7 May 2006

When Defeat is Sweeter than Victory

Now that the elections are over, the time has come for us to take stock and look back at what has happened over the past two weeks. The biggest winner in this election has got to be the Workers' Party. With its slate of young, talented and charismatic candidates, the WP has managed to capture the imagination of all Singaporeans - and the hearts and minds of at least 1 in 3 of the electorate. The WP has shown itself to be pro-Singapore, and not anti-PAP. It has spoken up for the lowest-income group of Singaporeans, and has also earned plaudits from the disenfranchised intelligentsia. Above all, its candidates have conducted themselves with dignity and class, a marked departure from the usual Opposition candidates, and even more tellingly, from the ruling PAP. In the face of intense character assassination tactics, they have stood firm, refusing to wilt, and at the same time refusing to get dragged down into a mudslinging contest.

Sylvia Lim has modestly admitted that the WP is not yet a 'first world opposition party'. Low Thia Khiang, at his rallies, introduced the Aljunied candidates by saying acknowledging his personal shortcomings, and indicating that his charges would be able to do a better job than he. He also paid respects to the late President Ong Teng Cheong, and even to the PAP's Lee Kuan Yew, calling on voters not to disappoint him, and help him achieve his vision of a more open and inclusive society. Low also mentioned that all the candidates, including the WP, were prepared to lose, and that they would not have joined the party if this was not the case. During their final rally at Serangoon Stadium, all the WP candidates stood together in a show of solidarity and patriotism, and recited the pledge. 50,000 supporters spontaneously recited along with them in unison. Ironically, the pledge was penned by one of the PAP's founding fathers, S. Rajaratnam - reciting it made many people realise just how far the PAP has departed from the principles it embodies, in particular, that of a 'democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation'. Candidate Chia Ti Lik also tugged at our heartstrings when he chastised the Government for forgetting that 'one of the stars on our flag stands for equality'.

Perhaps the biggest symbol of their intent, however, was the fielding of a team comprising completely of first-time candidates, with absolutely no election experience under their belts, and with an average age of 32 despite the inclusion of 52-year-old Gopal Krishnan, in the Prime Minister's own 6-member constituency. Critics had written this team off as the 'Suicide Six', with the Prime Minister himself stating that he would like to 'ensure that this costs them some money' (referring to their $13,500 election deposits) and PAP Chairman Lim Boon Heng boldly asserting that the Prime Minister would be returned with an 85% majority. Undaunted and unfazed, the 'Suicide Six' worked hard to canvass for support, visiting residents door-to-door, and presenting their campaign material to heartlanders in the coffee shops.

Low Thia Khiang praised them during one of his speeches, remarking that 'gan si hao guo pa si' (daring to die is better than being afraid to die) - a pointed barb at the anonymous PAP candidates who were seeking election, some through walkover, to Parliament on the back of the cabinet ministers who were anchoring their GRC teams. To me, this point was especially pertinent given that most Singaporeans are unwilling to do anything about their lives even if they are unhappy; we are a nation afflicted with numbing apathy, resistance to change, and a dreadful paucity of passion, idealism and conviction. Despite the fact that they were up against such formidable opposition, and received almost no press coverage in their attempt to do so, the 'Suicide Six' garnered one-third of the votes in Ang Mo Kio. This was the lowest percentage of votes ever garnered by a Prime Minister in his own constituency in recorded history.

The dedication, courage and conviction displayed by the WP candidates in this election has certainly won many voters over. The PAP has experienced a sharp fall in its percentage of votes, with its majorities being reduced in every single constituency contested. Sylvia Lim has been the embodiment of class and dignity, remaining concentrated on bread-and-butter issues and retaining the moral high ground despite the seasoned PAP ministers harping on ad nauseam about the James Gomez non-incident and questioning the integrity of the Opposition. They have won many people over in a very short span of time, and there is no doubt that they will continue to win people over if they continue with their present approach. They have started to fan the winds of change in a nation amongst whose citizens politics, especially opposition politics, is seen as taboo, with tens of thousands of fervent supporters attending their rallies and night after night. Never since the days of the old Malaysia Cup has anything been able to unite so many people. They have made many people, including this writer, proud to be Singaporean, when previously they did not know how it felt to be so.

They have showed us the meaning of courage - that it is not in fact the absence of fear, but the will to act in spite of it.

There are indeed times when defeat tastes sweeter than victory.

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This song is dedicated to all Singaporeans and candidates of all political parties who want to shape a better future for our nation. Thank you for your perseverence and dedication - congratulations to those who won and condolences to those who lost. For anyone and everyone who cares about Singapore, stay the course and don't give up, because there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the plough-share,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

--Finale from Les Miserables


Anonymous said...

Yes, the winds of change are blowing. It took 4 decades for the Berlin Wall to fall. The barrier to greater political pluralism and tolerance for dissent will fall soon. The process of change has begun last night.

Well done WP!

The world is closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change

"Winds of Change" by The Scorpions

locky2ky said...

the reciting of Singapore pledge in the final rally is another masterstroke by WP. It tells the people that WP may be anti-PAP but they are definitely pro-Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Power to the People!

Vendetta was one of my favourite movie because it bears an uncanny resemblance to our current situation. I have wrote another rhyme for our country:

We pray, we pray, the sixth of May,
for the people of Singapore
I see no reason, Why democracy
should never be restored!

The Wobbly Guy said...

65% of actual votes for the PAP is normal in Singapore. Looking back at past election results, its line of support has always hovered around this margin of 65-35. The anomalous 2001 election result margin of 75-25 can be chalked down to 9/11 paranoia.

I wouldn't say the WP is there yet, but they're working their way up. They do need, however, better candidates. Looking through their qualifications, I could only see 40% of their candidates being of top quality.

It didn't help that their solutions to many problems was to nationalise them. As if the PAP is already not statist enough, the WP seeks to go one up on them!

Come on, opposition. Give us a party with sane economic policies, preferably standing to the right of the PAP on economics, but also to the left of the PAP on social issues. I'm not asking for nutty extremist Austrian-style economics, just a freer system that also forces people to take more economic responsibility for themselves.

We're already a nanny state thanks to the PAP. Please, WP, don't make it any worse than it already is!

Moses said...

Not buying the absolute-control-party's carrot bribery, the majority of Hougang & Potong Pasir folks wu ji ah! In mandarin: you zong. Haha! I love them. Wish there are more brave folks like them in our PAP comfort zone.

Now, we shall see if MR Goh Chok Tong will deliver the 1 billion for Hougang's upgrading he promised. Hmmmnn..

brotherbill said...

I'm not a citizen thus can't vote. But what I saw over the last few days attending rally, catching the recording of speeches, reading blogs and talking to those who attended, I'm really impressed that WP is able to evoke so much spirit of patriotism and love for the country which I've never seen before. My perception of WP is forever changed and I think it's very refreshing to see two astute, well-respected statesmen in the form of Mr Chiam and Mr Low. They really connected with the people and the people were so passionate that I'm proud to be able to witness all these. Sylvia was superbly witty, sharp and articulate. She helped to debunk the myths that only rogues or 'trouble-makers' join the oppostions. A few strangers I met at the YCK yesterday told me that they never knew what the pledge meant till they recited it at Serangoon Stadium. I was thinking, wow so emotional and patriotic. Can a 'trouble-maker' party do that? If this is the feel-good feeling you get for being with the 'trouble-makers', I think people don't mind a few more of those in the Parliament! :)

Overall, an exciting and surprising outcome seen at this GE. I'm sure this could possibly mark a turning point in the political awareness in Singapore. Put it this way, I held back being a citizen because I'm put off by whiny, greedy and easily-quitting Singaporean. But seeing so many gutsy, backboned people in Hougang and PP not fearful in spite of threat, not greedy in face of multimillion carrots, I must say I'm very impressed. I may join you guys in the 2011 GE after all! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brotherbill. That's encouraging.

I too found reciting the pledge at Serangoon Stadium a very moving experience. Much more so than at other National Day Parades that I had attended.

The people of Hougang and Potong Pasir are incredibly brave. My extended family cheered enthusiastically when the results were announced there, simply because they set such a good example for standing up for MPs they believe in. Such an inspiration.

As a post-65er, I feel that it would be erroneous to assume that the post-65ers are fully supportive of the current policies. In fact, I found it encouraging when I saw the number of students attending the rallies. Why? Because these JC students are the voters of tomorrow and I would rather that they considered the various partisan viewpoints before making an informed choice.

Let's hope for more people who vote with conviction and stand by their votes whether they vote for the ruling party or otherwise.

GP said...

The real heroes are those in Potong Pasir & Hougang. Nowadays seldom see a demonstration of what they did - to reject material comfort for themeselves & their families & instead opt for loyalty & keeping to their principles! Singapore is better for such people who rise beyond self for the nation. And its comforting to know that when the crunch comes, there will be such heroes.

As for the opp parties - agree WP is revitalizing its ranks - but it has to do more to also include other relevant professionals - e.g economists (will need the equiv of a Dr Goh Keng Swee & a few think tank people on fiscal policies), finance (someone who knows the banks, MAS, regulatory/monetary policies), housing policies (someone from MND), someone who knows Labour relations laws, people involved in policy crafting - maybe recruit 1-2 mentors from the exPAP ranks who are retired, who will be able to add meat to their proposed policies. Its these sort of talent searching that WP should be engaged in...not just getting any professionals...

Anonymous said...

It's true that WP would need more and more 'better candidates' with perhaps better 'qualifications', but at the same time, i believe they still need people who can reach out to the lower portion of the community. More importantly, they have to be able to reach out to the community - something that made Mr Chiam and Mr Low so endearing to the people in Potong Pasir and Hougang.

GP said...

Just found this somewhere - pub on 29Apr i think:

Quoted supposedly from LKY:
As they lack intellectual content, so we have nominated MPs. People with knowledge, understanding of economics, business etc. Now, if they can get that kind of candidate and make them also electable, and join them, then they will come nearer the PAP. Otherwise, it is just packaging. I will do this, I will do that. How? You’re not the government, you're not fighting to be the government. So it will just be empty promises.
Quote end

Its really very touching that Mr Chiam (and Mrs Chiam) and Mr Low are so endearing to their communities. Yes, this is very important - that the PAP has forgotten the very reason for their existence - the people.

But it is also very important that the be credible in the longer term - you need to have very special people - Sylvia is one of them..to be able to articulate policies, point out short falls in the present govt.,etc. On top of that, to be able to provide alternatives - maybe not the alt govt yet, but at least, alt to many of the policies that are not right.. if you say this is wrong, then tell us what can be done.. that will require people with real content. The WP has a very enlightened leader in Mr Low - who can bring this about. WP has a great future.

As for parties like SDP - its finished. Their brand of politics brings us back to the 1960s...sound and fury..and it does not work anymore, not with the govt, not with the people at all. In fact, the SDP will retard Opp politics if it does not dissolve. Chee SJ should do all a favour - retire. As for Siok Chin, she has so much potential - she should join WP instead & work with the younger team in Yaw & others.

Anonymous said...

Seems James Gomez has been brought down to a Police Station for questioning...

Anonymous said...

Mother doesn't know where love has gone
She says it must be youth that keeps us feeling strong
I see it in her face that's turned to ice
And when she smiles she shows the lines of sacrifice
And now I know what they're saying as our sun begins to fade
And we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades

Father made my history
He thought for what he thought would set us somehow free
They taught me what to say in school
I learned it off my heart but now that's torn in two
And now I know what they're saying in the music of the parade
And we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades

Born on different sides of life
We feel the same and feel all of this strife
So come to me when I'm asleep
We'll cross the lines and dance upon the streets
And now I know what they're saying as the drums begin to fade
And we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades

"Through the Barricades" - Spandau Ballet

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether you want to put this on your blog, but this is a very preliminary analysis I made of 'the Malay vote'.


Anonymous said...

"Seems James Gomez has been brought down to a Police Station for questioning..."

Is this for real? Please tell us how you know?

GP said...

its on www.asiaone.com.sg. An AP press report.

Anonymous said...

a good mp does not need to be well qualified. they must have the quest to serve the people, like chiam and low. otherwise our election will be a competion of who has more and better degrees. this, without a doubt, the pap will excel. with their promise of high pay, elitism and almost guaranteed walk over.

and nothing is more effective than consistently working the ground, not only for a few months prior to election. the pap already has an advantage on this, with their massive community services throughout singapore. the opposition party need to be creative and more effective than them.

last but not least, the opposition party need to neutralise the biase reporting of the media. they need to breach this obstacle in order to let a wider community know what they stand for and what they are fighting for.

The Wobbly Guy said...

With the well-publicised numbers of people at the opposition rally, you can hardly say the wider community doesn't know what the opposition parties mainly stand for. However, rallies are by necessity short and to the point, and thus the electorate might know the main points but not the specifics. Not knowing the specifics, they will still vote for the devil they know better.

The internet now, is a great deal more useful for elaboration. As Singaporeans become more educated and wired, they'll be interested in the specifics, and also willing and able to out those details. The PAP should recognise they cannot keep the lid on forever; they have to open up the battleground and allow for the marketplace of ideas.

As for qualifications, Chiam and Low come off pretty well(BAs, and both were teachers for a time. Hmmm, that bears consideration...). And while degrees are no guarantee of success and competence, they indicate that the candidate has demonstrated some level of intelligence, diligence, and discipline in attaining that degree. Without those qualities, well-meaning intentions to serve others mean nothing. You know what they say about good intentions, paved roads, and hell...

Anonymous said...

Two things that definitely impressed: the pledge recitation (wish I could be there) and the overall WP's image. As a whole, their campaign was very well-run, a surprise considering there are so many seasoned politicians over at PAP.

Vendetta is a good movie, but I will beg to differ if anyone claims that it reflects Singapore's current political situation. Remember it is sensationalised after all.

While we all go on about supporting our increasingly credible and qualified opposition parties, we should recognise the younger individuals within the PAP who are qualified, talented, and have a heart to serve as well. The message: don't vote for the opposition for the sake of it.

Anonymous said...

PAP had her mandate, the opposition retained and even gained a little ground.

The biggest loser was SM Goh. His failure to convert his political clout and multi-million dollars carrot into votes was glaring. He has gotten less and less relevant since handing over. After the election "failure", he is likely to be further marginalized.

Anonymous said...

Interesting view, one that is unlikely to receive much media attention of course. Personally thought the PAP campaign was rather poorly-run. On the whole lost quite a bit of political currency.

It seems like the fight isn't over yet. Probably more to come from the Gomez saga.

Capt_Canuck said...

A YOUNG FAWN once said to his Mother, "You are larger than a dog,
and swifter, and more used to running, and you have your horns as
a defense; why, then, O Mother! do the hounds frighten you so?"
She smiled, and said: "I know full well, my son, that all you say
is true. I have the advantages you mention, but when I hear even
the bark of a single dog I feel ready to faint, and fly away as
fast as I can."

No arguments will give courage to the coward. -Aesop's Fable -

Anonymous said...

If you read carefully,they got only 61.16%(747,861 votes) of the total votes(1,22,884 voter)not 66.6% as claimed. Cos if they want mandate if should be from all voters not AMK alone.

Anonymous said...

i never see a single malay at all WP rallies... why?????50 percent of chinese voted WP... 99 percent malay voted for PAP... we must educate the malay community that vote buying is wrong...

Anonymous said...

bec these people need more help, so have to cling onto the wood in order to survive. mei yo ko tsi

Anonymous said...

"If you read carefully,they got only 61.16%(747,861 votes) of the total votes(1,22,884 voter)not 66.6% as claimed. Cos if they want mandate if should be from all voters not AMK alone."

I believe you need to get your figures right. 1.22m was the number of eligible voters on the Registrar, but the actual number that turned up is less than that. The total votes for PAP was divided by the total number of valid votes, which gives you 66.6%. By the way, the winning percentage at AMK is 66.1% and not 66.6%, which is the overall winning percentage. And when PAP mentioned the mandate from the people, they are using the 66.6% overall figures, not the 66.1% from AMK. AND, I do not have to be pro-PAP to correct your figures.

"i never see a single malay at all WP rallies... why?????50 percent of chinese voted WP... 99 percent malay voted for PAP... we must educate the malay community that vote buying is wrong..."

I'm sick of this racial debate. I don't even want to begin to tear apart your statement with a logical debate, because using common sense will be more than sufficient.

I think most people will agree that turning up at a rally does not equate to support at the polls, and vice versa. And I will like to point out that you have just made a rather serious accusation that the Malays are "bought". Please take your words back, before someone else makes you eat them.

Medusa aka expiringpoet said...

"i never see a single malay at all WP rallies... why?????50 percent of chinese voted WP... 99 percent malay voted for PAP... we must educate the malay community that vote buying is wrong..."

Wonder where this clown gets his figures from. Hey, by this logic, can i infer that 50% of the chinese population attended the WP rallies since 50% of them voted WP, as you say? Or that 1% of the malay population attended the WP rallies or WP rally?