If you didn’t know by now that there’ll be a by-election in Singapore… it’s ok. It’s really no big deal. Especially considering the fact that Trump will most likely be nominated as the Republican presidential candidate. But in case you are following what’s happening in the campaigning for the Bukit Batok by-election, you will know that the PAP team has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the SDP candidate, Dr Chee Soon Juan.
I think that the PAP strategy thus far is terribly foolish. Here are three ways the PAP has shot itself in the foot in the by-election campaign so far:
FIRST SHOT IN FOOT: CHEE SOON JUAN CAN’T BE A GOOD MP BECAUSE HE HAS NOT HELD A PROPER JOB FOR OVER 20 YEARS!
That came from Minister for Culture Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu. And it is one of the dumbest things that I’ve ever heard. As I have said in an earlier post, Dr Chee may not have held a conventional job, he has led SDP well, growing and developing it into a fairly credible opposition party. Dr Chee’s leadership ability is also obvious from his ability to have absolute control of SDP and total obedience from the core group in SDP.
Journalist Kirsten Han rightly pointed out that Ms Fu’s remarks also “erases part-timers, it erases domestic work, it erases caregiving and stay-at-home parents, it erases people who don’t want to be part of that day-in/day-out full-time job model, but are still finding ways to support themselves and contribute.”
SECOND SHOT: BRINGING UP DR CHEE HECKLING THEN-PM GOH CHOK TONG
In the first PAP rally, speaker of the house, Mdm Halimah Yacob said:
“I never forget how Chee (Soon Juan) shouted at then PM Goh Chok Tong. It is unbecoming especially as Asians we need to respect our elders”
Eh hello… that was all the way back in 2001. That was 15 years ago. 15! A baby born then will take his O-Levels next year! You still want to bring up such ancient history? What, a person can’t change for the better over 15 years?
That’s like an employer telling an ex-convict that he can’t be employed because of the crimes he had committed in the past. Stupid right. Oh wait. That’s really what happens in Singapore today. So maybe that’s why the Yellow Ribbon Project is such an abysmal failure. Because our nation’s top leaders don’t believe that a person can change for the better.
THIRD SHOT: BRINGING UP RACE
For whatever reasons, PM Lee felt that he needs to be involved in the campaigning in the Bukit Batok by-election. He pretty much echoed the two stupid things that Ms Grace Fu and Mdm said. He also decided to make race an issue. PM somehow read/heard whispers and online comments going around asking Chinese voters to cast their ballot along racial lines. PM Lee said:
“But I think when they vote for somebody, they should not be voting on the basis of race, but they should be voting on the basis of his ability to contribute, his sincerity, the heart, the colour of his heart and his commitment – which is red – regardless what race or religion he may belong to.”
All these just based on some “whispers” and “online comments”. Not based on what Dr Chee actually said. Like that also can? Does PM really think Dr Chee is so insidious as to instruct his party members to quietly go around telling people to vote on racial lines but to openly speak against making race an issue in this by-election? Really? Dr Chee can’t be so insidious now, can he?
What PAP should do instead?
PAP needs to stop doing such stupid things. Stop attacking Dr Chee’s personality. Instead, show why Mr Murali is a better candidate. Have more of this:
If Mr Murali was able to help two unemployed person while on the campaign trail, then it’s really quite a feat. He’s not just talking about helping the poor, the unemployed, he’s actually doing it. It really shows that he is truly walking the talk. It shows that he can deliver on his promises.
And fight SDP on details. It’s easy to talk. It’s easy to come up with ideas. But ideas are cheap. Implementation is key. Give people the details of how the ideas for the constituency will be implemented. That’s why announcing that the Good Life Co-operative will come in to run the health co-operative that Mr Murali has promised to set up was such a good move. It shows people that Mr Murali has the wherewithal to pull of what he has promised.
Lastly, I hope Mr Murali can be more inspirational. People say that Dr Chee’s rally speeches are inspirational. I disagree. His speeches are damn depressing. He makes it sound like all Singaporeans are in a terrible state, we are all struggling, suffering, helpless, and doomed. Bloody depressing. And not entirely true.
Yes. The economic outlook is gloomy. People are worried about losing jobs. But the unemployment rate in Singapore is still far far lower than many of the developed, “true” democracies in the world. And yes, the challenges facing Singapore’s economic restructuring are not easy to surmount, and the government certainly needs to do a heck of a lot more to lead the change, we are starting from a position of strength. But we do have a very full war chest to fund our efforts to restructure our economy and take better care of Singaporeans.
I hope to hear Mr Murali acknowledge that times are indeed tough. But I also hope that Mr Murali will remind Singaporeans that we have been through worse, and we have come out stronger each time. Mr Murali should also explain to us how he will contribute in Parliament to push for policies and laws that will help Singapore’s economy restructure and better take care of the welfare of Singaporeans. PAP and Mr Murali would do well to watch Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC Audacity of Hope speech and take some notes.
We have a few more days to go before the by-election. Will PAP continue to shoot itself in their feet? Or will PAP finally get it and inspire us? Or will it not matter anyway? We shall see.
[Featured image: DPM Tharman and Mr Murali at a PAP media conference. Photo from CNA by Ngau Kai Yan]