Tuesday, 14 July 2020

GE202 - The Morning After.

Good morning. It’s the day after. And the people have spoken. It was a good feverish turnout of 2.5m notwithstanding the pandemic - quite unprecedented actually. 

So, PAP got their mandate, that is, 83 seats out of 93. WP won another GRC, taking them to 10 seats in Parliament from the previous 6. And PSP, registered only in March last year, was in 3rd place with 253,459 of the popular votes. WP was in 2nd place with 279,245. Mm...very close.

Indeed TCB had pulled his hefty weight and although PSP didn’t win, West Coast GRC nevertheless showed the best performance and is qualified for 2 NCMP seats (I can only hope TCB considers it. I mean, how rare is it to see the current PAP debate in Parliament with the former PAP). 

Even the little “Red Dot United” formed less than a month ago garnered a respectable 25.38% of the popular votes against the Goliath of PAP‘s GRC, Tharman and his Jurong team. They may have missed with the 5 stones in hand, but they still made a political splash. 
Mind you, Tharman got the best showing in GE2020 with 74.62%, not his first time ace-ing it. On the other hand, his outgoing boss in AMK recorded a count of 71.91% while his incoming boss in East Coast managed just to make the cut at 53.41%. 

Alas, PAP may have come to the conclusion that the nation is not ready for a non-Chinese PM, but the people on the ground seems to differ going solely on the results. 

In any event, overall, PAP’s performance could have been better. They were riding on the theme of this GE being a “crisis election”, compelling people to hide behind the cottails of the status quo. Not to forget that this is a GE where the government had given out nearly $100b, and one would have thought that it should have deepened the appeal, right? What’s more, this is PM Lee’s final GE run for he is passing the leadership baton to the charismatically-challenged HSK. 

Perhaps this GE didn’t really match up to the last one (69.9% vs 61.24%) because GE2015 came right after a nation was in mourning while this GE came after a nation had masked up against a formidable global foe? In other words, one tugged on the people’s heartstring, while the other played on the people’s fear? 

If this is so, it seems like when it comes to fear provoked by a crisis, the powers-that-be need to treat it with more caution and less presumption. For the people don’t want just safe, they want hope and change. 

Let me just say that PAP’s manifesto for GE2020 was this: “Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future.” And PM Lee explained: “Therefore this manifesto also sets out the PAP’s longer-term plans to build a better Singapore, because our aim is not just to survive the storm but also to maintain the long-term direction for the country, and keep on building and improving Singapore.”

Honestly, the manifesto is all good for the PAP we know for so long. Over the past decades up to now, they have successfully steered and navigated Singapore in uncharted waters, through unexpected storms and even over this unprecedented global pandemic. 

However, if the election results have alluded to anything, it is that the issue may go deeper than “Our lives, Our Jobs and Our Future.” 

Maybe WP’s Chairman Ms Sylvia Lim’s last political broadcast can shed some light here. This is what she said: -

“Singaporeans are proud of our country’s tangible achievements. Even as an opposition party, we give credit to PAP’s founders for our physical infrastructure and efficient systems.”

“But what about the intangible aspects? Can positive changes happen in Singapore so that we embrace openness to other views, culture and creativity, transparency, kindness, fairness and happiness.”

She added: “Imagine a Singapore where the huge power imbalance that now exists with the Government dominating and controlling the people is changed - and power shifts back towards our citizens.”

Does she have a point? Is the GE result our nation’s Freudian slip inadvertently revealing something that is more than just improving our lives, protecting our jobs and securing our future?

The questions are: What life are we talking about when we have one of the highest inequality rates, when depression is prevalent among the young, and when hope is narrowly defined as what is readily tangible and material? 

And what jobs are we talking about when the cost of living is rising, when most of our young are expected to spend almost all of their working life paying off debts just to find out that their property they had thought would tide them over in their old age is fast falling in value? 

I know the intention cannot be faulted and it is to preserve jobs and work with employers to help the employees during this urgent and pressing time. But, what’s next after the vaccine is found? What’s next after we are inoculated against Covid? 

Will we be going back to the pre-covid normal where business is as usual, where the rich gets richer with others lagging far behind, where economic growth is the nation’s first priority pursued at all costs, and where the poor and struggling in society remains largely invisible, that is, an inconvenient truth or reality? 

And this brings me to our future. You can bet that a future under the firm hand of PAP is one that is rather secure, stable and resilient to a large extent. We have overcome much odds together to rise to international reknown and recognition. 

But yet, there is still something amiss, not quite right. Alas, something is just not as plain sailing as the PAP has put it out to be. 

Yes, they talk about the social mobility escalator for everyone to hop on, but you nevertheless wonder, looking at how uneven the distribution of the fruit of society’s labour, is there another out-of-sight, out-of-mind escalator reserved not for everyone, but for the somebodys of society who is just not the everybodys?

How about the bouncing trampoline? Our government assures us that they want to help us bounce to greater heights, be it in our education, our career or in our old age. 

But again, you wonder, while intention and sincerity cannot be faulted, are the spring in the trampoline working as they should? How high can one go as compared to others who are born to privilege, wealth and exclusive personal estates? Are many jumping on the same trampoline adding greater stress to the spring while there is a trampoline elsewhere that has enough spring and space for a good, effortless jump one at a time? 

Truly, what are the intangible that Sylvia is talking about? Between economic success and personal contentment, is our government more obsessed with the former? 

Between growth and equality or inclusiveness, is our government still struggling to make the trade off because old habits die hard? And between control with strict OB markers and responsible freedom without fear, is our government still paranoid about making bolder adjustments, because it is still being held back by the ghosts of past hauntings? 

Let me end with what Chan Chun Sing recently said. Addressing the opposition’s call for checks and balances in Parliament, he said: “Has the Government done well? If the Government has done well, should we affirm the Government or should we punish the Government by giving the (PAP) Government even fewer seats?” 

“If the opposition has not done well, should we reward the opposition with more seats just on the slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government?”

I guess that is the issue with the government. They look at the tangibles, the measurables, and they have trouble seeing beyond that. Their shiny achievements in schools and in government/civil service clouded their sight. 

No doubt the stats clearly shows the government has done well. But with a little more self-reflection, one ought to realise too that you are as good as the limitation of what your ruler measures. If it falls short a few cm, the length of your measurement would fall short too.

So, I guess CCS has got his answer this morning about whether the opposition has done well this GE2020. However you look at it, even amid the handouts and covid, the overall result is more positive for them than the ruling party. And as CCS puts it, they are thus rewarded with more seats in Parliament. 

But he is however wrong about the seats being just a “slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government”. If anything, their reward for the people is to make sure the dominant party occasionally do some self-reflection for their own good. Cheerz.

GE2020 - PAP-lite.

Is PAP-lite what the people in general want?

This is quite ironic because just last week, PM Lee remarked that the WP’s Manifesto was “PAP-lite”. He was repeating what one of his ministers said in a recent televised debate, when Jamus’ “blank cheque” statement became the recursive back-masking message on the ground. 

“As Vivian said in the TV debate a few days ago, this is PAP-lite. But I tell you - why do you want to settle for PAP-lite? The real thing is much better.”

PM Lee added: “They take the PAP’s plan, they say very good, here are a few holes, please patch the holes, here are a few places where you can add more money, make it cheaper, work harder. I also can!”

Mm....has he thought about it? Maybe that is what the people want. Maybe, people want the few holes patched up. However, it is not about throwing more money, but allowing more diversity and debate in Parliament. And against the talk about “the real thing is much better”, the voters and PM Lee may just have different definitions of what the real thing really is. 

For me, the writing is on the wall about this. For that is why WP won another GRC and kept their SMC ward with a better margin. That is also why West Coast nearly lost to a political party set up only I.5 years ago against a party that has dominated politics for the last 55 years. That is why HSK won only narrowly with his East Coast plan. That is why SDP’s two doctors got a better showing of popular votes as compared to the last election 2015. And that is why overall, it was a drop of vote count across the board for PAP from 69.9% in the last election, they managed to garner 61.24%. 

Han Fook Kwang in today’s ST wrote: “The PAP has not changed its fundamental approach, which is top down and technocratic.”

“Over the last few years, it has made several unpopular decisions that reinforce this perception, including the reserved presidency, the impending increase in the goods and services tax, new laws in fake news, and its uncompromising stance on critics and dissenters.” 

On its uncompromising stance and the intolerance of Pofma, maybe the PAP can consider patching this hole up by following what her own party member had done. This may not be publicised much, but amid the CB quasi-shutdown, Josephine Teo waived the $1000 donation she demanded from one of two men who accused her and her husband of corruption. 

At that time, Donald Liew pleaded with Josephine to waive the sum due to “his personal circumstances.” Liew’s lawyer, Eugene, said: “The minister had considered his circumstances and kindly agreed to his request for which he is grateful.”

Josephine in fact went further. She even offered to assist Liew with his personal circumstances. I believe by that act, she broke rank and did what the “real thing” that is PAP is not known for or perceived to be. She forgave, forgo and had shown forbearance. 

In the article, Fook Kwang mentioned that the people “want a PAP-lite, minus the hard edges that are part of the party’s DNA.” And Sengkang voters last Friday have somehow made that quite clear. In general, this particular demographic is in the new estates, they are mainly middle income, and well educated. And what is going for them is that they are young, just starting their family. 

Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong had foreseen how the electoral landscape will change as early as 2013 when she made this observation just at the time WP’s Lee Li Lian won the seat: -

“Is Punggol East an aberration or the harbinger of things to come?” I think it is the latter. Punggol East has a demographic profile of the future: Voters are younger and better off than the national average. It is solidly middle class. Future elections will be full of people who think and vote like those at Pungel East.” (Over the years, Punggol East was absorded into the new Sengkang GRC). 

And you want to know something ironic. The headline of PM Lee’s statement - “Why settle for PAP-lite? Real thing is much better” - was taken with the PAP Sengkang team, helmed by NTUC chief Ng Chee Meng. 

Alas, the one thing about democracy is that you can’t expect all voters to give as much thought as they should to the vote they cast. My mother recently told me that in her West Coast market, she met one of the old folks who reminded her to vote for PAP because they give money. 

Well, intention notwithstanding, I guess we all fall into the cognitive trap known as heuristic availability. It is a “mental shortfall that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic or decision.” 

So, in an election, for some voters, one of the immediate examples that comes to mind is the financial handout, and that may very well determine the direction of their vote (For Trump’s America, it may just be the affliction of parousiamania (the second coming) - just saying). 
But for a functioning and mature democracy like ours, there is more to it than jobs and economic security. The drop to 61.24% invariably registers a cognitive dissonance amongst a rising influential segment of the electorate, that is, the swinging votes of the more left-leaning, educated younger voters. 

They are definitely looking for more than just bread and butter issues. They are in fact looking for more credible hands to butter the bread that PAP hands out. 

And on top of that, they are looking for a different kind of bread, not plain white, but multigrain made up of oats, barley and flax, which also represents more diversity and creativity in the home kitchen where policies that impact society in the long run are kneaded, baked and rolled out.

Professor Alan Chong (of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies) said: “They might have thought, “The Government has promised a whole load of things to take us out of the Covid-19 storm, why not vote in the WP to ensure that they deliver?””

In any event, let me end by saying that the PAP may have entered the GE2020 fray riding on the high horse of what is PAP-concentrated. But, they are nevertheless disembarking from the same horse with what is PAP-humbled. 

First thing first, PM Lee’s gesture to offer Pritam the appointment of the Official Opposition Leader in Parliament is a historical first. And on WP’s good showing, he said: “I look forward to them participating in and contributing to the debate in Parliament, and to the national debate, as we deal with the urgent issues before us...I will use this mandate responsibly to deal with Covid-19 and the economic downturn, and to take us safely through the crisis, and beyond.”

ESM Goh said that the outcome is as “good for Singapore and our parliamentary democracy.”

Even our stoicLaw Minister Shanmugam said this: “In all these things are clearly messages that voters are sending us. It will be wrong if we don’t understand the messages. And I think it requires a lot of soul-searching and reflection.”

Well, that about sums it up. For “PAP-lite” is not about copycats, counterfeits or fakes. From the results of this GE2020, PAP-lite is less of what the voters do not want and more of what they want. It is less of paternalism as in “we know better” and more of humility as in “we know better, together”. It is also less of a flight to safety in familiarity and more of building strength and resilience in diversity. 

And it is less of rooting our security in the tangibles, the readily identifiable, and more of a future that is fair, more open and inclusive, led by leaders who not just work the ground, but also inspire confidence and hope, even if they are not from a certain stratified tier of society.

GE2020 - Vote Wisely.

Vote wisely. More importantly, vote with common-sense in mind. 

Here’s what I mean. 

To start off, PAP is asking for a strong mandate. Not wanting to be a wet blanket, I believe they will get it. Out of 93 seats, they should be able to secure a supermajority (which is over 70 seats), if not more.

In GE2015, there were 89 seats. PAP won 83 seats. The only opposition party that won that election run was WP. Yes, they retained Aljunied GRC. But it came with a price of a small margin victory (50.95%). 

So, the 13th Parliament (2015 - 2020), with 89 seats, PAP dominated Parliament with 83 seats. That is not just supermajority, that’s 93% absolute control. And none of the other opposition parties won, save for WP. 

Yet, this GE2020 would be an even steeper uphill climb for the opposition because of the close to $100b payout and the covid crisis. Anxiety and uncertainty shift mindset and destabilise hearts. It thus tends to cause the silent majority to prefer hanging on to the familiar, that is, the status quo. It’s like our security blanket, our warm comfort zone, or our little Sampan floating in charted waters. (Putting it bluntly, PAP is like the country’s maternal breast, and it will take a lot to wean the people completely off). 

That is why I am predicting the rather predictable. You really don’t need any crystal ball or Paul the Octopus for this. Germany then was a pleasant surprise, PAP will not be. 

In his last political broadcast yesterday, TCB said: “The PAP is telling you that to overcome this crisis, it must have complete mandate of all 93 seats in Parliament. Its idea of a Singapore Together is domination - with no opposition MPs elected into Parliament. Does this kind of Parliament really represent Singapore Together? Surely we can build a better vision of Singapore Together?”

Personally, I do not think that PAP is gunning for all 93 seats. No doubt, they want to win. It’s what all politicians want or dream of. What’s more, PM Lee would also want to leave office with an electoral bang loud enough, like CNY firecrackers, to red carpet his political heir in, that is, DPM HSK - the man with the East Coast plan. 

But winning all seats, all 93 of them, run the risk of bastardising the ideals of democracy in Singapore. I also believe the silent majority would not be pleased with that result too. 

The thing about the silent majority is that we want our cake and eat it, that is, we want our bed and bounce on it. And the democracy that is unique to Singapore is that we want PAP to continue to lead with as little disruption as possible, but we also want someone to watch over them, like a guard dog on sentry duty. 

Somehow, we just sleep sounder at night when we know the dog is going to bark at intruders breaching the perimeters (take note, this is just an analogy).

In other words, we simply distrust the colloquial coinage of “ownself check ownself”. And by the way, what is democracy in Parliament when you have 93 seats hotly contested and 93 seats coolly won by the same party. Isn’t the opposite of democracy autocracy, if not dictatorship? 

Well, this is where commonsense comes in. Democracy is no guarantee of good and honest government. FYI, Putin, Erdogan and Kim were all elected into office, by the people, for the people and of the people. 

Alas, the only problem is that the leader and the voters have different definitions of what “the people” means. For the dictator, the people is a means to their own ends. For the voters, they always harbour the hope, however misleading or naive, that “the people” means that this time, he will be different (that is, really put the people first as an end in itself). But most times, he is very much the same. 

So, going back to the GE2020, the possibility of sweeping all 93 seats in Parliament by tomorrow is no guarantee that Singapore will become a dictatorship. It will however mean that we will become a rather oxymoronic uniparty democracy, instead of a multiparty or duo-party democracy. 

Mind you, we only end up bastardising the ideals of democracy when we end up with leaders like Putin, Erdogan and Kim in a sham democratic republic. For the ideals of democracy cannot flourish without the character of a leader just like you cannot have a coin with only one side. 

In any event, look at the great democracy of the United States under Trump. It’s not exactly ideal right now, right? It could very well be a democratic womb giving birth to a problematic dictator. 

In the end, the question is, will Singapore survive politically should the opposition be wiped out tomorrow? Will the people or the silent majority be happy? I mean, it is not really too farfetch or fanciful to achieve that result, because the only opposition party clinging on in Parliament is WP with only 6 seats.

Well, I will let the outgoing PM Lee answer that and he recently answered it rather empathetically. 

“You want to have a good vote, of course, but how you interpret it also depends on the mood during the campaign and the vibes, whether the people feel that this is a good outcome and they are happy with it.”

He added: “If you have an election at the end of which you have, let’s say even a very overwhelming majority, but the minority who voted against you are extremely, intensely unhappy with the outcome, the country is divided, there is a lack of trust, mutual lack of respect - which is what’s happened in many Western countries, like in the US - I think that’s a bad outcome.”

Mm...it seems PAP, like the silent majority, wants the cake and eat it too - that is, to win “a very overwhelming majority” and at the same time, hoping for a happy ending.

In any event, if I may read between the lines, I guess the best outcome that would please most, if not all, Singaporeans, whether the silent majority or the vocal minority, is to see to it that PAP returns to power, warming the seats they had previously occupied, and then keeping some non-all-white opposition in tact in Parliament to perform their usual sentry guard duty.

GE2020 - Tharma for PM?

If you don’t know about it, someone lodged a police report against DPM Heng Swee Keat. 

Can you believe that? 

Personally, I would like to think that this the gutter politics TCB was talking about regarding the recent police report lodged against WP’s candidate Raeesah Khan. 

That police complaint made was against HSK’s remarks at a March 2019 forum when he said that “Singapore was not yet ready for a non-Chinese prime minister.”

Unsurprisingly, after consulting with AGC, the police was advised that no offence was committed. “Mr Heng’s remarks, in the context they were made, do not evidence any intent to wound anyone’s racial feelings or promote enmity between different races.” 

That was the end of it, and well, intention wise, I can’t disagree with that. 

Anyway, in response, HSK said that he made that statement then because in his interactions with residents in past elections, the “views supportive of a non-Chinese PM are not as common among people from the older generation.”

Well, there is some basis for that. In a survey done in 2016, most of those surveyed preferred a prime minister of their own race. 

98% of the majority race (Chinese) here prefers their PM to be Chinese as compared to only 53% for a Malay PM or 60% for an Indian PM (and I really don’t know whether it helps if Tharman is able to speak Mandarin and some dialect, which he did occasionally). So, clearly there are some resistance or reservation.

But my point goes beyond that, that is, whether we are ready for an Indian PM. Apart from the survey, HSK’s view was mainly taken from “the older generation.” I wonder, how the younger generation feels about it?

In addition, I wonder whether the selection of the PM within the party is different from the selection of a candidate for MP in an election?Clearly it is. There is an important difference. One is by vote from the cabinet and the other by vote from the people. 

And if there is a difference, the next question is, should the selection of a PM within the elected party be dependent more on the sentiments on the ground than the candidate’s competence (and his camaraderie with fellow colleagues) within the cabinet?

Anyway, I feel that it should be different because the criterial is different, notwithstanding the people’s sentiments. 

And if I take one example, a recent one, and at the risk of flogging the dead horse, it is the often-exhumed case of the Elected Presidency. 

Now, I know PM Lee said that he had lost some political capital when he quite unexpectedly changed the constitution for the sake of the EP. But he also believed it was a victory nevertheless for diversity and multiculturalism in the long run. 

Mind you, he did that very much against the general sentiments on the ground (short of a poll to verify it), and some felt that there are some issues that were simply beyond race. Nevertheless, he did what was in his view necessary and we have our first EP by default. Now, it is left to history to tell us whether it was a decision that will come with more gains than losses for the country. 

So, in the same way, this should also apply to the selection of a PM, regardless of race, language or religion, right? 

In other words, if the EP generally went against public sentiment in order to foster racial harmony, then the reason given by HSK that the “older generation” are not supportive of an Indian PM at this time should equally be taken with a pinch of salt right? Is that what is holding the government back, when it comes to preferring HSK over, say, the Mandarin-speaking Tharman or any other Indian/Malay/Eurasian candidate, for example?

In the end, the PM that Singaporeans deserve should be one that can unite the people, instil hope and confidence, and move us forward in the direction of progress, equality and inclusiveness. 

And at this time, from a personal point of view, Tharman’s social mobility escalator and equal opportunity trampoline are empowering symbols of unity and confidence we as a nation can put our trust and faith on. 

In a recent speech, he said: “It’a not about the Government; it’s about Singapore Together. Find your niche, find your passion, the areas you want to work in. And let’s help spiral up our whole system, our whole society. It can be done. We can emerge from Covid not more divided, but with a more cohesive society.” 

That seems like PM material to me. And whether as a president or a prime minister, they can’t function without being seen to be, and believed as a symbol of unity and hope for all Singaporeans. 

So, it is true that HSK did not commit any offence when he made that remarks last year, but I feel he ought to be more candid with us on the other considerations, if any, that go into PM selection, rather than one based on a sample view gathered from his past election interaction.

GE2020 - PM Lee's Mandate.

I wonder, what is a strong mandate for the PAP? 

PM Lee said this yesterday about the opposition: “What contribution will they make in Parliament, adding “contrast” to the discussion, if they get elected as MPs? What will happen to Singapore, if they form the government?”

I think the part about forming the government is quite fanciful because no slogan of the opposition parties runs on that theme, not even close. 

Surely the newcomer PSP’s “You Deserve Better” cannot be construed as a parliamentary replacement. Neither can the veteran WP’s “Make Your Vote Count” be seen as a majority takeover. Not by a long shot.

In fact, PSP’s backmasking message comes mostly from the totemic LHY’s video call to deny PAP her supermajority. But without him joining the electoral fray, most will see him as venting, out of pent up sibling rivalry sentiments, rather than being a serious political rival. 

In any event, the opposition parties are much more realistic than that. They know the hold of PAP over the silent majority is quite ironclad, and the well-to-do, the toe-the-line, and the don’t-rock-the-boat will have already made up their mind before ballot Friday. 

So the contribution that the opposition parties, at least a selected credible handful, can make is not about ”contrasting” (whatever that means). The reason for their existence in Parliament (whether seen as contributing or not) is much more human than utopian political theories would make it out to be. 

Stripped of all its fanfare, it is simply about the distrust of human leadership. This distrust is deep-rooted. This distrust is directed against a parliament of one party rule. 

You see, history has taught us that no system run by us (human beings) is foolproof. No civilization, however great, lasts forever; not even for a durable season. 

Decay always starts from the head down to the body. Complacency runs in our veins. And absolute power corrupts absolutely, or at least, creates opportunities for corruption that are hard to resist even for the best of leadership. That is why we distrust a government of one and only one, without any checks and balances from outside. 

It is true that for now, if a freak election result happens, and WP and PSP were to form a coalition government to run Singapore, you can expect that the struggle to take over the steering wheel would be herculean; but of course, not impossible. 

But the silent majority are too nestled in our cozy comfort zone to want to ever risk that. And that freak election result will not happen mostly because of the unproven quality of most of the opposition parties and the stellar track record of the incumbent. 

The reality is, it is difficult to compete with PAP and their slate of high-flying candidates who will always have the experience in real time with a good lead time as compared to those whose experience is largely in the “classroom of rallies and online broadcasts”, save for WP who has nearly a decade of experience running a GRC and PSP led by someone from the inside. 

So, it is highly curious for PM Lee to even assert or hint to the possibility of the opposition forming the government (unless it is an intended play on hyperbole for effect). Because, if anything, it is much more likely at this time when we are still in the eye of the Covid-19 storm that a freak election result may just go to the other extreme, that is, the supermajority gaining an even more supermajority, if not the foreboding 100%. 

I believe that result, albeit freakish, would disappoint even the silent majority. Imagine a Parliament of unadulterated whites, no opposing voices, no contrast, no stain; just a sea of whites. Alas, it would be so bright, so uniform, so uneventful, the business of the state would be too unbearably dull to watch. 

In the end, both sides are pitching it for the safest psychological persuasion or anchorage. Both are dabbling in hyperbole for effect. Both strive to instil some uncertain and fear to finesse the silent majority. 

For PAP, they know they have got this. They are pushing for a strong mandate, and strive to repeat the 2001 GE victory of more than 75%, possibly scoring an 80%. They are taking nothing for granted especially when this will be the swan song for the last of the Lees in Parliament. 

In essence, this is an election to endorse all that PM Lee had done and stood for, and also to endorse the confidence and trust reposed on the 4G leaders of what they are going to do in the future for Singapore.

And for the opposition parties, it is indeed about making your vote count. The distrust element has always been on their side. And PAP may have the first-mover and the long-stayer advantage, but the opposition have the human-fallibility x-factor on their side. For what is the symbol and meaning of democracy, when the people’s voice in Parliament is being “whitewashed” by one political party making all the decisions?

Well, PAP can ensure (and they have always done so) that there will still be robust and impartial debate even without opposition parties, and without the perilous folly of groupthink, but it is just not the same thing in the anxious mind of the electoral. Why put all your electoral eggs in one white basket right? 

And when PM Lee said, “at this critical moment, Singapore needs a capable government with the full support of a united people, more than ever”, this unity of the silent majority still covertly craves after some credible diversity in Parliament as a psychological consolation, very much like a security blanket for us to sleep more soundly at night.

GE2020 - Raeesah. Khan's controversy.

Amos Yee was prosecuted for making vicious statements about Christians and Muslim. Claiming trial, he served four weeks. 

Bryan Lim, 37, likewise was charged for making this statement against the LGBT community: “I am a Singaporean citizen. I am an NSman. I am a father. And I swore to protect my nation. Give me permission to open fire. I would like to see these (people) die for their causes.” He was remorseful and paid a fine of $3,500.

A 19-year-old Poly student recently did similar acts claiming that he “had dreamt about shooting and killing Muslims.” He said he derived great satisfaction “gunning down anyone that’s relatively brown and non-Chinese looking.” 

And who can forget Anton Casey, then 39, who five years ago, posted this on his FB: “Daddy where is your car (apparently a silver Porsche) and who are all these poor people (in the MRT)?” This was followed by this comment in other post: “Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport of me...”

Anton had apologised. He said: “I wish for nothing more than to be forgiven for my poor judgment and given a second chance to rebuild the trust people have had in me as a resident of this wonderful country.”

Now, we have Ms Raeesah Khan, 26, WP candidate for Sengkang GRC. She too apologised. 

“My remarks were insensitive, and I regret making them. I feel really passionate about minority issues regardless of race, and in my passion I made improper remarks, and I have to be accountable for them. I will fully cooperate in any police investigation.”

What did she do or write? 

Well, in Feb 2018, she wrote this in her FB: “Singapore jails minorities mercilessly, harasses mosque leaders but lets corrupt church leaders who stole $50 million walk free. Who did they pay?”

That is hate speech at three inflammatory levels: race, religion and the administration of justice.

Well, that was two years ago. She was 24. She was not a WP candidate. She was young, unthinking, immature, right?

But there is another incident, more up to date. In another post on May 17 this year, she commented about 7 foreigners who were “caught on camera ignoring safe distancing rules during circuit breaker period.”

This was her post: “Do you see police officers here? Imagine if this was a neighbourhood hawker centre. There would be policemen swarming the area and enforcing the law within minutes.”

She added: “Why is the law different for these people? Is it because they’re rich Chinese or white people? Do you think expats will be treated with the same disdain as migrant workers who broke the law?”
Similarly, that is hate speech at three inflammatory levels: race, discrimination by socioeconomic status and the administration of justice.

Yes, Raeesah has apologised, though not entirely on point, but yes, she said sorry and would render her fullest cooperation to the police investigation. 

It is therefore unfortunate, (or maybe fortunate?) that she is singled out during such time, when she is not just a keyboard warrior, commenting from the comfort of her home or office, but one who is running as a candidate for the opposition party, apologising to the public at large. 

To me, Pritam’s stand/defence was rather curious. At first, he said he had not known about the FB posts beforehand. Not even her May FB post. He then said this in her defence: -

“And for me, I would be actually a bit disappointed if our candidates try to sanitise their past. And I think they should be upfront and authentic to the public. This is who they are. And in the event there are certain posts or certain comments that they may have made which are untoward, then I would expect them to explain themselves.”

Mm...”sanitise their past”? Be upfront and authentic to the public?

I think this is a case that goes beyond sanitisation. She was caught in the open when two police reports lodged yesterday, and she was called to explain herself, and she did. 

However, it should be noted that her posts were apparently put out there to rile readers up. And mind you, her most recent post was only less than 2 months ago. What was she thinking? Is this who she was or, god forbid, is or has always been? 

The issue here is that Raeesah was not being “not authentic”. She was in fact quite upfront or authentic about how she felt about certain status quo in our country, including race, religion and justice administration, at the time of the posts. 

So, the question is, did she really feel that way when she wrote those posts at that time, or was it just to garner some attention, “Likes” and followers? 

Mind you, the former is about authenticity (which is problematic) and the other is about being disingenuous about it, unthinking, immature (which is understandable to some extent). 

In other words, it is not her pretenses, if any, that concern me. It is her authenticity or forthrightness (without filter) that gives me cause for pause. 

And another related question is whether she is a rebel with a cause or one without a cause. I can sympathise with the MLK kind, but not the Amos Yee kind (and I put on record that I am not comparing her to Yee, just stretching examples for illustration). 

So, Pritam’s concern ought to be directed more at how strongly she felt the so-called injustice and discrimination when she made those posts, notwithstanding how problematic and inappropriate they are, and not so much that she was trying to sanitise her past, which, if she was not uncovered, her constituency, should she be elected, would not be fully aware of her stand. 

Now, to be fair, I know she had apologised, and made a 20-sec public statement about it that went some way to clarify her stand and intention. But apart from accountability and cooperation with the police, I truly hope that she will receive the proper counselling and advice because she is no keyboard warrior like me, but may just be voted in as an MP for her constituency, and thereby wield considerable social and political influence.

At times, it is not how you feel about an issue that is wrong per se. I believe Raeesah has her heart in the right place, and her standing up for public office is what is most redeeming about her intention and passion for the people. Alas, we all make mistakes, and acknowledging it is the first step - paying for it is the second.

However, in the long run in politics, it is about how you represent the issue and fight for it that counts. And as she said, she has a heart for the minority, the disenfranchised, and the left behind, so to speak. And that is admirable. 

But that is just half the narrative. The other half that brings you home is to win hearts over, even that of your opponents’, with a heart that is responsible, accountable and humble. All the best this Friday.