I am turning 23 this year. By Singapore’s laws, I am eligible to vote in Singapore’s 2011 General Elections. Yet I cannot do that. Although my constituency is being contested for the first time since 1991, I failed to enrol my name into the Registrar of Electors.
If I had registered my name before President S.R. Nathan announced the writ, even going down to Canberra to register my vote on Polling Day would not have deterred me. For the first time, I can exercise my right to vote. But I can only stand by the sidelines of history and watch as my generation makes their decision.
Voting aside, I have to get this off my chest. It may seem to you as prejudiced, temperamental and judgemental. It may seem to you as some random rant by a young man. Yet, these are the opinions that have been fermenting in me for a couple of years.
I’ll start of with the first issue.
Increasing Productivity and Our GDP
Each year, our ministers exhort us to increase our productivity, to work cheaper, better and faster, all in the name of increasing our GDP. To what end? To demonstrate Singapore’s economic prowess? What is the point if we do not have a decent standard of living, if we cannot enjoy the fruits of our labour? Do we really want to be mere cogs in the machinery of Singapore Inc.? We exist to live; we do not live to exist.
Furthermore, there are people who did not get to enjoy the fruits of Singapore’s economic boom. Everyday, the poor are faced with rising costs, working harder to pay the bills, to pay the housing loan, and to provide for their families and themselves. In the past five years, there were GST hikes, rising house prices and increasing cost of living but yet, our wages have stagnated and the gap between the poor and rich has increased. In chase for economic growth, the PAP has not addressed these social issues adequately.
Past Achievements Do Not Beget Future Accomplishments
I do not deny the PAP any credit. Yes, they led Singapore to where it is now: a global, vibrant city. Yes, they led Singaporeans through the dark period when we gained our unexpected independence from the Federation of Malaysia.
But the PAP who led Singapore is not the same as the current PAP. The first generation PAP team was an extremely capable team, led by a capable leader. But the current PAP team is complacent. 52 years in power and they believe it is their mandate to rule Singapore continuously.
It’s not their mandate. It is our mandate. We, the citizens, are the ones who vote for them at elections. It is our mandate to choose which political party to lead Singapore.
Some cite the PAP’s track record as a legitimacy of its power. Past achievements do not beget future accomplishments. I am grateful for what the PAP had done in the past. But to constantly harp on past achievements while ignoring or belittling their current errors is nothing short of complacent and contemptuous.
What is the big deal, you ask, humans make mistakes. Yes, we all make errors. But to brush aside citizens’ concerns as mere “noise” and to belittle us by saying that we know nothing about the complexities of national policies is nothing short of arrogance. Is it wrong for the PAP to deal with well-founded criticisms? If we have to deal with criticisms from the PAP daily, shouldn’t the PAP be brave enough to face our criticisms? We, after all, elected them to run the country for us. As citizens, we should demand accountability as the standard of legitimacy.
The Opposition Parties are Inexperienced
The current PAP team believes that renewal of Singapore’s leadership can only come from within the party, their party. I disagree. Renewal can come from outside the PAP, from other political parties. The PAP do not have a stranglehold on the ‘best and brightest’ of Singaporeans. The current General Elections has demonstrated this. The Opposition parties have fielded the best political candidates; most are of higher calibre than the new political candidates fielded by the PAP.
Yet, some Singaporeans say that the opposition have no credibility and experience in leading a nation. The first generation of PAP leaders had no credibility and experience but was voted and given a chance by the people to lead a fledging city-state. I believe this time round, the Opposition parties are more than credible; they are more than ready to lead the country. They understand the average Singaporean’s needs and concerns. A majority of them do not receive fat paychecks for their political and social contributions to Singapore; they invest their own time and efforts into the nation building of the Singapore society.
Some cite political inexperience as the reason for not voting for the Opposition. They say that they are afraid that if the Opposition wins, if they form a government, they lack the skills to deal with foreign affairs and may make Singapore the laughing stock of the world. Besides, the Opposition always focus on mundane national issues.
How are issues such as the increasing costs of living and housing mundane? If the Opposition focus on these issues, what say, does the PAP focus on? Supreme national issues? Furthermore, How can we deal with international affairs in the first place if we cannot deal with our own national affairs?
No, all national issues are important. As a small island city-state, these mundane national issues will affect each and every Singaporean. We have to come together as a nation first, if we want to deal with international affairs effectively. Besides, many of the Opposition candidates such as Worker’s Party candidate Chen Show Mao has experiences negotiating and dealing with large corporations, skills that can be parlay into international relations
If a ‘Freak’ Election Occurs, Singapore Will Descend Into Chaos
Some say Singapore will descend into chaos if the Opposition parties win majority of the seats. Lee Kuan Yew told the voters not to rock the foundation. We are not rocking the foundation. Our parents, our grandparents and the first generation PAP team laid a solid foundation for us. We are reinforcing the structure with more democratic and pluralistic means. After all, does our national pledge not contain the sentence: “To build a democratic society, based on justice and equality” ? We need to reinforce our democratic structure, based on social justice and equality.
If our grandparents and parents can help to build a nation without a stable foundation, why are we not able to do the same thing with a strong foundation supporting us? Do we have so little faith in our own abilities? Must we believe in the apocalyptic scenario painted for us by the PAP?
A Credible, Alternative Voice
Voting for the Opposition parties will allow for a credible, alternative voice in the Parliament. It will be the check and balance, the standard of accountability. No longer can the PAP hide behind their unchecked power to avoid accountability for their errors, to push through policies without any proper debate. For a political party so hell-bent on insisting the citizens to ‘upgrade’ their working capabilities so as to be better, faster and cheaper, having a powerful alternative voice in the Parliament will ensure that the Members of Parliament be cheaper and better (although not faster in this case).
For the current General Elections where 82 out of the 87 seats are contested, it is the first time in many years where the majority of Singaporeans can vote. But we have to ask ourselves; do we still want a political party to maintain power for the sake of power? Where it views power not as a means to end but as the end?
So vote for Singapore. Vote for the Opposition parties so that we can have an alternative voice and can truly be represented, instead of being dictated by the PAP constantly.
Vote for Singapore. Vote for us.
The PAP is not Singapore. We are Singapore.