Go with a smile!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On the cusp, in the mire, just getting it on

1. On the cusp.

6 months ago, I thought to myself, “my life is going to change in many ways”. I’m on a brink of a … well I’m like a log on a river headed towards a waterfall. But till then nothing has seriously happened. I know that all I have to do is to say yes, and my life will be changed for 1-2 years. And then possibly forever. But it hasn’t totally registered yet.

In “Before Sunset”, the ending is one of the most intriguing ones that I’ve seen. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have a reunion, and there is a great amount of drama going on, considering that these are 2 people who have spent a grand total of 2 days in each other’s company. Ethan Hawke’s from out of town, and he has a plane to catch. And 1-2 hours before the departure time, he’s still at Julie’s house, and the movie ends abruptly, giving no sign whatsoever whether he’s going to stay or leave. What we are sure of is that he will either be staying forever or leaving forever. When you make decisions in middle age, they're either your last decision or your second last decision. (OK, actually not true, my father managed to change his life when he was 50, but that's another story for another day.)

I still remember the last 14 kilometers of my first and only marathon. I remember thinking to myself, "Am I nearer to the end than the beginning?" After all, the preparation that I had took me 28km into the marathon. I was starting to limp. Considering that the last third had been as agonising as the previous 2 thirds, I didn't know which segment was longer. Preparation only takes you so far, the rest is improvisation. Also, you don't really know when it's going to end. Many times, you think "it should have ended by now, but it really hasn't." And when the heat is on, when you almost can't take it anymore, I was thinking, "I can't bear to fail, but I also can't bear to move another step. Either way, you lose." Mercifully, the marathon ended before I had the chance to think of any more such nonsense.

2. In the mire

There is a war going on in the Congo. I remember that for 1 semester I had thought long and hard about Rwanda. Should the US have done something about Rwanda? Then my thoughts turned to the subsequent war in the Congo, that even commentators have not mentioned about, because so little of it got reported in the news. It's not an exaggeration to say that World War III is going on right now. The war in Congo is, in terms of death toll, bigger than either the Korea war or the Vietnam war. But this time, not even a squeak.

The version of me 10 years younger than myself would have been very uneasy about that fact. I would have railed at the injustice of the world. I might have gotten cynical about the goodness of man. Now I look in marvel of my friends who used to be just like me. Reading books about great historical events of the past. Knowing obscure random facts. But doing nothing with their lives. Well admittedly I'm doing nothing with my life. But that doesn't matter. It feels like I'm doing something with my life and that's good enough for now.

So what's the answer to that question, "what about the Congo"? Well in our generation we are in the process of lifting 2-3 billion people out of poverty. Parts of Africa are finally beginning to develop economically. The Arab world - imagine, the Arab world - is getting its first taste of democracy. Let's concentrate on ourselves. Let's concentrate on what's in our power to take place. Let's think about whether global warming is going to unleash disasters of magnitude far exceeding what's going on in the Congo right now. If anything, let's help the Congo help itself. Other than that, nothing to be done.

I'm reminded of this song from way back, by Nick Cave. "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side". Classic lyrics. But what does it mean? Everybody wants to know what it means, "I couldn't wipe the smile from my face". My interpretation is this. This is the work of a man who's lived a wild tempestuous life, but is settling into middle age. He's at the height of his powers, having just written "The Boatman's Call". If you have achieved nothing else by middle age, you would have at least attained the wisdom of serenity. The woman said at the beginning, basically that this is a world of marvels that we live in. Open your heart to the wonderful things in life. Then Nick Cave plays the devil's advocate and says, "but life is terrible, too for the wretched of the earth." Then she says, "don't care too much for them, because it will break your heart. You just got to do what you got to do and you can't do anything more." Then he smiles, because, she gets it. Many people will criticise these dual attitudes as contradictory to each other. Taken together, this is what wisdom is about. She has learnt, she is wise. That is why he is smiling.

3. Just going through it

Struggling. Just getting through it. One of my project partners is in deep shit. He couldn't graduate from NUS because he failed a module. He's working part time now, and trying to finish this course. Unfortunately he picked the wrong course to take. He picked the sort of course that I would want to take. Guys - take it from me. If you see me seated next to you in class, go and run far away because it means that this course is not for the faint hearted. He has to graduate this semester because if he has to stay back, apparently his school fees are about to be doubled. But he's not keeping up with his work. Well I feel bad for him because he's such a great guy. And sometimes it's just great to have somebody to discuss work with - it's incredible how many times you can solve problems just by having somebody to talk those problems to.

Then my other project group, I'm struggling with Java. My other 2 project mates are struggling with English. Not much gets said to each other. It's already so difficult to articulate issues about the project in a language you're familiar with, let alone a English.

And on top of all this, there's work. I will be so glad when it's all over.

Then there was the exam. I don't know if I screwed it up. But I do know that I zoomed in on the wrong things. I didn't study some things that were obvious. I mean I did skim through the text, but I didn't go through it step by step, in detail. What I did go through in detail didn't come out. And in hindsight, some of the things that did come out should have been quite obvious. I’m still very wasteful. The decision making – my god, what an appalling waste. I can see that mediocre grade coming right out at me now. I don't deserve this. I've been more conscientious than when I was an undergraduate! (Or maybe back then I did have more energy, so that cancels it out.)

But I do feel very lifted. I feel that a weight has been taken off my back. Actually I have 2 more term projects again. Then I can say goodbye to this insane lifestyle for a few months.

Then again, this is supposed to be living in luxury, isn't it? My life was supposed to have been pretty meaningless before this, wasn't it? Sigh...


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The future of PAP

I have followed Cherian George's writings ever since he put out "Air Conditioned Nation" more than 10 years ago. I always thought that his comments on Singapore politics were fairly accurate and well informed (well considering that his brother in law is Yaacob Ibrahim, he'd better be.)

The one article that I have a major disagreement with is Cherian’s assessment of the opposition’s chances in 2016. I don’t really agree that the David will find it harder against a reformed Goliath.

Is life getting better?
Rightly or wrongly, people tend to judge governments harshly. They won’t vote on the basis of which government they think can do the job better. They vote based on whether their life has been more miserable or better over the last 4/5 years. Or put it another way, the die hard PAP ppl will always think that PAP is the better government. The die hard opposition will always think that the opposition better than PAP in power. And the swing voters, the one whose votes determine the outcome of elections, vote on the basis of “is my life getting better”.

Life in 2016 will not be easier than life in 2011. We will have to deal with climate change, oil shortage, even higher land prices. Also it will take a while for the government to cut down the number of foreigners in Singapore, even if they wanted to (by no means certain.) How long before people think that the roads are less

The internet is the opposition home ground
The opposition owns the internet. You can think of it as an opposition constituency. And history tells us so far that so long as the town council is competently run, opposition constituencies are notoriously difficult to win back. They start to see themselves the same way that the inhabitants of Gaul in the Asterix comics see themselves. 10 years ago, when surfing on Sam’s Alfresco coffee shop, I knew that the PAP had already lost the internet.

The PAP is unable to adapt to the internet
Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that the PAP is congenitally unable to adapt to the internet and social networking.

If the PAP had the ability to learn how to engage people over the internet, it would already have done so. It is totally shocking that the best they can muster is Tin Peiling. How much can they learn in the next 5 years, that they didn’t manage to learn in the last 10?

PAP were lucky enough to have George Yeo, who instinctively understood that people wanted to be listened to. But I don’t think that many of the rest of them. But George Yeo is gone. He has become collateral damage in the battle royale described in this article In a strategic blunder, the PAP put Lim Hwee Hwa into Aljunied as an additional human shield and managed to lose her as well. I don’t think the WP went after him. They probably felt that the ground was sweet in the old Cheng San and Eunos and he was in the way. So the person who could best help the PAP reinvent itself is also the one who doesn’t have an electoral mandate.

LKY is a liability
You have an MM who is universally regarded as a legend in his time. But now periodically tells the rest of his audience that he knows lala land (he calls it “the 60s”) better than anybody else. Which may be true, but lala land is lala land no matter how you look at it. And after that, he goes on to shoot whichever part of his foot that hasn’t already been blown off.

I don’t know if it’s because LKY hasn’t been campaigning for so long that he’s forgotten what it’s like to sell himself to an electorate. I see all the old pictures of him on TV. He made a lot of brilliant PR moves. Dressing everybody in white to represent no corruption, in direct contrast to Lim Hock Yew’s corrupt government. Picking up a broom to sweep the floor himself. Planting a tree. Explaining to villagers that he wanted everything done efficiently and smoothly. How did he suddenly become so inept at endearing himself to the public?

(NB I wrote this section before LKY tendered his resignation)

The PAP is divided
This was quite apparent during the elections. One interesting thing is that Goh Chok Tong was quite unhappy about having to be Tin Pei Ling's chaperone. He was also quite unhappy about the fact that George Yeo had to be in the line of fire in Aljunied. Not long after the elections, a Temasek Review article was put up alleging that Goh Chok Tong had advocated George Yeo to run in East Coast GRC, so that the Singaporeans didn't have to choose between George Yeo or a very strong Worker's Party team. But he was overruled by the 2 deputy prime ministers, Teo Chee Hean and Wong Kan Seng. I think that this revelation was even too explosive for the Temasek Review and it was taken down a few days later.

What is apparent in any case is that PAP is struggling to portray a united front. That is inevitable when it makes up most of the government. There will always be factions forming on different issues, there will always be people with different views about things. And this is more so when the party is attempting to make a transition in the way that it does things. You can expect a lot of quarrels between the liberal and conservative factions of the party, over the rate of the change, and what can or should be changed.

The PAP does not know how to read the situation
There is a current of thought that the PAP has the right policies, and all they have to do is to explain those policies better to the populace. I think they should disabuse themselves of this thought because it will land them in trouble. The people know that some policies are there to benefit the upper echelon of society at the expense of all other people and they’re not too stupid to figure that out for themselves.

I don’t know if Elite Girl (aka Wee Shu Min)’s infamous essay reflects the mindset of the PAP, that people who are disadvantaged in life deserve their lot because they are stupid and lazy. A lot of these attitudes seep through in the way that PAP interacts with people on line. Invariably, the PAP gets flamed on its own web site. Invariably, the sysads sometimes reply that the hordes of people with their herd mentality do not have the intellectual capability to understand all of PAP’s long term policies. (Even though this is bad PR, it is sometimes true.) The worst posts get deleted. Invariably, a flame war erupts and the PAP screws up yet again.

The PAP does not have the culture to adapt to change
But by far the biggest obstacle to PAP being able to reinvent itself, is its own mentality and attitude. They seem to be a top-down, autocratic institution, totally unsuited for democracy. Can you imagine a young PAP member being able to advise his superiors about how to frame his message so that it sinks in better? Can you imagine the young PAP being able to attract the sort of person who does this? Can you imagine the PAP being able to shed off its insecurity and paranoia and adopting a more spontaneous, breezy style?

The PAP has problems attracting talent
Cherian acknowledges that the PAP has a problem attracting talent, an even bigger problem than the opposition. The opposition have their Wijeysinghas, their Chen Show Maos, their Ang Yong Guans and Nicole Seah. Part of the reason for their sudden ascent to prominence is the sheer novelty of seeing a different type of opposition candidates for the first time. Perhaps the PAP have great and capable people standing in the wings. But this was not sufficiently highlighted. How many of the 4th generation leaders compare to the aforementioned opposition candidates in terms of their charisma? How are they allowed to express themselves and bond with the people? You cannot do that when you have a party line to stick to all the time. The best politicians are always allowed to be themselves all the time.

If you want to talk about branding, let’s analyse the brands of the political parties. The PAP. A group of hardworking, intelligent and honest people set up one of the best governments in the world. Singapore was a place which had economic problems in the 1950s, but by the 1970s, the nation building was so successful that they managed to lift the living standards to first world. However, the style of government is autocratic. Fear and repression was the order of the day. People don’t want to join PAP unless they are mindless minions who always enjoy doing what they’re told. Otherwise they are evil geniuses. PAP people are like the school nerds who always try and always fail to be cool.

Why? Because it is always cooler to be a rebel, and it is especially cool to be a rebel when the odds are overwhelmingly against you. People who vote PAP are mentally and morally weak people who give in to their fear.

Branding - the opposition.
To be sure, since time immemorial, Opposition Party rallies have always drawn a big crowd. Then, as now, they were opportunities for people to be free of the PAP controlled media once every 4-5 years. But in the past, they were more like freak shows, circuses or public hangings. You went there to see what the clowns looked like just before they got guillotined.

Foolhardy but brave
They used to be a bunch of fools going strong where angels fear to tread. They used to be bitter complainers. In any case they often had the short straw. Now? Now JBJ, Tang Liang Hong, Francis Seow, Chiam See Tong and even Chee Soon Juan are like martyred saints.

Well meaning tree huggers
Now they are professional policy analysts who have postgraduate degrees. Or they are amateurish but well meaning cassandras who, like Qu Yuan, try to counsel that the country is going the wrong way, and who are likely to get executed for their troubles. More than a few of them look like tree hugging hippies a card short of a full deck but liberal bleeding hearts cannot resist guys like that.

Battered underdog. Cheap but good
Chiam See Tong – look at his instinctive understanding of branding. The Volkswagen. (the people’s car, in other words.) The partitioned makeshift municipal office. The poisoned plant, whose tale was recounted by Lina Chiam in a rally speech. The iconic “welcome to Potong Pasir” sign. Even his Toa Payoh Lorong 8 is a time capsule, and a reminder of a moment frozen in time, the 80s, shortly before the PAP began to lose its way. And his greatest, most iconic image is not himself as the young warrior taking on the rest of parliament single-handedly. It is the image of him, Saint CST, down with stroke. Silently we accuse the PAP: this stroke is the cumulation of the ordeals you put him through over the 27 years. Bravely, he mumbles into the mike, “I am not a brave man, but I love Singapore.”

Whisper to a scream
Gone are the days when JBJ used to stand helplessly at MRT entrances, piteously hawking his book while the rest of the world passed him by while trying to avoid his glance. Now the trickle has become a flood. One of the iconic images of GE 2011 would be the stopped traffic outside Serangoon Stadium and the triumphant hordes saluting the Worker’s Party.

Regular folk
I was browsing through Chen Show Mao’s web page. Now this is a guy who gets paid a lot for his legal work. But you had pictures of him still being connected to the ground. You had Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Pritam Singh, and they look like a gang of old pals that you want to hang out with, rather than royalty. They were hanging out at the kopitiam, shaking hands. Eating prata for breakfast. Riding the MRT. Contrast this with the PAP. When you look at them, there is an invisible velvet rope separating them from you. They’re it, and you, in case you didn’t know it yet, are not. They were ministers, always in a hurry, always chauffeured. They had the worries of the world on their shoulders, but for some strange reason, “the world” doesn’t include you.

Little Nyonya
Who would have thought that only a few years after Mediacorp’s top rated Chinese drama, “The Little Nyonya”, there would be a Nicole Seah who could come in and fill those beaded shoes in real life? And who would have thought that she’s even better looking than Jeanette Aw?

Anyway her day job (advertising executive) is figuring out how best to tug at peoples’ heartstrings. From the looks of it, she’s probably damn good at her job.

Getting tracked
Anybody who’s ever leant support to an opposition party would know that sneaky creepy feeling that his career / route of advancement might be curtailed if he or she is outed. For a time, the lawsuits have had their chilling effect. Now the shoe is on the other foot. People have started finding comfort in numbers. How are you going to sue 90000 people for “like”ing Nicole Seah? Conversely, any hint that the system may be favouring the PAP will, fairly or unfairly, have the internet vigilantes coming down on the PAP like a ton of bricks.

Hanging on the Ledge
So why is this a problem? Consider the worst case for the PAP. Another 2 big swings against the PAP in the next 2 elections. After the first swing, they get 55%. That would translate to losing 20 seats. (I know you wrote that it is possible that the PAP will poll 55% but still win everything. This is possible but extremely unlikely due to a dynamic similar to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.) After another swing of 50% they could lose the outright majority, and with it, the government. Can the opposition form a government in 10 years? Do their guys have the ability to govern? Nobody knows for sure.

There are broadly 3 outcomes for Singapore. First is that the opposition regresses and things go back to the “good old days” of PAP taking all seats except for 1 or 2. Not an interesting case because we’ve been there before.

The second case is that the opposition wins a larger share, but it is still in the minority. Certainly not large enough to hinder policy making, but large enough to be a strong voice, and be the “co-driver” that it has sold itself as. This is the outcome that I favour. But it is also an outcome that, thanks to the GRC system, lies in a fairly narrow band of the popular vote. (50% to 60%).

The last case is that the opposition forms a majority and decides to form a coalition government, leaving PAP in the opposition. This is unlikely but not impossible. If it happens prematurely it will have catastrophic consequences for Singapore. The country will then be in the hands of a cadre that unlike our tried and trusted PAP folks, have not been groomed all their lives to lead the nation. They may well govern in ways substantially different from the past. They may have ideas that work great on paper, but bomb in practice. They may bleed our reserves dry. They may make promises to citizens that it would be impossible for subsequent governments to fulfil. Or they could fulfil their promise and make Singapore a much better place than the PAP is capable of.

But unless it is clear that the PAP is leading Singapore on a road to ruin, I wouldn’t want to gamble on an “opposition” government. (opposition government is technically an oxymoron.)

Democracy for Singapore
Is Singapore ready for a democracy? Singaporeans are well educated and possibly they are intelligent. You couldn’t tell by the inane comments they leave on forums, but that is also a consequence of a high internet penetration – the smart guys are not the only ones with access to computers. But are they politically matured? I don’t think so.

At the risk of making crude caricatures, the PAP supporters are unthinking stooges who cannot see past the specious arguments that the government makes in order to justify policies that benefit a chosen few at the expense of the screwed majority. The opposition supporters are rebels without a cause; uncouth, potty mouthed and morally smug people who wouldn’t be able to tell a genuinely well meaning government policy even if it slapped them in the face.

People are all too quick to root for their tribe, too quick to subscribe to a Manichean divide of good vs evil. People on both sides are too quick to dismiss moderate opinions as being muddled and confused. This is the consequence of our education system which places emphasis on memorisation of facts

This is the last election where people can vote opposition and not have to worry about triggering off a constitutional crisis.

Maybe Cherian has his reasons why he wants to put out an essay reassuring people that the PAP will get their act together. For me, I feel they have a mountain to climb.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

On the GRC

The group representation constituency was introduced in 1988. Its ostensible purpose is to make sure that we had enough minority representation in parliament. I still remember watching the 1988 elections, and it was exciting, I was only a kid at that point but it seemed like an exciting thing. But in the end I found it to be a tepid affair, since everybody knows that the PAP wins everything anyway.

One of the things I remembered most was a comic strip that was a supplement to the Sunday Times, and it came with a cartoon that warned that if we didn’t have the GRC, we would end up with racial politics and peace in Singapore would crumble. I remember a panel where Singapore was drawn as a time bomb, there were Chinese on one side, Malays on one side, Indians on a third side, and the fuse was lit.

Now the question of race in Singapore – it’s not a severe problem in Singapore. And people have criticised the fact that in HDB flats there are quotas for people of various races. I don’t think that’s a problem. One of the most important factors behind racial harmony in Singapore is that most people at some point or another have had neighbours of a different race. Certainly this is true for almost all Malay or Indian people. After a while you start to think of yourself as Singaporean, rather than, exclusively, Chinese, Malay or Indian.

I think that Singapore’s racial policies have been pretty OK. They are heavy handed, and they are not completely effective. Malays do feel a little disenfranchised, and the stigma that they are mostly security guards, librarians and dispatchers is hurting them. But there is no such thing as racial equality almost anywhere in the world.

The big problem with the GRC is that it is apparent that the GRC was not solely about race. In fact I think that there are more important issues than race in the GRC. It’s about disadvantaging the opposition, and it’s about being anti-democratic.

I’m not a believer in “this or that is good in principle”. I don’t believe you should judge anything on principles. You should look at the probable outcome of what you’re going to do, and then decide or not whether you like that outcome. Principles are only there to make outcomes easier to understand. Otherwise they shouldn’t supersede thinking about outcomes.

Similarly I will never criticise something on the basis of its being anti-democratic. After all, democracy is not always good. In fact I think that democracy’s only point is that it is a good check against tyranny and abuse of power. I have a lot of faith in the ability of democracy to fire a bad leader, but I have less faith in its ability to appoint a good one. That being said, I believe that the US presidential election, the toughest election in the world is rightly known as the toughest job interview in the world, and an effective way to appoint a good leader.

Now the other issues involved in GRCs are that they are first past the post on steroids. They give an advantage to the incumbent, which is almost certainly the PAP. And similarly they give a disadvantage to the opposition.

I think it was party to address the issue of leadership renewal that the PAP (more specifically LKY) came up with this great idea. Since it was the cabinet ministers who always got very good election results (LKY often scored more than 80%) you put one cabinet minister into each GRC, he would anchor that GRC and then it would be easier to win it. (When I talk about cabinet ministers, I always use “he” because our first and only woman cabinet minister just got voted out last week.) That way, you can sneak all your guys into Parliament via the GRC, and pretend that they were democratically elected.

I don’t think this is inherently evil. If a person is good and capable, but he’s a nerd, you don’t really expect him to do very well in elections. I don’t mind having people like that in parliament. If you trust the PAP machinery to bring out the best people then vote for them anyway. And if they’re lousy, you trust the PAP not to put them up in the next election.

But the people must also have some say in this. There is no problem with a 3 person GRC. But if you have 4, 5 or even 6 member GRCs then this is a gerrymandering process that has gone too far. Singapore is 75% to 80% Chinese. If you want parliament to reflect this composition, then you should have a larger than average representation for minorities in your GRC. Therefore GRCs should not be larger than 3.

The other irony about the GRCs is something that most Singaporeans, PAP or opposition, have complained about. Tin Peiling in, George Yeo out. Well that’s the problem when you bundle a cabinet minister together with 2 other guys. You are effectively bundling the 3 together, and the leader is a human shield. The PAP is effectively saying, “vote for me, otherwise I will throw you out of power.

Looking back at the elections results, in 1988, GRCs had 3 members. In 1991, they had 4. By 1997, they had up to 6. They were increasing the sizes of the GRCs the way heroin users increased their dosages. Clearly it’s not really about race anymore. And in the end they paid the price by losing 2 ministers, probably a speaker of parliament and a “potential office holder”.

The game on nomination day is like this: if the opposition party fields a very strong team, do you want to keep that team out? Do you play your best people in that GRC, or do you fold and give up and send a weak team to get whipped? PAP also sent out a moderately strong team, better than average GRC, and in the end, they lost.

That’s the problem with a really big GRC. You tie the fates of 5 candidates together. Everything comes in the same package. Whether the opposition has a larger representative voice in parliament, who gets to run the municipal council, who gets to run the foreign ministry, who gets to go back to China. And between Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang, they probably agreed that we’re not going to let the Singaporeans have the luxury of returning PAP all the seats, except for 2 token opposition in parliament. I don’t know if it was deliberate strategy by the opposition, but all the strong candidates contested in GRCs and not SMCs. The voters weren’t allowed to be complacent and say, “Wijeysingha will get his seat”, or “Gerald Giam will get his seat”, or “Pritam Singh will get his seat” or “Nicole Seah will get her seat” or “Tan Jee Say will get his seat”. Probably only Yaw Shin Leong was a strong person and that was because WP needed to hold on to Hougang. I think this was deliberate strategy to smash the GRC system. If all the GRCs were to go, then I think the opposition would have won more than 10 seats.

But let's face some facts: in some way the GRCs also benefit the opposition. Because the outcome of the GRCs are more in the middle range, it would be hard to lose your deposit. In fact the only person who lost his seat did so in a 3 cornered fight. Possibly if the SDA managed to challenge LKY in Tanjong Pagar they would lose their deposits. I always believed that the election officer did them a favour by disqualifying them. In almost every GRC, the opposition team would poll 30%. (I've even heard people bitching: they get 30% all the time even though they did nothing. I've often thought that a lot of people vote opposition to compensate for the first past the post system. If we had proportional representation, and people knew that 40% of the vote mean 40% of the seats in parliament, people would vote very differently. )

The other thing is that the opposition GRC does allow for people to be passengers. You probably need most of your opposition members to be outstanding stars. But not all. It is possible to sneak in 1 or 2 less capable candidates. And more importantly, since the opposition has almost no fear of losing their deposits, it is a great opportunity for new blood to gain campaigning experience.

I don’t really think it has to go. Yes, it’s an election engineering system, but I think that elections shouldn’t be 100% democratic. I think the people should have a voice, have a say in affairs, but they should at the most give some, not all input. They should have to power to do something drastic and attention grabbing if things don’t work out, such as unseat an MP when things go wrong.

So for GRCs, keep them, they have a purpose after all. But no larger than 3, please.



Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wishlist for the elections

I wrote this as a facebook note. Later on I thought the better of posting this under my own name. All of these things were written 1 day before cooling off day, before the results were known.

1. That all this talk on the internet actually amounts to a real change in election results. The opposition gets a few seats. Otherwise people will realize that Gen Y does not matter at all. Just a few, not too much. Anyway if the election results are the same as 2006 then most of these points will be moot.

2. That the PAP follows through on the apology and that this would mark a change in its attitude. And more specifically they should relook some of the policies that favour the rich, and not have so many “cracks” that people can fall through. That if nothing else, they will learn how to explain their policies better and learn how to function in a democracy.

3. We haven’t talked a lot about the new PAP candidates because they have been overshadowed by the wonderful surprise that we actually now have a credible opposition. Apparently one of them is a future prime minister. My wish is that he’s a good one. The last 3 have ranged from “pretty good” to “legendary”.

4. That the advances that the opposition parties have made in these elections would not be lost. That even ppl who don’t get voted in will continue and contest in the next elections. People like
1. Nicole Seah
2. SDP’s Holland Bukit-Timah team
3. WP’s Aljunied Team
4. SPP’s Bishan Toa Payoh team except CST who should retire and not stand for the next elections.
5. Teo Soh Lung
6. George Yeo
7. All the former civil servants who got sick of their political masters and decided to run against them

5. That the aforementioned people will not betray the high hopes that people have come to foster upon them. (But I think that 1 or 2 of them will.)

6. That the GRC system is either scrapped altogether because it’s a sham, or the size is limited to 3 or 4

7. Now that Singaporeans feel able to speak more freely, we can actually talk about serious stuff like general direction for Singapore, economic policy, values system rather than petty stuff like:
1. Is the election fight fair?
2. Did you fill in your form correctly?
3. The PAP locked us up and jailed us (true but a lot of this stuff doesn’t happen anymore.)

8. The entertainment value of democratic elections (and Singapore is beginning to learn that the possibilities are endless) does not overshadow the serious business.

9. The PAP has behaved well in this elections by their (admittedly low) standards. We didn’t have gutter politics, not much anyway. Goh Chok Tong set the tone earlier on and asked everybody to behave in a civilized manner. The coverage of opposition members is much fairer than before. This is surely not an accident but the result of a deliberate policy.

10. The opposition, if they proceed to get into parliament, will not proceed to screw up and sabo themselves for another 20 years like they did in 1991-1996. That they actually have enough clout to rein in the worst excesses of the PAP, and not get pawned by them. That they dun anyhow talk cock in parliament.

11. That what we are witnessing is a dawn in gentlemanly bipartisanship / multi-partisanship.

12. The opposition seems to be made of brave and committed people who are fighting for a cause. (Many, not all from the PAP are also like that.) My wish is for this to continue, and we don’t reach a point where people on both sides are cynical opportunists who jockey for power and influence. Because this is the age of innocence for the opposition parties and the age of innocence will come to an end.

Candidates, good luck for polling day because you are going to need it.