Singapore just had its General Election on 7 May. The past 2 weeks prior to it had been an exhilarating experience for me particularly since I was politically apathetic until a month ago. (You may not believe this but I followed US Presidential elections with more enthusiasm.) I kept hearing about alternative news sources like Temasek Review and The Online Citizen, and rumors that the election would happen soon. So I decided to check out both TR and TOC and that move turned out to change my attitude. Well, unlike a lot of Singaporeans, I was able to vote in previous elections. But I didn’t think much of the opposition/alternative parties because their qualifications were pretty crap. So when it came to voting, I spoilt my votes instead of voting in the incumbent whom I dislike for their arrogant and bullying behavior. Yes the ruling party (PAP) uses estate upgrading as a bribe to locals to vote for them, and threaten to place those areas, who voted in the opposition, last in the upgrading list (and they did carry out the threats). In any other countries, the government would have gotten the boot, but unfortunately in Singapore, the people exchanged liberty and pride for a dictatorship that provides stability. The government also successfully instilled political apathy into the locals, so that they are compliant.
But this time, it’s different. I realized from TOC and TR that there are many people out there like me, who realize that we’re been screwed in this country: high cost of living, stagnant wages, hugh influx of foreigners who strain the infrastructure and competing with locals for jobs, obscene government ministers’ salaries, and government’s refusal to have any accountability for serious mistakes made, etc, and yet the people just kept voting in the same party election after election instead of standing up to make a change. Then I was told of a brilliant man, a corporate lawyer who has joined Workers’ Party, by the name of Chen Show Mao. I read his interview to the local Chinese papers and was very impressed by his credentials and his motivation to return to Singapore to help shape a more democratic and compassionate country. I started to follow the news on the opposition and alternative viewpoints even more closely. But a couple of weeks before Nomination Day, the Singtel connnection to TR was blocked even though people residing outside of Singapore were able to access it. This is another case of the hegemony of the ruling party since Singtel is a government-linked company. This time, I took the social media route, basically like what the Egyptians did, I went to Facebook to get instant updates from TOC and TR. (Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg!)
For the first time in my life, I attended a rally organized by the Workers’ Party. I enjoyed it, pretty good atmosphere, almost like a carnival. There were young and old folks, even kids and babies. I knew I was among Singaporeans and it was a very good feeling, like some sort of a unifying force. I actually felt part of Singapore now because of the Opposition (WP). I bought two WP flags and the newsletter. One of the flags is hung outside my front door to show my support for the party.
I also attended another rally held during lunchtime at Raffles Place, organized by the Singapore Democratic Party. It attracted a pretty big crowd but damn, it was hot because of the sun shining down through the glass roof above us. Midway through the first hour, I felt a shade above me and I looked up. There was a man in suit carrying the WP umbrella standing next to me. 🙂
I also checked out the WP website and wanted to donate money. But there was no button for that, instead there was a request for volunteers. So I signed up as a polling agent for the Party on Election Day. Before I could do that, I had to get the appointment form from WP HQ (unfortunately I didn’t see any of the candidates), and was kindly given a ride by a young couple who were also volunteers, to Hougang Town Council (my husband called this “kampung spirit”). I can tell you honestly that Hougang is no slum, which was what the ruling party claimed. In fact it is very well maintained and clean, better than Bedok, which is near where I’m staying.
The role of a polling agent is not glamorous. It’s actually rather boring, not to mention tiring. I want to commend the Presiding Officers at the polling station where I was volunteering, who were professional, calm and considerate to old folks. There was no irregularities, no bias. In fact they (think they are teachers) should be honored for their services. I was only there for the afternoon shift, and I was tired out at the end of the day because of the heat and humidity, and yet had to stay alert. They were on duty the whole day, before voting started. It was a relief for everybody when it ended. Despite being the only WP representative present (lack of manpower, unlike PAP which had 3) I was invited by the presiding officers to check the ballot boxes were sealed properly and to sign off. WP provided dinner for the polling agents in the afternoon shift, and my dinner was delivered by Eric Tan, Leader of the East Coast GRC (Group Representative Constituency) where I belong to. I didn’t take it but my husband did and he said it was pretty good, nothing like the “dog food” given to volunteers by the Youth Olympics Games committee (organized by the government ministry).
After voting ended came the counting which was a nail biting wait for many of us. The bloody local media didn’t provide much information until much later. Thanks to TOC and TR on Facebook I was able to receive pretty instantaneous updates on results from the ground. I think the opposition supporters and counting agents provided the info. We found out that WP had won Hougang again (Yay!) and that WP was very likely to win in Aljunied GRC (where the Secretary-General of WP led a team of 5 including Chen Show Mao to contest in). Both my husband and I then rushed to Hougang stadium where WP supporters were gathered to wait for the results. There were hell of a lot cops there, as though they were expecting a riot. But the atmosphere was very good, seemed like the whole of Hougang was up and milling round the stadium, very passionate but orderly. I saw different races chatting with each others on election results. People were cheering WP and other oppo parties and booing the PAP candidates on screen. Everybody went nuts when it was announced Hougang won by a landslide. It was like one big kampung cheering for their boy made good. WP has the capability of uniting people.
Unfortunately we left before the announcement of the Aljunied GRC result, which was done pretty late into the night even though result was already known earlier. It was a massive celebration on the spot for the supporters. I was and still am really happy WP took over Aljunied and even though they lost in East Coast GRC 😦 and other areas, they were narrow losses, and I’m confident they will be able to make a comeback next election.
So now even though election is over, political awareness doesn’t end here. I realize we have to care for the future of this country and try to do our part to contribute to the democratic process in order for the nation to progress. I had hoped for 15 opposition members in Parliament but what WP has achieved is only the beginning. Hopefully other parties are able to merge with WP, which has the best strategy and organizational skill. As what Chen Show Mao’s 6-yr old daughter commented, this is “a journey”.