I’m very impressed with WP’s strategic maneuver. Mr Low Thia Kiang is a very astute politician. He doesn’t say much but he’s a keen observer of PAP and SDP. Whenever they do something, he can tell immediately why those parties do what they do.
In the most recent case where SDP had proposed to meet with WP to discuss on a ‘coordinated’ arrangement for the Punggol East by-elections, WP and Mr Low knew immediately what the implications are. SDP is an up and coming party, or was – right before their current overtures – and wanted to align themselves with WP’s brand name and image to lift themselves up into the minds of Singaporeans. Unfortunately, this isn’t ethical, to what most Singaporeans think.
I will explain why this is so. Every party has their unique values and propositions. And every party has a holistic responsibility to fulfil The different parties can unite under one umbrella, to form a alliance to rule, on a broad government level – if and only if they are representative of what the voter population want. And if they do get a majority of the votes when combined, they necessarily are more representative than the other party, or parties combined. Now, to be clear, they continue to be separate parties who would want to come together to make decisions on an equal level – where they continue to perform ALL the necessary functions of governance in parliament as well as towards their constituency.
However, what SDP has proposed is to split the roles of governance, such that they take on the role in parliament – national governance, while WP takes on the role of the local government to run the town council. This is unethical and unequal because the national and local governance confer different amount of influence and media coverage – SDP, or whoever has devised this split concept, has calculated this to be to their advantage, so that they would most likely get the ‘glory’ – because of the ‘more showy’ presence of national governance. Also, what this means is SDP, or whoever it was, has overestimated their/his own strategic prowess.
WP has interacted with SDP, or this person, on a closer level and has read the intentions that this person has. And they have thus decided not to engage SDP or this person at all. Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that SDP is thus not believable. It is very, very unfortunate because SDP, or the rest of everyone who had joined during and after the past elections, have been very good at their job – Vincent, for example. If you ask me, would Vincent have wanted to contest in Punggol East? I would say he wouldn’t have. I have seen heard him speak before and he’s not someone in pursuit of glory, or that’s what I think. But I might be proven wrong if he does indeed stand as a candidate.
If anything, SDP would need to remove whoever it is that has created the current complications because this person(s) has allowed his/her/their own ego(s) to get in the way of a coordinated response to achieve balance in the democratic landscape of Singapore, and this is terribly uncalled for. If SDP doesn’t remove this/these person(s), it would be necessary to leave the party and set up another one, and to reestablish themselves, as much as this would also hit their image significantly. Otherwise, they would need to keep this/these person(s) heavily in check.
Back to WP, Mr Low is also very astute at reading PAP. I would like to bring you to this very specific example – why did WP announce that they would not take part in Our National Conversation? If WP had done so, it would suggest that they are giving PAP implicit approval for PAP’s doings and this will affect people’s perceptions towards WP – where’s the backbone? Where’s the unique identity that WP should create? If they had done so, people would even more heavily criticise them at this point. Also, taking note that WP and Mr Low would keenly understand how PAP has its hands in everything in Singapore – the economy, judiciary etc, then what this means is PAP controls the discourse for everything in Singapore, so even if Our National Conversation claims to be listening to all Singaporeans, who would eventually get heard? Note that PAP controls all discourse – so would this change anything? If in fact PAP is sincere about listening to Singaporeans, they wouldn’t have said that “no sacred cows” would be sacrificed. If you are truly sincere about listening to Singaporeans, you will change policies, if that’s what the people want.
You see, just by these two illustrations, you can tell that WP and Mr Low are very seasoned – as a political party and politician – in the necessary understanding of the political landscape in Singapore. And I take my hats off to him. It is also very important that WP has with them Ms Sylvia Lim as their chairman. Her grasp of the law means that because of her, the party has been able to remain above board, because they haven’t been dragged into the muddy politics that PAP has dragged the other parties in.
So, you see, WP is a party that can be reckoned with to provide the leadership and strategic direction needed to move Singapore into the next chapter. In fact, this is what Singapore needs at the moment – we need a fatherly figure like Mr Low Thia Kiang and a motherly figure like Ms Sylvia Lim to provide the nurturing environment required to allow Singaporeans to rediscover ourselves and to find comfort and solace in having leaders who are able to take the time to groom, and the patience to smile, and to lead with gentility, when the time comes. That WP, Mr Low and Ms Lim do not make sudden movements show immensely the maturity and dignified way that they hold themselves. They are the figures that we need to bring Singapore into the next chapter.
Now, am I championing WP at the expense of the other parties? Well, no – as I’ve mentioned, the only relevant parties that do have any influence are WP, NSP and SDP, as can be seen in their top 3 voting proportion in GE 2011. Unfortunately, SDP might just have let their lead fade away overnight, and they would need to build it again. I haven’t mentioned NSP in this article because in the current by-elections, they have chosen to respectfully not be involved because of the agreements made in GE 2011. This, by itself, would have already say a lot, and very admirably so, about them and their ethical behaviour.
Which is why, the residents of Punggol East need to vote decisively for WP – for change. Funnily, DPM Teo Chee Hean has suggested that this by-elections is a local election. And of course they would want to do that – by too many accounts, if they even discuss the national issues at this by-elections, PAP will fail miserably. And so, they’ve been trying terribly hard to focus the issue as a local one. And if the residents are aware, they would know than to let this be a local elections. As much as Punggol East is a small constituency, they represent a hugely symbolic role in reinforcing to PAP how PAP has veered so far off track and has become irrelevant (at least to a significant group of Singaporeans), and the residents of Punggol East are thus tasked with the responsibility to speak up for Singaporeans.
Why do I say it’s not a local issue? For example, whether a market gets located in any constituency is hardly a decision of the the MP of that constituency. If you look at the larger picture, why should the government locate a market in one constituency, if the residents can find other markets in their vicinity which are located right next in the neighbouring constituencies? You need to understand that decisions such as the placement of a market is made on a national level and most probably by the National Environment Agency (NEA), who decides on the locales of the markets, by looking at the number of people within an area and finding a centralised locale to situate a market. Thus even if a PAP candidate were to suggest that they could locate a market in the constituency, what would more likely have happened was that they would have asked NEA if there were plans to build a market in that area, which they will then champion for if there are plans, rather than champion for a market and then ask NEA to build one – the latter option would be non-strategic and not calculated for maximum efficiency for the distribution of resources, on a national planning level. Similarly, any other discussion on local issues, such as bus routes, would also have been made on a national holistic level, than at a constituency level.
So, along the same lines, any party who champion local issues either know that championing local issues is of little significance but continue to do it because they are fearful of discussing national issues – like PAP, or they simply does not think strategically – Like SDA. SDA has said that they want to focus on local issues. I’ve explained that local issues are of very little significance because major decisions such as bus routes or the placement of centres are made on a national level. I would advise SDA to go back to the drawing board and plan strategically about how they want to achieve better political goals for GE 2016.
With this, I would like to urge the residents of Punggol East to make a strategic choice that would reflect the betterment of Singaporeans and our aspirations for a social and political landscape that is balanced and one that has our needs at heart and which listens to ALL our voice and addresses ALL our concerns clearly. We need to have balance within our government. As it is, PAP controls everything in Singapore. Without balance and fair representation, Singaporeans will continue to be marginalised in our own country. We need to do what is right and what is fair, so that we can continue to build a Singapore that is ours, and for our generation to come.