Final Thoughts on a Final Vote (?)

Today is Polling Day in Singapore; it is the first general election since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew earlier this year. As I write this, I am sitting in my room contemplating whether or not to vote at all.

See, the two parties contesting in my GRC (Tampines) are the PAP and the NSP. Why don’t I feel like voting? I’ll summarize:

  • I support neither party.
  • Even if I did want to vote for a particular candidate from either party, the GRC system, which exacerbates the first-past-the-post system, would put me off it.
  • There is a $50 fine for non-voters who wish to re-register as voters in the next election, but since I may very likely no longer be living in Singapore and see no point voting in that case, there would be no implications for me (and yes, I know $50 isn’t a lot of money for someone earning a steady income, but it’s still a waste of money).

Most of you may know I was once a member of a political party. I spent one year and eight months in the SDP trying to assist in fundraising, youth-oriented activities, and most of all, communications and media. I spoke with its secretary-general, the silver-tongued opposition media darling of this election, Chee Soon Juan, regarding my plans for a PR campaign whose main goal was an image overhaul for him and the party.

One year and eight months of professionally qualified work, pro bono. All for naught because despite the party’s name, it is anything but democratic. I do not want to bore you with all the gory details, but if you are genuinely interested, feel free to contact me.

I will admit, I was somewhat idealistic when I joined the party. No, it wasn’t because of Chee. I was actually rather impressed by its policy proposals, and became a member at its 2012 May Day rally in Hong Lim Park.

Then I saw myself removed from the fundraising department with no prior consultation, all because its senior members saw fit to meddle in my personal life. I saw myself appointed deputy head of the party’s communications department by its then-head, Vincent Wijeysingha. I saw him come out and leave the party. I saw the sharks move in to prevent me from taking charge of the department and working further on the plans I’d discussed with Chee. I saw the youth wing I’d had certain hopes for dissolved before my very eyes, without having the decision put to a vote.

And just like that, from backstage at the NUS’ Cultural Centre Theatre on 20 December 2013, I sent a resignation email to the party, bringing with me a plus-one who had been similarly disregarded despite his best efforts.

In short, I can tell you that many people are easily manipulated: voters, party members, volunteers…no one is safe – at least not without a considerable amount of resistance on his own part. I suppose Chee found someone more “obedient” than me to help him in his PR campaign, while also cunningly riding on the more personable Paul Tambyah‘s coattails into Holland-Bukit Timah to up his chances of winning votes, effectively taking advantage of the GRC system he has so often derided.

Now, I do appreciate a level of cunning in people, especially politicians. You must know how to play the game, how to negotiate, how to get the electorate on your side…and all that requires a certain degree of shrewdness only the most successful businessmen and politicians possess.

But there is a line between shrewdness and cunning, and utter dishonesty and duplicity. In politics, the former can open doors that allow you to prove your worth, to deliver on your promises. The latter? Let’s just say you can only mask your incompetence and self-aggrandizement for so long. What Chee did to Chiam, he has been doing to any party member who has the audacity to disagree with him.

I don’t expect a whole lot from politicians, and I couldn’t care less about their personal lives (unless it harms others, or infringes upon their rights). I don’t even care if they’re running for office because they need to satisfy their egos; I’m quite sure ego-massaging is always one of the reasons for most politicians, anyway. I’m more concerned with their policies and how they will affect me, as well as the country in which I reside. And after doing my due diligence, I can honestly say the only party I would vote for is the WP.

So you understand my dilemma.

It is my vote, and I want to vote honestly. Believe it or not, I did, for the briefest of moments, consider voting for the incumbent party, because despite all the fact-based, valid criticisms I have heard of them, some of which I myself agree with, they have improved the country in many aspects, which is far more than I can say for all the opposition parties, save for the WP.

But then I remembered what Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”*

Well, here goes nothing.

*Please do not attempt to lecture me on context; I know full well the history of this quote, and am not using it in the way neo-liberals often do (to “fight the power”, because freedom).


7 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on a Final Vote (?)

  1. Just one point – your inference about Paul Tambyah. I don’t but the point you were trying to make about Chee riding on ‘Paul’s’ ‘coat tail’. Are you also thinking that all that improvement in Chee’s which has been reported and blogged about was because of some ‘halo’ effect rub off from Paul?

    Imagine you are the SDP taking on a GRC with a veteran minister in charge. Surely it is at least ‘reasonable’ to put in a strong team, as strong as you can have the resource to match the incumbent?

    Obviously, I do not know about your claim of unhappiness while with the SDP. But it occurred to me that you and your friend could have very easily voiced it to Chee or some other in the leadership group. Did you or did you not? Or did you prefer to nurse your gripe or personal grude to pull it out on polling day itself, to what purpose only best known to you.

    I don’t buy it and I am sorry to say I suspect your integrity.

    • Paul Tambyah is a personable fellow with a professional medical background who has helped craft the SDP’s healthcare policy proposal. He has credibility and likeability, the latter of which Chee has lacked his entire political “career” (and the former, which many ex-members will tell you, he also lacks). So yes, I believe Paul helped pull up the SDP’s chances in Holland-Bukit Timah, in addition to Chee’s attempts to appear more relatable to the public this time around.

      Besides, considering they only managed around 33% of the votes in Holland-Bukit Timah (and didn’t do any better in the other wards in which they contested), I’m going to go ahead and say they failed.

      Also, what makes you think my fellow former members and I never voiced our unhappiness? I already said I was not going to go into detail on this post, because it was not meant to be that long a post. I had to rush off to vote (if I so decided) after writing this.

      You don’t have to “buy it” or believe my integrity. I don’t need or expect your approval, especially since you’re clearly more interested in making biased, baseless assumptions and getting confrontational with a complete stranger. It’s one thing to be sceptical of whatever you read, especially on the Internet, and quite another to leave needlessly antagonistic comments on someone’s writing. As mentioned on my blog itself, I welcome questions and feedback, but don’t come here acting as if I owe you an explanation. I don’t.

      I have had the experience within the party that you haven’t. So maybe take down your presumptuousness a notch.

      • Well what happened when you voiced out your unhappiness? Since you are already into it, why spare the details? Were you given a reason, for example?

        Isn’t your timing of this blog opportunistic? Did you write something about this when it happened. That is what I meant about your motive being suspect – you have an axe to grind from my perspective. I know volunteers who did all the footwork of visiting households and handing out fliers. They went block after block after block performing such arduous work without complain; and a number were actually retirees and pioneers.

      • Some people have approached me personally to ask what happened, and I’ve gladly told them. You, however, I don’t see a need to entertain. You’ve already decided I’m the bad guy, so there’s no point trying to convince someone who’s already made up his mind.

        You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. I’ve happily burnt bridges with those I’d thought were friends but who, like you, made negative assumptions without knowing anything. So trust me when I say you’re not special, and I owe you nothing. Make a request, and I may entertain it. Make demands, and you can rest assured you’ll get nothing out of me.

        So what if I have an axe to grind? I have bloody good reason to grind that axe. It’s also really cute you think this entry was timed opportunistically. Waiting till three hours after voting had begun was “opportunistic”? You must have really low standards for what opportunism entails.

        And so what if, as you claim, you know the volunteers? If it’s something they want to do, more power to them. But you? You seem very eager to fawn all over Chee without even getting your feet wet. Go join the party for a couple of years then talk lah. After all, the cure for a lack of perspective is relevant experience.

        People know my name and how I look. I have nothing to hide, and even less to lose. You, on the other hand, want to have textual diarrhoea all over my post without even identifying yourself? Please ah, my blog is not your toilet. Nor is it the place to practise your adoring Chee fanboyism (or, as I prefer to call it, “Cheeboyism”).

        I appreciate real questions and unbiased critique, not rabid sycophantism disguised as objective scepticism.

      • And yes, I think your point about Paul and Chee ‘exploiting’ is really cynical; and you expect people who read it not to respond? Do you really know how to behave as a group. You griped simply because your jobs have been switched? Let me tell you that if petty issues like those you brought up can become a major bugbear, you did right by leaving, and the party is the better without someone with an obvious ego, like this.

      • Ooh, I’m cynical. How terrible of me. I do expect people to respond, but if they insist on being presumptuous and / or defensive like you have been all the way, I won’t expend any energy explaining anything to them. Why bother?

        Also, what basis do you have to assume the issues I faced were “petty”? Where’s your proof? But I’m sure the party is so much better now, what with its stellar showing at the recent election. Oh, wait…

        Let me tell you, you’ve come to the wrong place to kiss Chee’s behind (or, as I’ve just thought of it, “Cheehind”. I do love portmanteaus).

  2. Dr Chee is your typical politician and he will of course have to shoulder the blame if there are any shenanigans within the party.

    I can’t comment on that since I’m not even a volunteer but my view is that he’s also human and not perfect. Though, I must admit that Dr Paul brought a lot of credibility to the party and Dr Chee’s mellowed demeanour won him more admirers this time round.

    Moving forward, I also hope the party can get its act together by putting a more robust and yet sufficiently democratic framework for those who wish to join or volunteer.

    Hopefully, the politician in Dr Chee will not only be “cunning as a serpent but harmless as a dove “.

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