Punggol is really quite a charming place; it’s ulu, it’s served by this very foreign thing called an LRT, and some parts look straight out of the sungeis and jungles of Malaysia. I really like the Park Connector Network in that area; NParks has done quite a good job in sprucing the place up and making it bicycle-friendly – it’s quite unlike the urban, concrete jungle that is the rest of Singapore, and sufficiently far removed enough from Bukit Timah for it to look somewhat exotic to me.
I take it that everybody knows that a by-election in that Single-Member Constituency is coming up. After all, Speaker Michael Palmer’s resignation over his extra-marital affairs made front page of our flagship daily oh so recently. And what juicy news it was, especially when you consider that former WP MP Yaw Shin Leong resigned over exactly the same thing. Oh well, these things can happen to anybody, you really can’t predict when or where or why these things happen.
So, four parties. I don’t think it’s quite surprising, actually. We have the Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Desmond Lim, the Worker’s Party’s Lee Li Lian, and of course the People’s Action Party’s Koh Poh Koon. It really isn’t a fight about the person, although Mr. Desmond Lim is trying to make that point, and to his advantage, I might add. It’s really a clash between parties, and what a spectacular clash it has been so far.
I think, with no chance of a ‘freak election’, and considering current local and national issues that have riled the common Punggol East voter, this election will be a very close one. It’s hard to tell who will win, but it is the general view of the educated person that either Koh Poh Koon or Lee Li Lian will win the fight. This, despite the considerable efforts of Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Desmond Lim, all because they don’t wear blue or white – and of course, how badly they’ve done so far, in terms of campaigning.
This isn’t to say that these two haven’t done a rather entertaining job. Their actions have been nothing short of laughable, although I do hope that one of them gets elected. Being an engineered nation, we generally accord excessive importance to national symbols, such as our pledge, our flag, etc. For someone to mangle the pledge, and in such a ridiculous fashion, is a sure way to ensure that nobody will vote for you.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s claims of obscure death threats and his lovely English accent don’t help much either, although you could say that I am using an argument ad hominem. I’m just saying that it’s these little little things that will affect the voter. The voter isn’t obliged to vote based on the policies your party has in store for them, they’ll vote based on whatever the hell they want to. He’s been playing his father’s card as well, as so ostentatiously evidenced by the big poster he hung up during his rally, and those speeches he’s been making.
Desmond Lim, on the other hand, truly sounds like a local. I’m sure, as he claims he can, he could be a dedicated local, a determined leader if he wanted to. Nevertheless, his antics, including paying ‘volunteers’ (am I the only one who sees an oxymoron here?), and his online rally have really damaged his votability in the run-up. This isn’t to say that the online rally wasn’t interesting – it was quite a departure from tradition, for good reasons such as innovation, and for bad reasons as it allowed us to revisit his bad speaking skills over and over again. One can hardly imagine him conducting a spirited argument in parliament.
I have no idea what these parties wish to bring into parliament in terms of the policies they hope to be able to change, and especially since one MP can hardly affect the balance in our current legislature, I hardly think I should bother. But this election is not without its symbolism, and it’s definitely about sending a message. Now, I do not agree with a duopoly, especially considering the Worker’s Party’s lackluster, if even satisfactory performance in parliament so far.
If it is one person, who could hardly affect the voting balance in parliament, I would probably support getting either Kenneth Jeyaretnam or Desmond Lim, people with obvious speaking impediments, into parliament. Not because I think they can robustly defend or attack policies – in fact I believe the PAP MPs could do a better job than them – but because of the message it sends to both the Worker’s Party and the People’s Action Party.
Unlike most of those non-discerning opposition sympathisers, I do not think that the ruling party is inherently misanthropic; I do not think that their policies are specifically designed for our disbenefit. Rather, I just think that the focus of our government could be shifted slightly towards an emphasis on happiness rather than pure, if unbalanced and non-uniform economic growth. I think they could do a better job, but then again, it’d be ridiculous for them to claim that they were perfect.
What would Kenneth Jeyaretnam or Desmond Lim mean for parliament? It doesn’t reduce the PAP majority significantly and they will still make up 89% of the house, including the NCMPs. I think, hopefully, it would encourage a more consultative form of government. I don’t think unseating the PAP would do Singapore good, especially at this juncture, but I hope that a more diverse legislature will encourage more critical discourse and introspection in the house – and hopefully not symbolically.
So, yes, I am looking forward to the elections this Saturday. I’m eager to see what the people of Punggol East have to say, especially since they have this right of suffrage that I don’t have, and won’t even have at the next election (why was I born in 96!). I know what the odds are, but I guess I can still look forward to this Saturday, if only to have the pleasure of listening to the Returning Officer, Yam Ah Mee, announce the results.