyed carrying out, doing as best as I can in trying to ensure that their needs are met. I have done a lot of work on the ground and I believe people have taken to me…they have come to recognize me as a friend.”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he also pointed out that the pandemic will affect a lot of people for a long period of time, especially in Singapore, given that the country relies heavily on externalities.

“We rely on trade with external parties and if those countries are not able to recover as quickly that we are going to be affected as well,” Mr Raymond added.

He also noted that residents are concerned about job losses and loss of income due to the pandemic.

To help them, Mr Raymond shared that he is trying to open up a new network with his friends who are in business, adding that if there are any openings, he will able to at least link the Potong Pasir neighbourhood to some of his networks.

In order for you be able to help the people around, you need to know the people around you, says Jose Raymond

When asked about whether the boundaries change will affect the voting patterns, Mr Raymond recognised that “it is not going to be easy” to rest back a seat from a two-term incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) though the district was once the stronghold of Chiam See Tong.

“So, it may have been a stronghold in the past, but let’s not look to the past to expect what people are going to do today, because today the needs are very different, and sort of strategy… I’ve got to make sure that I try to touch as many lives as possible and to have people see that I am really getting out there to do whatever I can within my means and to give as much support as possible to whoever needs help. I think that’s more important for me.”

Apart from the strong network in business, he noted that what he can bring to the table is the ability to frame a problem and appeal for residents.

“I’ve had quite a few residents come up to me for help because they have heard from others. They know I’m able to frame appeals very sharply and send it off to various people to get help,” Mr Raymond elaborated.

Putting the effort to try to meet and know as many people as possible and solve a lot of the problems, he asserted that he has taken a “very data-driven detail approach” on his ground work by having a database of the entire neighbourhood, as he believed that “in order for you to be able to help the people around, you need to know the people around you.”

Responding to the question on whether Chiam See Tong and Lina Chiam will be running in the upcoming General Election, Mr Raymond stated that he has not received any related messages about this saying.

He went on to explain that it is important if the Party is able to move forward and “bring a fresh set of lenses to the table”, given that the problems of today “are far more complex” than the problems of 30 years ago.

Speaking about the Party’s candidates in contesting at Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, he mentioned that the three candidates – Khan Osman Sulaiman, Melvyn Chiu, and Williamson Lee – have actually stood for elections before.

“So, what we have done is, we have actually taken a very consolidated re-approach because I believe that given the current scenario and the current situation, it’s important that we do not expand or waste unnecessary financial resources, because we are going through appearance of depression. So, I think it’s important that we do not waste financial resources,” said the Party’s chairman.

Mr Raymond also shared his view about the possibilities of three-cornered fights in both Potong Pasir and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRCs.

“I’m not so concerned about three-cornered fights. I always believed that if you’ve done enough work, we should not be afraid of anyone who wants to come in and participate. I think members of the public, the residents, electors of those particular state, will be able to make up their minds and I think, it’ll be very important for whoever is going to be contesting in whichever area, to also know whether or not it’ll be the psychology of the voter in those areas and to know what the voters want.

“I mean, we’ve had four-cornered fights before in by-elections, right? And we can see the results is very clear that, the residents know what they want. And also in a way of democracy,  that’s how it works…it’s my duty to get out there and convince people of the reason why they should vote for me based on the information which they already had knowing whether they can trust me, or rely on me or knowing whether they can look to me when they’re in trouble.

“If you have all those questions answered, I think you stand a fair chance, when your name being put into the ballot box.”

Less confrontational, less adversarial, and more solution-seeking political debate

Meanwhile, Mr Raymond is expecting to see a change in political debate, for it to be “less confrontational and less adversarial and more solution-seeking”.

“I think that will actually benefit our general citizenry because the lesser the debate is about the politics and the more the debates are about the policy, the more we going to be able to do things better and which will end up benefiting general population,” he added.

Mr Raymond hopes that Singapore will be able to reach a stage in the political history where everyone can sit together and have a discussion despite being on different sides of the house.

Moving on, he highlighted a few concerns that he may raise in Parliament, including the lease decay of HDB flat, wage depression caused by foreign labour, and the income not rising in tandem with the spiraling cost of living, adding that these issues will get much worse with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has proven that lots of people don’t even have enough in the bank accounts to last an extra two months. We are facing an emergency. So, I think these are some of the issues which you have got to face up and find solutions,” Mr Raymond remarked.

Social media’s impact in Singapore’s political scene

When asked to share his take on the impact of social media in Singapore’s political scene, Mr Raymond stated that it is still “unknown” whether the online platform “fairly reflects the sentiments on the ground.”

He reasoned that the rallies and the use of mainstream media could affect how the people ended up voting on the ground.

Citing the results of the General Elections back in 2011 and 2015, Mr Raymond said that the impact of social media was “negligible” because only the alternative parties used the online platform more effectively at that time, although the online sentiment at 2011’s election “did have some kind of effects” on the end result in the terms of popular vote.

However, he pointed out that the effectiveness of online campaigning could be gauged in this year’s election.

“But this time around could well be one of the first times in history that will be able to gauge how effective is the online space for campaigning because the end results will probably be a recognition of whether or not your online content or your online strategy have worked,” Mr Raymond noted.

On his digital campaign plans, Mr Raymond highlighted that he will be using a combination of online content and online broadcast, which is called electoral online blitzkrieg, along with on-the-ground outreach in accordance to the campaigning guidelines.

Touching on the POFMA’s impact on the online campaigning, he acknowledged that it is important to take enforcement action against the falsehood as he was also a victim of online falsehood.

“The members of public must have access to the truth,” he asserted, adding that it is “not right for us to go into battle with a falsehood or a lie”.

Mr Raymond also stressed that it is critical to address the falsehood promptly as the falsehood may travel not just on social media, but also on messaging platforms which may be extremely difficult to detect and put a stop on it.

“And by the time the damage may be done before can’t even act,” he added.

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