Friday, October 05, 2012

Losing the Democratic Soul

                                            Image from Fabrication of PAP FB

When I first read about this saga of WP controlled Aljunied Town Council using the "carrot" of attractive Lucky Draw Prizes to get favourable HDB upgrading poll result, I was devastated.

This brings me back to a very emotional past of mine. It was the Generation Elections held in early 1997 (2 Jan 1997). I was one of the voters of the "Legendary" Cheng San GRC, hotly contested by the WP team led by the late JBJ and Tan Liang Hong. For those younger readers who are interested to know more about this GE, please refer to Wikipedia here. During the run up to polling day, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong put his reputation at stake by declaring himself as the "special candidate" of that battle. He reportedly

told Cheng San voters that if they returned PAP candidates to power in the election, they would get a host of benefits. These included access to better transport facilities such as the MRT and LRT, new housing projects, such as Punggol 21, and opportunities to upgrade their HDB apartments and public housing estates. The PAP emphasised that constituencies that failed to return PAP candidates to power would not receive priority in government upgrading programmes and might end up becoming slums.
This single incident back then became the main critical factor that decided my fate into the opposition politics. After the WP team lost with 45% of the votes, I wrote a very emotional article posted on soc.culture.singapore. I was emotional because I know some of my family members have voted PAP for fear of the very threat that it has put up, the deprivation of HDB upgrading.

I am against such pork barrel politics practiced by PAP, not only it is unfair, unjust and unscrupulous, but because it will create a social environment and norm that is detrimental to our future generations. It will set a very bad example and system to teach our kids the wrong values and discarding the up-righteousness of being who we are and what we are, without being bought over easily by materialistic favours.

It was with that in mind, I declared that either I would leave Singapore and migrate out, to find a better environment for my future generations or I stay and join the fight against such decay political environment that will shape our Nation very badly. The rest is history.

The first party I joined was Workers Party in 2001, right in the middle of the GE. This was the platform that I chose to carry out my fight against such decadence political environment. I remembered I made my most satisfying speech in Ang Mo Kio GRC, just outside Cheng San Primary School, declaring the Cheng San Spirit will not die and we will not succumb to PAP's pork barrel politics. That was really deja vu for me. That was the Democratic Spirit that I have upheld for decades until today: the fight against injustice, social injustice, pork barrel politicking, democratic development for our Nation, well being of our people and reclaim the rights and power of our people. 

Ironically, I was devastated yesterday when I learn that WP has fallen into the trap of its own success.

According to the "clarification" made by the Workers Party Aljunied Town Council, they have decided to carry out the "Lucky Draw" for those who voted "YES" for the upgrading because they want to encourage the residents to get pass the requirement of 75% "YES" votes so to ensure that the whole precinct will get the upgrading. The first poll conducted by PAP right before GE2011 is merely 50%. The WP didn't specifically state that who paid for the prizes though it was mentioned that HDB has given them $400K to conduct the poll. It claims that the poll was not secret polling as it was "consensus finding" exercise and said it was a "common practice" by other town councils (well, presumably PAP Town Councils). It further said that the residents were informed BEFORE HAND through the 22-page booklet that those who voted YES will get to participate in the Lucky Draw.

What is wrong with all these? Do they seem to sound very familiar? Yes. Using material gain to influence voting process!

First of all, the excuse of "other PAP Town Councils have done it so we do" doesn't sound right at all! PAP doesn't respect the secrecy of such poll doesn't mean that an opposition party that have been fighting vigorously to uphold Democratic principles should not respect the secrecy of such poll! WP should lead the way in good Democratic practice and stay true to its belief of upholding Democratic principles in whatever it does, instead of following blindly of what PAP is doing, which ironically, has been attacked by opposition parties (including WP) all these years!

Secondly, to add salt to the wounds, instead of respecting the secrecy of the poll, WP has in fact EXPLOITED the polling process to practice the very DIVISIVE tactic that PAP has been using all these years to preserve its monopoly over power.... If you vote me, you got your carrot, if not, you will not get it! This is exactly what WP is doing, by declaring that if you vote YES, you will get a chance to win that 40 inc LED TV! In fact, WP has gone even further in this practice... at least for PAP, they could only know their support level at precinct level and cannot discriminate those who didn't vote for them in the precincts that supported them most. But WP actually pin point to EACH AND EVERY household to identify who support and who didn't! Is WP trying to be MORE PAP THAN PAP?

Last but not least, WP should learn to respect residents' choice. To use such method and in fact, implicitly declaring "I know who didn't vote for it" to residents to exert undue stress on them is totally unethical. This is what PAP used to do for the past decades as well.

I am puzzled on why WP is using all these desperate DEVILISH means that we have been criticising PAP all along to try to influence the residents' voting preferences. I remembered very clearly that Pritam Singh has just spoke on the rally stage during the Hougang by-election denouncing PAP's HDB upgrading vote buying tactic and Mr. Low Thia Khiang has also said on the rally stage during GE2006 to openly denounce PAP of VOTE BUYING when Goh Chok Tong dangled that $100million upgrading funds for Hougang. I am very shocked and devastated that WP, after winning the hard fought Aljunied GRC that I have contested in GE2006 as well, has resorted to the very unscrupulous tactic of PAP, trying to win votes of YES for HDB upgrading.

Maybe WP is just trying very hard to outdo PAP, wanting show that under PAP's management of Aljunied Town Council, they could not get that 75% YES votes for this upgrading but under WP, they made it. It just wants to show that WP is "better" than PAP in that sense. However, is it worth losing your Democratic Soul by using the Devilish means to achieve such little battle? 

When a man just do whatever it takes to "win" without holding much principles, he will just become a wandering opportunist.

When one tries to do everything to fight the devil and eventually won the devil by using the devilish means, you might have won a little small battle but lost the bigger war by losing your soul to the devil. You will become the wandering soulless body with no vision nor light to the right path.  

I really hope that while WP enjoys its electoral success and trying every means to "win" at every little battle, they should not lose their democratic soul, losing sight of what they are fighting for and why they are there fighting and who they are fighting for. 

 The so call "Clarification" has done more harm than good for WP. It has put lots of doubts on whether WP is sincere in its fight for the democratic cause. WP should apologize and admit that such UNDEMOCRATIC practice should not have been conceived and carried out in the first place. It owed all opposition supporters a big apology.  Else, all confidence, goodwill and support it received will be squandered off. Who will want to support a party that is More PAP than PAP?

I guess WP didn't really realize the great potential damage that this little episode could bring to them, as well as all other opposition parties at large. We do not just pay lips service to Democracy but we should carry out good Democratic practice whenever and wherever we can. Else, we will lose all the credibility and moral high ground that we held against PAP all this while.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

You are so ridiculous. Any respect that anyone ever had for you has been torn to tatters.

Admin said...

I do not blame you for supporting your favourite party blindly as that is what party loyalty is all about.

It ached me every time when I need to write something bad about WP due to my pass association with it. However, deep down in me I know that my loyalty lies with Singapore and my belief in progressive democratic development for this land.

Party can rise or fall but not the country, definitely not the democratic progress for our people.

If there is any respect that has to be torn to tatters, it is the respect for WP. It is disappointing that it has lost all its mind and soul in search of victories and success, without realizing that these are just the means to the bigger picture which it has destroyed unwittingly.

Goh Meng Seng

jelly andrews said...

This got me thinking! I always thought that my one vote for election doesn’t matter. I mean what I have in mind is that they are all just the same. My one vote doesn’t change anything. But after reading this post, I realized that my one vote can do so much. I am happy you post something like this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think you're over-reacting.

To me, this is tempest in a tea-pot. WP got budget allocation for this upgrading. Want to ensure that it goes thro. Include a lucky draw as gimmick. You think those who vote yes will vote yes becos of lucky draw? Come on .. its just a side gimmick. This issue was first played up in the ST website and they're trying to blow it up. If you want to talk about improperly executed things at GRCs, I'm sure you can also find some in PAP wards. Just that these are never publicised.

Unfortunately, I think you over-reacted to this. Not just the lucky draw but the "purity" in you read so much into it that you blow it way out of proportion.

If you're looking for ideological and administrative purity, good luck to you. I don't think you'll find it in WP, SDP, or any other party. There's only imperfect oppositions vs PAP to choose from. And whoever you choose, you can bet that over the next 4 or 5 years in Parliament, they will make missteps and mistakes all of which will be glaringly publicised. Your heart will be broken over and over again.

Maybe you should form your own party and impose your version of purity. But first, you'll need to get >50% of the people's support, beyond just the usual 20-30% die hard opposition camp. Not so easy isn't it? Easier to throw a stone.

Be prepared for more such stuffs to get leaked out of Aljunied. Every single error, every single mis-step will be publicised. Even residents of semen found on some shoes got publicised as an example of incompetence in Aljunied GRC.
Its ST's duty to do so. They realise netizens only look at dirt when it surfaces in cyberspace, so ST form their own unit to dish out such dirt.

Welcome to Singapore in the year 2012.

Anonymous said...

I think what WP did is not wrong, but definitely not appropriate. I would rather use the HDB money to create more awareness and therefore drum up more interest in the upgrading.
Lucky Draw is generally Singaporeans' favourite, cos there are freebies, but again, to say it induces Yes/No decisions are too far fetched. Remember, it's not a sure win, so why would anyone of sound mind swing their vote to get only A CHANCE?
WP needs to change the way they do this, hopefully they learn from this episode and do better.

Admin said...

To put things in perspective, there is nothing to be "leaked" in this sense because the letter to all residents were in public domain.

I do not ask for purity, but definitely not this kind of downright dirt.

Apparently people in WP are not thinking straight. I was told PAP had lucky draw for HDB upgrading polling as well, but that's for everybody who voted, regardless of yes or no. If PAP can be that bit of sensitive, I wonder why WP failed so miserably.

I should say, good luck to all of us if we continue to have opposition parties acting like this all the while.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

Your sentiments are worthy, but they are expressed imperfectly in English. Why don't you write in Chinese instead? My guess is that you will express yourself better that way. You may also resonate more deeply with your audience.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a HUGE difference between promising rewards for votes during a GENERAL ELECTION which determines the course of our country, policies that affect all of our lives and our future, vs offering the chance of winning prizes for votes for a local UPGRADING exercise, given that HDB has already set aside the budget and that it doesn't affect anything other than whether some blocks get renovated or not!

I find this post a bit silly