Monday, May 11, 2015

The little illegal hawker in politics

It seems that PAP MPs and people are starting to showcase themselves as the "ordinary poor folks" in their bid to gain trust from common voters, basically saying "we are just like you". Citing their "poor family background" is their best attempt in trying to "get connect" to Singaporeans at large, despite the fact that they are so well paid nowadays.

Well I don't think they could ever "beat me" on putting up sad stories of their poor past. Living in rental flat is really nothing but imagine if a family of 10 squeezing into a rental flat with only 1 bed room? That's how my family lived in the 1970s.

My dad was a taxi driver but his income couldn't possibly cope with the family expenses. My parents failed to get a proper hawker license after numerous N times trying. Thus, our family became the family of illegal hawkers!

I became the youngest illegal hawker in the family at the age of 5. I would help my mom and dad to set up our little road side store to sell Nasi Lemak, Kuey, Otah, Bee Hoon etc. Business started from 5.45am till 9am or even later, depending on sales. Sometimes, we have to just grab our goods and run when the "Earth Bull" (environment officers) made their rounds to try and catch us.

When I got older, I started to do my rounds with two baskets full of food to sell it at the 20 storey flat next to ours, walking through each and every floor, yelling out "Otah Otah Otah Kuey, Nasi Lemak". On lucky days, I could sell everything I brought in the two baskets! But that was hard work. However, this has prepared me for the tedious political legwork, going through the flats knocking on every door.

Even my Primary School's classmates became my customers after they have tasted my parents' Nasi Lemak! I would take orders periodically and then get my dad to send me to school along with my 10s or even 20s packets of Nasi Lemak! Up till today, my primary school friends still remembered fondly about eating that delicious Nasi Lemak which they bought from this little illegal hawker in class!

In 2010 when NEA tried to hinder NSP's political outreach of selling newspaper, they used "illegal hawking" as the charge against us. During the CEC discussion of whether to just pay the fine and move on, I put up my strongest objection to pay the fine. I was ready to fight it out in court. I gave my most angered and passionate argument in CEC that I have been an illegal hawker since young and the illegal hawking law is specifically used against people who sell food. This is to ensure that basic hygiene standards are met for food hawkers and responsibility can be extracted if anything went wrong with the food sold.

I lived my young life as illegal hawker and understand that such illegal hawking is committed out of unfortunate circumstances which is aimed to earn enough money for our livelihood, to feed the many mouths we have in our families.

However, what we do as a political party, is political grassroot work, not illegal hawking. We do not need to go illegal hawking to keep ourselves alive! Our activity is purely political activity, not mere hawking. Thus if PAP government wanted to charge us for illegal hawking, I am prepared to go to court and fight it out, knowing that we will lose but this will let the whole world know that PAP is actually run by dictator who does not believe in Democracy. It is a total farce to allow political parties to register but ban them from conducting their legitimate political activity!

I am glad we stood firm on this principle else if we really paid the fine it would mean that all opposition parties will have to stop their legitimate political activity altogether. After getting this basic fundamental principle drawn clearly, all opposition parties benefit from this saga as they will no longer get harassed by the authorities for "illegal hawking" when they go around selling their newspapers.

Sometimes I feel that as politicians, we will need to stand firm when we feel that people are treated unfairly by the State. In this case, if we were unwilling to even fight for our rights to carrying out legitimate political activities, how could we expect ourselves to fight for rights and welfare of Singaporeans at large?


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