Saturday, March 25, 2006

Election Campaign Starts Early

After the electoral boundaries are out, it seems that the "unofficial" election campaign has started on both sides, the ruling party as well as alternative parties.

However, with the recent reports in various TV news channels and newspapers, they have given Singaporeans the wrong perception that political parties are only active when the General Elections is near.

Any political parties that take their political work seriously would have started preparations way before elections is being called.

For Workers' Party, strategies for this coming elections have been made as early as 2002. Ground work was initiated back then, though in a quiet way. The manifesto was planned and discussions started in late 2002.

The various ground work is only sustainable with the dedication and hard work of grassroot supporters and party members. Many people, including our opponents, thought that our early start of ground movements are not sustainable in the long run. But as a team of serious contenders for this election, we have proven all our skeptics wrong. All these would not be possible without the great support of our party members.

The delimma of starting early is that all efforts would be lost if the electoral boundaries are being redrawn drastically. This is especially so for single seat wards. This has happened before in Singapore's political history where Kampong Glam was absorbed when alternative party's members have spent time working the ground there during off election period. Even for GRCs like Cheng San could disappear overnight in last elections. This is one important reaon why we ask for electoral boundaries to be made known at least one year before the General Elections.

Neverthless, we took the risk (of wasting efforts on the ground when it was redrawn out) and carried on our intensive coverage of our targeted areas over the years. Hopefully our efforts will pay off.

In reaction to our aggressive ground movements, our opponents have also started their house visits very early. I guess it is only beneficial for the residents and voters to have their MPs visiting them to understand their needs and expectation.

I would say that the battle has already started way ahead of time. And hopefully this would always be so in future elections, for the benefits of citizens.

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, March 10, 2006

Changes in Electoral Boundaries

Although I have responded to ST reporter on how I feel about the redrawing of the Electoral Boundaries, I think I will have to put up the full picture here.

I have told the ST reporter that I am neither happy nor disappointed. He asks me whether I am happy that Aljunied GRC remains, I say in the very first place, I do not think Aljunied GRC will disappear basically because Mr. George Yeo is a respectable opponent as a senior minister. He is not just anybody but a senior minister in cabinet. If PAP is to disband Aljunied GRC, then it would make itself looks very bad... kiasu.
I am not disappointed basically because I don't expect them to make it easier for us! No expectation, thus no disappointment.

Many people, including the reporter himself, think that “it could be worse!”. But that bags the question, why should it be “bad” in the very first place? Some bloggers have put up very insightful analysis on the changes made on the electoral boundaries. Some were relieved that there are just “minor changes” made this time round, but to me, it all boils down to A MATTER OF PRINCIPLES.

The whole exercise of redrawing the electoral boundaries basically lack principles and thus, consistency. The following are just some examples:

1) Aljunied GRC increased by 20,000 voters but it still remains as 5 man GRC? 20,000 voters is a size bigger than Potong Pasir SMC! The fact is that with 145K voters, it could well be a 6 member GRC as the old 6 member East Coast GRC and the present 6 member Tanjong Pagar GRC have only 148K voters!

2) The total number of voters in Aljunied GRC jumps from 120+K to 145+K while other 5 member GRC like Bishan Toa Payoh remains at less than 116K! The question is that since Aljunied GRC compared to many other previous 5 member GRCs (eg. Jalan Besar, West Coast, Jurong, Bishan Toa Payoh) have more voters, why should its number of voters increased further? If the redrawing of boundaries is based on “demographic changes”, Aljunied GRC should not be increased in voters at all. Jalan Besar needs to be increased instead!

3) Similarly, since Nee Soon East is already one of the biggest SMC, why should its size increase further? Potong Pasir is the smallest and it should be the one that needs increment in voters, not the already bloated Nee Soon East!

4) Base on what principles are the two SMCs being “absorbed” and the two new SMCs being born?
Sembawang and Pasir Ris-Punggol have become one big gigantic GRC. They could well take out 25,000 voters to form another two SMCs and yet remain as the bigger 6 member GRC!

The only rational way of adjustment should be, Jalan Besar GRC reduces into a 4 member GRC without changes in its boundary. Bishan Toa Payoh should reduce to a 4 member GRC while annexing part of it with 5000 voters to be crossed over to Potong Pasir. Two additional SMCs should be crafted out from Pasir Ris-Punggol and Sembawang GRCs. After doing that, Pasir Ris-Punggol could well be 6 member GRC, increased from previous 5 as its size is still reasonable large enough to justify that.

5 member GRCs should remain at the size of about 120K to 130K voters. 6 members GRC should have size of 145K to 160K. More SMCs could be crafted out from big size GRCs while those GRCs with less than 120K could well be reduced to 4 member GRCs. This would be a more principled and rational way of redrawing the boundaries.

This would mean that for Aljunied GRC, there isn't a valid reason to increase its size, neither is there a need to reduce East Coast from 6 member to 5 member GRC. Bishan-Toa Payoh, Jurong, Holland Bukit Timah and Jalan Besar GRCs should be reduced to 4 member GRCs while Aljunied, West Coast (both without increase in size) and Tampines remain as 5 member GRCs. Ayer Rajah should remain as SMC. The 28,000 bulk of voters from Serangoon cut out from Marine Parade should be made into one SMC. Hong Kah's size is just too big for a 5 member GRC and it should become a 6 member GRC.

The following would be the outcome:
Aljunied -------------------------5
Ang Mo Kio --------------------6
Bishan Toa Payo-----------------4
East Coast ----------------------6
Holland-Bukit Panjang-----------4
Hong Kah -----------------------6
Jalan Besar ----------------------4
Jurong ---------------------------4
Marine Parade -------------------6
Pasir Ris Punggol-----------------6
Sembawang ---------------------6
Tampines ------------------------5
Tanjong Pagar-------------------6
West Coast ----------------------5

Sub Total(GRC): 73


Bukit Timah
Chua Chu Kang
Joo Chiat
Nee Soon Central
Nee Soon East
Nee Soon South (from Sembawang)
Potong Pasir (increased from Bishan-TP)
Yio Chu Kang (From Ang Mo Kio)
Sengkang (From PasirR-P)
Serangoon (From Marine Parade)

Sub Total (SMC): 12

This is what I would call a fair and rational electoral boundaries. Changes are made here, according to merits, not some arbitrary "rules" which are not explained properly. We will see that there is an increment of 1 seat as this is pretty normal as the number of voters has increased over the years. This result will provide 3 more SMCs (from 9 to 12) and 4 smaller size GRCs. This will definitely increase electoral participation rate.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, March 06, 2006

Local Press Reporting

For the past few days, Straits Times has been going around asking for comments on the Electoral Boundaries Report. I obliged and talked to one of the Straits Times reporters on Friday night.

My comments were reported the next day. I wasn’t very happy about the incomplete quotations from my reply but just shake my head and carry on with my life. When one does not have any expectation of the local reporters, one wouldn’t have much disappointment at all.

However, people around me started to call me up and "complain". First, I have used the phrase "George Yeo is a respectable opponent and as a senior minister, it would look very bad for him if the whole Aljunied GRC disappears. It will make PAP looks very kiasu…." Well, the reported version doesn’t look good but never mind about that.

The more disturbing comment from my friends was that the ST reporter or editor doesn’t respect me at all. For all other alternative parties’ council members, they were reported with their designations clearly stated beside their name. But why would I only be a "WP member" only when I am not merely a CEC member but also the assistant organizing secretary of Workers’ Party?

In actual fact, this is not the only time when the ST show disrespect of Workers’ Party members. Back in 2001, though Dr. Poh Lee Guan has a phd, they only put up "Poh Lee Guan" (didn’t even have a Mr.!) while his opponent was fully named as "Assoc. Prof. Ho Peng Kee"!

For me, personally I don’t even care about such lopsided treatment though I have noticed for the past few reports, ST has been deliberately "discriminated" me in their reporting. The last report in ST on the Singapore Political Forum held in NUS, also did the same thing, using "WP member Goh Meng Seng". I just laugh at such reporting.

But my wife, as an ex-producer in TCS (the pre-Media Corp era), told me that it is totally unprofessional for journalist or editor to do such things. I must exert myself on these reporters and editors to get my point through, for the good of my party. They could do such thing to me, they could also do the same to my other comrades.

Thus when the same reporter called me up on Saturday, I reminded him about my designation. He claims that such title is a bit "long" but the point is, when ST could assign similarly long designation on other alternative parties’ members or even PAP members why should he discriminate me or my other comrades? I dare them to address SM Goh Chok Tong as "PAP member Goh Chok Tong"!

When I met the same reporter on Sunday in East Coast GRC, I just reminded him that if he and his editor do the same thing again, he should be prepared for a boycott or total ignore on ST reporters during the elections. Well at least for today’s ST report on our activity in East Coast GRC, Mr. Chia Tilik was fully mentioned as assistant organizing secretary of WP, not just "WP member".

I would say that reporters are just human beings. They need to get a good story, good comments and quotes to write on. They earn a living by doing so and we fully understand that they are just doing their job. But when the reporters or editors become totally unreasonable, like the January report in New Paper on our manifesto launch, we will have no choice but to ignore them in future, at least in the coming general elections. I would make sure that New Paper will not get any news or extraordinary coverage on WP in the coming elections after the episode on our manifesto launch. They have practically destroyed the basic trust built up between us.

My point is that reporters and editors must also understand we are also just human beings. If they want to play punk or use unfair tactics against us, then they deserve the general perception that alternative parties’ sympathizers and supporters cast upon them. They will lose whatever little credibility they have tried so hard to rebuild in recent months or years. And we will definitely deprive them their daily breads, news. With the advancement of technology, the availability of alternative media like internet, forums and blogs, we will have other ways to get our messages across to the voters.

Some reporters have lamented that SDP seems to shut them off totally. I told them it is pure karma; imagine if they were in SDP and experienced the type of media reporting done on them during 2001, would they do the same, shun the local media?

Thus my advice to reporters and journalists of local media, don’t try to play punk with totally slanted reporting on alternative parties. Karma will bounce back on you. We do not expect you to be "PRO" non-PAP parties, but at least report fairly. Else you will risk suffering like New Paper or the response from SDP.

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, March 03, 2006

Political Rally Speech Training

Workers' Party has initiated a few Pre-General Elections training sessions for both its members at large as well as candidates in specific.

We have conducted an in house GE seminar last year, open to all our members. This is to bridge the gap of knowledge and experiences between veterans and new members in running an election campaign effectively.

Following the main GE seminar held last year, specific closed door seminar and training have been conducted for its potential candidates. One of these important training involves political rally speech writing cum speech delivery. I would say that we learn from past experiences as well as PAP MPs who may well have very good "paper qualifications" but when it comes to delivery of rally speeches, they failed to "move" the ground.

Many people assume that giving political speeches is just like any other speeches we used to give in our professional working environment. This is a very dangerous presumption. One may give effective board room speeches, delivery good lectures to a lecture room full of students or even a put up a persuasive legal argument as a lawyer in a courtroom, but when it comes to rally speeches, it is totally a different ball game.

We could adapt an off the shelf standard menu on speech writing and speech delivery but it seems that alot of modifications must be made. Rally speeches should be written differently with different emphasis. A political rally speech is not a lecture, trying to teach something "NEW" to the audience. A political rally speech is not a business proposal that is to be delivered to a small number of audience. A political rally speech is definitely not meant to be delivered to an audience which we expect them to pass judgement. Writing a political rally speech needs specific niche skills but least of bombastic wordings. The potential audience may come from many different background with different intellects. The most difficult part of writing a good political rally speech is to use the lowest denomination of language vocabulary to win the hearts and minds of the people that have different levels of intellect.

The delivery of political rally speeches is totally different from "reading" a speech. One should deliver but not read a speech. And to deliver a speech nicely in a wide open space fill with thousands of audience needs specific skills. How not to sound soft but yet not "fierce"; how to speak clearly and slowly and yet not to make your listeners bored....

Practice makes perfect. Lots and lots of practices are needed to prepare a candidate adequately for the final D day. Besides practices, we also need to watch more political rally speeches delivered by others, especially from those veterans who have given wonderful speeches back in the 1950s and 1960s where intense political competition has nurtured a generation of good speakers.

The recent memorial TV program featuring the late Rajartnam is a very good learning tool. People of that time deliver wonderful speeches with a natural flare. If we make a comparison between the present political leaders' delivery of rally speeches as compared to those veterans back in the 1950s and 1960s, we could see distinctively the wide gap of quality. This is mainly due to the lack of political competition.

I believe that if we are not born a good speaker, we could learn up to 90% of the skills of a good speaker. Watching how good speakers deliver their speeches is an important learning process. Getting into the REAL environment whereby the good speakers give their speeches is a great experience for learning. In today's context, we may not get too many of such opportunities but we could get it overseas. I have deliberately flew to Taiwan during its last Presidential Election period, just to observe and learn from the Taiwanese speakers. The atmosphere and how the speakers move the crowd is really an eye opening experience.

To win an uphill battle against a giant opponent, it will take more than consistent ground work. Personal development in various aspects must be made progressively. Writing good political speeches and deliver them effectively is one very important aspect that we must spend more time on.

Goh Meng Seng