Unsupporting You (Updated)

l don’t usually  write about politics in my blog, unless it is something really significant. And this time it is because l want to state for the record that I am unsupporting the Workers’ Party.

Those readers who have been following my blog since the beginning would know that I supported them during the last General Election. I went to their rally at Bedok Stadium, bought their merchandise, and of course voted for them. That night, during the announcement of the results, I was there at Hougang stadium to show my support. It was an amazing experience; there was a feeling of patriotism that I never felt before, and most present would swear that we were all unified as Singaporeans then, something that not even the National Day Parade could invoke in me.

I had a lot of hope for WP, especially for Chen Show Mao, one of the elected Members of Parliament for the Aljunied GRC. His credentials are impeccable; better than most cabinet ministers of the ruling government, including the PM. When he gave his maiden speech in Parliament, I was even more impressed and was expecting to see credible challenges to the ruling party. I thought Mao would be able to form think tanks to provide alternative government policies, and that he would be able to attract talents of similar caliber to join WP to set up a shadow government. Once that happened, WP would be able to form a cabinet team if they took over power. Yes, I held the naive hope that the opposition party would take over the rein from the ruling PAP in the next election, or the one after. Very naive, but I guess I got emotional over the wrong policies that the government has been implementing for the past 10 years, and wasn’t rational in my thinking. All I was concerned then was that we needed a change in government, without thoughts of the consequences.

Today there are still a number of opposition supporters who are calling for a change in government in the next GE supposedly in 2016. But not me. It’s not that I have switched support to the ruling party because I’m still not going to, but I will not support WP if they contest again in my constituency which is very likely. I’ve been disappointed with the WP’s performance in Parliament for some time. Mao hasn’t said anything significant since that first speech. The other WP MPs are even worse. There have not been a single alternative policy paper presented; and when important issues are discussed in Parliament, other than superficial differences, the WP MPs mostly agreed with the PAP proposals. Case in point, the ministerial compensation. In fact the quality of political discourse in Parliament is appalling.

During these past two years since 7 WP MPs were elected into parliament and 2 non-elected MPs joined them, there have been a number of faux pas and scandals, but like other supporters I had excused them because they were newbies (except for the Secretary-General, Low Thia Khiang), booby traps laid by PAP, and tried to rationalize that such problems are inevitable. And I made the mistake of thinking that since PAP has problems and scandals, we shouldn’t get too hanged up over those from WP. But I have since realized that I had allowed emotion to cloud my judgements; and I meant the emotion of disliking the PAP to the extend of not thinking clearly. Why should we attack the ruling party viciously whenever there are any lapses or problems, and yet excuse those from WP? Are we settling for an opposition party without regards to the competency of the leadership team because we hate the PAP? Should we have a lower expectations of the opposition? Isn’t this a case of having double standards? Seriously if WP is going to be PAP-like, why should we accept an unproven wannabe?

Also during these two years since the last election, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has been publishing alternative policy papers on health care and housing. A number of people dismissed them, including the WP supporters, calling them useless since nobody reads them. Well, at least SDP has a think tank of professionals to propose alternative ideas, as a counter to those from PAP. This is what an opposition party should do, not just being a highly paid town councillors, which is what WP MPs seem to be. And the same goes for most of the PAP MPs as well. Without such alternatives I don’t know whether WP has credible proposals, or even know what their views on the current economic structure are. People may not agree with the SDP papers but at least they are worth a debate.

The last straw from WP is the recent audit report on its combined town council of Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, when its appointed auditors expressed a disclaimer of opinion on the financial statement and refused to sign off on it completely because of lack of information. There are 13 issues raised in the report, such as the town council didn’t provide details to the auditors of the project management service fee paid to related party, the inability to determine the accuracy and validity of various items in the accounts, the unexplained differences of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) payable of more than S$500,000, and the Town Council didn’t deposit monies into the Sinking Fund, etc.

This is the second year the auditor has issued the disclaimer. For the first year, I guess I can still excuse the Town Council since there would be lots of mess after taking over from the ruling party. But you would think the WP MPs have learned since, and able to better prepare for the audit the following year. Yet, this is not the case. The Chairman of the party, Sylvia Lim, who is also one of the MPs, claimed that the issues raised by the auditors were due to handover problems. But not depositing monies into the Sinking Fund, as required by law, has nothing to do with handover issue. Now these monies are conservancy charges paid by the residents in the constituencies under WP, as well as grants given by Ministry of National Development, basically taxpayers’ money, and used for capital investment within the constituencies. Hence the stringent audit and requirements.

In the statement issued by Sylvia Lim, she admitted to the lapse and claimed that the issue had since been rectified and no monies were lost. Whether the monies were lost is a different matter. What is more important is why were the monies not deposited in the first place. It’s not as if WP didn’t know when the audit would be conducted. It’s amazing that the supporters take Sylvia Lim’s words for it and don’t think there is anything wrong. They don’t realize that the lapse is like a company President not transferring the sale proceeds into the bank account. And only after auditors flagged the problem did the President then issued a statement that monies have since been deposited. But what happened to those monies in the first place? And even if they were sitting in some safe somewhere, something is wrong with the accounting/financial process. WP has many years of experience managing the Hougang constituency and so should be aware of the Sinking Fund. If they had hired an idiotic finance person, then it also points to poor leadership. It just doesn’t reflect well on the party.

I am also disappointed with the WP supporters, who don’t seem to be any different from the PAP ones. Both sides are hurling vitriol at each others, and bringing up the failings of the other party as if they justify the problems or mistakes made within their own. (Though for the PAP, it’s really about the problems or lapses with the government/public service, and not so much the party.) The blind faith in their political masters is scary, everything is accepted at face value. The supporters don’t even question the validity of the statements made or even look deeply into the issues raised. Sylvia Lim insinuated in her statement that the qualified opinion of the WP audit was better than the adverse opinion given for the audit on the financial statement of a government’s organization, People’s Association (PA). (To me this smacks of throwing a red herring out as a distraction.) Firstly the PA report was signed off by the auditor but they gave it an adverse opinion because PA didn’t provide financial information on its operating companies, which is like General Electric company not providing financial statement on its subsidiary, GE Healthcare, to its auditors. (BTW, GE doesn’t have to do it since the subsidiary is not listed, and in fact many conglomerates provide a consolidated statement.) From what I understand, these operating companies of PA are self sustainable and don’t receive grants from the government. In view of this, the Ministry of Finance exempted them from having to provide financial statements to the auditors, though you can obtain them from ACCRA, the business/company registry board, for a fee. But since it’s stated in the auditing procedure to provide the information, the auditors are basically following the books. So in the case of PA, the auditors are clear what the issue is and hence they are able to sign off the report. But for the town council of WP, the auditors don’t even have the full picture of the accounts and naturally refuse to sign off. If the town council is a listed company, it’s shares would be suspended from trading, and shareholders would demand to know what the hell is going on. Well, the Ministry of Finance has instructed the Auditor-General to investigate the accounts, so let’s see.

What I hope to see in a political party is one where it’s leadership is above board and set an example of being transparent and ethical. I don’t see this in WP. By the way it’s ridiculous to issue a challenge to the corrupt investigation bureau or police to investigate the WP. There are actions which may not be illegal, but are unethical.

(Updated on 26 Feb)
I didn’t explain earlier why I don’t see the possibility of a change in government or hope to see one happening in the near future. There are many opposition supporters who are calling for this without really understanding what they wish for. They reason that with the current inadequacy and incompetency of the incumbent government, we should give the other guys a chance. After all the PAP leaders were given a chance in the 1960s and they did a good job. Well, you are dead wrong with this thinking. Yes the pioneer leaders did well, but Singapore economy then was much less complex. Now, you can describe the economy as a finely – tuned F1 car. Yes Singapore is very small In size, but its economy is very complex. Any change to one policy like housing will affect the others because they are all interlinked. In fact any changes have to be enacted in a calibrated manner and in parallel.

So do you think any Ah Beng or Ah Seng can drive an F1 car? If we want to kick out the PAP, we’ve better find a Sebastian Vettel to take over the driver seat, and not just having him alone, we need the entire Renault F1 team. Are there people of such caliber ready to take over? If we disregard this criteria, we would end up with a situation of either the car won’t start or it would crash in one nanosecond. Honestly, we have to ask ourselves, can we take this risk. I’m not happy with the PAP government too, and I’m pissed with their dictatorial rein that crushes any political opponents whom they regard as threats. The current lack of an alternative is due in a large part to them, though Singaporeans are also to blame for not standing up in the early days for their political rights. But I guess, most Singaporeans then were lowly educated and had no idea they needed to have a strong voice in politics. So we should be careful what we wish for. But it is not too late now for the people to find their voices and to demand for policies that would benefit the people in the sustainable manner. We just have to do it in a rational way.


19 thoughts on “Unsupporting You (Updated)

  1. Pingback: [WOT] This Sinkie woman says she is not going to support WP in the next General Election - www.hardwarezone.com.sg

  2. Pingback: Unsupporting The Workers Party! - www.hardwarezone.com.sg

  3. Pingback: Unsupporting The Workers Party! | Developed

  4. You have exactly written what I have felt. Although I am not very into politics, being in the Aljunied GRC, I always felt that PAP days were somehow better where I could actually see the MPs being involved. I have never seen any WP MPs at all ever since they were elected and I am sad to say that I am one of those who voted ‘to give them a chance’.

    I saw this post in hardwarezone and am extremely saddened about the comments. Their counter-argument was that you are a female and your argument hence does not make sense. This really shows the calibre of WP supporters heh

    • Yes I have heard of hardwarezone and know what it is about. I guess it says something that those participants rather comment among themselves than come to my blog to debate. Anyway I was half expecting insults to my post, and must say a little surprised there was none yet.

      I’m in a PAP constituency and I have never seen any MP around. But that doesn’t bother me. To me, an MP should focus on policies and bills in parliament, and less on managing town councils which should be left to hired professionals. Government policies affect our lives very significantly and we need the MPs, whom we elected into parliament, to represent us appropriately, to make sure that policies are moving in the right direction and beneficial to the citizens in the long run.

  5. I come from a constituency where the WP contested and did relatively well in the last GE, so perhaps I don’t have the personal investment of actually living in Aljunied GRC. I’m just curious if the opinions you expressed in your article suggests that there were unrealistically high expectations once more WP MPs entered Parliament.

    Yes, you have every right to unsupport WP, since they did not live up to your hopes. But you also mentioned that you’re still not going to vote for the PAP, even though WP has disappointed you. That suggests to me that you seem content to sit on the fence till a party that finally lives up to your standards appears in your constituency. You have mentioned the SDP is now doing what you expect of an opposition party, but the irony is they’re not IN Parliament, so we still would not know if they would end up disappointing you (the way WP has) should they be elected in.

    “Seriously if WP is going to be PAP-like, why should we accept an unproven wannabe?”

    Because, as most of Singapore keeps deciding every GE, being “PAP-like” gets you into Parliament. As you pointed out, Mr. Chen Show Mao has amazing credentials. Shouldn’t that afford him a little leeway? He is not a stupid man, nor one that should ever be referred to as “an unproven wannabe”. Yet he, and his WP colleagues, don’t seem to have done enough for you in Parliament or in the Town Council.

    My suspicion is that, despite your dislike of the ruling party, the PAP has managed to create a false belief in you and many Singaporeans of what politics is. In your own words, you want a political party “where it’s leadership is above board and set an example of being transparent and ethical.” This was the illusion the PAP created for itself, and for almost 50 years got away with it, by squashing all attempts to expose less than ethical practices. The real, modern day political party is very human, and is more exposed to it’s failures. That doesn’t mean we unsupport it just because it’s not perfect.

    • You have got it wrong. I’m not asking for perfection, and never did in my post. I’m asking for a high level of governance which is expected of any government in the world. You cannot say that the PAP created a false belief in what politics should be. Even the PAP had to prove itself, in the early days. Would you not acknowledge the achievements made by the first generation leaders? I wouldn’t call that an illusion (though I have a beef with their philosophy on the economic structure).

      The Aljunied GRC is a testing ground for WP. It is a large enough area to manage, but much less so than a country. The MPs also don’t have to deal with many complex issues such as housing, transport, healthcare, and foreign policy etc. So comparatively, it’s much less complicated. Considering this, it’s not too much to ask for WP to do a good job in managing the GRC, including the accounts. Yet, they still can’t get the accounts right. The fact that auditors discovered monies weren’t deposited into the Sinking Fund should set alarm bell off, because we’re talking about tens of million dollar here.
      WP has been in politics for many years, and should have strategies to handle the curve balls thrown at them by PAP, but it doesn’t seem like they have the capability to handle even at the level of GRC, least alone at the national level when the booby traps are even more dangerous. I won’t even mention the insidious games that foreign powers play. You need to be highly sophisticated to handle all these. Does WP have the competency if we vote them into power in the next election? I highly doubt it.

      It is a false choice to say it’s either WP or PAP. Choosing the right political party is like entering into a marriage. Do you just pick any person that comes along? This has serious implications. Yes SDP is not in Parliament, but I like the fact they are actively looking into government policies. Hence I think we should give them a chance to prove themselves. WP had proven themselves with single ward constituency (though this only pertains to the management of the ward, nothing noteworthy on policy debate or alternative ideas). But when it comes to the larger GRC, their performance just doesn’t show.

      However I know that we should send a signal to the PAP, and we do this by sending other parties like SDP or NSP into parliament.

      As for Mao, don’t you find it strange that he had gone radio silence? A man of his caliber should be used to add sophistication to the WP machinery, and to form think tanks to counter the PAP. Yet none of this happened. If he is relegated to a town councillor role, it goes to show the kind of leadership in WP.

  6. A few things – ours is a young democracy. Most of us have never seen credible opposition in parliament. The PAP has stunted the growth of opposition politics on purpose. Its not surprising that the WP’s first real attempt at imposing its presence in parliament has not gone smoothly. You can’t expect a 10 year old to do well in college. It will take time and the WP will get there. The PAP will also improve. More competition is always good for the masses like us.

    I am also not surprised by Show Mao’s performance, or lack thereof as some might claim. A career in corporate law does not prepare you for politics. He has no voice. He does not relate to the masses. And i have always suspected that the WP is all about LTK and Sylvia. They might be holding him back and to some extent he might be showing reticence as a calculated political move to not upset the apple cart. His choices were always limited when he entered the political fray. It might take another term for him to learn the ropes and emerge with his own identity.

    LEt’s give it a chance. it will hurt and we will make mistakes but we will never give up the fight for a better Singapore.

    • To be honest, I don’t consider managing a GRC equivalent to college. At best, primary 6. Don’t forget the MPs don’t have to deal with foreign policy, issues like housing, transport, healthcare or the economy etc. It’s basically a town councillor job, albeit a highly paid one. Even in Parliament, they only have to debate on what is tabled by the incumbent government. Besides, Low Thia Khiang has run Hougang SMC for years. So he should be familiar with how a town council is run, though with Aljunied it’s a bigger scale.

      I can understand there would be handover issues, and it would require time to sort through any mess left behind. But when it comes to the accounts of the town council, shouldn’t it be transparent? As for handling the PAP, don’t WP have any strategy? Particularly since they had ambition to take over a GRC and I would expect them to have consider the road blocks and counter actions.

      When Low Thia Khiang was running a single ward on his own, I can understand he probably wanted to use a guerilla tactic against the PAP. But when the party has ambition to take over more seats, they have to prepare for a “conventional war”. By that, I mean they have to start setting up think tanks and a shadow cabinet, and be prepared to deal with booby traps. WP cannot stay at the primary school level. They have to act now. But it appears to me that they still prefer to remain elegantly silent in Parliament on the important issues.

      As for Mao, I don’t think that as a corporate lawyer, he’s a political newbie. He had to deal with politics in a large corporate law firm, and I can assure you the lawyers are no pushovers. His initial FB posts were thought provoking and indicated that he was aware of the issues facing the nation. However I don’t know why since then he has been silent. If it is the intention of the WP’s leadership, then I would say this is poor leadership.

      Anyway I agree with you that more competition in Parliament in good for all of us. Hence we should also give other political parties a chance to prove themselves in Parliament. So the people have to act and stand up for our lost political rights.

  7. What you have observed is exactly the strategy of WP. They know they will lose support from those who wishes for a more aggressive opposition. People like yourself. But, by being a moderate party, they win the support of a whole lot of people who are not yet ready to throw out the PAP. That strategy has worked well for them last election, and I believe they will adopt the same stance in the next one.

    Think about it this way. Look at SDP. They are the more aggressive party, with their policy papers and all. For many Singaporeans, that’s a tad too lofty, too radical, too big a change too soon. That’s why they haven’t been able to win any election. It’s not enough to only have the hardcore opposition supporters on your side. To win elections, you must have a wider appeal.

    WP is campaigning “towards a first world parliament”. We’re not there yet, far from it. Not while 90% of parliament is from one party. Any bill tabled by PAP will be passed. Any bill from the opposition has no hope of seeing the light of day. Unless we deny PAP a 2/3 majority, any votes in parliament will be a farce.

    It is a long and arduous process, this route that WP is taking. PAP has institutionalized many road blocks for the opposition, so I do expect WP to stumble every now and then. I wish them all the best and I will continue to support them.

    • I disagree with you that because WP is a moderate party, it has to take on the strategy of being elegantly silent in Parliament. Being silent is not a hallmark of being moderate; whether or not a party is moderate depends on it’s philosophy.  When Low Thia Khiang was the only WP MP in Parliament, he could stay under the radar. But when WP starts having ambition of taking over more seats, they better start getting more assertive, show where they stand and what plans or ideas they have for the various issues, which I have mentioned in my previous comment.  Putting forward policy papers is not being aggressive; that is to let others know where the party stands, and it is what any politician in a first world parliament would do. There is nothing radical about putting up policy papers. Right now WP seems to be paying lip service to their slogan. 

      You stated that many Singaporeans are not ready to vote out the PAP. Why is that so? Don’t you think it’s because they don’t see a credible alternative? So far WP has been getting personality votes all these years; but as the political system matures, we have to get away from such tactics and looks at whether the politicians have the competency, sophistication and skills to lead the country. Do you see any of the WP MPs able to be a cabinet minister, standing side by side with ministers of other countries? I can only envision Mao doing so. WP seems only willing to be silent partner in Parliament. All those pre-election talks about slapping the driver seem like empty talk now. There is no credible challenge to PAP policies which are not going in the right direction. This is not the kind of political party I want, and certainly not the behavior of a politician aiming for first world parliament. 

      I believe that regardless which political party we support,  it should not be about whether we like the person, but whether the person has the competency, sophistication and leadership skill to represent the people and country. And we should stay objective.  But objectivity is sorely lacking in many supporters. 

      By the way,  the fact that WP can’t even manage their own accounts well say something about their competency or the kind of people they hire for the job.

  8. Pingback: WP last election say they are not ready to form Govt - www.hardwarezone.com.sg

  9. Pingback: Unsupporting You (Updated) - Lovely Singapore

  10. You guys who criticized WP until it is not even worth one cent, why don’t you stand up and out to the open lime-light and be counted, do something, act; don’t just sit down behind a computer and keyboard and criticize WP or for that matter PAP or any other political parties.

    Why don’t you do something for our country Singapore. Talks are cheap, very very cheap! Don’t be a cheap cheap skate.

    Go, get committed and work your guts out. Go into the open field and sweat it out. Go house to house visits day after day and see how good you are in meeting the people and talking and listening to their grouses, complaints, plea for help, and expressions of anxiety (not enough money to buy milk for one-month old baby) anger (water and electricity got cut by PUB and toilet is full of shiiit and smelly for days), frustrations (unable to make any headway with govt depts despite plea after plea for assistance, for help, for compassion, for mercy), despair (there is no more hope left except to wait for the time to die, Medisave no money already, MediShield did not buy because no money to buy in the first place, lost of job six months ago and still unable to find a decent job with a decent pay for an honest day work, most of the lucrative jobs are either taken buy foreigners or PRs or monopolised by certain racists immigrants who just became New Citizens, etc. etc. etc) !

    May be one day you will become a Really Fantastic Minister, putting our past and present Ministers to SHAME!!!???

    • Emotional ranting doesn’t get you anywhere, it only makes you look like a nutjob. Now you see why I can’t be a politician? I say it to your face what I think. I am not two-faced enough to be a politician. You argue on the points, instead of attacking the writer. So don’t be so goddamned personal!
      Writing this post is not doing nothing. Doing nothing means not even bothered with the shenanigans going on. Putting up the post is a way to educate those in the middle ground to what is going on.
      Besides, is this how you see an MP role? A political petitioner and a social worker?

  11. I am not politically incline to any party.

    Once my foreign colleagues asked me why so many people voted for PAP?
    Why so little opposition in Singapore Parliament?
    We should be more like the West…more opposition….more democracy….and so on.

    I asked him….as an outsider, please tell me which credible candidate should I vote for other then LTK and Chiam.
    He was silence. And I told him that also answered the 2nd question.

    Then I asked him, democracy more important or stability more important?
    There is no answer to this because the meaning to these 2 words is different for everyone.

    I used to have high hopes for opposition when LTK was voted in. We had 2 credible opposition MPs in the Parliament.

    As LTK got re-elected again and again, he started to get arrogant.
    And Chiam was getting old.
    SDP leader still going around the world saying bad things about Singapore.

    Well, one think I got to say to opposition now. You have just destroyed what JBJ and Chiam built up all these years. Now you are back to zero.

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I was very excited by the opposition, especially WP, during the last election when WP attracted Chen Show Mao to join the party. I thought that finally people of caliber are challenging the PAP, and threw full support behind WP. Not only did I rally friends and acquaintances to vote opposition, but I even volunteered for WP as observer at a polling station.
      Unfortunately, as time passed, things didn’t appear to be what they portrayed, and I started to get disappointed with WP for basically not contributing much in parliament, and not even proposing alternative policies. But my biggest disappointment was with Mao. It turns out LKY was right when he dismissed him, and I hated it when he is right. Worse is the mess at the AHPETC, and that really broke the camel’s back.

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