Some of the themes in online comments against the opposition candidates is that they are crazy people. They must be mentally unsound, stricken with serious cases of megalomania. They have a messiah complex. That must be the reason why they want to be MPs. Because they want the fame, the glory. They want all of us to bow down, kiss their feet and worship the very ground they walk upon. Why else would they want to contest? Why else would they want to stand against the PAP?
I too, think that opposition candidates are crazy. Just not in the ways those online commentators think.
I think most opposition candidates truly want to speak up for certain segments of Singaporeans that could be marginalized. I believe that most opposition candidates truly believe in the cause of having more alternative views represented in parliament. In the way that they try to advance this cause, they may come across as megalomaniacal.
But unless there is firm evidence to show otherwise, I believe that most of the opposition members firmly stand by their conviction that having opposition MPs is in the best long-term interests of Singapore. In fact, so firm is their conviction that the opposition candidates have stood up, put themselves out there to be judged, to be ridiculed, to be scrutinized.
Yes, unless there is evidence to show otherwise, I believe that most of the opposition candidates DID NOT decide to run in general elections because they want “fame” or “glory. Yes. That includes Dr Chee Soon Juan too.
So why do I think that opposition candidates are crazy?
Because of what they are giving up for their conviction.
By PM Lee’s own admission, even the PAP finds it difficult to find candidates. He said in an interview earlier in 2015: “If you ask an ordinary Singaporean whether he is willing to join politics, he may say, this is so troublesome, as it involves not only me, but also my family and my children. Do I really need to do this? They may not tell me directly and give me this answer, but I think this consideration is clearly in their minds. So they will tell me, “Oh, how about next time, or I think I do not have the political cells; I do not have the natural oratorical ability; So it is better for you to find another person more suited for this responsibility.” I can find some candidates, but it is much more difficult than before to find a complete line-up.”
And this is the PAP we are talking about. Even with its monolithic party machinery, with the support from its private, people and public sector networks, with a friendly mainstream media, people still think twice (or thrice, or… you get the idea) about joining PAP because they are concerned about the great cost to them.
Never mind the potential rewards. Never mind that you will have swarms of people hovering around you trying to be your best friend after you become a PAP MP. Never mind the possibility that companies may suddenly approach you to be on their Board of Directors, paying you large sums of money to attend occasional meetings. The cost is still considerably high enough to deter people from joining PAP as candidates.
What more the opposition parties? Joining as an opposition candidate would be like being thrown to the wolves. You are suddenly pariah amongst your friends. Your loved ones keep reminding you how stupid they think you are for joining the opposition parties.
Also, rumour has it that the moment you have anything to do with the opposition parties, you can forget about getting any job in the civil service. If you run a company, you can forget about getting any government contracts. And unless you have a part in starting the company, you can forget about any companies asking you to be on their Board of Directors. Or so the rumours go.
Worse. You have to contend with an extremely biased mainstream media. A mainstream media who would dump all journalistic standards down the gutter and pass unsubstantiated rumours against you as breaking news. Like what happened to Dr Daniel Goh. One small misstep and your name will be trawled through mud incessantly.
No, don’t you dare start the “oh but you can give your buddies contracts. See AHPETC” thing. Even if there was cronyism involved, how did that benefit the WP MPs directly? Unless there is any evidence that their actions benefited the WP MPs in tangible ways, shut up about it.
And have you seen the sort of conditions the WP MPs work in? Instead of nice air-conditioned premises to hold their MPS, they hold theirs in void decks. Even when the PSI has hit 200+, they soldier on! Oh. And let’s not forget how politicised PA is.
So why do I think opposition members are crazy?
Because they persevere even when the chips are stacked against them. Because they push on even when all hope seems lost. Because they stand by their convictions even when people doubt them. Because they keep coming back defeat after defeat, hammering after hammering.
And they do all these even when Singaporeans do not appreciate the crucial role they play.
When things were going so wrong and Singaporeans’ anger so palpable that PM Lee apologized during the lunchtime rally of GE2011, Singaporeans used WP to pile the pressure on PAP to change. Say what you will… but if indeed there were plans all along to move the centre of gravity of the cabinet left of centre, then why did PM have to apologise in GE2011? That, to me, is the surest indication that the results of GE2011 and the presence of 6 more WP MPs really caused the seismic shifts in philosophy of policy making of the PAP.
Yet, now that things are heading in the right direction, and things seem to be improving, we are so quick to withdraw our support from WP as if they did nothing for us whatsoever.
There is a Chinese saying: “鸟尽弓藏 ,兔死狗烹”. The literal translation of it is “when the birds are all shot, you hide the bow. When the hares have all been hunted, you cook the hunting dog.” And that is exactly what we are doing to WP. We think we no longer need them, and so we kick them aside.
We want to have our cake and eat it. We want the stability of having the PAP as the government. And we take for granted that the opposition will continue to get candidates of fairly good caliber (I think most people will agree that He Ting Ru, Daniel Goh, Leon Perera, Paul Tambyah are candidates of high caliber) to run in subsequent GEs and allow us to dial up the pressure on the PAP should things go south again (as I am sure they will at some point it time). But… why should they? Especially when Singaporeans seem so ungrateful and are taking them for granted?
Yet… It seems that they might still stay on.
And that is why I think they are crazy. They are doing a thankless job. They are sacrificing so much with little or no hope of any reward whatsoever. I don’t know why they are doing it. I don’t know what motivates them. But I, for one, am thankful that they are soldiering on. They give me reason to continue to believe, reason to continue to hope.
Thank you, you crazy, amazing people.
[See also: Why WP are like dogs]