death by paper cut

{May 1, 2011}   GE 2011 – A People’s Heartbeat

bus 156 from bishan to serangoon stadium was sardine-packed and moved at a snail’s pace, not just because it was peak hour but also because half of singapore seemed to be converging at serangoon stadium for the workers party rally on the second day of election campaigning. this didn’t help that bus 156 services major routes and yet is very infrequent.

as passengers surged towards the rear of the bus, two uncles in their 70s voiced their grievances about traffic congestion and the infrequent bus in hokkien. they also attributed these woes to lee hsien loong, singapore’s current prime minister. the two men were strangers with a common purpose – make their way to serangoon stadium to attend the workers party rally. they began to introduce themselves and where they are from. one uncle said that he lives in bukit batok and had to change buses three times. they laughed ruefully at the situation. there was no stopping them from then, they started to vent other problems singapore faces and became fast friends.

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 1

bus 156 emptied out at serangoon stadium along with these two uncles. i spotted them still in each other’s company at the stadium grounds.

such is the galvanising force of common experiences. such is the galvanising force of the opportunity for the overwhelming majority of singaporeans to experience voting.

multiply such intense sentiments by the thousands at serangoon stadium. all the seats at the stand of serangoon stadium were  occupied by 7pm and the stadium ground was steadily filling up. as i was rather near the front of the stage, i couldn’t tell how far the crowed extended to. A photo at The Online Citizen’s flickr site provides a perspective in this panorama.

the crowd was in high spirits. it was by no means manipulated by calculated rousing speeches with little content, but was clearly assembled by its own accord. food packets were not given out, people were not ferried in coaches from community centres, kiddy party supplies like whistles were not handed out. watch this video of a PAP rally to see the stark contrast. sure, the elderly might need help with transport. but those aunties lapping up the PAP handouts do not seem any more invalid than the uncle who made his way to the workers party rally on his own via a change of three sardine-packed bus services.

some rally speakers tend to speak really loudly thinking that the raised decibels can get their point across more effectively. the result of such tactics only serve to make them sound belligerent and of little substance. fortunately i did not have to bear with blaring loud speakers at the workers party rally.

expensive HDB flats, high cost of living, swell in the number of non-singaporeans, miscalculated YOG budget, escape of Mas Selamat, self-inflated high ministerial pays are common issues that all opposition parties are going on about. i’ve heard enough of it. the next opposition candidate who reiterates such problems is not going to stand out.

i do not have a problem with a non-singaporeans in singapore. i am not xenophobic towards other nationalities or races. i welcome diversity. having read university overseas, i understand that it feels like to be the foreigner and i am grateful for the warm hospitality of the host country. in fact, aren’t most of singapore’s forefather foreigners to begin with? i do not wish for a pauline hanson to have a footing singapore.

the workers party rightly points out that the problem with foreign workers in singapore is not that they are on singaporean soil. the problem lies in the fact that the infrastructure of housing and the transport system has not matched the rising number of people. such disparity should have been foreseen and dealt with in advance.

low thia kiang discussed the unscrupulous method of the GRC and then the redrawing of GRC boundaries after every election to arrest the momentum of support for opposition parties. the highhandedness of the GRC system can be read more here. i find it quite laughable for george yeo / straits times to claim on 14 march 2011 that he and kaki bukit “were separated 14 years ago by electoral boundary changes” but is now “reunited” in this “homecoming made possible by the latest boundary shifts that carved the area out of Marine Parade GRC and returned it to Mr Yeo’s Aljunied GRC” as if his party is not responsible for these craving and re-carving in the first place.

what struck me most at the workers party rally is the speech made by pritam singh because it is addressed to people like me. i have transcribed this part of the speech verbatim here.

For today’s rally speech, I want to reach out to two important groups of people in Singapore. Firstly, those Civil Servants who are afraid of voting for the Opposition. Please think again. The PAP did not give you your job. The Civil Service will not crumble just because the PAP loses a few ministers. No matter which party is in power, the Civil Service is here to stay. A Ministry will not collapse if a Minister is voted out of parliament because there are thousands of hardworking, incorruptible and upright civil servants working behind the scenes, running this country, on a daily basis, twenty four seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

i am a teacher. and i can say unequivocally that teachers have been supporting, enabling and fiercely safeguarding the future of the nation twenty four seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. school holidays are synonymous with non-teaching work days. in fact, dedicated teachers have with blood, sweat and tears – reservoirs of tears – been bearing the brunt of ridiculous MOE policies and directives that work against the interest of student development. dedicated teachers filter out the bullshit, the wayang, the school visits by ministers and the upper echelons embraced by newly sprouting pots of flower, to focus on the student beyond his or her academic performance.

the PAP ministers of eduction is not often, if ever an educator. in fact they keep rotating and sharing portfolios as if education does not require a hundred and one percent of your being. i had to standby a notice board in my previous employment to entertain a certain top brass who commented to me with erudition that, “i have visited my schools. they are all different, and yet the same.” no, schools are not the same, they have different agendas, different struggles and not all schools truly educate the individual. on the ground, the state of education has not improved with every change of minister because true educators do not measure the success of a student on a chart, bell curve or prism. so yes, pritam singh is right to say that a ministry will not collapse if a minister is voted out of parliament.

the rest of pritam singh’s speech can be watched here.

it was reported in the straits times on the day of the rally at serangoon stadium that the voters of aljunied have been placed in an emotional dilemma by the workers party and that they are forced to pick between enlightened self-interest and the opposition cause.

Emotional Dilemma of Aljunied Voters

i was at the rally with the throngs in the thousands. i don’t think anyone was in a dilemma about where he or she stands. let’s hope the multitudes puts their vote where their mouth is.

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 3

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 20

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 10

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 26

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 37

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 32

Workers Party Rally 29 April 2011 Serangoon Stadium 25

like the uncle who traveled to serangoon from bukit batok, i am not from the aljunied GRC. however, the progress of the workers party there will spur the morale and tenacity of other opposition parties to strive for an alternative voice. otherwise we will have to put up with more ruling party arrogance. no concrete examples? look here.

Also read:

Yawning Bread, Imagining Electoral Calamity

My Wang Says So, Property Values and Your Choice of Political Party


[…] i took in the duration leading up to the general election of 2011, were found on flickr and included in the book, after my permission was sought, voting in change: […]

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