For more information, please visit That We May Dream Again.
I arrived at Block 322, Hougang Avenue 5 just after the result of the by-election was announced. Although I had missed Yam Ah Mee’s announcement which I was looking forward to watching, I was not disappointed. The atmosphere in the air was overwhelmingly joyous. Without hearing the announcement, I knew instantly that the Workers’ Party’s candidate Png Eng Huat had won the by-election.
Jubilance was in the air as the large crowd comprising of both the young and old waved flags bearing the logo of the Workers’ Party, shouting “Huat ah!”, chanting the name of the party and vehicles passing by sounded their horns in solidarity. People were everywhere – at the coffeeshop under the block, in front of the Chinese medical hall next to the coffeeshop, at the field in front of the coffeeshop, lined along both sides of the road, at the field in front of the blocks of flat across the coffeeshop, and along the corridors of the blocks of flats in the area. It was a huge party which occurred randomly without a sole organiser, without an entertainment license and without any restrain of emotions. In short and viewing it in a socio-political context, this was the biggest and most successful ‘illegal’ gathering I have seen in Singapore.
The police arrived in numbers to maintain order, which was in fact unnecessary but the blinking LED lights they were wearing on their uniforms helped to add on to the already carnival like atmosphere. I also recognised some officers in plainclothes among the crowd, standing out like sore thumbs with their sullen expressions, body language and the not so subtle exchange of glances whenever something exciting was happening. Nevertheless, their presence did not dampen the mood. In fact to many people, they did not really exist at all.
What was really powerful about this was the way random people came together to celebrate and express their support as one, regardless of age, gender, race, language, religion or whether they were residents of Hougang or other parts of Singapore. Children refused to leave, saying “WP hasn’t come yet!” or “Huat ah hasn’t arrived yet!”. People were chanting the name of the party and random cries of “Huat ah!” filled the air. Among the random crowd, neighbours, friends and strangers stood together, chitchatting and talking about the good work of the Workers’ Party, sharing their views on why they did not vote for Desmond Choo. Placards made by supporters were displayed for all to read. Commuters travelling in the buses passing by waved to the crowd and took pictures or videos using their phones. To add to the party, music filled the air thanks to this middle age man, a regular at the rallies with his drum and trumpet. Drivers driving past also rolled down their windows, shouting “Huat ah!”, waving the party flag and horning to the rhythm of “Workers’ Party! Workers’ Party!”. It was a lively crowd, a lively celebration. Interestingly, it also signified people’s power.
It was an honour to have witnessed the night first hand. It was touching to note that despite the PAP’s attempts to sanitise the Singaporean society in their favour by preaching self-censorship (someone was heard shouting “PAP kayu!”), discouraging political expression (the messages written on the placards for example), frowning on people gathering for a discourse or politically motivated event (it was for WP and opposition solidarity that sparked the gathering), nobody really cared about that last night. I saw the Hougang spirit live in action and, stripped of all the fireworks and military display or performers in glittery costumes one can see in our National Day Parade every year, it was a real celebration of citizenry.
Yes it was overwhelming, and I went home with memories I can truly smile about.
The ‘Hougang spirit’ lives on, and may the flame spread to other parts of Singapore too.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop Gregory Yong must have felt terrified after his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 2 June 1987. It led him to take immediate action against his own priests and abandon his full time workers namely, Vincent Cheng, Ng Bee Leng, Kevin de Souza and Tang Lay Lee. Just a week ago, on 27 May 1987, 6 days after 16 people were arrested, he had concelebrated a 90 minute mass with 23 priests at the East Coast parish of the Church of Perpetual Succour. Family members of the four church workers gave moving testimonies of the detainees to a packed church.
To continue reading this, please click here.
This is a blog for advocacy, sharing of opinions and intellectual discussions. It is not a place for malicious trolls. Comments containing threats, vulgar insults towards any authors, politicians, activists, bloggers or myself will from now on, stay unapproved but retained for personal reference.
“Always here for you” – this slogan has been uttered ad nauseum in the Hougang by-election campaigns of both the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP), although for different purposes, as well as in the mainstream media and online media. This is actually the campaign slogan of PAP’s candidate, Desmond Choo.
Ironically, PAP has not always been there for Hougang SMC or any of the opposition wards in the past. In April 2011, Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong openly mentioned that constituencies under PAP are favoured for estate upgrading programmes in his reply to a fourth year NUS student’s query on why residents in Hougang SMC are penalised for supporting the opposition. Mr Lee said “The answer is that there has to be a distinction. Because the PAP wards supported the Government and the policies which delivered these good things.”
Residents in Hougang SMC and other opposition wards are Singaporeans who, like any others living in PAP wards, pay taxes. By not supporting the PAP, residents in opposition wards like Hougang SMC have been punished through such favouritism which in my view, is terribly wrong and narrow-minded of a political party that claims to take care of the needs of Singaporeans. As a result, Low Thia Khiang and his team has to dig into their own funds to make estate upgrading and other improvements within the constituency happen. Did any of the grassroots advisers appointed by PAP to work the ground in opposition wards ever voice out such an unfair party policy? Not that I know of, not including Desmond Choo, who has been the grassroots adviser of Hougang SMC since the last GE.
So does this effectively reflect PAP candidate Desmond Choo’s campaign slogan “Always here for you”?
Perhaps it should read “Always here for you, as long as you vote for me” instead.
(By the way, I feel sorry for Desmond Choo. The goody-two-shoes-and-a-wee-bit-naïve candidate surrounded by critical veteran politicians who have been too loud for him to control image has contradicted his repeated utterance of “I am my own man”. It is so not working.)
It started out as a slight drizzle and all of a sudden, it began to rain furiously as Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party Low Thia Khiang began his speech. Many from the crowd used this opportunity to open up their blue umbrellas with the party logo, some sharing with people standing next to them while the rest without umbrellas began to move away from the field. For a moment I thought they were going home but instead, they went for shelter under the void deck of the nearby block. Some even walked up the stairs and filled up the corridors of that particular block. There were also a handful who preferred to take shelter under the merchandise tent.
A genuine sense of support was in the air and it was pretty overwhelming. These attendees went on their own accord, by their own means of transportation and were not given free dinner nor goodie bags. But they stayed and they cheered til the end of the by-election rally (22 May, Tues), regardless of gender and age.
PAP, you’ve lost Hougang. And I hope I am right.
Details for The Workers’ Party’s 2nd by-election rally.
Details are as follow:
Date: 22 May 2012, Tuesday
Time: 7 pm
Location: Open Field in front of Blk 837, bounded by Hougang Ave 4 and Hougang Central
Spread the word everybody!
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum, a day whereby 16 women and men were arrested at a pre-dawn raid carried out by the Internal Security Department (ISD). 5 days later, they were accused in a statement released by the Singapore Government that the 16 who were arrested were involved in a conspiracy to establish a “Marxist state” in Singapore under the leadership of Tan Wah Piow who was at that time, residing in London. It was said that one of the detainees, Vincent Cheng, was the central figure in the conspiracy.
On 20th June 1987, 6 more people were arrested and were said to be part of the conspiracy.
They were never put on trial and the evidences were never provided. It was a case of “guilty until proven innocent”, which goes against any system of law. However they were never given the chance to prove themselves innocent because they were never granted a trial in a court of law. Til today, the former detainees have refuted the claim, and so did Tan Wah Piow, who published a book 3 weeks after the first arrest entitled “Let the people judge: Confession of the most wanted person in Singapore”. Furthermore, ill-treatment including being interrogated in cold rooms with water splashed on them were said to have happened. Due to ill-treatment during interrogations, the former detainees were forced to appear in televised confessions, “admitting” to all the accusations slapped upon them.
In recent years, the former detainees have begun to speak up on what they had gone through. Knowing some of them personally, I cannot believe that these gentle, kind and law abiding citizens of Singapore were ever involved in any conspiracy to destroy the social construct or political system in Singapore.
I believe that anyone who is said to be guilty of a crime MUST be given a trial. This is to withhold the integrity of the legal system and to avoid any miscarriage of justice. This is why I am against any form of detention without trial. I believe that bestowing ill-treatment on anyone under interrogation is a gross abuse of power and I also believe that nobody should be forced to admit to something they did not commit or intend to commit.
The Internal Security Act (ISA) must be abolished. We do not need such an act that goes against the very principles of law-keeping as well as the basic rights of a human being.
ABOLISH ISA NOW.
To find out more about the former detainees and what they had gone through, do visit That We May Dream Again.
For further reading:
According to a report on Channel News Asia, PAP’s candidate for Hougang’s by-election mentioned that “his vision for Hougang is one where everyone shares a brighter future”, one of which includes making preschools more affordable.
Here are my personal thoughts on this particular component of his vision, from my 7 humble years of experience being an early childhood educator.
First of all, the issue on fees in preschools and child care centers that parents have to bear is not a local issue that is unique to residents of Hougang. It is a national issue that all Singaporean parents have to cope with. Secondly, the amount charged by preschools and childcare centers is not something that can be controlled by Desmond Choo alone. This issue can only be addressed if various ministries come together to talk about this issue.
A preschool or child care center in Singapore has to deal with monthly rent, utilities, salaries of teachers and other staff, teaching materials, disinfecting detergents and other miscellaneous costs such as mosquito repellent for children and the replenishment of the first aid box. Some preschool and all child care centers have to deal with the increasing cost of food for the children in the center and all child care centers have to deal with the cost of providing soap for children who are on a full-day programme. On top of that, many child care centers have engaged pest control companies to conduct regular fumigation and other services within the center to avoid mosquitoes and other pests from breeding. All of these are the factors that lead to increasing fees in some preschools and child centers.
Regarding the fees of child care centers, MCYS has clearly stated that they have no control over this matter because they see private child care centers as private businesses. I think it is the same with preschools under MOE’s charge. Of course, there are certainly other affordable options such as preschools and child care centers operated by PCF and NTUC but there will always be a limit in number of students they can enroll due to teacher and child ratio as well as due to the capacity of the space.
My personal view is that fees will continue to increase and that cannot be helped unless preschools and child care centers are exempted from being affected by the regular increase in water and electricity tariffs or the existence of a food programme whereby child care centers can be provided with affordable food supplies and not compromise on the nutritional quality of the food they provide to the children enrolled in their centers. On top of that, teachers do deserve their annual salary increment and year-end bonus, the way any other Singaporean employees do. Faced with inflation and the ever increasing cost of living, is it justifiable that early childhood educators (preschool and childcare teachers) continue to receive miserable salaries that seems in many cases to be a mere pittance than an appreciation for a profession that requires both intellectual and manual work and which includes unpaid overtime in most cases? Well, I don’t think so.
And how much can Desmond Choo alone solve the issues surrounding the fees of preschools and perhaps child care centers? Well, not much, to be honest. So in other words, he does have an unrealistic view of what he can do and I am not sure how such an MP will benefit Hougang, or Singapore.