An old friend who lives in Aljunied and does voluntary work in the neighbourhood took the day off yesterday to think about his choice today. He has made his decision, and asked me to make his assessment available on my blog. His thoughts follow below. You decide whether or not you agree with him.
Vote in the manner that you think is right today. I will be doing the same too. Majulah Singapura!
Dear friends of Aljunied,
I wish to thank my dear friend, Dharmendra, who has graciously allowed me to voice my thoughts here.
I am a very privileged person in that:
a) I am a resident of Aljunied, and maybe more importantly,
b) I have had the unique opportunity of seeing the inner workings of the PAP as an insider and yet, at the same time, be a recipient of its draconian oppression.
At the end of this simple note, you will not be told who to vote for. But you will have the benefit of hindsight of checking off the incumbents and its competition in a fair, objective manner. So let me start.
I have written many letters for residents who have come in for unheard of problems, untold horrors, and situations which you and I, may never hear about anywhere – the type of things that make Nicole Seah cry her heart out for weeks and weeks. Some of these things that I am about to relate will sound familiar, the others, not very common. They are not yarn spinned from my imagination but rather, the very cases that Meet The Peoples' (MPS) sessions see. Uncensored.
True life everyday situations of the 60+ year old cleaner lady who sleeps at her Senior Citizens' Corner every day because her family has abandoned her, surviving on a meager intermittent income of $400. Unable to rent a room because room rentals are too high. But yet, having $50,000 in her Retirement Account and nothing much else anywhere else.
Or like the pretty, dolled-up mother who dragged her child in and was busy chiding him whilst pouring out her predicament on being unable to pay for her home mortgage because she is a divorcee and not working. Not working? So how then do you pay for your bills ? (Hesitation... and then in a low voice, I service men in my other room to get by. You mean you...? Yes, I have to, my maintenance sum was not paid and I was retrenched when some foreigners came.)
Can you just pause and reflect on this? She is “working” in the one room, while her children are studying in the other.
I can just go on and on and on, but that is not my intent. What we need to realize here is that, there is a crack in the system, and a rather huge on at that. I wish I can tell you about how some families sleep in tents by the beach, waiting for some kind relative to render them some assistance. About how some families get by, about how the banks will come for their houses due to their arrears, about the man who went to jail for not paying his ERP summons! (yes you heard me right!) The list just goes on.
But the point I am trying to drive here is simple. Somehow, with all the usual rhetoric about how many schemes are in place to help, a huge many people need help, in one way or the other. Don't believe me? Go down to MPS session and get a perspective on things.
Which brings me to my point.
What is my MP doing about it? Is writing a letter to appeal for so and so going to solve the problem? I don't think so. The problems are more deep seated than just that. Ministers who ask pointed questions on how much is enough should take a chair, sit down and wonder how those words can escape from their mouths.
So how do we solve the problem? Frankly, I do not know. But I do have a view. And let me share it.
I have heard many wonderful things about how Mr Low bothers about the well-being of his residents. I need that attention in my Aljunied. We the residents deserve more, than merely Ministers who come around for functions to shake hands, take photos, smile and be chauffeured away. I don't need a poster boy Minister. I need someone who can take care of the people who need help, the voiceless, the helpless, the desperate and the destitute.
I need love and compassion in my ward – and that my friends, George Yeo and company cannot provide. Either due to their hectic work schedules or their packed travel schedules. The only one who might be able to help is Cynthia Phua. And may I remind you, that I have witnessed first hand how she is when she speaks. I wonder why the papers did not pick up on the fact that the low IQ boy did not throw the chair on the numerous OTHER times he came to see her. All I can say is, this woman can improve her tone of voice.
My point. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his team will do a better job here. Sincerity is one of those strange things like love, it can be felt yet not seen.
Next up, power.
During the formative years, the desire to serve the people burnt in the heart of men. Now, I fear that the desire to retire in a comfortable home overrides all else.
I am not against million-dollar salaries. But I do disagree if my MP is being paid a few million dollars and only appears during elections, and that too with his many bodyguards. I disagree with this line of argument that you have to pay the top dollar to attract the talent. That is absolutely untrue!
Men and women who have servitude written in their hearts will put service for the people first. Not the paycheck. If the salary is a strong contention point, then obviously we are attracting the wrong kinds of voices to be representative of the people.
My dear friends, George Yeo mentioned that he wants to reform the party from within or something. Let me tell you, this will NOT HAPPEN!
He tried to do that when he was new in Parliament. Vivian Balakrishnan tried that. Now look at them, both poster boys for PAP and its policies.
Why wouldn't this so called take place? Ah, this is what the public has been missing for so long.
You see my dear friends, the power lies in the hands of only a select few. The rest of them merely string along. And if that is not enough, the constitution has been tweaked to guarantee that.
So the ones who disagree or ask too many questions will be subject to a dismissal (stepping down in the name of renewal), public humiliation (Devan Nair) or covertly moved around.
This power now rests with the ruling party. Not with the people any more.
Which is why there is no need for them to consult us on anything. To avoid answering questions which are asked. To defend their kind should there be the rare debate. And naturally, to tweak the boundaries even further so that the votes come swinging in their favour.
Your MP is impotent in Parliament. Your MP cannot be asking any hard questions. Your MP will not be allowed to ask any questions that run contrary to the doctrine. Debate will be for the sake of debate and not much else.
All the best intentions and promises have no bearing when put forward to the Council of Elders. So you think people like Cynthia Phua or Zainul Abidin or George Yeo will ask any questions?
Let me put it another way, when was the last time you heard them speak in Parliament?
My point. Mr Low Thia Khiang and his team will do a better job here. They have an agenda which is different from the PAP and that will serve my family well. It is good to have some debate on the things that matter. Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh have a fiery attitude that can be harnessed to good use. In Chen Show Mao and Low Thia Khiang, we have the breadth of experience and the depth of corporate knowledge.
Accountability is next. (Bear with me here, we are near the end :-))
The PAP does not need to answer to anyone now. My MP in Parliament was often caught snoozing on camera and I suspect things are not going to change. I believe some debate will help everyone do some work before coming into the House.
I cannot fathom why and how people like Tin Pei Ling can serve. Maybe she can. Maybe she cannot. I don't know. And I don't wish to know. Because, I believe, she might just stomp her feet if her higher ups stare down at her. She is not the decision maker. Merely one of the numbers required to form the consensus.
We need to know our current situation on a lot of things. There is nothing secret really. You think Malaysia or Indonesia have nothing to do except look at our reserves and drool? Come on. Anyone who reads a balance sheet can put one and one together to form at least part of the actual picture. So no surprises there really.
My point. Mr Low and his team will be able to ask questions on a huge spectrum of issues. Why GST is at 7% ? If not 7% then how much? Why so much of this and not that? Why Why Why?
Because no shareholder in his company will be able to sleep at night if he does not know the fiscal position of his company. And my friends, we are all shareholders.
I want to touch on my last point very briefly. I believe this is something that can help the middle 50% or so voters who are undecided on who to vote for.
Let me begin my opening my argument on PAP since they seem to have the upper hand on literally everything.
Minister George Yeo is an engineer who went on to perform really well in his portfolio. I know the man and he is warm. Pritam Singh might just be right. GY is in the wrong party. But if you dig deeper, you might notice that he too did not say anything when his pay increased. I suspect reform from within is merely an aspiration.
Senior Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Minister George Yeo. He is slated to be the next speaker. And truthfully, he is also a warm man who has a ready smile for everyone. But smiles do not solve problems. And I cannot recall he spoke about anything at all in Parliament.
Mdm Lim Hwee Hwa has a flourishing business outside of politics. But what irks me is that she questions without examining her conduct first. She was the one who could not / refused to give official figures when asked.
Mdm Cynthia Phua is a walkover. So is the other chap.
Next, Workers Party.
Mr Low Thia Khiang, politician and parliamentarian for the past 20 years. Has a proven track record to caring for residents and their well being. Might not sound very good in English, but I can see his heart resonates with us.
Ms Sylvia Lim, lecturer and politician. Ms Lim is a grounded lady. I have seen her on numerous occasions and am also keen to hear her speak on issues which the incumbent MP cannot broach on. Her speech on Ministerial Salaries was positively a stunner given the candour and demeanour she dished it out.
Mr Pritam Singh is a fiery chap who is able to rouse the crowds. I believe his vigour and sincerity will come through when he leverages on his legal background to ask some very touchy questions with a straight face.
Mr Chen Show Mao is indeed a celebrity. He has all the makings of an extraordinary human being, but with a heart. Let us think for a moment, why would anyone in his right frame of mind come forward to be taunted and tried by joining the opposition? Why would he want to come forward when he has to forgo his million dollar salary package and perks to come walk the ground with his colleagues? Surely, the PAP would have died to have him in their ranks. The only reason I can think of is his humility and his magnanimity.
No views on the Malay candidate.
So, to round things up, I wish to say this.
The foundations and mechanics of the system we have today have been laid by our forefathers. People like David Marshall, Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam, Lim Chin Siong and so on. The system is already operational, and it does not require any drastic changes to keep it from running.
The current crop of leaders have inherited a “franchise”. All they need to do is to be present to operate it. It is a turn-key so there is not much there to do.
Having said that, competition is real. Be it globally or from within. And our leaders, save a handful, might not be able to appreciate that.
So it is only fit and proper that someone who has international exposure to look into how we can tweak this further. That man is Chen Show Mao. He will be the one who can, with his experience, look at things objectively and make a call. He has within him, the calibre to ask the right set of questions.
And trust me, none of the current Cabinet have anything even close to him. The closest match I see will be Mr K Shanmugam.
And so my dear friends of Aljunied and Singapore, my vote is for the Workers' Party.
An Aljunied Resident
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?
Do leave a comment as it will make a difference.