I am the product of the colonial legacy and the PAP generation. I have grown up to believe in the goodness of the PAP. My parents told me so and I experienced the efficiency and effectiveness under the one party system. In fact, I was a strong supporter even defending its approach and policies when I was in the SAF and as a community leader.
However, in the early years of the new millennium, I felt that things did not seem to be so right. My exposure in civilian life after my retirement exposed me to situations that I did not see while I was in the service.
I was still supportive and constantly reminded myself that there will never be perfect situations. There will be approaches and policies that will be best under certain circumstances and the political leadership will respond appropriately in the interest of Singaporeans. Meanwhile, I reflected on what I have learnt while in the SAF and in the political science lessons in university. I was still tilted towards the ruling party.
But my belief in the system was shattered one fine morning when I read the Minister Mentor saying that the voters of Aljunied will have to “repent” if they were to vote in the opposition. He had taken such a strong arrogant, condescending approach and handling of the opposition. Then there is the issue of opposition wards not getting the upgrading even though their constituents pay taxes like all other Singaporeans. And what if this approach of control continued and hardened over time? What will happen to my grandchildren’s future? Will they be living in a condition as in George Orwell’s “1984”?
This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Hence, I started to explore the views of the opposition. I decided to follow where my heart takes me.
I start on the premise that there is nothing wrong with joining opposition politics. My loyalty and love for Singapore has not changed. In fact, it is for the love of Singapore that I am prepared to sacrifice time and effort to help build a better Singapore for my children and grandchildren. This has not been easy. The self censorship, the fear of reprisals and other considerations could have put many off. The current thinking that if you are not for the PAP, you are against Singapore is not healthy. The PAP treats the opposition like enemies to be destroyed. Why?
One major reason I joined is I feel that the government of the day is NOT listening to the people. I have learned that I should not be a bystander and let the situation go by. I must be an active person in the universe and make the difference.
The opportunity came when friends Ang Yong Guan and Tan Jee Say asked if I am keen to join them. I took the opportunity to realize my role to make a difference in the lives of the future generations. The new party Singaporeans First will not have any ‘baggage’, ie experience linked negatively with the party in power. As I thought that it is important for CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE VIEWS AND IDEAS, this fresh start as a broad based party with a few scholars, a few ex-PAP members and ex-civil servants would be this CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE.
A tough choice
The choice at this age of 66 years is whether I should stay as a retiree doing my part for society in Cambodia or to be involved with something new – Opposition Politics – and giving up my privacy and time to pursue my idea of a CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE VIEW for the community. I feel that I would be extremely happy to play my part for the betterment of the future society at large and for the future of our grandchildren’s generation.
I got support from my family and took the plunge when my family wrote (written by my daughter Michelle Tan):
“I believe that I am speaking on behalf of all our family members when I say that indeed you are very brave and courageous to make a stand about your beliefs in a meaningful way. Few would do so. And even less would even take this route of opposition politics. And probably only you, at your age. And for this, we are very proud of you. However, please please take extra care of yourself health-wise, and placing yourself out there means vulnerability, so please ensure that you are safe and covered at all times.”
Some of my friends encouraged and say things like “You take care of yourself” in Teochew and Cantonese.
So the final choice is to be a loyal Singaporean and to play a role in building a better Singapore for tomorrow, by providing the CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE NARRATIVE.
My contributions in the past – understanding vulnerability and loyalty
I have contributed 30 years of my life in uniform. I have learned the vulnerability of Singapore as a small physical nation. I have defended the concept while explaining this to soldiers and to international military audiences. I have defended this as Commander, CMPB (Central Manpower Base) when I had to explain to parents and employers of the need for National Service. And as the Commanding Officer taking care of the then Reserves and Reserve Policies, I had to explain to employers and reservists. I take pride that I have done this well. I hence think that I have a good nation to protect and defend.
Why I’m looking for the alternatives
Like all, I thought and I still believe that the PAP has done lots for Singapore, in the early years. I was prepared to accept some shortcomings of the PAP controlled government. YET, I have come to the conclusion that I have to be a party member to express the CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVES. These reasons are:
- Arrogance: The way PAP ministers portray themselves in words and in deeds gave me the impression that they are the know-it-alls and need-to-be-believed-in; that the way to go is just to agree with them. If we do not agree, then we are either making “noises” or are anti-establishment and therefore need to be fixed. This has to change. Repent, bigots etc are names and words used on Singaporeans. I do not agree with putting opposition wards last in HDB upgrading etc. We are all Singaporeans. Arrogance made them lose sight of the purpose why they are there in the first place. When they lost Aljunied, even the Ministers’ levels say they are not aware of the ground. Why? They have considered feedback as noises, as something that should not bother them. The feedback they get are also not right, as they only want to hear the good news, and their people give them good news. The average views are not taken seriously and dismissed as not important. Apology before an election is an effort to please the angry electorate, but the nasty words continued after the election.
- Policies: There are limited consultations, if at all. The consultation is with people who support them. The population white paper, its assumptions and its impact were passed with lightning speed. The inequality widened. The social problems created, eg. bad social behavior like littering, cycling along pedestrian paths, speaking loudly in buses and being inconsiderate etc have all not been considered important. The strong government with little opposition in Parliament challenge the few opposition members calling them flip-flopping. But aren’t policies like emphasis on graduates being flipped
- Ministerial Salaries: I am not against high salaries, but paying themselves excessively brings to mind the whole concept of “serving the country”. The people are asked to volunteer, to sacrifice, and contribute. These are the average Singaporeans who turn up dutifully to volunteer in community work, run activities, spend time as well as money on transport etc. They are committed and give off their best as volunteers. But the leaders get paid for what they do. And for those in such financial advantage, would they do anything that will affect their income? The probability of “agreeing and group think” is high.
- Social problems: During the Inquiry into the Little India Riots, the Commissioner of Police had to say that Manpower is not sufficient. Why did he wait till the event had happened? Has this been studied? The policy on hiring people: When we are old we are sidelined. Even in community work, there is an age limit for people in community appointments, the reason being that we must give way to the young for rejuvenation. But what about life-long experience? How does this affect the management of the aged and ageing population? How can we the seniors gain our dignity and self esteem? Now we are beginning to say that the older folks are important. Now many seniors have to be employed as cleaners and security guards or work as taxi drivers to earn the income for the family’s survival.
The following are some policies that I think may not be so right:
- The deployment of many young scholars into positions when I feel that the scholars are not ready. In the name of meritocracy, some of these young scholars in positions like school principals try to excel by showmanship.
- The mindset of many civil servants who seem to adopt a ‘just do’ attitude, without thinking through.
- The large influx of foreigners as ‘FTs’ who come in as if this place belongs to them. They do not understand the culture and the multi racial and religious community here. They are employed cheaply at the expense of Singaporeans.
- The government’s sway in policies to try to gain position after the GE2011. They apologized, but continue with the mindless pursuit of economic wealth.
- The education system that seems to produce students who are self-centred. The pressure in schools without much change to the class size is like a pressure cooker that tend towards just achieving grades. And if the school system is so great, why do we have a parallel tuition industry that is so huge?
- The arrogance of the leaders calling Singaporeans names and who think that their high salaried positions are reserved only for those in the party.
- The lack of care for the seniors, yet encouraging them to take on the low paying jobs like cleaners is of great concern.
- Not enough is done for seniors who will form almost 30% of our population by 2030.
- The over emphasis on economic growth and success and the influx of the large numbers of foreign workers and new citizens. The lack of emphasis (until recently) on the pioneer citizens and many other policies have to be reviewed.
- The increase in national level lapses such as Mas Selamat’s escape, Little India riot, MRT breakdowns, vandalisms, high suicide rates and high divorce rates are of concern too.
- And yet many more….
These issues highlighted whether the policies are done with the interest of the people in mind or with the survival of the ruling party and its members. Having been involved in community service, I also saw how the people supported the ruling party without much deep thinking. Many incidents brought to mind that if I should be involved in community work in Singapore, it will be to help change Singapore to be something better, a society with greater fairness, higher personal values and ethics.
One needs to view things from the outside, to be able to make changes. Being in it, one is always ‘running’ and do not see the flaws and poor practices in the people and system.
Categories: CEC member writes