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).