4 May 2006

'Gomezgate' not seen as major issue for Singapore voters

Damn those foreign press. Time for the PAP to change the damn record and get back to the bread and butter issues.

Singapore - The furore over an opposition candidate's electoral form is threatening to turn Singapore's general election into a 'Gomezgate,' but will not be a deciding factor for voters in Saturday's general election, political analysts say.

For all the sound and fury, worries about the cost of living, jobs and health care are paramount and will likely catapult the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) back into the power it has held since independence from Malaysia in 1965.

'When it comes to Singapore politics, the litmus test will be whether politicians can take care of their constituencies,' said Terence Chong, a fellow with the Institute of South-East Asian Studies. 'That's what the voters will be looking out for,' he added.

However, instead of keeping the focus on pertinent issues in the short nine-day campaigning period, the PAP has diverted attention to Worker's Party (WP) candidate James Gomez's claim on April 26 that he had submitted his minority race candidacy form to the Elections Department. After the department denied that he had, a security camera recording showed that Gomez put the document back in his briefcase while at the department.

Though still eligible to contest the seat in parliament without filing the form, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew called ethnic Indian Gomez a 'liar' and joined other PAP leaders in urging his withdrawal.

'By chipping away at Gomez, the PAP is hoping the Worker's Party as a whole will be put in a bad light,' said political analyst Chong.

Attacking the 'weakest link' is a classic ploy for the PAP, veteran observers said.

International human rights groups have long criticized the city-state for its spate of defamation suits against political opponents and curbs on freedom of expression.

While the current incident would be regarded as trivial in Western democracies, PAP leaders have indicated that it has no bearing in the city-state of 4.2 million people.

'The young journalists say we must have opposition, we must have this, we must have that,' founding father Lee told a political rally Tuesday night. 'We are not Americans. We are not British. We are not Australian. We are a very unique country.'

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, elevated to the post when his predecessor Goh Chok Tong stepped down in 2004, is aiming for a huge mandate from voters and the elimination of the only two opposition candidates in the 84-member parliament.

The opposition parties managed to prevent the PAP from catapulting into power on Nomination Day by contesting 47 seats, the highest number in 18 years.

Gomez, a 41-year-old researcher with a think-tank based in Sweden called Idea International, said he realized he had become 'the candidate under fire,' but was still focused on contesting the election.

He apologized for causing any distress at the department during a weekend rally and said the incident was a mistake, but refused to elaborate further to reporters.

Also under fire is WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, convinced of Gomez's honesty and seeking a fourth term in parliament from his constituency. His calls to 'move on' and stop distracting the voters 'from the real issues' have gone unheeded.

'How much more embarrassed do you want Gomez to be?' asked political observer Gillian Koh. 'How much blood can you squeeze from this stone?'

Analysts have raised the prospect of the PAP's tactics backfiring if young voters become sympathetic to Gomez's plight and Lee securing less than his hoped for landslide. Concerns have also arisen that Lee may not receive the 75 per cent popular mandate the PAP won in 2001 under then prime minister Goh.

The missing form episode is preventing the parties 'from engaging on the issues that matter,' said Eugene Tan, Singapore Management University assistant law professor. 'It is not that the issue doesn't matter. 'I think we need to rise above this.'

WP chairwoman Sylvia Lim said there would be no Gomez saga if elections were run by an independent commission. The Elections Department reports to the prime minister's office.

'As far as we are concerned, we are clean,' she said. 'Our consciences are clear.'


Anonymous said...

According to the PAP, Gomez would have claimed that the Elections Department deliberately lost his form and he would have accused the ED of colluding with the PAP to deprive him of his Indian Minority Certificate....which....Gomez did not require to contest in Aljunied GRC (Aljunied GRC requires a Malay candidate). Doesn't make sense, right?

The WP has declared that Gomez was never considered for contesting Ang Mo Kio GRC which requires an Indian candidate. This explanation makes PERFECT SENSE: it would be highly unlikely for Gomez to enter parliament by defeating the PM in AMK GRC. Furthermore, the WP team fielded in AMK GRC is obviously the weakest WP team with the least chance of winning. So I believe that all along, Gomez planned to contest Aljunied GRC (Gomez has been courting Aljunied since 2001) where he, along with the strongest WP team, would stand the best chance of winning.

This begs the question: Why did Gomez bother to apply for an Indian Minority Cert? I think Gomez really wanted to keep PAP guessing whether he was going to lead the WP in AMK GRC. It was a 'wayang' for the media and the PAP so as to hamper PAP’s preparation for the election. There is nothing wrong with a bit of deception to keep your enemy guessing what your strategy is.

The real question is: Do you believe that Gomez wanted to submit his Minority Form and he forgot about his non-submission due to too much distraction? If this explanation sounds reasonable and possible, you must also accept that when Gomez showed up to collect his form, he was genuinely upset about the form being misplaced (hence his irritated reaction) but he was NOT trying to frame anyone.

Do you believe that Gomez is trying to FRAME the PAP and Elections Department for losing his form? Can you recall who started the media controversy and the name calling?

What does Gomez have to gain out of framing the Election Department? PAP says Gomez would have made the integrity of the ED and PAP an election issue; where is the proof? Gomez has never questioned the integrity of the Elections Department; he merely said that he did not want to discuss election administration over the media. Also, the WP does not have the track record of SDP when it comes to questioning PAP integrity. Even if we assume Gomez was going to frame the ED and the PAP, who has the immense resources to convince the public otherwise? Who is the public likely to believe?

Did Gomez really expect to get away with framing the ED? Gomez was in a closely monitored environment with multiple CCTV cameras which PAP claims Gomez was not aware of. Even from the CNA video footage of the Gomez incident (go to the CNA website), I can clearly see the CCTV cameras and they are not concealed. Moreover, every opposition politician knows that the ISD monitors your every move, especially during elections! It would have been a suicide mission for Gomez to attempt framing the ED.

There are a lot of speculative "Gomez-would-have-accused-PAP/Elections Department-of-collusion" accusations being made by the PAP. The PAP has an excuse to attack Gomez because of the lack of independence of the Elections Department. The WP Manifesto is right: the Elections Department should be a neutral and independent office and not under the direct control of the PAP. Why must every public service in Singapore, from the LTA (fixing flooded roads) to the Election Departments be linked to the PAP?

All this self-righteous sound and fury is very distasteful and not becoming of a first world government.

Anonymous said...

this is a boring election without much to talk about so need to create something

Anonymous said...

well, whatever it is. by the fact that ED has allowed gomez to enter the nomination hall to report himself for the nomination has proved that everything is fine and should not pose any problem at all for the election.

Anonymous said...

Pls read Yawning Bread- The GRC Election Quiz

Anonymous said...

As I have said before, empty vessels make the most noise. The Peanuts And more Peanuts party have nothing much else to say.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that Singaporans believe they live in a democracy when you so clearer live in a dictatorship. When are you going to wake up?