Sunday, April 30, 2006

SDA Rally at Baungkok

Attended another SDA rally last night as it was at the most convenient place, outside the "white elephants" station.

SDA Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC team was campaigning there. Most of the candidates don't have great oratory skills except the leader of the team, Desmond Lim. Desmond spoken mostly on the bread and butter issues and his team experience in running a town council effectively.

At this rally my feeling of the strong support SDA's Chief, Chiam See Tong, gets from the people was confirmed by the loud cheering that greeted his arrival at about 9.30pm.

None of the three English online MSM reported on this rally, as probably there were more exciting rallies to cover.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

SDA Rally at Potong Pasir

Attended the SDA rally at Potong Pasir last night and could feel that Chiam See Tong, the genial politician, does have strong support from the people. Though I'm unable to guage the number of people attending the rally but I estimate that about 35% of them left after Chiam had spoken.

Of the three MSM, TODAY gave the rally , esp Chiam's speech, the best and truthful coverage. It mentioned about Chiam's struggles over the past 22 years to push through proposals in Parliament and cited two examples. It also reported the meaning of Potong Pasir to Chiam - bravery, courage and the daring spirit that voted for the opposition for 5 consecutive years when people were all voting for the PAP.

CNA gave the rally the briefest coverage with only a very short article entitled, "SDA's Chiam claims credit for scrapping streaming in schools".

Our 140th surprisingly gave the rally quite a good coverage. It, however, didn't report on Chiam's struggles in the Parliament. It chose to highlight on Chiam's call to voters to go for the 2-in-1 option, meaning if voters put an opposition in the Parliament, they would also get the services of the aspiring PAP candidate as he would do his best to win them over.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

HDB Upgrading a Political Issue?

I'm utterly disappointed that MM Lee, a politician of high stature, has also resorted to using upgrading of HDB flats as a tool to get votes.

To me, the PAP should not only not use upgrading as a political tool but should upgrade the HDB flats for free. The reasons are:

1) It was their skewed housing policies that caused rife speculation of property in the early 1990s. Property prices then spiralled to form a bubble. When the bubble finally burst in the late 1990s, many private property owners lost their properties and became mired in debts. Though HDB flat owners didn't suffer as much, their HDB flats nonetheless depreciated 20% to 30% which was contrary to the 100% asset appreciation promised by the PAP. But as it is impossible to devalue the prices of flats, the only way the PAP can make good their promise of asset enhancement is to the HDB to upgrade all the flats and HDB estates free of charge.

2) It is widely believed that the HDB makes around 100% to 200% from the sale of flats. With that kind of indecent profits the HDB can well afford to upgrade the flats without charging the owners.

3) If the oppositions with limited resources were able to upgrade some of the flats in their wards without charging the people, I see no reason why the deep-pocket PAP are unable to do so.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Ideal MP

The ideal MP
A graduate, gifted at working with heartlanders, in Parliament fearlessly speaking up for his constituency. By Seah Chiang Nee of
April 1, 2006

Politics never stands still, not even in Singapore.

In the '50 and '60s, MPs in Singapore, PAP or Barisan Sosialis, emerged from the heartlands.

They were hawkers, bicycle shop owners, Chinese medicine sellers, with little education. But with silver tongues and the ability to work up a crowd, they won elections and kept their seats.

An example was a former classmate, Robin Sim Boon Woo, who disappeared from my life before the Senior Cambridge exam (now 'O' levels).

The next time I saw him, I was a reporter and he was speaking with adrenalin pumping in him at a PAP rally - in Tamil.

He campaigned in Malay, Mandarin and English. Robin was a PAP MP in a rural constituency for many years.

Years later, he told me of his frequent combats with the leftist Barisan Socialis. His constituency work involved things like driving a voter's sick wife to a 'sinseh' or attending marriages, funerals and birthdays.

'I knew every household in my ward by their names, how many children they had and where they studied and I made regular visits, election or not,' he said.

Was that necessary? 'Yes. My rival lived among the people and bonded with them. It was a powerful factor.'

I have not forgotten this dapper, street-wise guy, who truly represented his generation of politicians.

Voters today no longer care for these poorly-schooled grassroots workers, preferring graduate MPs.

The PAP went into self-renewal. Unless you were young, had a degree, you were not MP material.

But the pendulum may have swung too far. A new breed of MPs, comprising mostly scholars and the successful, has taken over.

They may run a town council well but may fare less well at interacting patiently with ordinary people.

For the ruling party, 'the good, qualified candidate' is both a winning formula and a vulnerable asset.

The wind of change, which blew out the heartland-type politician might again change direction and make them popular again one day.

The pre-election discussions have revealed a growing demand for more opposition MPs to provide alternative views and more active debate in Parliament. That is as it should be.

It remains to be seen if this is reflected in the polling outcome.

To the critics, today's Parliament is at worst a 'rubber stamp' and, at best, a polite discussion group that reinforces the official line.

The ruling party usually carries out a post-mortem after an election.

I hope this time it will include a review of its concept of 'a good candidate' - to see if it has moved too far from what voters want - and of the MP's role in a changing Singapore.

Some perceive the new PAP MP as intelligent and a capable problem-solver but a political lightweight who needs help from the big guns to be elected.

He is both a tower of strength and a political liability in the face of a changing electorate.

This is because voters want their MPs to firmly represent their interests and voice their concerns, not just to reinforce the party's position.

He's required to pursue a debate, challenge the Government if necessary, not merely ask a question then sit down.

This may require a loosening-up at a rate faster than what PM Lee Hsien Loong had promised.

We await to see how fast Parliament will change in this area.

Yes, the PAP has read the ground correctly that voters today want MPs who could empathise with them and voice their concerns. Most of its new candidates have extensive history in community works which should enable them to empathise with the ordinary people.

But I doubt it will allow the MPs to speak freely not to say to challenge its authority. It even reprimanded its MP and NMP for using inapproriate words. If I don't remember wrongly, Dr Amy Khor was reprimanded for using the word "betray" while a female NMP for muttering to herself the offensive word "shit". These public reprimands are more effective than the party whip in keeping its candidates in check!