A polling agent with People’s Action Party (PAP) took to her Facebook page to respond against the allegation of misbehaving during the polling day by the Workers’ Party (WP) polling agent.
In a blog post on 29 July titled “Badly Behaved Polling Agents”, the WP polling agent, Ngiam Shih Tung, recounted his experiences of volunteering in the recent general election (GE), saying that the actions of two PAP polling agents he saw “reinforced the stereotype of the PAP as being arrogant and not playing fair”.
Mr Ngiam recounted how the PO at the Maha Bodhi school polling centre ended up shouting back at the PAP polling agent who kept asking her to repeat herself. This same polling agent, according to the author, had also taken a table from storage to make it easier for the mark voter attendance in her copy of the electoral register.
Following this, a netizen who goes by name of Justine Ng shared her side of story on Facebook on 31 July which she claimed these incidents as “unpleasant encounter”.
Ms Ng expressed that she felt incredulous that “something that minute can be spun into a political weapon” though she was not interested to “engage in such a petty squabble”.
Describing herself as a “huge fan of Speaker Tan”, Ms Ng said that she would help out whenever she can “because of him and what he stands for”, but is not interested to be in “any committee or anything politically-skewed” because she “neither has the wits nor the energy to navigate such landmines”.
As requested by her friend, Ms Ng gave a helping hand to be the polling agent where she described that it was her first time being polling agent and she has “absolutely no idea what we needed to do”.
“We were only told to wear white (because Speaker Tan is with PAP party so ok lah, wear white to support him), bring pencil, bring ruler, bring water bottle, bring mask, bring mozzie repellent. That’s it.”
According to Ms Ng, as a polling agent she was given a folder and told to mark voter attendance, however she can’t read the words clearly due to far-sightedness.
“The names and numbers were like font size 8 and auntie here got old flower eyes, alamak so small, how to see? Luckily got ruler so I won’t go cocked-eye,” she asserted.
She went on to describe how she struggled to hear the voter’s names called out by the Polling Officer (PO), given that all four POs were calling out the names and numbers about the same time and even worse with “the muffled names behind their mask”.
“Add to that, our fingers have to be fast flipping through the many pages to locate the numbers while steadying the ruler and pen in order to check the names off that clumsy folder, which was balancing on my lap,” she added.
Responding to the allegation of “taken a table from the storage area”, Ms Ng denied it and said that she had “signal to one of the Senior Polling Officer (SPO) and asked permission” to use one of the tables from the area next to her where the staff had pushed all the canteen tables to the side.
“The gentleman readily agreed without any hesitation and he pulled in a table for my use,” she noted.
She then continued, “Never did I imagine that such an innocuous request could lead to a question about ‘imbalance of POWER’ or giving the appearance of ‘being in a position of authority’. Over a damn table.”
Ms Ng said she was later approached by the same SPO telling her that “the people wearing blue over there objected to my use of a table because it looked like there is….urm…..an imbalance of POWER”.
She felt shocked about the objection of using a table, while saying that she was then realised the polling agent of alternative party were not marking attendance.
“Instead, they were just sitting back, relaxing with their arms folded and just.observing.US.. You know that feeling like you are the work horse and the master with the whip is behind you watching? Yup, that was exactly it.” she wrote.
Noting that how she wanted to do her task well, Ms Ng explained that she will politely ask for a table, and if it is not allowed, she will then follow the rules.
“So if I need a table to help me do my task better and faster, I will politely ask for one. Don’t give, I will abide by the rules but don’t be chow turtle and call it a “position of authority”? You could jolly well have placed a damn table in front of you too,” she remarked.
Beyond this, Ms Ng also rebutted the claims where she “had kept demanding the PO to repeat herself and was so insistent to the point that the PO shouted back at her” as she only asked the PO to repeat the number for “only four times” with each lasting less than 20 seconds during her duty time.
“I asked the PO to repeat the number ONLY 4 TIMES during that 240 minutes, each lasting less than 20 seconds. I am made to wonder if the PO is anti-G or what or she is having PMS? In fact, another SPO advised her to be understanding because really cannot hear with her mask on as well as noises from the surroundings.”
On the “training” given to the second shift polling agents, she also explained that she was sharing with them “how to execute the work more efficiently without a table”, while noting that the entire handover process only took less than five-minutes.
“He [WP polling agent] took issue that we had 4 polling agents in the area instead of the limited 3. My volunteer partner was so upset with their pettiness that he walked out of the demarcated area and asked if they are happy now with only 3 of our whites inside the area,” she added.
With those insinuations being made, Ms Ng asserted that the team wearing blue – WP polling agents – chose to find fault with those wearing white instead of observing a fair voting process.
“SPO did not even picked on such an inconsequential matter but WP continued to bully us at every opportunity,” she remarked.
In response to the allegations, Ms Ng expressed her discontentment, saying, “Over one table, I am on someone’s blog and Facebook. I took one empty chair to use as table, I am ‘egregious’. Over one table, I have somehow dragged the entire PAP through the mud and all kena labelled as arrogant and never changed their ways.
She continued, “I also cannot be helpful and share with incoming volunteers a possible way of doing their task more efficiently. I cannot be helpful. And most ridiculous, because all people who wore white must be demons!!
“WP supporters bang table demanding to be heard. WP supporters bang table demanding for a more caring society. WP supporters bang table demanding for more voices. I just want a table to take attendance. Can?” she concluded her post.
Upon reading Ms Ng’s post, the supporters of the PAP penned their thoughts under the comment section, showing their concerns about her incidents.
Noting that there are plenty of such offensive remarks online, one expressed that the people should remain united for the good of Singapore. “Why are they so confrontational? Hope we remain united and all of us see clearly what’s good for Singapore,” the person wrote.
Another supporter felt that the WP polling agent does not represent the Party. The netizen recalled how he helped the polling agent from different party and even chatted among each other.
He also expressed regret about Ms Ng’s unpleasant experience, while hoping that Ms Ng won’t assume that everyone who volunteers with WP will be like that.
“Whatever our political affiliations, we are still are Singaporeans,” the person wrote.
A few netizens mentioned that they are not surprised about this incident as they claimed that the supporters “do not want healthy discussions”.
However, as stated in the Elections Department (ELD) website, at each polling station, the polling agents will be seated where they will be able to observe the polling proceedings, but not in a position that will compromise the secrecy of the ballot.
According to ELD, the polling agents should pay close attention when the POs are reading out the particulars of the voters.
“They must not ask the PO to repeat the voters’ particulars or check their own copy of the register (obtained from their political party or candidate) against the PO’s copy, as this will disrupt the orderly conduct of poll,” it stated.
The polling agent could have been thrown out of the polling centre, if the ARO had found fault with her based on the guidelines.