by Randy Ashmooni, member of SingFirst
My interactions with fellow Singaporeans from the last 5 SingFirst walkabouts, including the latest at Marine Parade GRC, have made me think much deeper about how my beloved Singapore has been managed by the current government. I thought and looked deeper into the significance of shapes and forms, studied the performance of the GRCs and highlight some of the MPs’ tendency to flip flop issues in recent years.
The shape of disengagment
Circles commonly represent unity and wholeness. They are also often seen as protective symbols. In 1959, then secretary-general of PAP Lee Kuan Yew said that the PAP logo of the circle and the flash was synonymous with consistency, honesty, firmness and action. (The Straits Times, 27 May 1959). Presently we don’t seem to be getting much “consistency, firmness and action” in Singapore.
I pose this question: Does a circle remain a circle with a lightning bolt in between? By cutting through the circle, could the lightning now suggest a “break” in unity and wholeness? Considering the political climate then and now, this “break” or “disengagement” from a full solid circle is becoming apparent within the PAP.
Marine Parade GRC
Let’s look graphically at how Marine Parade GRC stack up against the rest of the GRCs at the last 2011 General Election.
Marine Parade GRC was uncontested during the 1997, 2001 and 2006 General Elections. Considering that the NSP put up a relatively new team in 2011, they did remarkably well and obtained 59,926 or 43.36% of the votes, giving this GRC the 3rd highest opposition support among the 15 GRCs. What does this mean for East Coast, Bishan-Toa Payoh and Tampines GRCs in 2nd, 4th and 5th place respectively? What if our new party, SingFirst, put up a fight in these other constituencies?
Now let’s look at some media coverage of their MPs in recent years.
MP Seah Kian Peng – Ping Pong played within PAP
In a Supper Club Interview by Charissa Yong, posted on 29 Mar 2014, Mr Seah Kian Peng, a two-term MP and Deputy Speaker in Parliament, brought up the term “hyperopia”, warning the Government of the danger of being too far-sighted and of the need to recognise that there are certain short-term concerns in policy planning. He also commented that the “current demographic changes of an ageing population, coupled with the low total fertility rate, are danger signs of a crisis in the making”. Since 2007, Mr Seah has been advocating paternity leave for six years continuously before it was finally passed by Parliament. Interestingly, Mr Seah is also open to the idea of using the reserves and has spoken up for more social spending in the short term which he considers “a rainy day in the making”.
Is the current level of PAP bureaucracy so heavy that it took 6 years for decisive action by parliament? If asking for paternity leave to be passed in parliament took six years, what will be the timeline to debate the issue of dipping into the reserves for a “rainy day”?
MP Fatimah Lateef – Are the current PAP MPs disengaged with the Civil Service and vice versa?
On 2 April 2014, the New Paper quoted MP Fatimah Lateef, who said in her personal Facebook post that “there is still no ‘concrete action plan’ despite the time and effort spent (hundreds of hours, may be more, of meeting police, anti-vice and multiple agencies) to deal with the situation in Geylang”. Political observers noted that she sounded exasperated because of a lack of concerted action to manage various issues that have long plagued Geylang. Singapore Management University associate law professor Eugene Tan said: “The remarks by the police commissioner last week may have given the impression that she, as the MP, has not done enough to raise crime-control issues in Parliament and to the relevant agencies.”
I believe Fatimah Lateef could gain some clues from Mr Seah Kian Peng on how to “do more”.
Minister Tan Chuan Jin – “I don’t know what to do!”
While Minister Tan Chuan Jin has been engaging with people from all walks of life and is quite inspired by them, he had “engaged” the SMRT labour strike by bus workers from the PRC (Nov 2012) in a rather heedless manner.
In Part 1 of The Supper Club interview by Elgin Toh, he mentioned “We could have declared it (an illegal strike) earlier, but you want to be ready as it will set in motion a series of actions. You had to make sure that the different agencies were ready, they all understood what it meant, and that the time was right to move.”
Are there no SOP (Standard Operation Procedures) with the relevant agencies for handling labour strikes in Singapore? With 3 pieces of legislation in place – the Trade Unions Act, the Trade Disputes Act and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act – is a strike ever ‘legal’ in Singapore?
Minister Tan’s “helplessness” worries us as he seems to have brought his “helplessness” to the CPF of which he is the minister in charge. By readily accepting the panel’s recommendation to reduce the minimum sum, he shows he is only tweaking the system and is clueless about solving the fundamental issue of inadequate savings for retirement for more than half of our workers.
MP Tin Pei Ling – “I don’t know what to say!”
A different kind of helplessness is the hallmark of his fellow Marine Parade MP, the “speechless ‘I don’t know what to say'” Ms Tin Pei Ling. She seems to have redeemed herself, at least in the eyes of her PAP boss when PM Lee praised her in a Facebook post “for having worked hard to win over the hearts and minds of her residents”. But will she ever live down her uppity Kate Spade image in the eyes of her residents in Macpherson? Or has she been literally “brought down” to earth by her down-to-earth search for sanitary napkins? I don’t know what to say….
Do the PAP MPs have disengagement even between themselves?
A July/ August 2009 edition of Petir magazine published an interview with Dr Seet Ai Mee. The interview was conducted in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the PAP Women’s Wing which Dr Seet co-founded.
Dr Seet placed the blame for her electoral loss on ESM Goh Chok Tong as her “fishmonger incident of 1991 has been sometimes linked to her defeat in that election” and was quoted in that interview to have said “Had it been clarified, we could’ve explained and diffused the incident. The opposite happened instead and I became political fodder”.
ESM Goh Chok Tong – Engaging garbage
I certainly hope that ESM Goh has not disengaged from us, his fellow Singaporeans. But unfortunately, his recent “garbage city” remarks on MParaders Facebook Page regarding the Laneway Music Festival on 24 January 2015 at Gardens By The Bay may highlight more symptoms of Stage 1 disengagement.
Response from Netizens to his remarks suggest one common voice. Firstly, true blue Singapore-born Singaporeans know how to keep our own homes clean. Secondly and more importantly, as it turned out, Singaporeans only made up a small percentage of the 13,000 strong international crowd. Hence, a high proportion of our “guests” are expecting us to clean up after them! Are we, my fellow true blue Singaporeans, the original monkeys that created this bad habit? Or have we instead been overtaken by our “talented guests” with their third world monkey habits?
In his speech as then Senior Minister at the REDAS 50th Anniversary Dinner on Nov 5th 2009, ESM Goh said “the second generation leaders sought a standard of living equal to that of the Swiss in 1984, by 1999.” Fast forward six years to 2015, he has now said “without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’”.
If this is not flip-flopping aka Playing Ping Pong, I really don’t know what to say!