Some thoughts to share regarding the By-Election at Punggol East SMC
January 16, 2013, 12:35 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

punggol-east-smcIn less than a month after Michael Palmer resigned as the MP for Punggol East SMC, the PM Lee Hsien Loong decided to call for a by-election in the constituency. Many things have happened since then, provoking much discussion on issues surrounding this by-election on both online and offline platforms. Reading through those discussions, some of which I have participated in as well, I noticed a few common themes. I have also picked up on a few common attitudes and perceptions which make me feel that a greater political awakening is necessary in our society, despite the fact that people are now more comfortable in sharing their political opinions nowadays.

Alright anyway, here are three points I would like to bring up:

1. The “We came first” mentality needs to end

Besides the Workers’ Party, several other parties and individuals have expressed their intentions to run for this by-election. Right from the beginning however, much criticism has been casted upon the Singapore Democratic Party’s intention to run. Many were blaming SDP for trying to cause a three-cornered fight, saying that since the WP ran in the General Election in 2011 (GE2011), Punggol East SMC is rightfully the turf of the WP. Now that the SDP has announced their withdrawal from the race, the criticisms have shifted to the Reform Party (RP), SDA, Mr Ooi Boon Ewe and Prof Dr Zeng Guo Yuan.

What a flawed mentality. First of all, no independent candidate or political party should hold monopoly on an area simply because they have carried out their campaigns in the area before. In the spirit of democracy, all individuals and parties who have considered their abilities, looked through their campaign messages and are confident to serve the people of that particular area, should have the opportunity to participate in the election. Secondly, if one insists on going along with this line of discrimination, which I consider seriously childish, then the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) should have been given the priority for years of groundwork done in the area. Does anyone even recall that it was WP who created a three-cornered fight in last year’s GE? Strangely, I did not recall anyone pointing fingers at WP or reinforcing this childish mentality of “so and so came first” mentality… well not as strongly as the way it seems this time.

2. A three-cornered or multiple-cornered fight ensures victory for the PAP

This is such a pessimistic and fatalistic mentality. The by-election, or any elections for the matter, should not just be about PAP versus The Opposition. We have to recognise and not lump the opposition parties into one big anti-PAP collective. Furthermore, I am particularly concerned when such an utterance comes from active members of several political parties.

My stand is that if any of the parties actually feels this way, then PAP deserves to win. This is because when such a thought even comes across the minds of anyone, especially party members, it reflects on their level of confidence on their parties’ and candidates’ abilities, as well as the campaign messages of their parties. Rather than spend time reinforcing this mentality in the hearts and minds of fellow citizens, they should really spent their time strengthening their campaign messages regarding what their parties can offer and the quality of their candidates as how to win the hearts and minds of the electorate in their groundwork. They should not just aim for a mediocre margin of slightly more than 50% of the vote share, but 100%. That is, if they are seriously and genuinely intending to offer more choices to the electorate with their participation.

3. Regarding “opposition unity”

There have been several calls for the opposition parties to be united in the battle against PAP from both members of the public, politicians and members of the political parties themselves. In my opinion, the idea of opposition unity is unnecessary. With such diverse differences between all of the political parties in Singapore, PAP included, there must be a distinct recognition of each party’s identity and existence. In fact, grouping all other parties with one general label (opposition) is like saying that socialism, Marxism and communism are the same.

And if opposition unity is really that important, I suggest that ALL opposition parties close shop and regroup under one name called Singapore Opposition Party. Now that will certainly avoid multiple-cornered fights, won’t it? 😉

Note: Just my personal opinions which I recognise, are debatable. There are more thoughts but I have no time to type them out.


8 Comments so far
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Great analysis which I share. Those who seek Opposition UNity must belong to the JBJ-style/Chee Soon Juan style era. Thye need to grow up.

The talk about Opposition forming the next government (based on evidence from other countries) is also flawed, so long there is one single viable Opposition party which is now the WP. If WP goes the way like SDP during the Chiam See Tong era when Chee created a big mess, then of course talks about Opposition-UNity colaition or government is always a dream awlays sought after.

Thank goodness WP did not allow Tan Jee Say, Chee Soon Juan or K. Jeyaratanm type people into their party. They are ego maniacs.

Comment by Paul Peters

Please check your facts. Chee did not create that ‘big mess’ you ascribed to him.

Comment by rodsjournal

Completely agree with you Rachel. I was really disgusted by the thuggish verbal attacks on the SDP and Chee Soon Juan during this campaign. It just boggles the mind how people think that any potential votes that went the way of the SDP were votes that were “stolen” from the WP. How can the cognitive dissonance not be deafening to these people?

Even more upsetting were these silly notions of opposition unity and what that means when the opposition parties are not even in any formal alliance and are all situated on different points along the ideological spectrum. Well, die-hard WP supporters will get what they wished for if their candidate succeeds. More tacit approval for PAP policies, silence with regards to legal attacks on the constitution that go against the interests of the people, and a focus on domestic issues like traffic, litter and walkways in P. East. Wow, I can’t wait.

Comment by melon collie

[…] Rachel Zeng: Some thoughts to share regarding the By-Election at Punggol East SMC – Anyhow Hantam: No More ‘Choping’ of House Seats – Bertha Harian: A […]

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Just a personal opinion here:

Until the day we do away with the archaic politically-immatured first-past-the-post system so espoused by the PAP for their political survival & greed – perhaps someday establishing a proportional-representation system – peoples’ perceptions of the need of opposition unity will always be there. It’s the innate need for human beings to first see the world as black vs white (no pun intended) when we are first born into the world, to form the notion of justice, of good, of choice.

But yes, this is where political maturity comes in, that’s when we as a collective electorate can mature politically; when the day comes where we have a Parliament of multiple-party representation AND the electorate is politically matured enough to discuss different ideologies, then I’d say Singaporeans will shed the notion of one party vs another, the notion of “opposition unity”.

‘Til then, it’ll be a long time to the day when we as a nation dismantle the entrenchment of PAP’s systems – like AIM (God knows how many “scorched-earth” time bombs PAP has put in place designed to sabotage our country should they be voted out of power).

Time to support the building of multiple-party Parliament (no, I certainly don’t want Workers Party or even SDP, or even a reformed PAP some day, to ever be a “main ruling party” or “main opposition” – how many AIM sagas can we tahan??) And build a system of governance and civil service truly non-partisan for the good of us Singaporeans.

Comment by Merv Mathgeek

Yes I am for a multiple party Parliament too. I disagree with the idea of one group holding on to the central power and to be honest with you, I do not see any significant difference from the current situation if WP is to become govt – they have their niche but they do not represent everyone. They are also too “safe” and many times too conservative for me. In order to strike a good balance, a Parliament with all colours, party representatives or individuals, will be the most ideal.

That is to say, if having a Parliament is even necessary at all. (I am not saying it isn’t so don’t come and chop my head! haha)

Comment by rachelabsinthe

There is merit in having proportional representation so that all interest are represented in Parliament even single-issue parties.

Comment by CP Lum

Reblogged this on Kin Jio Leaf and commented:
Totally agree with you.

Comment by ape@kinjioleaf

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