What “Elections” Mean to Me
With the hype of the General Elections circulating in our media, I wonder to myself if Singaporeans really and truly understand the meaning of elections? To the apathetic youths, the General Elections might only be a procedural formality to affirm the PAP as the legitimate government. To the polarized youths, they looked at the GE with skepticism on the fairness of the PAP and the GE. Some sections of the public believed that the voting slip is deliberately coded to trace people who voted against the PAP. Over 20,000 people voted for Oppositions (in Jurong GRC) during the last elections, and we didn’t see 20,000 people being discriminated against. I’ve friends who openly declared their preference for the Oppositions but yet, still hold high offices in the civil service and never been discriminated against. Many urban legends have sprouted and many are false. Personally, I don’t think the PAP is that vindictive nor have that many resources to track who voted against them.Apathy of a Singaporean
The problem is that it has become a convenient excuse for the people to self-censor their political preference and using their non-participation as a smoke-screen for their apathy. Stand up for what you believe in and stop being a “closet” opposition or “closet” PAP! If there is one argument that really irks me, is when people grumble over not being able to vote when their constituency is not challenged by the oppositions. Then, they will start blaming the PAP repression, the lack of democracy, the paternalistic governance or the inability to demonstrate their political ownership due to the “unfair” electoral rules. If you seriously think that you need an alternative voice in the polls, sign up and pay the membership fees to the Oppositions so that they have more resources to work with. All it takes is for 30 Singaporeans to pool their Progress Package bounty, one for candidate to stand for elections and another 50,000 people will be able vote. Seriously, the empty talks and the groundless accusations should end and Singaporeans should start exercising their political voice. The system can only be as democracy or as autocratic if your mind permits. If you think Singapore is not democratic, you are already seeing through a biased perception lens. Far too long, Singaporeans chose to self-censor. I say, forgot about so-called PAP repression. If it existed, it is history. Political ownership is not about whining and groaning, it is about knowing your beliefs and sticking to your beliefs. We lived in one of the smallest surface area in South Asia but we are one of the richest in the world. However, in our mindless pursuit of wealth, we lost our souls. The world may be your oyster, but you only have one home, a home called Singapore.Meaning of Elections
Do Singaporeans truly understand the word “elections”? We all ought to but never tried to. This word encapsulates 2,600 years of human trial and error, blood, sweat and even lives. Yet, we treated the “elections” with skepticism, apathy, distrustfulness and even ridicule the whole sacredness of it. If one looks through the philosophies and histories of the concept of elections, three words persist through the thousands of years, millions of minds: Equality, Justice and Happiness. It is no coincidence that the three words, Equality, Justice and Happiness appeared in our pledge, written by the late S. Rajaratnam. Raja did not simply throw in these three words into our pledge just because they are suitable words. These words are the ultimate goals of the human race that we have strived for the thousands of years. A learned man like Raja seeks through the thousands of books he read just to understand the purpose of life. What is life and what would man seek that they are so willing to forgo their lives just to pursue this end? Ultimately, every human will have to die someday. Life is not about pursing wealth, fame and fortune, but serving an end beyond itself. An end the purports equality, justice and happiness to future generations.Demeaning Elections
Sadly, an increasing disturbing trend of elections in Singapore is equating upgrades and material wealth for representation. Such economic benefits should not be placed on the table as a stake for your votes or mine. If we do start a trend of votes equating to upgrades, MRT stations and other economic wealth, it will only dilute the idea of Singapore identity and replaced it with economic pragmatism. Should candidates or parties be chosen because they have “deeper” pockets to provide Lift Upgrades? Maybe yes, maybe no. But on any given day, I would insist that the answer is no. Regardless of your voting preference, no Singaporeans should be made less well-off in terms of assets than another just because he/she prefers the Opposition to represent his political voice.
The idea of elections is to decide the best people to lead and represent the interest of the Singaporeans for the betterment of Singapore. Elections and votes should never be on self-interest in preserving their own asset values and forsaking the idea of a better Singapore. Parties and candidates should be compared not on the “depths of their pockets” but by their abilities to represent the interest of Singaporeans and make Singapore a better place. Do not vote for the Oppositions just because they are the underdogs or that you simply want to exercise your political voice by not voting to PAP (since you think the PAP will win, by voting for them is similar to not voting – “By-Elections Effect”). Similarly, do not vote the PAP just because you want to have upgrading at your blocks. Judge them by their quality of ideas, opinions, character and sincerity. They should represent not just your own interest but must benefit Singapore as a whole. By that, we don’t need 84 President’s scholars seating in the parliament. We need Members of Parliament to serve the people, not to serve power; who know the ground, not just knowing figures, numbers and statistics.Words to Would-be-MPs
Most, if not all, of the new PAP candidates will be elected into the parliament. Yes, many of them are corporate high-flyers that have recently “helped” out at grassroots and community events. If anyone of the new-MPs ever read this, may I just provide my 2-cents worth. Do not be blinded by the sudden fame and power. With elections nearing, you are pushed into the media limelight but do keep your head up and your feet on the ground. We don’t need opportunists in parliament that seeks power, fame and fortune. Many argued that politics is about serving power, but I would naively beg to defer. Politics is about people and serving people. In the past, we have seen new candidates promoted into Ministerial positions straight after elections, with their impressive credentials. Paper politics is vastly different from people’s politics. Some found out that they are not suited to deal with lower strata of society and quit office before the next GE. They have nothing to lose as by quitting office, they could easily step back into the corporate world or even the GLCs (Government-linked Companies) as Directors or CEOs.
Truly, I do hope that the new candidates know what they are up for and against. Being a MP or Minister is not always about the high-life, of glam and prestige. It takes lots of personal sacrifices, human relationship and energy to translate ideals to actions, actions to reality. Be a pro-Singapore MP and not a pro-PAP MP. Ideally, what is best for the country is best for the Party. But in reality, things may not be so simply. When the crunch time comes, all you need to know is whether you are born as a Singaporean or a “PAPian”.Words to the Oppositions
“A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea
.” – John Anthony Ciardi.
Perhaps one of the major flaws of democracy is the tendency for Oppositions to oppose for the sake of opposing. However, I do have strong admiration to some opposition members for their devotion to serving the people and playing fair. These opposition MPs do seek to better outcomes and future for Singapore. For every credible and good opposition, there are the wayward ones. There are other “unelected opposition members” that rants to foreign sympathizers on how the Singapore system is undemocratic and so on. They are fighting based ideologies such as civil disobedience and liberal democracy but have nothing to show when it comes to the polls. Why is that so? Another conspiracy theory on how the voting forms are coded? Has he ever wondered why is Mahatma Gandhi able to mobilize the masses to be civil disobedient against the Colonial powers but not him?
The system did not fail him, but he failed to understand the system. Has he spend more time campaign on his ideals, protesting, jetting from seminars to seminars, countries to countries to make mockery of the Singapore system or has he sat down with the residents the write petitions for them? Perhaps, more than any other countries, Singapore and Singaporeans are mindful and pragmatic on their needs, wealth and wellbeing. If you are an ordinary layman that received help (not just financial but social and physical help) from avenues such as Meet-the-People sessions, would you vote for someone who rants about the faults of the system or someone that sat down with you to help you with your problems? Paper politics and opposition based on ideologies do not serve people but only blinds the politician with power, angst and anger. If you think that the system is unfair to you, and you go raging to foreign media and press, are you benefiting your self-interest or the interest of Singapore?
Once, in the American Presidential Elections, the candidate that was favorite to win, lost due to some dodgy inconsistency in votes and large number of spoilt votes in the last polling state. The governor of the last polling state was the brother of his rival candidates. Under such suspicious circumstances, he has every right to call for an investigation or vote recount. But he didn’t and accepted defeat. The reason is that he didn’t want to make an international mockery of the system and harm the public image of the country for his own self-interest. While you may disagree with the system, ask yourself if by going to the foreign press, are you doing Singapore’s image good or harm?Chasing an Elusive Goal: Knowing What and Why You Chase
What is democracy? Is democracy a means to a better end or is this the end itself? Liberal thinking youths often criticize the government for their strict controls over freedom of speech and media restrain. But what is freedom of speech too? Another ends, or a means to an end? If today, the elusive “freedom of speech” has been granted to all, what is the next forbidden fruit you are going to pursue? Freedom of speech needs to purport an ultimate end, an end that is not simply explainable by criticism and the whole notion of democracy. Ultimately, the first fighters of freedom of speech and democracy are people striving for equality, justice and happiness.
Yes, no doubt that PAP will return to power on the next General Elections. But never should we take our every vote for granted and for ridicule. If you vote just based on hatred or apathy, you have betrayed your future generations and the learned men who seek Justice, Equality and Happiness. If you want the responsibility, you will first have to think beyond self-interest or even beyond the interest of your inner circles. You, determine Singapore and Singapore is just an empty shell without you. Individuals come and pass, but Singapore will live on, but how well it lives depends on your action today. Today, it might just be an Election on whom and which party becomes the government. But tomorrow, it will determine the future of the next generation. Men strived for democracy for hundreds of years just to have a stake in the nation’s future. Today, you inherited this intangible gift and it is your responsibility to exercise it with care and understanding.
Currently, there are several pieces of legislation and guidelines which cover Internet campaigning issues or which touch on such matters. These include the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) and the Election Advertising Regulations under the PEA, and the Class Licence Scheme and the Internet Code of Practice administered by the Media Development Authority (MDA).
2. Political parties, candidates and election agents are permitted to use the Internet for election advertising based on a “positive list” of activities listed in the Election Advertising Regulations.
3. The “positive list” ensures the responsible use of the Internet during the elections. In a free-for-all Internet environment, where there are no rules, political debates could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public. The Government has always maintained that political debates should be premised on factual and objective presentation of issues and arguments. The regulations governing Internet campaigning have served well to safeguard the seriousness of the electoral process.
4. Political parties, candidates and their election agents will continue to be guided by the “positive list” in the Election Advertising Regulations in the coming general elections. Party political websites must be registered with the MDA. Failure to register is a breach of the class licence conditions.
5. Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore , they are required to register with the MDA. During the election period, these registered persons will not be permitted to provide material online that constitutes election advertising.
6. Mr Low has asked about podcasting. I take podcasting to mean the provision of an audio feed over the Internet to subscribers. As I have noted, during the election period, political parties, candidates and election agents must keep to permitted election advertising set out in the “positive list”. Podcasting does not fall within this list.
7. There are also some well-known local blogs run by private individuals who have ventured into podcasting. The content of some of these podcasts can be quite entertaining. However, the streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting, or video streaming of explicitly political content.
8. At this point, the Government has no intention to amend the legislation regulating Internet campaigning during an election. But the review of government regulations is a continual process so as to ensure that they are kept up-to-date. We recognise that in our society, people will have their diverse opinion and some will want to share their opinion. But people should not take refuge behind the anonymity of the Internet to manipulate public opinion. It is better and more responsible to engage in political debates in a factual and objective manner.