6 Dumb Singaporean Election Claims

With the General Election around the corner, members of the electorate who are perfect examples of the PAP government’s immense success in lowering Singapore’s average common sense and logical abilities. Many PAP apologists have internalized PAP myths and are vomiting them out through the ST forum, which is more than willing to stamp its brand name on the vomit on a daily basis. Amongst some of the stubbornly dumb claims related to the General Election are:

1) The Opposition only appears when there’s an election

It is said that the opposition never appears until there’s an election. The implication is that the opposition is only putting up a show before the GE in order to get votes.

Examples: Mrs Elsia Wong and Mr Bahrat Samtani

Why it’s Stupid

Well, it isn’t quite true. And it seems as if those who make this claim want opposition politicians to go round shaking people’s hands on a daily basis so that brainless (one shall not say “brainwashed” since the term presumes the presence of a brain) PAP supporters who are never going to vote for the opposition anyway can experience the joy of seeing them around. Perhaps these voters want opposition politicians to knock on their doors and listen to their individual woes even though the opposition politicians have no means of taking care of their individual troubles and their elected PAP MPs ought to be the ones doing the job.

If the people have obstinately refused to vote opposition politicians into the Parliament, how much can opposition politicians do? For many years already, there are only two opposition MPs in the Parliament. We are talking about opposition politicians who have to work to support themselves after their PAP opponents have been voted into Parliament and some of them have pledged to quit their jobs and devote their time to serving the people if they get voted in because MPs do get an income. If there is to be a comparison, it would only be fair to compare opposition MPs with PAP MPs. But first, opposition politicians need to become MPs.

But it is actually untrue that opposition politicians have done nothing for the people. It is just that the nature of what they are doing is going to be different from what their MPs do. Because they are not MPs. Would Dr. Chee Soon Juan and company get into so much trouble with the law if they have done nothing to speak up for the people?

It seems that there are people who suffer from a bad case of KPI fever which causes them to believe that wayang is paramount. And the KPI here? Show your face so that you can prove that you are “engaging” the people. It doesn’t matter whether you care about the people or if you are indeed engaging them as long as you fulfill the key indicator that says you have done so.

2) The Opposition is being elitist by fielding highly qualified candidates

For a long time, it has often been said that “the opposition is not credible” and unable to attract the talents that the PAP is able to attract. And the PAP’s definition of talent appears to be lawyers, doctors, and high-flying civil servants or military men—people who have been criticized for being elitist. It appears now, however, that the opposition is increasingly attracting highly qualified persons and suddenly the opposition is accused of being elitist as well.

Example: Jason Soon

Why it’s Stupid

No one is saying that highly qualified people are elitist. It is simply that the PAP’s selection of “talents” are usually highly-qualified people for whom the horrifying system created by the PAP gods have worked exceedingly well. (Of course, now there is greater diversity. There new-citizen PAP politicians who haven’t been through the Singapore system. But they, too, are where they are thanks to the Singapore system created by the PAP.) Or PAP politicians might be people selected, based on simplistic assumptions about the common man, because they seem to have the attributes that make them similar to the peasants that the PAP needs to extract votes from. Like a certain Kate Spade spokesperson. She’s young, so young people will vote for her. Her family has a coffeeshop business, so all those coffee shop people will vote for her.

Overheard: “Let’s field a baby next. Will appeal to the millions of people we’ve infantilized.”

The main criticism of the PAP is not that it consists of highly qualified people but that it consists of people who might consider normal Singaporeans lesser mortals who should, as the cliché goes, get out of their elite, uncaring faces instead of whining and whingeing about the high costs of living because they ought to eat fish if chicken is too expensive. Nevertheless, in order to discredit the opposition, the likes of Jason Soon would resort to propagating the stereotype that highly qualified people are “elitist” or, worse, that it is elitist to field qualified people:

For this general election, the PAP has fielded a slate of candidates coming from diverse backgrounds. Isn’t PAP doing what it thought the people wanted – which is to see some representation from people having similar heartland roots?However, it appears that whatever the PAP does, a minority group of the electorate remains dissatisfied, and some PAP candidates were criticised by netizens.

I wonder why the opposition is offering a slate of impressive candidates now, especially after it has persistently labelled the PAP as elitist.

If Jason is right, I suppose the PAP thinks that so-called heartlanders are all like Tin Pei Ling. (And that’s not thinking very highly of us, PAP.) And elitist opposition members surely can’t feel for Singaporeans who are crying in pain because of the escalating cost of living.

3) A gay MP will only take care of the gay community

It has been said that a gay politician will have a “gay agenda” but this is not the most damaging myth that has sprung from the saga generated by Balakrishnan. After all, not everyone can make sense of what a “gay agenda” is or why a political party made up of people who mostly don’t seem to be gay can have a gay agenda. Many Singaporeans also do not care about their MPs sexual orientation because they just want someone who can represent their concerns.

The most nonsensical myth, however, is that if we vote for a politician who happens to be gay, he would just take care of the gay community. You know, he will be able to tell which households in his ward have gay people and will only take care of them. He will know who amongst those who go to him asking for help are gay and will only help them. Because he is gay, he won’t take care of people who are not.

Example: Overheard from a random stranger

Why it’s Stupid

Using the same logic, I’m sure the gay “community” must have been terribly neglected by straight MPs since straight MPs will only take care of the straight community. A Chinese MP will only take care of Chinese people. And I suppose the elderly in Singapore must be very, very well taken care of because we have an octogenarian MP.

But, clearly, a gay person isn’t homosexuality personified. He isn’t pure homosexuality. Surely a gay person can have a diverse range of concerns that can overlap with the concerns of the electorate.

Molly: Better vote in a bimbotic MP to take care of the bimbo community. And a kitten too.

Let’s say you initially wanted to vote for the opposition because you felt that the PAP has screwed up and hasn’t taken care of your interests in the last five years or more. But upon realizing that the opposition team has one gay person, you decide to vote for the PAP because you think the opposition now won’t take care of your interests and will only take care of gay people. What do you end up with? The PAP who won’t take care of your interests. So why not stick with your original decision? After all, you should not assume that gay people will not take care of only gay people. It’s a ridiculous assumption.

Let’s say you initially already wanted to vote for the PAP. You are not voting for the PAP because anyone has any gay agenda or some shit. . . . Eh, why are you even here reading this?!

4) Voters can tell if the PAP government is doing well, so we do not need opposition MPs

The claim can be represented by what Martin Tan says:

WORKERS’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim argues that at least one-third of the parliamentary seats must be in opposition hands to secure a first-rate House (‘PAP ‘trying to confuse voters about WP’s aims”; Sunday).What she is saying is that Singaporeans cannot tell good from bad government and requires the opposition to do so.

The argument also implies that the electorate voted wrongly in the past, which is an ironic counterpoint to her view that Singaporeans are intelligent voters.

Opposition parties must tell Singaporeans why they deserve to be in Parliament. There should be no notion that because we have a dominant ruling party, let’s shoo in some opposition members for balance.

I am heartened by an increased participation by Singaporeans in the political fray. It bodes well for the future of our country. These political discussions must bring us forward as a country and not push us backwards into systems that we are neither prepared for nor perhaps desire.

Why it’s stupid

That’s not what Sylvia Lim is saying. It does not quite matter whether Singaporeans can tell a good government from a bad government. It does not matter how intelligent Singaporean voters are. But assuming that Singaporeans are discerning and intelligent, they have no way of challenging the PAP if it turns out to be a “bad” government unless they have representatives in the Parliament to voice out their concerns. We need people who can influence policies. Which brings us to the next ludicrous claim.

5) Gridlock! Paralysis!

If we have more than 0.000000 opposition MPs in the Parliament, the PAP would have to spend a lot of time fixing the opposition and won’t be able to serve the people well. OK, no. The claim is stupider than this. The claim is that having opposition MPs in the Parliament will prevent policies from being implemented and Singapore will be doomed.

And Martians will seize the opportunity and gain control of Singapore.

“All your reserves is belong to us.”

Why it’s stupid

It is assumed that people really want PAP policies to be implemented smoothly and quickly. Policies such as GST hikes to help the poor. And the Public Order Act. And the Films Act.

No one is saying that with more opposition MPs, the PAP will still be able to implement policies as “efficiently” as it did in the past. But this does not mean that there is going to be parliamentary paralysis. It means that every policy will be examined more closely, from more perspectives. And if certain policies are blocked, there may be good reasons to block them. Who wants a 200% increase in GST to be implemented efficiently even if it’s supposed to help the poor?

There is a confusion between having checks and balances and having a gridlock.

Of course, if we have such a great fear of The Gridlock, one alternative is to have 82 opposition MPs and 5 PAP MPs in the Parliament after May 7. (Note: Sorry, but even in this scenario, we will stilll have Kuan Yew telling us how daft we are. Well, there’s no perfection in this world . . .)

6) The PAP has done a good job

Very often, we hear people telling us, without even thinking, that the PAP has done a good job. And their most probable source: the claim itself.

In other words, we are meeting parrots who deem themselves intelligent and intelligible speakers even though they are only parrots.

If you press them for evidence, they may not be able to say how the PAP has done a good job. Or the only area they may bring up is economic growth. And that’s only because they are looking at statistics simplistically.

Why it’s stupid

The PAP has done a good job?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! If there’s a book of political ironies, this could form the most outstanding chapter.

It has certainly done an excellent job in making it seem as if it has done a good job in governance. It has the mainstream media reporting as though it has done a good job. And it claims to do so. And it doesn’t quite invite anyone to think otherwise. Since everyone seems to say so, it must be true.

And perhaps it is true for those who earn lots of money. But for people who have to deal with stagnant of salaries (or persistent unemployment/under-employment) in the face of an ever-rising cost of living while worrying about retirement and medical costs, the PAP has done a very good job of drowning their voices—precisely with claims that it has performed incredibly well in the area of economics.

If Singaporeans continue subscribing to the belief that the PAP has done a good job, then the PAP will continue doing the same good job it has been doing.

It might even do better. More foreigners to create jobs for us. More GST to help us financially. More ERP gantries to ease traffic jams. More fare hikes to solve bus and taxi problems. More restrictions in expression to promote harmony and social cohesion. More liberal immigration policies to compensate for low birth rates. More work-till-you-drop policies. More CPF withdrawal restrictions. More “affordable” HDB flats. More opacity in governmental spending in events like the YOG. More smear tactics against the opposition during elections. More happy Singaporeans dismissing the validity of your misery.

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11 Responses

  1. […] Freak result? What do you fear? – Singapore Notes: The Chicken Little Election Strategy – Molitics: 6 Dumb Singaporean Election Claims – Molitics: Bus Driver […]

  2. hey. i agree with all your points except for the last one. could you please qualify that one with more details, ie statistics for the simplistic like me. it would do wonders to strengthen your argument. thank you.

    how has PAP not done a good job economically? let’s say, from their last election. it would be great if you could furnish the argument with details as, when one talks about the economy, statistics are necessary in my opinion.

    • If you were to just look at GDP or economic growth statistics, you may get the impression that the PAP has done a good job economically. And if that is all that you expect from the PAP as a voter, then you can just tell me to shut up. To be honest, I’m not good at citing statistics at all, but I have seen them. And I also think that experience (which is qualitative) goes beyond what statistics (which is quantitative) can represent.

      Nevertheless, I would say that there are many more factors when it comes to doing a good job economically. We can look at the cost of living, spending power (which is not how much money we have, but how much what we have is worth), the quality of life, what is driving the apparent economic growth, etc. There are many sources around you can look at, but I could suggest a few.

      This article here might give you some statistics if you are into statistics.

      You may also be interested in the rich-poor gap, which is represented by the Gini Coefficient. Here‘s something you can refer to.

      You may, of course, have already seen such statistics and still believe that the PAP has done well economically (in which case, I would also love to see an explanation). Personally, I would think that the cost of living has definitely gone up even if this is not necessarily the PAP’s fault. Nevertheless, I do not agree with raising GST to “help the poor.” While the government likes to boast of the large number of jobs created and the low unemployment rates, we do not know the percentage of Singapore citizens who are unemployed because the statistics it releases combine Singapore citizens with PRs. And even if there are jobs created, little is said about structural unemployment or underemployment (you can be highly qualified and have a job, but your job actually does not match your qualifications)—people are told to take any job, under any terms. Otherwise they are just fussy.

      What’s more, there is actually little unemployment (and other) protection for workers. Here, we necessarily have to go beyond statistics. You may or may not put this under how the PAP has performed economically, but I will. Because even if its governance has ensured economic growth, we have to think about what happens to people when the economy is bad (whether this is the PAP’s fault or not). Our workers do not have real unions fighting for their rights. They have no minimum wage or unemployment benefits (even though these are contentious issues). Our workers can have money in the CPF which they cannot withdraw even if they are dying.

      The PAP has also told us how foreign workers are important in creating jobs, etc. But let us remember that the mass import of foreign workers depress wages. Without contributing to productivity, and perhaps adversely affecting it. You may have heard of workers who need to communicate in English, but can’t, for instance.

  3. You’re entitled to your own opinion, I suppose. Condescension is a great way to alienate those on the fence though, and I think too many supporters of the opposition sport this tone as a matter of fact. Respect others and their beliefs, even if you think they may be erroneous. Otherwise all you’re doing is joining the large group of people who think that they’re smarter than others, whose views are not only wrong but stupid. What’s the difference between you and the incumbents then?

    • I’m sorry if you do not like what I have written or how I have chosen to write. I feel for the people of Singapore, but I feel strongly, too, that Singapore has made unthinking idiots out of a number of people here. The strong tone may alienate, but it may also shake people out of their comfort zones. It may sound too provocative to you, but would you consider the injunction to be “respectful” to be one that comes with an invisible political baggage and it is hardly one that means the same thing universally? Imagine another space in the world where what I have written would hardly be taken as disrespectful expression even if it’s not by any means pleasant? Perhaps what defines the “respectful” expression of an opinion is dependent on the socio-cultural assumptions in which the expression is made and it is perhaps such assumptions that need to be challenged and changed because they are precisely the factors that give rise to the conventional wisdom (or whatever is the opposite of wisdom) that does not make sense.

      One difference between myself and the political incumbents is that I’m not a politician but a bitchy blogger. I’m not going to lose votes or support if people feel alienated. It is not my job to “engage” the people with niceties. On the other hand, I would say that people should be able to distinguish the writings of a person who supports the opposition and the opposition itself.

      Just because I lash out at certain claims does not mean that I have no basic respect for people who happen to hold them. I accord the people the basic respects as human beings, and I respect their entitlement to these beliefs. But I can’t bring myself to respect every single belief. It is not as though I do not respect any belief that is different from mine. As an example, I can respect the religious beliefs of people from all religious even though I do not share everyone’s religious beliefs. But I can’t be respecting every single viewpoint, however nonsensical it is. This would make the notion of respect meaningless.

      True condescension comes in the form of hypocritical respect that comes with pseudo-rational discussions where judgements are passed without even being explicitly stated.

  4. It is an undeniable fact that we have many citizens who are simply not interested in politics. These people only care for the material aspects of their life and sadly, there is nothing wrong if we look at this from Marslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. How can these people think about high ideals like democracy, justice, integrity etc.? Perhaps, if our population has been more “nobly” educated, we could theoretically be equally concerned with materialism as well as higher ideals. BUT this is not the case – the pursuit of material gain is ingrained into the Singapore psyche and IMHO, this is no accident.

    While educated bloggers and readers of such blogs argue about the importance of this election, I sense the “convincing the converted” syndrome. Whilst we are arguing amongst ourselves the merits of our thoughts, aren’t we also sitting inside ivory towers, completely isolated from the masses? If not, how do we explain the overwhelming number of anti-PAP posts from online citizens and yet a miserable 82:2 from the 2006 polls. History may repeat itself with a 8?:? result simply because the silent majority refuses to vote otherwise.

    I may be wrong, but I am afraid we may not make significant progress in this election. However, I refuse to believe that this is the last chance. How many times did Sun Yat-sen try before he succeeded? How many years did Nelson Mandela wait before the end of apartheid?

    We will not have real democracy if the general population does not understand what democracy means. At the present moment, we cannot say that there are 5 real stars on our flag!

    • I wouldn’t say that bloggers are in an ivory tower—most of us are part of the so-called masses, aren’t we and we base our writings on the experiences of the masses. No doubt, writing may be an act of privilege, but virtually every means of “engaging the masses” comes from a position of privilege. We may be preaching to the converted, but in no way is our writing meant to be insular. There is a hope that the circulation goes beyond the converted, especially in this period just before the GE. Many people who aren’t always interested in reading may start to search for articles. There is a hope that readers would circulate articles to others through links, tweets, etc. There is a hope that beyond cyberspace, readers would use the same points made in blogs as they speak to others about the GE. These are undeniably just hopes, but for many of me, it’s my best effort. I wish I had the resilience and ability to make public speeches or even join an opposition party, but I don’t.

      I agree with the point in which you made reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, though I wouldn’t say that it is as simple a matter as just making sure that Singaporeans do not have their basic needs fulfilled. Singapore encourages an indulges on the “lower” needs and elevates them as higher pursuits. Not only do we want a shelter, we want sheltered walkways. And Singaporeans are like that because the PAP has always had free rein to engineer society according to its whims.

      GE 2011 may not be our last chance forever, but it may take at least a good 15 years or much more for the opposition to be able to pick itself up again. If the opposition fails to make headway now, it will be deprived of a chance to prove to the people that it can be a viable alternative. And with the PAP’s excellent track record of unleveling the field, fixing the opposition, etc, we can expect things to worsen for the opposition after GE 2011 even if the opposition wins a few seats, not to mention if it doesn’t. Even if the opposition can wait, the people can’t wait. If people vote for the PAP now, they can’t expect their vote to be as powerful in future.

  5. I, for one, do not wish that my written expressions are simply to satisfy my narcissistic tendencies. Like you, I also wish to “enlighten” the unenlightened – apologies if I make it sound god-like – it seems to be the fashion nowadays to preach from way up. I have posted in other fora where I hope to knock some sense into others, but I just can’t help feeling that I am converting the converted. Hopefully you are right, that there are still lost souls out there needing advice. 🙂

    As to what happens if change does not happen now – well, if the current opposition does not have the determination to soldier on, then we will have to wait for the ones that have. If the cause is right and just, I worry not the sprouting of newer candidates.

    • I would suppose some members of the opposition are tenacious enough to continue the struggle, but others are more practical and may, quite understandably, move on to other pursuits in life.

      For those who will move on, it would be Singapore’s loss. The PAP talks about the dearth of talent, and we might lose capable people this way. I don’t know what Chen Show Mao would do if he loses. But if I were him, I would have a good mind to leave the country again because I will think: I have come back and offered to serve the people, but the people reject me and even say that they don’t trust me simply because I have been away for a long time.

      For those who are determined, I think of JBJ and Chee Soon Juan and worry. Few people show more determination than Chee, but his determination has earned him bankruptcy. While not everyone may approve of his method or even agree with his beliefs (I have no issue with them personally), I think we can generally say that he does not deserve to be treated the way he has been treated. He is determined, but he can’t stand for election.

      It has taken the opposition many years to establish a certain credibility and it current level dissatisfaction with the PAP may not be sustained. This is partly because support can be imported. And also because if economic conditions change, there may be more people who begin to buy into the nonsense about having to forego their fundamental rights in exchange for material comfort. I see an urgency, thus, for change to take place now. Of course, this is not the most optimistic view. But how optimistic can one be about the prospects of change in Singaporean politics?

  6. […] [mm]: https://mollymeek.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/6-dumb-singaporean-election-claims/ […]

  7. […] very sharp, objective opinions and information about it, a couple of articles I really liked are here at molly meek and here at the online citizen. They might be a bit dense if you don’t already […]

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