1) It is true that the PAP government ever discussed with the oppositions over the S$13,500 election deposit per candidate?
During the Remaking Singapore Committee chaired by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the topic of changing the election deposit was discussed. Some opposition members were consulted, and among whom was a seasoned politician who was unable to stand for GE due to a defamation suit. In conclusion to the discussion, the opposition figured that the amount should remain the same (not lower, not higher). The reason is that lowering the deposit will lead more 3-way fights and would reduce the share of votes in the opposition camps. This might result in the opposition losing their GE deposit if their votes are lower than certain percentage. Increasing the amounts would lead to difficulties in contesting for 6-member GRCs. Thus, that senior opposition supported the figure of S$13,500.
2) It is true that video recording and uploading political rallies online (sgrally.com) are against the law?
According to the controversial Section 33 of the Films Act, the making, distribution and exhibition of "party political films", are subjected to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. The Act further defines a "party political film" as a film;
(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or ;
(b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore
Exception are, however, made for films "made solely for the purpose of reporting of current events", or informing or educating persons on the procedures and polling times of elections or referenda.
Note: One of the Minister of State (who is also a MP in a SMC) made a short video on his constituency and featured the PAP insignia, he was asked to destroy the entire batch of VCDs. Of course, he did so. This is one example which the PAP applied the law on themselves too.
However, the usage of internet as a medium for this Act is unclear. But there is an unspoken mitigation to this. Should a person upload election rallies into a blog with local domains such as “www.sgrally.blogspot.com”, the person is traceable and liable to the Films Act. However, it the website is a worldwide domain such as “www.sgrally.com” or “www.sgrally.org”, the Act is unenforceable even though it contravenes with it. The reason is that dotcoms are hosted overseas in countries such as USA, technically, it is untraceable. Even if Singapore Authorities knew who the person is, enforcing the law to him would be difficult due to the cross-judiciary with another country. Thus, this law is expected to be reviewed and possibly modified, after the elections (considering that there isn’t sufficient time to read the law in parliament from now to elections date).
3) It is true that J.B. Jeyaratnam has sufficient money to clear his bankruptcy and stand for elections?
JBJ stated that he has arranged for a court hearing session scheduled on Tuesday, 14 March 2006 (now adjourned to 28 March at the request of JBJ), to clear his bankruptcy charges. Few days ago, he announced to Straits Times that he has finally got enough money, S$600,000, to clear the bankruptcy charges as well as to stand in a 6-member ward in the coming GE. If he is true on this, it would suggest that he has at least S$681,000 to clear his debts as well as stand for a 6-member GRC (notwithstanding the money needed for campaign process). Is he calling a bluff, met a rich guy or has he struck TOTO? The question is: if he has the money, where did his new found wealth came from?
Not implying any conclusions (make your own judgment on this issue), allow me to bring you back to 12 January 2006, Raffles City Convention Centre. George Soros was in town discussing on the issue of Open Society and Its Challenges. During the forum, he mentioned that “Singapore does not qualify as an open society.” Without mentioning names, Soros referred to a local politician who he said was “in trouble in Singapore because he has been sued for libel and he's been bankrupt and would not be able to stand for parliament.” Soros is founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute, a network of philanthropic organizations active in more than 50 countries. This institute funds and promotes democratic governance and human rights activities. Apparently, on the same day of the forum, J.B. Jeyaratnam was spotted outside the convention centre selling his books. Once again, I would like to stress that it is a possibility but not a conclusion.
A lot of skeptics have doubts on whether will Singapore’s judiciary delay processing JBJ’s case or process the case at normal pace (in which is likely and normally takes weeks or months). In short, will JBJ’s case be processed in time for the Elections? From a friend in the judiciary, I gathered that if JBJ has the money to clear his bankruptcy, the judiciary is likely to expedite the case to clear it before the elections. Two reasons for this: Firstly, the judiciary has been much maligned by the foreign press and media on the treatment of opposition members. The last thing they need is a judiciary controversy to explode in their faces. This is the LHL’s first GE as the Prime Minister and would not want any controversy to say that he is fearful of challenges or win it unfairly. This leads to the second reason: So far, all the past controversies (eg: NKF, Casino) have subsided and would not want to have a judiciary controversy on JBJ to throw their plans off course. Singaporeans’ perception of fairness has increased very much over the years. Should they play the judiciary card on JBJ’s case, Singaporeans will react strongly against the PAP even though they might not support JBJ. This will lead to another NKF-like controversy and aftermath. PM and his Ministers knows this and will not be forcing out JBJ unfairly.
4) Will Prime Minister’s ward (Ang Mo Kio GRC) be contested?
Sylvia Lim, Chairman of Workers' Party, says: “The four GRCs we have named, we may not go to all the four as we are still deciding which are our priorities - that is the likely scenario.” This is in reference to Aljunied GRC, East Coast GRC, Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sembawang GRC. The Workers’ Party is adopting the wait-and-see attitude on J.B. Jeyaratnam’s bankruptcy case. Should JBJ be able to stand, his former party might encourage him to contest in Ang Mo Kio GRC. Two reasons for this:
1) JBJ did fairly well in the battle of Cheng San GRC in 1997 with 45% of the votes against PAP’s Lee Yock Suan. Considering that PAP rolled in the “big guns”, with the likes of Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong, Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan, JBJ still managed 44,132 votes. The Cheng San GRC of those days is absorbed mainly by Ang Mo Kio GRC and partly by Aljunied GRC as well as Pasir Ris-Ponggol GRC. Contesting in his old battleground might yield him a good number of votes.
2) JBJ is 81 years old and he knows that he doesn’t have many years left in him. This is likely to be his last chance to enter the parliament. Thus, he has to solve his inner dilemma of whether to contest in a ward (weak GRC or weak SMC) that is likely to give him a good chance of entering parliament or should he aim for the maximum publicity by challenging the PM’s GRC. Given his age, he might want to go out with a bang and challenge the son of the man who sued him. Maybe he is not so concern with entering parliament but more of generating publicity and a statement to the public and to the world. Time (meaning his age) is not on his side, he has to make the maximum impact in the shortest time. This was one of the reasons why he contested in Cheng San GRC in 1997 when, during then, most would consider it as a strong ward. Today, what better way to return to politics by keeping the PM on his toes?
5) Will Elections be held in March or April? Do the MPs and Ministers know of the date?
Many speculated that GE will be at the March school holidays but it won’t. Reason being, that the Queen Elizabeth is coming to Singapore for an official visit on 16-18 March 2006. It wouldn’t be appropriate for Singapore to be without a government during an official visit from such important dignities. Moreover, it is too taxing for the Ministers and Civil Servants to plan both activities concurrently.
3 April was slated to be next parliamentary seating. 1 May is the day where the Progress Package will be active. In other words, May will be the month where “money will be put into the people’s pockets”. The question is whether the “money in the pockets” or “waiting for money to be in the pockets” is more favourable to PAP. I would choose the latter. If you noticed, most of the Ministers are not assigned to overseas visits from late March to late-April. This is, however, not a directive from the PM, but the Ministers themselves trying not to be away too often, in case of elections being called.
It is often said that Ministers and MPs knew ahead of when the GE date will be. From my sources, this is not that case. Not even the Cabinet Ministers know of the actual date of the GE. As if one person (Minister) knew, it will spread fairly quickly to other MPs and soon, the population. Other than the Prime Minister himself, perhaps only the inner circle would know the rough date. This might include MM, SM, and the two DPMs. DPM Wong Kan Seng, is likely to be one of the first few to know of the expected date of the GE as not only is he the DPM and 1st Asst Secretary General, he is also the Chairman of the PAP HQ Executive Committee. Thus, he is the main person coordinating the logistics, equipment and stuff needed to prepare for the elections. But for the other Ministers and MP, they are kept in the dark on the dates.