To bring more knowledge and wisdom to readers so that they can make better informed decisions at the ballot box and beyond.
The Punggol East by-election results caught many by surprise. Although the sentiment, as it has always been, was against the PAP, it was thought to be the most comfortable timing for the PAP to still win that PAP’s sec-gen and PM, Mr Lee Hsien Loong had chosen.
But things turned out in favour of the candidate from the Workers’ Party that has already got 6 MPs in Parliament, and that managed the first GRC win by any Opposition party in Singapore’s history. Ms Lee Li Lian, a college graduate who had studied at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, beat more highly educationally qualified Dr Koh Poh Koon of the ruling PAP and Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party, in a vote that saw no splitting of the Opposition votes. SDP, highly seen as having the potential to cause a split in votes, had withdrawn from the contest in the ward that WP got 41% of votes in GE2011.
Lee Li Lian got 55% of the votes, leading by a margin of as much as 11% to the runner-up, Koh of the PAP.
As much as they would like to say, not entirely wrongly, that the “by-election effect” took its toll on the PAP, the message from the electorate must have still been clear. Past by-elections had been a place for the Opposition to win seats (JB Jeyaretnam broke PAP’s total dominance through a victory in a by-election), but not every time (there were more times when the Opposition failed to make any gains), and definitely not as resounding as it was this time around.
Times have changed. The era of ‘one-man, one-party show’ has neared its end, or at least, is no longer in the cores of hearts of most Singaporeans any more. The belief and trust Singaporeans rightfully or wrongfully placed on a single man and a single party, have long expired, with the people awakening themselves both to more reality, and to more idealism. No longer are we content with ‘crumbs fed to us by people who consider themselves our masters’, and why should we, when the crumbs are getting less and less each day? Be grateful? Be thankful? Sure, but not to the PAP.
Yes, we are enjoying the “fruits” of their labour, the economic fruit from the seeds planted by previous generations under the PAP’s leadership. But we need to ask ourselves how much of the fruits do we get to share? As SDP correctly asked: “First world…for whom?” (in the title of the party’s book on poverty in Singapore) And it is not just the poorest of the poorest who are standing up. As it is, in all normal progresses in democracy, it is the middle class who are sandwiched and find light and wisdom in the revamp of the status quo, that stands up against the tide, that fights at the forefront for a breakthrough. Students, journalists, lawyers, social workers, activists, artists – they form the bedrock of change, as always. And that probably explains the PAP’s past persecution of such figures who dared question their monopoly on power and hence, the economy, the ideology, and almost all aspects of life of the citizens. What we saw, and probably still see, is a pseudo-Nazi fascist state that sees its people as mere “digits”, workers, slaves – that do not dare to question and only knows conformity.
But as Kenneth Jeyaretnam says: “I am standing here. There is no need to be afraid” (GE2011 rally) (Although we still need to be afraid as we see threats against him during the PE BE), and as WP’s new face, sociologist Prof Daniel Goh also exclaims: “There are people who whisper a name in my ear..My reply to them is: life is too short to be kiasu, kiasi..,” it is time for us to reflect on, face and overcome our fears. We will overcome, and “we shall overcome”, as SDP puts it.
The results at the PE BE tell us that the more than 30,000 voters at Punggol East chose not to be afraid, not to be scared by the PAP’s scare tactics and antics. In their silent way, they proved the well-oiled machinery of the manipulative PAP wrong; with their gentle act, they said: “We want change.”
Whether they did that because there was no fear of removing the PAP from power is not as important as the fact that they want more Opposition in Parliament and that they have simply had enough of PAP’s dominance. Although there are apparently still many among us who yet “cannot live with a non-PAP government”, it is equally important to see that there are as not a small number of people who do not mind, or even wish, for an alternative government.
We all still want stability, we want peace, and we want unity. But PAP is NOT the answer for those. We saw how they divided us, made society messy, and broken families down. PAP is not the answer not just because the Punggol East residents said so, but because, on behalf of all Singaporeans, the Punggol East voters said so! It could might as well have been a simple margin for the WP, leaving things ‘still pretty’ for the PAP, but it was not to be. Not even from the most “extreme” of the Opposition-supporting camp did any foresee such a result. Most of us still thought PAP would win, marginally perhaps, or if it was the WP that did, it would be marginal. It had all to be depended upon the swing voters as the PAP (hard)core stands at 35% while the Opposition (hard)core at somewhere around 25%. Some say there are more “young voters” at Punggol East which makes for greater comfort with voting for the Opposition, but others are right that there are also more “new citizens” at Punggol East who are taught to be more “grateful” towards the PAP. The decisive victory speaks volumes..
The Workers’ Party has modestly and graciously said it was not to be taken as a “trend in the future”, and that “Workers’ Party is still not ready to form government”. Honestly the WP is still right in its own way. After all, it said on a separate occasion, that the PE campaign had slowed its efforts elsewhere. It is also ultimately for the people, not the party, to decide whether they want to spread the ‘fire’ across the island.
But whether we like it or not, we must be proud that this time, we have not let ourselves down. We have chosen to stand up against the oppressors and make our voices heard. The PAP is still the PAP, but the people are no longer the same as they were. They are now no longer afraid of change, and they have signaled that in one beautiful stroke that would rattle throughout the nation state. They have contributed to a leveraging of the level of political maturity in all counts. Let us embrace these new circumstances; let us welcome the New Era.
[WHAT WE WANT TO ACHIEVE]:
Let it be clear that the Opposition and their supporters are not a bunch of crazies who want trouble and nothing. Like all Singaporeans, we want to live in a healthy, happy environment, and are also willing to work hard for it. We also want to see prosperity, peace and stability.
The difference is that we know that to enjoy all these, there needs to be a significant shift in the way our country is run, in the way our policies are implemented and our politics played. Real stability, real peace, real prosperity are what we are looking for. And that cannot be at the expense of our individual citizens.
The days of the old empire must be put aside. The light of enlightenment must befall our shores. The dream we want to achieve will come and must come in order for us, all of us, to sleep in peace at night and thrive in the mornings.
It is not about dismantling what need not be dismantled. It is about replacing what should be. It is about building a new world, a safer, fairer, better world, for humans to live in.
It is as much about patriotism as it is about the dignity shared by all mankind. It is as much about economy as it is about society and welfare. It is as much about material as well as emotional things.
We must spread the message, that we come with love, with a desire to better Singapore, with inclusivity and compassion, strong will and big hearts.
We are not petty little people, or noisy nuisances. We will make a big impact, be a big voice and lead the big example for the change of tomorrow.