Rants of a Weird Little Bird

Random stuff involving myself…and people around me. Hello, and goodbye. :-)

What Chiam See Tong Might Say After His Appearance Today

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Today, Chiam See Tong appeared on TV, and he looked in pretty bad shape. He needed someone to hold his microphone, his speech was slurred, and even needed someone to hold his hand up in the air. Even so, he’s preparing for yet another election. I wonder if this is what he might say if he can still talk.

DISCLAIMER: This speech is not real.

Dear citizens of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, thank you for your support for the SPP just now. I have just arrived home, but your cheers still reverberate in my ears as I type.

Just now, I stood before you again, as an election candidate for the 2011 Singaporean General Elections. This is the eighth time that I’ve been here, and my political longevity is thanks to the first chance which my Potong Pasir residents have given me in 1984 to prove myself, after two previously unsuccessful attempts in 1976 and 1979.

Though the twenty-seven years that I’ve been in parliament, it has been a largely lonely journey, especially after Jeyaretnam’s expulsion. That solitude ended in 1991 where I finally helped three of my fellow Opposition colleagues obtain parliamentary seats in the General Election. One of them, Mr. Cheo Chai Chen, is currently running under the NSP ticket. Low Thia Khiang also joined me in Parliament during that year. This year, his vote hangs in the balance, as he has abandoned his stronghold for a greater cause – Towards a First World Parliament, as his party so succinctly puts it.

Four Opposition figures – among nearly eighty others – and this was the highest level of Opposition participation and parliament! Subsequently, this number has since dwindled to a miserable two – Mr. Low and myself. To their credit, the Potong Pasir and Hougang residents never gave up on either us, despite all the bad press which the merciless newspapers and television station heaped on all of us Opposition figures. After this elections, how many will it be? Some pessimists say zero. Even Low himself has conceded that he was making a huge gamble by throwing his hat into the fray at Aljunied GRC.

For me, I never intended to abandon Potong Pasir. My name is synonymous with the place, and the residents. However, nothing is permanent in the universe, and that includes myself.

I am currently seventy-six years old, and as you have seen on television this afternoon, I am pretty frail, not only because of the ravages of age, and not because of those tenacious electoral battles, seeing that Potong Pasir has always been contested. It is largely due to a stroke which I had had not long ago. My English is slurred, my back is hunched, and I needed help to raise my arm. You saw it all this afternoon, on Channel NewsAsia.

I apologise for my current condition, as it must pain all of you to see me in this state, as I stood before all of you today, on Nomination Day to address you.

All I could muster during that short span of time was “Vote SPP”, sprinkled among two or three very broad and generic statements like “We need to hold the PAP government to account”. Even through my visible effort in making myself heard, I could hear all the cheers that you have given me. It was gratifying but it was also sad.

Yes, I know I don’t have that many days in front of me anymore, but I still have to soldier on, despite me being a shadow of the force that I once was. I don’t know if I’ll ever make a full recovery, and most of you have seen me speak before my stroke, and after it. I think I don’t need to elaborate further on how I looked on television.

Speaking of television, you may wish to look at the victory speech of MM Lee Kuan Yew himself after Tanjong Pagar GRC became a walkover GRC yet again – more on him later. He’s nearly ninety now, and you can observe that his speech is starting to become less forceful, and even starting to slur. His hand motions are more strained now, and there’s every chance that he himself may not have that many days in front of him. From the past, though, one thing has never changed: he has always harped on the subject that the Opposition parties have no experience, and they have no credibility.

Credibility. Something that newspapers continually harp on Low and myself as “credible” opposition members.

In nearly every blog posted, every newspaper article published, every television programme broadcasted, I keep on hearing the word “credibility” where we Opposition members are concerned. What is credibility about? Can it be defined by academic achievements, or career achievements, or even one’s occupation?

For me, credibility did not come easy. At the start, I could only talk and show my empathy with all of the constituents whom I tried to represent in parliament. I had no track record to speak of. It was only when I got into parliament, that I could gain credibility as an Opposition member, by consistently speaking up on my residents’, and my country’s behalf. Even the PAP continued to call me a “credible” opposition, and has consistently attempted to drive a wedge between myself and the unelected Opposition members.

I agree that we have seen some Opposition members among the pitiful few who have made it into Parliament. However, don’t forget that these Opposition members toe the party line, which is, more often than not, finalised only after much extended discussion among the political party members, cadres and executive committee members in the Opposition party. They may have been mute in Parliament, but they always voted along their party lines – which were dictated by our executive committee members after much debate and thought with you, dear residents.

People laud several PAP members of parliaments for speaking their minds on helping people from the lower-income strata of society, but so what? What can they do, when the Party Whip does not permit them to vote against the PAP’s policies?

It gets worse. Currently, in the slate of PAP candidates running in this election – the best 87 they could find, in their own words – we now have candidates who contest in elections, even though they have only been Singaporean citizens for a few years. One of them chose not to volunteer for National Service, and one of them has explicitly said that she doesn’t have any policies that she disagrees with. Some PAP members have been forced to step down in this election. One said, tearfully, that there had “no group-think” in the PAP, but what’s the use of that? There was “group-vote” – and there was only one group which had a voice – the men and women in all-white.

Even the PAP parliamentarians who have spoken against the PAP’s policies have no influence on whether a bill is passed, because all candidates have to vote along party lines. That is the critical factor in parliament – what goes on during the discussion is not important. Instead, it is what the political party stands for that counts.

Do you want people who can speak up for your rights, and vote against government policies when necessary, or do you want sheep in parliament who vote “Yes” every time?

Don’t be daunted by some of the Opposition members who may not be good at speaking. Even if they don’t speak up with their voices, they speak up with their votes when any parliamentary bills are passed – unless the Party Whip is lifted, their votes are along party lines. You are voting for a party, not for individuals. You are voting for your voice to be heard in terms of parliamentary votes. Your votes for us are for our parties, and our parties will speak up for you in parliament if you would just give us the chance to do just that.

My time may be up soon, and I may not be sure on whether I will survive in office for even five more years, let alone speak up for your rights. Yet, we all have to fight on. Today, after nearly fifty years of nation-building, we still have a long way to go, in terms of progressing towards a truly democratic parliament, where minority voices can be heard and debated. The vision of having a working democracy, dear voters, is why I am still using every single ounce of my strength to contest for elections today, though the process is become progressively difficult by the day. It’s not a pleasing sight, but I’m used to strange looks from everyone – I’ve experienced it in Parliament for more than two decades. I want to make sure that my last service to you is to give all of you a parliament where policies undergo much debate, thought and voting before they are implemented.

Against the odds two decades ago, I triumphed in Potong Pasir, against seemingly insurmountable odds. That was achieved despite me having inferior academic results to my PAP opponent (even Lee Kuan Yew tried to make an electoral issue out of it). That victory was achieved despite not having modern luxuries like the Internet, or SMS, or even mobile phones. If I can triumph in an election constituency without the modern-day luxuries that you have, against no less than PM (at that time) Lee Kuan Yew, and against the government press, so can the other Opposition members. Now, dear voters, these eighty-two Opposition candidates need your support so that they can speak up – and vote – for your rights, just as I have done for more than two decades. We have staked a lot of money and effort in giving you the right to exercise your democratic rights to vote, not only with the ridiculously high election deposit, but also for those large posters, flags, placards and speeches, all to ensure that your views are heard.

I know you’re thinking that I might not last the course of another six years. However, don’t worry about it. Even if I’m not around with you, my party members will carry on with my good work. The PAP has never called for by-elections in any GRCs when one of their members – like Dr. Ong Chit Chung (died), Dr. Balaji Sadavisan (died) and Mr. Choo Wee Khiang (convicted in court) – left parliament. Even if I’m gone, they will still be around. My wife will carry on with my good work in Potong Pasir, I am sure. Running in a GRC does have the advantage of sharing responsibilities among the other MPs. Or we could even bring someone from our SPP ranks into Parliament, like the PAP did.

No matter what, we have to hold the PAP government to account, even if it costs me a large part of my energy.

It’ll be another tiring election campaign, and I hope that you’ll not only greet me with the same respect that you have given me for the past two decades, but you do the same to all my fellow candidates who are running against the PAP, to provide checks and balances against abuse of power.

Last time, Low and I kept on winning our SMC battles, but we are not yet satisfied, for there is still much to do. We have stepped out of our comfort zones, and it is time to step out of yours too!

Do the right thing on Polling Day, and vote for not just the SPP, but for the Opposition as a whole, so that we, in return, can vote for your interests in Parliament. I am sorry that my health does not permit me to type more, but I hope you understand that I will continue to stand up for your rights, up to my last breath.

Chiam See Tong


Written by aweirdlittlebird

April 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] Votes #8 – Apprehension, Worries & Fears [Thanks Daniel] – Rants of a Weird Little Bird: What Chiam See Tong Might Say After His Appearance Today – Rachel Zeng: Just some words – Kiwipolitico: A door cracks open in the Little Red Dot [Thanks […]

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