Do not be afraid

WP rally, Serangoon, 29/04

Singapore general election is coming in one week time. It’s the time for Singaporeans to cast their votes for those whom they will entrust themselves for the next five years. I have been following the news very closely, and, indeed, some of my friends can’t comprehend why a foreigner like me would care so much about Singapore politics. (Perhaps it shows that I’ve been Singaporeanized for being so kay-poh. Anyway I learnt some trivia along the process, such as that actually we have two Senior Ministers.) If there is any such thing as a personal agenda, I guess I simply want to shake off our ignorance in general about things that happened in Singapore. The stereotype of foreigners who come only to take the jobs away from the locals might be true, after all. Most of the times we only care about how we are going to survive and prosper in this land. But I guess we could do better than this. In some way, we could contribute to the development of democracy in Singapore, especially those of us who come from a land where different opinions are a norm and not to be afraid of, where oppositions are considered as essential in democracy and not as some kind of rebels who only want to topple the government.

Today I had a little chat with a Singaporean friend. He said that the main reason he is afraid of voting against the ruling party is that he fears he will be left out of the government’s plan, as what have happened for years in Hougang and Potong Pasir. Their lifts are not upgraded, their estates are not improved. Thus there are negative incentives for voting for the opposition as a result of this discriminatory and unjust policy. My friend admitted that although he was against the ruling party, he ended up voting for them as he didn’t want lift upgrading projects in his block to be stalled if the opposition won in his ward. (Truth be told, it is almost impossible anyway for the opposition to win in his ward — Ang Mo Kio, PM’s place. Nevertheless, the Workers’ Party “suicide squad” garnered a respectable 33.9% vote in 2006.) Fear works. Scare tactics prevailed. And that’s why despite of large turnouts at opposition rallies, they are not necessarily translated into votes. As Yahoo! News noted, “If the outcome for this General Election was based purely on rally attendances, the Opposition would win hands down.” Those who come to the opposition rallies will not necessarily vote for them. Thus, the key task, now as in the previous years, is to translate these high turnouts at opposition rallies into actual votes.

(Moreover, as the minister of law, K. Shanmugam, has noted, people who came for the opposition rallies want to know what the opposition has in store for them, while usually more or less people will know what to expect from the ruling party, and thus it explains the low turnouts for the PAP rallies. This is what we call as the “silent majority”, those who will never bother to come to any rally and will vote for the PAP at the election day.)

WP and PAP rally, Bedok Stadium

And that’s why I need to convince my friend not to be afraid. Some brands of religion exploit fear to no end, and they have been pretty successful in and by doing that (e.g., are we worshiping God out of fear of hell?). Nevertheless, fear is not the foundation out of which we want to build our world and our country. Love is. Upgrading programs be damned, don’t be afraid when you cast your vote on 7 May. Vote out of love for your country and for your fellow citizens. Vote for what is best for them. Vote for your fellow residents who have suffered because of this discriminatory policy. Indeed, vote against this policy. Do not be intimidated by the ruling party’s threat to discriminate your ward if they lose over there. Do not let them imprison your conscience. Do not be afraid, for love casts out fear. Singapore will not be doomed if the opposition gains more seats in the parliament or even if they form a new government. Singapore will move on. The civil servants will continue their work. The ruling party is not the same entity with the civil servants. As Chen Show Mao said during his first rally, “Singapore, don’t be a cowardly lion!”

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