Sunday, May 28, 2006

PAP's dismal performance in GE 2006

PAP's dismal performance in GE 2006.

PAP may have gotten 66.6% of valid votes in GE 2006 but in my view, they have performed very badly throughout the whole election period. From the strategic point of view, their whole campaign was in total disarray right from the start.

Prior to the General Elections this year, many people thought that Casino and NKF would be THE issues for this GE. However, the casino has been decided last year and the pending court case on NKF saga has technically prevented it to be discussed in public else one risked breaching the law.

It seemed that it would have become a “No Issue” General Election until PAP made a big fuss over Workers' Party manifesto, asserting that there were four time bombs in it. At a point of time, PAP were putting up a front to “debate” over such issues. We have challenged the PAP to a live telecast TV debate but PAP did not respond to it. I have personally brought up the challenge to a live telecast TV on nomination day to one of the PAP candidate but it seemed that they viewed it as “advantageous” to us and thus would not want to have such debate. So be it.

Surprisingly, after the first salvo of “time bomb”, “poison” comment on WP manifesto by a few of PAP ministers, PAP did not mention this again throughout the whole election period. I thought that PAP has made a big fuss over our manifesto because they considered as “very important”. I was wrong. Neither did PAP raise any significant issues that are important to citizens other than character assassination.

The word “fix” has been used twice: first to make allegations that James Gomez has wanted to “fix” the Election Department. The second time is by PM Lee in his speech about “fixing the opposition”. Is this an election of “fixing” each other? I believe it should not be so. PM Lee has clarified the misuse of the word “fix” in his speech. I could understand that because it must have been a misuse of word in the heat of the hustling. We do say the wrong things when we get involved in a heated argument or debate, don't we? But I sincerely hope that PAP would stop overreacting to the innocent mistake that James made over the form. General Election IS NOT about fixing each other! Election is about the future and well being of our country, our people!

I have mentioned in my last rally speech that I am truly disappointed with PAP's performance in the GE. First, they were more interested in character assassination and insinuating us rather than debating about issues that truly concern our citizens. Secondly, they only viewed HDB/lift upgrading as the sole important issue to our citizens in this election! Thirdly, they continue to use HDB/lift upgrading as a threat to the voters! I am really touched by the 62% of Hougang voters who have stood up to PAP's unfair tactic and send a strong “NO” to them through their votes. Although we did not manage to convince more than 50% of voters in other constituencies to say “NO” to PAP's tactic of tying HDB lift upgrading to their votes, but people of Hougang and Potong Pasir have shown to the whole Nation that we should not succumb to PAP's tactics.

I would say that PAP's dismal performance during the election campaign has got to do with their inability to understand the ground. There are many post independence generation voters who are highly educated with very different expectations. They are sick and tired of politically motivated law suits. They definitely dislike character assassination and arrogance. They are more concerned about fairness and social justice rather than HDB upgrading. They are more vocal and internet savvy..etc. PAP has agitated them on all these fronts.

Right from the start, PAP has mismanaged the James Gomez Saga. PAP has stretched it too far to suggest malicious intent from such simple, innocent mistake of absent mindedness. It is amusing to see how PAP swayed in this episode. First they said it is a serious matter. Then some PAP members decided to drop the matter but only ended up being “convinced” to take the issue up again. They have even gone so far to make a very strange suggestion to WP to drop James Gomez as a candidate! In the end, they have to clarify that this could not work! Then again, just two days from polling day, they PUBLICLY DECLARED that they would drop the issue altogether, trying to refocus on “other important issues” which basically refers to HDB/lift upgrading. I have never seen PAP conducting any election campaign in such manner before!

Due to the lack of REAL issues, PAP candidates begin to pick up the line of James Gomez Saga to “discredit” opposition candidates as the overall strategy. But it backfired. It reflected very badly on them when they started to make baseless defamatory remarks against us. Labels such as “liar”, “thief” and “trouble makers” were used by PAP's seasoned politicians. Even the new PAP candidates picked up such convenient attack on characters by calling opposition candidates donkeys and even make baseless remarks that ALL WP candidates have doubtful characters! By then, I knew that PAP's campaign was in total disarray! They have completely lost their plot and direction! I am very surprised that despite having so many talented and bright people in their rank and file, PAP has mismanaged this election campaign so badly!

This is indeed a watershed election whereby PAP has totally defeated itself by its own predictable election strategy. It has become prisoner of its own past success. The strategy of tying upgrading to votes has failed. The strategy of character assassination has failed. The effectiveness of its past strategy has expired. PAP has to seriously consider changing their outdated strategy and mindset.

Goh Meng Seng

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why Contest Ang Mo Kio GRC?

Rally At Ang Mo Kio Cheng San (Photo by netter)

Many people have asked me this question, "Why do you want to contest AMK?" Even before nomination day, quite a number of supporters have "cautioned" me of the idea in contesting Ang Mo Kio GRC. I could only smile at them basically because there are reasons that I could not reveal at that time.

The initial idea of contesting AMK was mooted way back end of 2002 by Shin Leong and me. It was I that made this suggestion in the coffeeshop in Hougang. Somehow, somebody got winds of it and started to discuss it in private as well as Young PAP forum. I took the risk by making arguments for this idea but with a catch in it, if and only if we have the resources. I have since then openly discuss the idea so much so that many people thought that I am calling a bluff basically because no one would believe that for such strategic matters, I would want to discuss it so openly. Somehow, it has come to people's mind such happening is "impossible". Even though the journalists and reporters have picked up bits and pieces from the internet forums, but it seems to me that right before nomination day, very few of them really think we would be "stupid" enough to contest AMK.

It was a successful (reverse) psychological campaign in my opinion. However, I must admit that to suggest such strategic option back in 2002 must be the wildest poiltical dream. As the initiator of this idea, I was prepared to be the one challenging AMK GRC, partly because AMK IS my home ground. But with the strength we have back in 2002, we could hardly mount such operations as there are really short of candidates, manpower and resources.

My initial strategic considerations include the following:

1) PM Lee needed a "personal mandate" and we should put pressure on him while he was still relatively new as the Prime Minister.

2) To teach PAP a lesson that gerrymandering with electoral boundaries will one day, backfire on them. They could try to redraw the boundaries, let "heavy weights" swallow up unfavourable grounds and bet on the alternative parties not wanting to contest in these constituencies. Ultimately we want to show them that by doing so, they will just have "indisgestion" eventually.

3) To keep the new PM busy during the 9 days of election campaigning. The logic is that back in 1991, the then PM Goh CT was too busy with his own battle in Marine Parade and thus, the surprise win of 4 seats by the opposition. In 1997 and 2001, Marine Parade was not contested and Mr. Goh CT was so free to go around and campaign for his other comrades.

4) By sending a young team to the PM's ward has many advantages. It will provide the perfect training ground for them to gain experience and political capital, simply because everyone will remember those who challenge the PM in their youth. Furthermore, it provides the perfect contrast between WP and PAP: for WP's young and new candidates, they dare to dream and do the seemingly impossible tasks, instead of hiding behind "heavy weights" to fight the electoral battle. They are not afraid to lose and dare to take the challenge, work towards a long term political road map.

There are other considerations by the party as a whole which I do not have the liberty to reveal here. The above points are based on my personal views.

How successful is the strategy? In my opinion, the contest in AMK has achieved most of my initial objectives. In fact, I was surprised by PAP which suggests that they could get more than 80%. By a mere conservative calculations that we did, due to the fact that AMK GRC includes 3 important WP or opposition strongholds, we expect PAP to get at most 70%. The 3 parts includes Cheng San, Yishun South (which was cut out of previous Yishun Central) and Jalan Kayu. By averaging out using past election datas, we should get about 30% of the total votes. Getting 3% more is a plus to us. I guess PAP is totally out of touch of the ground to even suggest "high 80%" or make our team lose election deposits.

PM Lee was caught in a tight situation. Its a catch 22 situation. If he campaigned vigorously as he did in the first two days (going to MRT station at 6 am to shake hands), it would give people the wrong impression that he took the challenge from the young ones too seriously. However if he did not campaign hard enough, the PAP team might not fulfill its aim of 80% and above! In the end, what we observe was that other ministers (who has no contest in their wards) were deployed to help out with the campaigning in AMK. Whatever was the situation, PM Lee was unable to go around other wards (especially the Aljunied GRC) to campaign as he did in the 1997 & 2001 GE.

The contest in AMK GRC did change many people's perception of WP, especially when the term "suicide team" was publicised but turn around as "better not to fear death as to be kiasi".

But this come with a price: PM Lee gets his own personal mandate eventually. We did not manage to cross the 35% as I have hoped for. With this 66% mandate, PM Lee will be able to consolidate his position and grows stronger in the next few elections. At the very least, he will not be termed as the "uncontested" or "walkover" PM in Singapore and he has earned his own battle stripes in 2006 GE.

If WP has not contested in AMK GRC, there will always be a question mark hanging around the new PM: he would have become the "walkover Prime Minister" which will not be good for Singapore's international standing.

Thus, looking on the bright side for Singapore as a whole, it is really a win win situation for us all, including WP and PAP. Of course, we will still have to solve the problem of "walkover ministers" and "walkover MPs" but at the very least, we do not have a "walkover Prime Minister" to start with.

Goh Meng Seng

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Most Important Success ---- Political Awakening

The Most Important Success ---- Political Awakening

Right after the results were announced on 6 May 2006, one reporter asked me to describe the whole election campaign in one sentence and I gave him just a phrase: “Political Awakening”.

Ironically, we should thank the local media for such massive political awakening process for Singaporeans at large. As I have explained in my post “Why I join WP?”, my own political awakening happened back in 1991 whereby what I have read on NUS BBS with regards to the political rallies held by the alternative parties was so different from what local mass media reports that I decided to visit the Potong Pasir rally held by Chiam See Tong. I was awed by what I saw and politically awaken by my experience. The gross disparity between the reports on local mass media as compared to what actually happened on the ground has convinced me that the local mass media cannot be trusted when it comes to political reporting. The political reality of the biasness sets in. From then on, I volunteer myself to be independent ground reporter of political rallies during the 1997 as well as 2001 GE. I believe that nobody should be deprived of the truth.

While back in 1991, there was hardly any “solid evidence” to be presented on BBS which was basically text based. But in 2006, a digital photo speaks a thousand words. I would like to express my special thanks to Yawning Bread ( ) for putting up very good photos and coverage of the rallies. When the following digital photo first appeared on Yawning Bread, there was a massive instant awe in the internet community. The local mass media has avoided reporting on the massive crowd attending our rallies until this photo appears. They knew that they are fighting a losing battle over control of information. Their credibility is at stake if they carry on their old mode of reporting. Thus, interesting enough, we witness a slight change in the print media thereafter.

Photo from Yawning Bread

However, I suspect that massive damage has been done on local mass media and that is basically why more and more people are interested in attending our rallies, to witness for themselves the true happenings instead of relying on the bias reporting on local mass media. One interesting point is that more young people were attending our rallies, even students who are supposed to prepare for their examinations, took the trouble to come to our rallies. They are the internet savvy generations who have experienced early political awakening. One 17 or 18 years old student came to my shop two days after polling day to give me moral support. He has tied our WP wrist band on his backpack, come forward to shake my hand and say, “Well done! Please don't give up!” I was truly touched because when it signifies HOPE for our future as a nation, a HOPE based on more balanced views and sources of information.

I have actually written about the important role of bloggers in this digital age. Bloggers could change the society's information structure and indeed, they are a “threat” to a place where political power is being prolonged by the control of mass media. The local mass media's biggest threat is to have alternative competitive sources of media that could provide reliable information that could be verified independently. In this GE, bloggers at large have successfully contributed to a more open society by challenging local media's credibility, in which, forced them to react accordingly.

On a broader perspective, independent bloggers, with the contrast to local mass media's skewed reporting, have brought upon a massive political awakening process to many people, in particular, the younger Singaporeans. I have been through such awakening process and I understand the disgust one feels when the truth reveals.

The more interesting point of this political awakening process is that it has negated most of the negative impact of James Gomez Saga. Independent views as well as satirical postings or podcasts (like those in Mr. Brown's blog ) have somehow derailed PAP's predictable election strategy. So much so that PAP has openly said that the role of internet in this election should be reviewed.

Though there is a massive political awakening in my view, but I must say there are still many people out there who only depend on local mass media as their main source of information. I have noticed that some of those forum letters writing about this GE have a very skewed view. Some have admitted that they form their views only through the TV or newspapers they read. Some claim that opposition parties have not raised any important bread and butter issues or any good suggestions! If they have attended our rallies, they will realize that many of the main hard hitting points of the bread and butter issues (including retirement financing, healthcare cost etc) have been omitted by local mass media reports!
It would mean that there is still much to be done in terms of political awakening; i.e. There aren't enough people awaken.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Search Thy Soul

Search Thy Soul

This will be one of the series of postings with regards to the 2006 Elections.
Throughout the elections period, as a candidate, I have to deal with many reporters from local press and media. From the introduction of candidates to post elections period, I will have to engage reporters from the newspaper, radio and TV.

Although many felt that the reporting in local media has improved, but I think there are still lots of room to improve on. For those who have a conscience in them, felt very depressed over the whole period of elections. A couple of reporters I have spoken to are so depressed that they told me that they would consider resigning from local journalism altogether. I have to console them. I told them that they have been through the whole process, understand how it works against their own conscience but it is not for them to give up. They should stay on to make it better, more balanced. This is after all a country that we own and the future is for us to make.

Some of the reporters say that they have to push the envelops very hard to get their points through. And most of us think that the TV channels are the worse performing media so far, though they have improved a bit from the past.

I would say that the internet, especially the blogsphere has contributed to the improvement of the local media reporting. This is expected as these alternative sources of credible information have forced the local media to react, else whatever credibility of local media has will erode quickly. For example, in the beginning of the elections campaign, the local media avoided reports on the crowd we attracted to our rallies. Later on, they just report one thousand (yeah, that's from a local press media) or just a few thousands, not putting up the photographs of the massive turnout. Later on, after the words and pictures of internet spread like fire, local mass media has no choice but to put photographs and video footages of the real turnout.

On the other hand, the content of the rally speeches are not fully reported. For example, my rebuttal to PM Lee's challenge was not put up. My suggestion of GIC and Temasek Holdings to help Singaporeans invest their CPF monies so to get higher returns were omitted. PAP has claimed that they want to debate on policy issues but in the end, they are too engrossed in Gomez Saga. This is very disappointing and yet, the local press “help” PAP to go over and over again about this Gomez Saga. This reminds us about the last 2001 GE whereby the video footage of Dr. Chee Soon Chuan shouting at Mr. Goh Chok Tong was played endlessly over the 9 days campaign period. However, Gomze Saga is totally different from Dr. Chee's shouting incident!

To me, from a news angle, there is no news value in repeating Gomez Saga as compared to the various issues raised by the candidates.

Improvement there might be, but I think the local media has to search their own souls. For those who feel very depressed basically they still have their conscience intact, I would urge them to stay on and try to make it better for Singapore. It is a heritage that we need to pass on to our future generations and I think all of us do not want to feel shameful of the things that we leave for our children.

Goh Meng Seng