Hey Singapore, I am sorry too.
Sorry to have been politically ignorant by choice for all of my life until recently. Living in Jurong West for as long as I can remember, I never had a chance to vote since turning 21 in 2002. My only joke/comment that I could make during election period in 2006 was, “Elections? Who cares. Jurong sure walkover one… Nobody wants the mutants of the west.” There were possibly half-truths in that statement but the fact is that I really didn’t care.
My view on politics was that it doesn’t affect me. Even politicians themselves look bored and uninterested as they sit in parliament, taking turns to speak. I have never seen my MP, nor find the need to visit him/her. See that I didn’t even know the gender of my MP. I was brought up to be self-sufficient and when I needed help, my mother was the one to go to; not my MP. I was a frog in a well; fully contented of where I am, what was available, and what was not. Like any Singaporean, I knew that nothing will be handed to me on a silver platter and I will have to work for what I want as mine. So even if I had a choice, why do I need someone to represent me, my neighbourhood and my country?
Just before the announcement on the Singapore General Elections 2011, I was entering into a stage where I need to think about settling down and that equates to financial planning and looking for a flat. I was looking at HDB’s website for BTOs and looking at affordability charts. These charts tell me that a combined salary with my future wife, I will be able to afford a 4-rm flat in Sengkang. It does sound expensive; paying almost 300k for a good 30 years of my life. Did I blink when I clicked to apply for one? Not really. I took it as status quo like the frog I still am. “Every regular Singaporean of my age look to be surviving with this. I think I can do the same.”
And then it struck me. My mother bought her 3-rm flat for a 5 figure sum and she is now able to sell it for a 6 figure sum if she wants to. Sounds impressive until I realize I am not earning much more than her when she was at her prime. If the price for a flat is 4 times as much compared to my Mum’s time of purchase, shouldn’t I be at least earning at least 4 times as much at this point? Was it my own fault? Did I not study hard enough? Did I make wrong career choices when younger? I look at my friends and I realize only a very, very small handful can claim to have such earning power.
A simple 3 lettered word that I should have asked…
Why is it so expensive? Why do I have to pay for my flat till I hit my 60s? Why do I feel like I need to work till my grave in order to survive. Why do I feel like I am unable to have more kids even if I wanted to. Why do I keep hearing awesome growth of the country but I don’t see it happening to my friends and me? Why are my ministers getting almost $2million a year when I don’t even know their gender or their names or what they actually do for me?
Then nomination day came and the Opposition parties marched. Some marched with experiences and plans. Some marched with a purpose or even agendas. All of them marched because they wanted to ask “Why?”. And “Why?” they asked for the days leading to 7th May. This time, I felt empowered for I can choose.
Through the power of social media and the internet, I was free to read up on the past and present of Singapore. I wasn’t stupid to think everything I read is true or even relevant to the present but we all know the truth is somewhere out there and definitely harder to find in our local news.
So here are my few thoughts after my political awakening.
- No doubt that the PAP has a track record but we have been reminded to death about it. Your predecessors record is not yours. Most of you have a track record because you had the chance to do so. Can’t say the same about a chance for our Opposition candidates so what’s the point of saying that they don’t?
- We are not stupid. Having such overwhelming numbers in parliament unchallenged, just means that one party’s voice is being heard. There are advantages to such a system and it’s benefits are of a dictatorship and not of a democratic society. How can an MP’s voice represent me when he/she is not accountable to me? I didn’t vote them in. The party brought them in. Guess whose loyalty do they owe it to?
- GRCs – They do ensure a minority representation in parliament but my ONE vote can potentially bring in one or two MPs that I wanted to vote for and four to five others I didn’t care for. So should I vote for what I can live with or what I can live without?
- In all considerations, I really think the PAP has it tough. Having been in the limelight and in power, their work is for all to be scrutinized. So when the Oppositions nitpick at your policies and your mistakes with the undeniable voices of citizens booing in unison, why in the world would you defend your policies in such a way that make you seem untouchable and never wrong? Where’s the empathy or even the attempt at conjuring some so that you may bring a stronger point across?
- Mr Low Thia Kiang and Mr Chiam See Tong are my new found heroes. Both of them dug holes in the walls where JBJ left cracks at and managed to win over residents of their wards for 20-26 years. Both of them could have stayed in their SMCs in Hougang and Potong Pasir respectively for this GE and have high odds of winning but they left for a greater cause – To compete in Aljunied & Bishan/Toa Payoh GRCs so that they may bring more opposition voices to make it count in Parliament. Thanks to point #3, I would have undoubtedly voted for them over any PAP team if I was in the said GRCs.
- Not every PAP candidate is a money grubbing, evil person with no regard for citizens and armed with bad analogies. I’m sure there are those who have the right mentality but they are unfortunate by association.
- No Opposition team/candidate is worth your vote if you just want to go against PAP because you don’t like them.
- Your vote is secret. It really is; so vote wisely.
- “Your vote is secret” & “Vote wisely” are not calls for you to vote for the Opposition. Do your research.
To the Opposition parties: Thank you for showing us that our voices can be heard and are heard. Thank you for stepping forward even when most of you seem unprepared. Whatever the results will be after 7th May, I have no doubt that even with an 87-0 landslide, the PAP or shall I say the government, will definitely take bigger steps in the “right” direction.
To the PAP: Show empathy or at least hire a good PR team.
To Lee Kuan Yew: I have nothing much to say out of respect but I shall repent if given a choice.