Fear of being fixed: The impact of the climate of fear on the 2015 Singapore General Election
September 13, 2015, 11:49 pm
Filed under: GE2015, Guest writer, Singapore
Picture taken from: http://www.havocfitness.com/havoc-fitness/annihilate-fear/

Picture taken from: http://www.havocfitness.com

One of the things that has disturbed me in the post-election discussions is the lack of acknowledgement of the role that fear still plays in Singaporean politics. Many, even opposition supporters, have come out and attacked those who say that fear was an issue in the 2015 election.

My feeling is that fear is something that permeates the entire political system in Singapore, both at a conscious and subconscious level.

At the most extreme there is the fear that one’s ballot is not secret. Anyone who is educated and knows people who scrutineer elections or who reads reliable independent sources, knows that despite many fears, one’s individual ballot is anonymous. It seems unlikely in the extreme, and completely technically unfeasible for the government to track down how even just one citizen voted. For evidence and arguments that your vote is secret see, for example:

While one’s ballot may be secret, unfortunately the fear that is not is a pervasive amongst the population of Singapore. My personal experience of this came the day before the election, when in my local Cheers I asked the attendant who I know very well, how she was planning to vote in the election. This woman was, to me, the epitome of the difficulties faced by the Singaporean working class: she worked two minimum wage jobs (an office assistant daytime weekdays, and Cheers in the evenings) yet she clearly could not afford basic dental treatment as many, possibly most, of her teeth seemed to be missing. When I asked her how she would vote, she said “Well my ballot isn’t secret, so I guess I will vote for the PAP.” We discussed it, and I ended up showing her Maruah’s video about ballot secrecy ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=S9SfvJn2uGM ) . She was impressed with the celebrities on the video reassuring her, and she said “OK. My ballot is secret. I will vote for who I want.”

While this story has a happy ending, the message of the story for me was that fear of being ‘fixed’ for how one votes is still a pervasive part of the consciousness of Singaporeans.

I am also a JC teacher, and in class during the week of the elections we had a discussion about the elections. An international student raised the issue of gerrymandering, and asked why Singaporeans – meaning the other students in class – don’t challenge the government’s gerrymandering and campaign for an independent electoral authority. The locals in the class – the vast majority – fell silent, and then slowly fumbled together an answer: we focus on other issues because if you challenge the government you risk getting ‘fixed’. That was the local student’s consensus. The international student’s response was “Well that is a practical reason, but it isn’t an ethical reason. You should do what is right.” The class fell silent.

The last story I want to share is of actual candidates in the Singaporean elections. I know people involved with several opposition parties, and the stories I hear from them is that in the hours and days just before nominations close one of their biggest problems is candidates pulling out at the last minute. The reason given is almost always the same: it is not just a personal fear of being fixed, but a pressure from family members and close friends who fear that the candidate will compromise the future of themselves or their extended family. This was express eloquently in the maiden speech of He Ting Ru, Workers Party candidate in the 2015 election. She said that one of the biggest challenges she faced in her decision to run was the fact that her friends and family had worried about her getting ‘fixed’ – again her words:

“When I decided to run for Member of Parliament, many of my friends and family were extremely worried. They asked me about the impact it will have on my family, my career, whether I will get ‘fixed’.” http://www.wp.sg/he-ting-rus-rally-speech-jalan-besar-rally-3-sep/

For me, these three stories – of voters, of students, of candidates – and their fear of being fixed, tells you a lot about the deeply constrained choice that Singaporean’s made in 2015. Fear shaped who they voted for, fear shaped the fact that they did not speak up against many of the systematic injustices of the system, and fear has meant that many good people are too scared to run as candidates, constraining the choices that people have at the ballot box. The fear of being fixed is a very real part of Singaporean political life.

About the writer: None. The guest writer would like to remain anonymous due to the climate of fear (seriously!).


3 Comments so far
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If this was back in the 80s and 90s even, I would probably agree with the writer.

This election? No more. No way.

There is so much anti PAP sentiment online and that we have close to 10 opposition parties, simply shows that there isn’t a climate of fear anymore.

What it is really is an absence of a real alternative.

Each opposition party hasn’t come up with a good policy suggestion, or even respectable candidates.

WP is plagued by AHPETC issues that they refuse to address, and even yesterday, LTK flippantly mentions to the press the issue didn’t matter or else they would have lost Aljunied.

SDP promotes an odd westernised democracy and it’s leader haunted by the shenanigans of his past.

RP fields Roy and Ravi against LHL… Really? And Kenneth calls us brainwashed and North Korean when it’s clear they lost big…. Instead of reflecting why the big swing.

Some cannot speak well, some calls mothers weak, some… Well, u get the idea.

There isn’t a mention if fear because there isn’t any. What the is in abundance is credibility or rather the lack of it.

Comment by Bear Haw

The reality is that opposition, credible or not is frowned upon in Singapore. All of us have been taught never to question the authority or our government for that matter. And anyone who is really educated should know how media can and will paint pictures of people and society itself. The media is also an instrument of the government for its agenda.

So to say that there isn’t anyone in the opposition who speaks well is simply bullshit. Chiam See Tong speaks well, so does Chee Soon Juan. The only reason why we say they’re not credible is because they are simply not with PAP and that is the truth. Our views are skewered, twisted and manipulated.

It has been shown through mass support for a tyrant. In the case of Roy Eng and Amos Yee, both of whom if compared to the Bastard would be mere mortals. And yet a figure such as himself who should show benevolence and wisdom instead uses the arm of law against two young men, simply because he can. And to my disgust, the crowd applauded. This very same mentality shows how backward we are as a society, to use force against unarmed kids as examples.

Our perception of leader is so horrible that we applaud he who uses power against helpless folks, we applaud him for abusing his power and we believe that great men should and must abuse power. Wrong, we subconsciously subscribe to it without the slightest question if his actions were necessary.

We dare not question authority, will not question the system and will not care if consequences thereafter in the long run. We have become selfish, cold and calculating, viewing everything as numbers game.

Worse, we buy no insurances for ourselves, having absolute faith for one party, without even wondering what will happen if one day, the government turns their back on us or fails to function. Who then will save the day when we’ve turned the heroes away in our blind faith? And even now as the government has already sold the people out, they still go on happily thinking the government has the best interest of the nation!!

Comment by Max Li

I know of no one who spoke of fear this election. I have some friends who have been quite vocal in their opposition to the PAP.

For myself .. Yes I fear. For the liberalization of Singapore. For the loss of that conservatism that was one of the reasons I returned home from abroad. I have no desire for section 377A for instance to be repealed. No desire for the potential loss of religious freedom such as preachers being hauled off to the police station for preaching their beliefs against homosexuality.

Having seen the other side… I realize for most the grass is always greener elsewhere. But all freedom comes at a price. More freedom for a vocal minority means less freedom for the silent majority.

Comment by smokyround

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