Last night, I attended the Workers’ Party rally at Hougang SMC. The three heavyweights, Chen Show Mao(CSM), Sylvia Lim(SL) and Low Thia Khiang(LTK), contesting in Aljunied GRC demonstrated their ability to engage the audience with the bread and butter issues. The ground sentiment, estimated to be forty to fifty thousand strong, responded loudest to the eloquence of CSM, the directness of SL and the witty analogies of LTK.
CSM started off with a brief introduction of himself in Malay and went on to pose critical questions such as “How many millions to pay a government minister is enough?”, “How many hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to bring in every year is enough?” Someone in the crowd responded immediately, “NOT EVERY YEAR! EVERYDAY!” That drew a laughter from the nearby crowd. He went on to address the real income of the bottom half of employed households not keeping up with the growth of our GDP.
He further brought into question the viability of pegging new HDB flats to income of eligible households, the workfare supplement being benchmark against the increasing cost of living and even raise the possibility of unemployment insurance. He ended his speech with a Wizard of Oz story. He talked about the scarecrow who wanted a brain, the tin man who wanted a heart and the timid lion who wanted courage. He advised everyone to vote with their head, and think for themselves and for their children; to vote with their hearts, and think about the Singaporeans who are having a hard time making a living in Singapore; to vote with courage, to do what is right even if it means facing changes.
LTK thanked his constituency for their support over the years and then described his agonizing decision to move out of his comfort zone to contest in a GRC to change the political landscape. He further elaborated his party’s vision of a first world parliament, beyond just robust debating in parliament. Opposition parties must be given critical mass of presence with full voting rights and mandates. He then addressed affordability issue of housing and the mortgage spanned over 25-30 years is the reason most people today and in the future will have to work to the day they step into their graves.
The loudest cheer came when he made a brilliant reply to the recent comments made about the Worker’s Party wanting to enter parliament is to be the co-driver and tussle for the steering wheel. LTK said,”Maybe we need to remind the minister that we are all inside the vehicle. If the vehicle has an accident, all of us could be injured or die. Bear in mind, we are in the vehicle, putting on safety belt and just hope the driver will bring you to your destination is not enough. A co-driver is essential, especially when the road gets tougher to navigate. The co-driver is there to slap the driver when he drives off course or when he falls asleep or he drives dangerously. But of course if the driver is friendly, drives responsibly, then just keep talking to him to keep him awake.” The loudest cheer came when he talked about slapping the incumbent. He went on to establish his party’s stand that in order for a good democratic system to work, checks and balances have to be present and voters have to give them the “driver license” to be the co-driver.
Sylvia Lim started a direct approach on PAP’s Manifesto and ripping it apart literally. She touched on the recent forum in NUS where a student living in Hougang posed this question of biased treatment in upgrading of HDB in opposition constituencies. She questioned the creditability of PAP’s claims to be first world parliament if opposition wards are being penalized to favour PAP’s supporters. Singapore belongs to each and everyone of us, not the PAP. She further questioned the improvement in democracy through NCMP, as NCMP only has limited voting powers. She stressed that in order for the first world parliament to be successful, we need more opposition members with voting rights in parliament and urged everyone on the ground to give their support by voting them in.
As a libertarian, it is heartening to hear these three speakers. It gave me hope that we might be able to witness a better democratic system towards a better parliament. First world or not, we can only wait and see. However I did sense the difference in opinions on the grounds based on the level of cheering on different issues. For housing, the older generation seems to be quieter than the younger generation. For costs of living, the cheers come from the older generation. How this will translate into a voting results is difficult to predict. It seems apparent that everyone has his/her agenda in voting. It is definitely the same for every MP going into parliament, be it for the money, to serve the people or even fighting for rights of the minorities. The Workers’ Party has shown its hand by putting all its eggs into a basket to contest for Aljunied GRC. Does the Workers’ Party have the best hand now? It seems like it for now with these 3 aces and 2 deuces. We would only know on May 7 if the PAP has a straight flush.