Monday, August 17, 2015

Campaign Trail - Meeting & Challenging Minister Gan

Campaign Trail - Meeting & Challenging Minister Gan

Today was supposed to be like last weekend whereby we would just go around CCK greeting residents and introducing our relatively new party. Although a few reporters called up the previous day but I assumed it was just a routine call as they have done for past two weeks.

I didn't expect any reporter, lest CNA camera man to turn up at our area of ops. But unexpectedly, TNP reporter and the team of CNA camera men turned up. Most likely they were there because they have just covered the incumbent Minister Gan's walk about or announcement of PAP's CCK candidates.

Well, the smell of CCK is really sweet and our small campaigning team was pretty encouraged. I am personally surprised by the warm response from the residents at CCK.

We paused for a media interview by the TNP reporter with the camera on. I have issued a challenge to Minister Gan for a Town Hall debate on his healthcare policies as this has been my consistency in applying my "minister specific" strategy since 2011.

I wanted a very different type of campaign for not only my party PPP but for Singapore as a whole. Whenever I read the online and offline news, there were too much petty inconsequential bickering between some opposition parties and PAP. Imagine that even a simple photo and caption of someone having some good food at a perceived HOT SMC could become the focus of bickering and media attention! Do we seriously lack of anything more important or substance to report on the media other than such petty bickering?

If we seriously reflect on the past elections in last 50 years, how many of them really focus on important current issues of the day? How many serious debates have been made over various policy issues or how many insightful public discourse and policy views have been made during the elections hustling?

Past elections have been marred by endless smearing, mud-slinging, character assassination and inconsequential petty politicking and bickering.

I had wanted to change this bad electioneering culture of Singapore/PAP once and for all. Let's debate on serious stuffs. General Elections should be an open contest of political ideas and ideals. This is what a First World Democracy should be.

Thus, I have been trying to get PAP Ministers to debate on pertinent current issues since last elections GE2011. But it seems that even though PAP Ministers would have tremendous advantage as they have the whole army of civil servants to back them up in research and as a huge think tank, they have repeatedly declined to take up such challenge. I was disappointed when Mr Mah Bow Tan refused to hold a public debate with me on HDB housing issues back in GE2011.

I was hoping that Mr Gan Kim Yong would react differently and agree to have such debate.

Nevertheless, I have my answer right from the horse mouth not so long after I have issued my challenge to Mr Gan via the MSM. I met Mr. Gan right at the end of our activity when we were resting and preparing to leave the coffeeshop.

Mr Gan was game enough to come to our table and shake our hands when he saw us resting and drinking tea at a table. I took the opportunity to request to have a Town Hall debate with him. He said I could go ahead and hold a Town Hall meeting and he will respond when needed. It means that he would rather not to sit down face to face and have a live debate with me but prefer to go through my points raised and then decide whether to respond through the media! Well, that would be most advantageous to him tactically as he could get his army of think tank and civil servants to formulate any response if need to.

I asked again why not we hold such debate. He gave a weak excuse that the election rules don't allow us to do so! I said we could do BEFORE the elections is called as this is POLICY Debate and it is not some "combined rally" or whatever. As far as I know, there are no rules against policy debates outside of parliament!

And even if it is within the Elections period, I do not think there is a ban on political debate in public space.

Well, anyway, I guess that is the final answer from Minister Gan and I am really very disappointed. Ministers should always be ready to defend their own policies at all times, be it in or out of parliament. This is especially important during elections time because it is the time where the ministers should convince voters that they deserved their votes and support because they have come up with good policies! Running away from such public debates or challenge is totally unhelpful for us to mature into a First World Democracy.

Policy debates during election time are very common all over the world. This is not something new. If PAP is confident that their brains are the best and their policies are good, then it should not shy away from such challenge! It seems that PAP isn't that confident of their own policies and ministers at all.

I still hope Minister Gan would reconsider to take up this challenge. No matter who wins or loses, we will change and up the level of political contest many notches to achieve the REAL First World Democracy.

Goh Meng Seng

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