Bravado, Blame and Insecurity: Fearfully Alienating Singaporeans

The multiple scare tactics employed by the PAP since the date of the General Election was announced perhaps testify to the deep anxieties of the PAP regarding the Election results. Perhaps my impressions are invalid, but it certainly appears to me that the PAP has virtually given up on telling us how Singaporeans can benefit if it continues to stay in power. In fact, the thrust of the PAP’s campaign thus far seems to be ironically opposition-centered in its very attempt to scare Singaporeans into not voting for the opposition. By accusing the Workers’ Party of wanting to block PAP policies and replace the PAP, the latter is revealing its own fears and projecting them onto Singaporeans. Even though such claims are meant to discredit the WP, they might end up helping the WP gain a reputation as a party that actually can prevent the implementation of PAP policies (many of which are not well-liked because they are pay-and-pay policies with no tangible benefit) and even one that can become the dominant party. (“Block PAP policies? Not a bad idea at all!”)

Apparently giving up on the old tactic of demonizing the Singapore Democratic Party as a party that is being used by foreign powers that have nothing better to do but to undermine Singapore, Balakrishnan has decided to coyly refer to a video and eventually tell us that he thinks the SDP has a gay agenda, ultimately garnering sympathy (and perhaps sympathy votes) for Vincent Wijeysingha. Balakrishnan’s initial claim that the SDP was hiding a video has largely been repudiated, and his allegation that the party is pursuing a gay agenda may not even make sense to the small group of religious conservatives who are afraid of MPs pursuing such an agenda (and this is likely the same group that would vote for the PAP to begin with). What could an MP with a gay agenda do, whatever a gay agenda is supposed to be? Champion for 377A to be repealed? But even PAP MPs are not unanimous about 377A and there are some PAP MPs who are for the repeal of 377A. (Perhaps the PAP has a gay agenda.) Is he going to do nothing else but that and risk losing the support of the electorate in the long run?

Kuan Yew is a key player in the game of winning hearts by scaring people. His speeches and comments get to the heart of the philosophy of the PAP fear vote. His points are typically all-encompassing: freak election results for the PAP is doomsday for Singapore. If I may have the liberty to paraphrase. However, even PAP icon Kuan Yew himself appears to have anxieties about how far the PAP can retain its power. No doubt, many have already seen through the rhetoric he was employing when he urged Singaporeans not to rock the foundations of Singapore. It is nothing new coming from Kuan Yew who has previously bestowed us with vivid catastrophic visions of daft Singaporean women who do not have their spurs stuck on their hide becoming maids in other countries thanks to bad governance (i.e. non-PAP governance). But in an almost tragic fashion, Kuan Yew is also indirectly telling us that the 2011 General Election can be one that leads to changes that the PAP dread; this coming election can be one that rocks the foundations—of the PAP hegemony that has taken years of ISD operations, defamation suits, GRC politics and so on to establish. His anxieties are perhaps seen also in his interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he was quick—too quick—to tell us that the PAP would remain the strongest party after the Elections. (Do he mean that he thinks there might, for once, be other strong parties?) He seems so eager to convey his point that he does not even bother to answer an interview question. (I’m assuming that the ST report has not misrepresented the interview through its editing.)

Wall Street Journal (WSJ): What do you think will be the key issues?

MM Lee: I think we will remain the strongest party. There may be a few seats for the opposition either as constituency or non-constituency members because we have introduced new rules so that up to nine of the best losers from the opposition will be in Parliament, so the opposition’s voice is heard.

At the moment, there are two Members of Parliament from the opposition and only one non-constituency member, but the law has been changed to increase the number of opposition members to at least nine in the next Parliament. [Molly: Key issues???]

WSJ: What do you think the main issues will be for voters in Singapore?
MM Lee: Cost of living, cost of housing for young couples. [. . .]

Or was he in his clearest state of mind when he was being interviewed? Did he know how much sense (or nonsense) he was making during the interview? At first, his answers seem to bear his trademark—he asserts that the PAP government has served the people well and blames the people for being impatient and idealistic. Upon closer examination, however, we might find his rhetoric getting more brittle than ever.

MM Lee: Cost of living, cost of housing for young couples. We are building many new HDB homes but they cost more because they are better designed and more elegant.

But Singaporeans do not like waiting. They blame the immigrants for pushing up prices of the homes. The immigrants who are not citizens cannot buy new flats directly from the government, but they can buy off the open market from owners who want to sell their HDB flats.

So there is some discomfort on this issue. We have got new permanent residents who have entered the market. But our birthrate or fertility rate is 1.16.

We need 2.1 to replace the existing population. 1.16 means we are halving our population. If we do not accept migrants, we will be an ageing and a declining population. It is a trade-off.

But our people feel discomforted seeing about one million foreign workers in our total population of 5.1 million. But most of these are people on two-year work permits, that can be extended but they have to go home eventually. They do the construction and the heavy work.

If we do not have them seen in the trains and on the buses, how are they going to get to their work? If they are not here, who will do this work? They are mostly from China, India and the region.

Our citizens want the best of all worlds. But in real life, we have to make trade-offs.

Kuan Yew’s ideas are certainly cohesive for there are links between his ideas structurally. But I wonder if he is speaking coherently. First he claims that new HDB flats are more expensive because they are better designed and more elegant. (Really, they are that much better designed and that much more elegant?) Then he suddenly tells us that Singaporeans do not like waiting. (Huh? Would we get afforadable flats if we would just wait?) The suggestion seems to be that Singaporeans do not like waiting for new HDB flats and thus are buying resale flats and competing with immigrants; and since there are so many people wanting to buy resale flats, naturally the price goes up. But even if Singaporeans were to wait for new flats, did Kuan Yew not just say that new flats are more expensive thanks to their wonderful architecture? And given that the price of new flats are “discounted” from the market price of resale flats, how would waiting help if the market price keeps going up?

Then Kuan Yew tries to justify the import of immigrants by explaining it as a means to make up for Singaporeans’ low birth rate. Which would have been fine if he had just stopped there. But he continued to tell us that the foreigners Singaporeans are seeing are just in Singapore on work permits and return home eventually. One is then tempted to ask how foreign workers who stay in Singapore for a short while compensate for Singapore’s low birth rate. And if they are meant as substitute Singaporeans, what does the fact (if it’s one) that they are mostly blue collar workers say about Singapore’s economy?

Kuan Yew seems to be trying to pull a fast one on us. Unfortunately for him, he seems also to lack the dexterity of his earlier years in this regard. That the PAP still seems to be depending on him to play a pivotal role in galvanizing supporters does not bode well for the PAP. And if the PAP continues to be the dominant party, it does not bode well for Singaporeans either.

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5 Responses

  1. “They are better designed and more elegant.”

    He forgot to add in the Minister’s admission that they also value to the reserves, the reserves that can be withdrawn at anytime if necessary to pay for their obscene salaries.

    He tells only one halve truth but chose to keep quiet about the other halve. One needs 2 half truths to made 1 whole hard truth so it make one wonders whether his ‘Hard Truths’ are in halves or in whole ?

  2. […] pork barrels, mud slings, character assassinations, FUD.. Welcome to SG GE 2011! – Molitics: Bravado, Blame and Insecurity: Fearfully Alienating Singaporeans – Yawning Bread on WordPress: Sad day when political reporters become celebrity paparazzi – Diary […]

  3. Hi, I’m not sure how to reach you by email, but I would like to share this piece. Hope you manage to get this.

    ELECTION CARE PACKAGE
    *****************************

    Two days ago, I talked to a friend about the elections and realized that she was unaware of the concerns facing Singaporeans who can’t afford private housing. She wanted to know more about election issues and how to support the Opposition, so I promised to send her some articles. While I found many excellent articles online, I could not find any good summaries.
    With one week to the elections, there are too many long articles online for her to sort through and read, so I decided to compile a convenient and easy-to-understand summary for her, and include links for more in-depth discussion, and some suggestions on how she can make a difference.
    I realized also that there are still many people, especially in the older generation, who do not use the internet or social media regularly, and do not look up alternative news unless someone sends it to them. They need a clear, from-the-basics introduction that they can read at one go and quickly update themselves on current issues.
    As such, I have decided to update this package and share it here. You are most welcome to copy and paste this and share it with friends. I have probably missed many points, so if you can add to it before you forward, this care package letter will just get better!

    PAP POLICIES
    *****************************

    PAP policies since the last general election have led to the following issues: are any of these affecting you?

    1) The cost of living keeps increasing.
    – The PAP government is responsible for managing the economy, taxes and growth.
    – The prices of food, transport, utilities and necessities have been hiked repeatedly
    – Inflation is rising, and is now at 5% per annum, GST has been increased to 7%
    – Our salaries are not increasing to cope with this. Median wages are stagnant at $2.5K
    http://theonlinecitizen.com/2010/10/the-relentless-rising-cost-of-living-in-singapore/

    2) Foreigners are taking over our country.
    – The PAP government is responsible for freely granting citizenships and PR to foreigners
    – 40% of our population is now foreign
    – We are being outcompeted for jobs because foreigners are cheap while we have CPF and NS liabilities
    http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=5980

    3) Housing has become unaffordable.
    – The PAP government is responsible for the availability of public housing.
    – HDB flats have doubled in price up to 500K, while our median monthly wages remain below 3K.
    – To afford a HDB flat, we may need to spend the next 30 years paying off a housing loan.
    http://furrybrowndog.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/evidence-that-housing-prices-in-singapore-are-unaffordable/

    PAP MISTAKES AND ACCOUNTABILITY
    *****************************

    Our PAP ministers are the highest paid in the world and they are increasing their salary again based on their claimed performance and capability.
    http://yoursdp.org/index.php/truth-about/ministers-pay
    However, there are many examples of the mishaps that have occurred while they were in charge, and they have responded with minimal accountability or self-reflection.

    1) Response to $40 billion losses of state funds by Temasek Holdings
    http://singaporemind.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-is-worrying-about-gic-temasek.html
    2) Response to repeated, large scale flooding incidents.
    http://siewkumhong.blogspot.com/2010/07/more-on-50-year-floods.html
    3) Response to suspected terrorist Mas Selamat’s escape
    http://catherinelim.sg/2008/04/27/more-comments-on-the-mas-selamat-scandal/

    Also, they promised us the following during the last general election in 2006. How many of these promises have been delivered?
    http://theonlinecitizen.com/2011/04/pap-2006-election-manifesto-promise-%E2%80%93-success-or-failure/

    PAP HOLDS TOO MUCH POWER
    *****************************

    Right now, the PAP’s leaders dominate parliament and can impose whatever law, rule or policy it wants on ordinary Singaporeans, leading to those issues mentioned above.
    When debating policies in parliament
    1) Opposition MPs are outnumbered 82-2 by PAP MPs in parliament
    2) NMPs and NCMPs cannot vote on policies
    3) PAP MPs cannot vote against their party
    http://kentridgecommon.com/opinions/6838

    When PAP leaders make bad decisions, no one can stop them. PAP MPs are forced to support them, and with the current PAP majority, protests in parliament can be ignored, protests in the street are illegal, and there is nothing we can do if we are unhappy with their policies for Singapore. But it does not have to be this way.

    VOTE FOR THE OPPOSITION
    *****************************

    We can vote for the Opposition to:
    1) Send a strong signal to the government to remind them not to ignore our concerns
    2) Increase the number of Opposition members in parliament to check on the PAP
    3) Encourage the growth of alternative views in the government

    If we vote for the PAP, their system and policies will continue, and they will retain complete power and can justify bad policies by saying that we have voted for them and that we like what they are doing. They will prevent their policies from being questioned by making it hard for any Opposition to emerge in parliament, while only allowing elites who agree with them into parliament.

    If we vote for the Opposition, there will be a check and balance on the excesses of the PAP, and Singaporeans can have more say in how our country is governed. We need more Opposition MPs because 2 against 82 will always get outvoted.
    Some question individual opposition candidates, but the fact is that the PAP controls 97% of the voting parliament. Right now, the numbers matter. Any opposition representation is better than no opposition presence.
    If the Opposition can grow during this election, many more humble and capable people will be inspired and encouraged to step forward to serve Singapore. The Opposition will get better. Government decisions will be examined more carefully, and policies towards us will be kinder and more balanced. We are not just voting for the Opposition of today: we are voting for the Opposition of the future, for GE2016 and beyond.

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
    *****************************
    1) Will I get into trouble for supporting the Opposition?
    a) No, your vote is secret. The PAP will never know who you voted for.
    http://wp.sg/your-vote-is-secret/
    b) No, because you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of Opposition supporters and the PAP has no way to track all of us.
    c) No, because many people have voted for and volunteered with the Opposition in the last election, and nothing has happened to them.
    http://theonlinecitizen.com/2011/04/three-local-myths/

    2) Will Singapore fall into chaos if the PAP loses the elections?
    a) No, because the civil service is politically neutral: water, electricity, public transport, hospitals, emergency services will continue to run regardless of who is in power.
    http://www.temasekreview.com/2011/01/25/singapore-will-not-collapse-if-the-opposition-wins-the-next-general-election/
    b) No, because the PAP will not lose the elections completely or disappear overnight. It has ruled Singapore for 46 years and controls 97% of parliament and has heavily entrenched itself in the system.
    c) There is no shortage of votes for the PAP, due to gerrymandering, the GRC system, the PAP grassroots associations. The PAP does not need your vote to stay in power.
    http://singaporemind.blogspot.com/2011/04/spreading-fear-of-freak-results-and.html
    d) Opposition views will improve parliament debate, and lead to deadlocks as the PAP has threatened.
    http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/deadlock-bogeyman/

    3) Can I be confident of the Opposition compared to the PAP’s track record in the past?
    a) The old PAP team from the 60s has retired and the new PAP team from 2006 is made up of many new people. The new PAP team faces a different set of problems, and their track record at handling new problems in the last five years is worse than the old PAP. Their new candidates are drawn mainly from elites in the civil service and are not representative of Singapore’s population today.
    http://singaporeelection.blogspot.com/2011/04/pap-in-1950s-is-not-same-as-pap-now.html
    b) The PAP has abused its dominance to deny the Opposition a track record, and prevent them from accessing resources for upgrading programmes to improve the lives of constituents.
    http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/pm-lee-don-t-upgrading-pay-less-tax-20110405-231901-526.html

    c) The quality of the Opposition has improved greatly since the last election. Opposition candidates for this election are well qualified and hail from diverse backgrounds, better representing Singapore today.
    http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=580728
    d) The Opposition is contesting the greatest number of the seats in parliament than ever before in Singapore’s history
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704099704576288353006346000.html
    e) Opposition candidates face many risks and make great personal sacrifices in stepping forward to serve Singapore. They have not been drawn by the lure of money or an easy route into parliament. They have demonstrated courage and conviction, and if we give them our support, the Opposition will grow in strength and contribute to better governance that will improve our lives in the next five years and beyond.

    MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
    *****************************

    What can I do to make a difference?
    1) Cast your vote for an Opposition party
    a) Find out your constituency and get to know who the Opposition candidates in your area are
    http://sgmaps.blogspot.com/p/electoral-map.html
    b) Familiarize yourself with voting procedures
    http://www.elections.gov.sg/voters_how.html
    c) Do not spoil your vote
    http://yeejj.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/spoiling-your-vote-think-carefully/
    d) If you are too young to vote, you can still persuade others around you to vote!

    2) Tell your relatives, friends and neighbors
    a) Forward this message via email, forums, Facebook or any other means
    b) Pledge to talk to one person every day about voting for change
    c) Help spread the message to those who have no access to the internet.
    d) You can use a hand-phone or laptop to show others videos and broadcasts, or print copies of articles and pass them around.

    3) Connect with Opposition parties and candidates in person
    a) Write in to express your support, and share your writings with others online or in person.
    b) Attend opposition rallies to know more about what the opposition offers, and bring your friends
    http://www.spf.gov.sg/mic/2011/110427_election_meeting_for_28Apr.htm
    c) Remind others of the date, time and venue of Opposition rallies
    d) Volunteer to help with the Opposition campaign on the ground
    http://thereformparty.net/getting-involved/
    http://yoursdp.org/index.php/act-now/contact-us
    http://www.spp.org.sg/?p=103
    http://www.facebook.com/workersparty
    http://www.facebook.com/nspsg

    4) Help translate this summary into other languages to help it reach more people.

    RESOURCES
    *****************************
    In helping to spread the word, you may find the following resources useful:
    (Please add to this list if you feel it is incomplete)

    Opposition party websites:
    http://www.wp.sg/
    http://www.nsp.sg/
    http://www.singaporedemocrat.org/
    http://www.spp.org.sg/
    http://thereformparty.net/

    Alternative news sites:
    http://singaporedaily.net/
    http://theonlinecitizen.com/
    http://www.temasekreview.com/

    Videos:
    GE2011 media repository: http://ge2011media.com/

    WP Election message in English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uGrX86R2vM
    WP Election message in Chinese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80Y13RIEdbE
    WP Election message in Malay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmBg6OKgo98
    WP Election message in Tamil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r94o93Gz42U
    SDP Election message in Hokkien: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVcXYYcWjtI
    (If you have a hand-phone or laptop in a coffee-shop or public area, you can play the above links for the benefit of non-English speakers. Please check links before you play them.)

    Al Jazeera on Singapore inflation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BygOYrP722Y
    Sylvia Lim on ministerial salaries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mufeBJSLhms
    Low Thia Khiang on Budget 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpn4yVrcb0M

    SDP Videos: http://yoursdp.org/videos
    WP Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/wpsingapore
    RP Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/SGReformPartyTV

    154Media: http://www.youtube.com/user/154media
    Project2O11: http://www.youtube.com/user/project2O11
    Wendy Neo: http://www.youtube.com/user/wendyneo

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