PeasantMoNkEy's MudHut

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." - Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, February 12, 2006

RCs...CCs...& CCCs....

They've been in the news lately since the Workers' Party called for their abolition in their manifesto. The PAP came out with guns blazing. Hey, I am not surprised. I expect nothing less from the PAP when their very legs are being threatened - how would they be able to stand up if that happened, right? So, we saw Mr Ng Eng Hen being pointman and Khaw Boon Wan his lieutenant coming out with their sledgehammers.

"They're time bombs!"

"They're poison! They need to be removed!"

Someone who claimed to be a grassroots leader also told me that they were 'suicide pills'.

Much ado over nothing? Mountain out of molehill?

In the coffeeshops and gossip corners, what the WP says is nothing new. Singaporeans - at least those I spoke to - have the impression that the GROs (Grassroots Organisations) are indeed tools of the PAP. Of course the PAP will not and have never admitted this.

But it is quite plain to see that the grassroots and the PAP are pretty much intertwined. An example is the PAP's own Eric Low (their candidate in Hougang SMC in the 2001 elections) saying:

"I would dare to challenge anyone who would say our grassroots are not doing their job. Frankly, without them, I can't be doing what I have....I would imagine that if anyone wants to take that away it's because they feel it as a threat, they are not able of putting up another system which is comparable to ours.... I am very proud of my GROs." (CNA 12 Feb 2006: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/192823/1/.html)

(Emphasis are mine)

So there it is.

Quite plain to see, really.

Some would ask, "What's wrong with the GROs being so closely intertwined with the PAP?". Well, the first reason of course is that GROs were set up to be apolitical, that is neutral. There purpose is to serve ALL Singaporeans in their constituency - regardless of their political affiliation.

Second, being politically neutral, Singaporeans who do not support the ruling party and those who have no political affiliations would be more willing to volunteer their time in the GROs and take part in the activities of the GROs. This is an important distinction. Again, I reiterate that the GROs are suppose to be apolitical - and not be affiliated to any political party, ruling or otherwise.

Third, the GROs should work with the MP who is elected by the people and not with the one who has lost an election, thus have been rejected by the people. If the GROs work with the loser of the elections, then what is the point of the whole elections? This would in effect make the loser the de facto MP of the ward! Wouldn't this be disrespecting the choice of the people?

Why then have elections?

In conclusion, GROs have to above party politics. It's that simple. They should and must work with the member elected by the people. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the elections AND to make a mockery of the people who have cast their votes for the leader of their choice.

Just a note: It is interesting to me that all these years, no grassroots leader has brought this issue up. Are they so unaware of the impression singaporeans have of their political affiliations? If that is so, then they are not the 'eyes and ears' of the govt as claimed, are they? If they are however, aware of singaporeans' impression of their political affiliation, then why has no one in the GROs brought this issue up?


Friday, February 10, 2006

The Incredible Spinning Machine In Full Swing
Singapore news headlines - courtesy of the ST, CNA, TODAY, etc.

"Higher wages seen for Singapore workers as job market tightens"

"Singapore businesses optimistic in first half of 2006"

"Singapore's employment in 2005 at all-time high of 2.3 million"

"Singapore's economy expected to continue prospering: PM Lee"

"$1b help for low-wage earners"

"NTUC aim: Make 10,000 jobs pay more this year "

"Record 32m pass through Changi Airport"

"Foreign Trade hits record $716b"

"RECORD panel recommends financial incentives for NSmen"

"Private and HDB home prices move up"

"Panel recommends incentive package for companies to hire older workers"

"More workers expected to find jobs in 2006: NTUC Chief "

"Biomedical sciences industry may exceed government's 2015 target"

"NTUC to set up $50m fund to help low-wage workers upgrade their skills "

"S'pore strong trade performance expected to continue into H1 2006"

"Medisave withdrawal limit to be raised from $300 to $400 from April"

"Singapore expects strong manufacturing investments in 2006 "

"Strong jobs gains show Singapore employers hiring for growth: analysts "

"Jalan Besar Town Council unveils $517m estate upgrading plan"

"S&C and rental rebates for 700,000 households"

"Sembawang Town Council to spend $570m on renewal plan"

"Civil servants to get 1.75 month year-end bonus"

"12% of Singapore employers to increase hiring in Q1: survey "

"Singapore created 28,500 jobs in Q3 "

"Singapore raises economic growth forecast to around 5% for full year"

"ComCare Fund disburses $8.7m to help low income households"

"East Coast Town to undergo S$500m renewal programme "

"HDB upgrading programme speeds up with 64 precincts chosen for 2006 "

"Jobless rate down to 2.5%. Lowest in 4 years"

"More Jobs Than Ever Before As The Tide Turns"

"Singapore retailers say festive season sales the best since 2003"

"Manufacturing, service sectors optimistic about business conditions"

"Singapore's PMI expands for 9th straight month in January"

"Singapore's STI ends at six-year high for second day running "

"Singapore banks expected to post strong Q4 earnings"

"Singaporeans less worried about economy, job security: survey "

"SilkAir flew record 134,000 in Dec "

"Singapore's M&A market hits record number of deals in 2005 "

"SingTel's regional mobile users rise to 78m by end of Dec 2005 "

"More SMEs expected to launch IPO this year"

"SE Asia a key growth region for many S'pore firms"

"Bets still on for global stock market rally despite slow start to year"

"Panasonic sets up new semiconductor plant, expands capacity by 25% "

"More couples having more children, 2005 birth rates up marginally"

"MediaCorp Raintree Pictures' "I Not Stupid Too" beats Jet Li's "Fearless"

"More poly graduates finding jobs at higher starting pay: survey"

"Gallery outreach, higher incomes drive growing interest in art collecting"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why We Need To Have Alternatives In Govt.

This is an old question. In past elections the alternative parties (I refer to the opposition parties as such) have made this their platform in general elections. They tried to convince the people of the necessity of having alternative parties in parliament, the highest law-making body in the country. Sadly, such 'noble' messages have been drowned out by the counter-strategies of the PAP which focussed mainly on material promises.

And so, with the next elections on the horizon, we revisit this issue again.

In my view, we now - more than ever - needs to have alternatives in parliament. Perhaps it's the situation of recent years when the economy went bad that we realised the PAP govt is not that perfect after all, if they were indeed perfect in the first place.

Many lost their jobs, retrenched, and had to truly tighten their belts to get through the hard times. One issue which irked many people was the govt's refusal to allow citizens to use their CPF savings to help them tide over this difficult period. Rumblings of this dissatisfaction can still be heard. Also, it was during this difficult period that the govt also made a token gesture of having their own ministers' salaries cut - but promptly reinstated them exactly one year later even though the economy was still in the doldrums.

"It is reasonable" - said Minister Ng Eng Hen.

This difficult period showed up the frustration of singaporeans who felt that they were helpless and hapless, in spite of PM Goh's promise to bring singaporeans 'out of the valley into the highlands'. many felt that they had no voice, that their concerns were not heard. Coupled with the high salaries of the PAP ministers, this was extremely frustrating indeed.

The rich do not suffer. The poor does. No matter how you see it. I do not believe that a multi-millionaire minister sufferred more than a cleaning lady trying to just make ends meet.

So, why have an alternative in parliament?

I have heard ridiculous arguments from pro-PAP supporters that 'the PAP has done so well that there is no need for an opposition." This is one of the most ludicrous argument I've heard so far. For in that assertion is the presumption that the PAP - whether as a political party or a govt - will always stay un-corrupt.
I do not think even the PAP itself can or will make such a promise - and even if they did, they would not say that they will always remain un-corrupt.

There are examples of countries where alternative parties emerge only when something has gone wrong and the people are out on the streets baying for blood and crying for change. The whole country is in turmoil and people suffer even more. Blood is even shed, lives lost.

In Singapore, we are lucky in the sense that the PAP govt has been able to maintain a measure of peace. (Whether the means of achieving this 'peace' have resulted in a climate of fear is another issue which I will perhaps write about in future.)

I would say that now is the best time for us Singaporeans to help nurture and support alternative parties grow. Putting aside partisan politics, this can only be good for the country and its people. Having choices is a good thing in this case. It is always good to have choices as to who you want to run the country. The only countries which do not afford its citizens any choices are totalitarian, communist and dictatorial ones.
Singapore, hopefully, is none of the three.

So, we should allow alternative parties the chance to put forth their programmes and yes, scrutinise them. But we must also be aware of the limitations they face. I find that Singaporeans scrutinise the alternative parties more than they scrutinise the PAP. I guess that's because the PAP has a track record and people gives them the benefit of the doubt willingly. Of course, having the mass media at their disposal has helped the PAP immensely in this aspect of having the people's trust. There is much you can do with tv, newspapers and radio.

Giving alternative parties a chance also allows them to learn while the country is at peace. To learn what? To learn the ropes of governing. We would dread it if the PAP is voted out of office and an alternative party takes over with no knowledge or experiences of governing. That would be dreadful.

But most importantly, having alternative parties in parliament will go a long way to re-set the mindsets of Singaporeans.

This is the crux of the whole matter of giving alternative parties a chance. For 40 years, we've had nothing but one-party rule. The whole country - and its people - has been indoctrinated in one philosophy, the PAP's philosophy. So much so that many Singaporeans cannot fathom a Singapore without the PAP.

Is that good?

I do not think so, certainly. In an ocean of sweeping waves and rising tides, it is always good to have life vests as your alternatives. If you have only one small boat and no life vests, you depend entirely on the boat to carry you to shore.

That is the situation Singapore is in. One boat - the PAP boat and no alternatives, no life vests.
Singapore needs a change of mindset. This change is not limited to the economic sphere, or the cultural sphere, or other areas of our society. It should and must include - most importantly - the political sphere as well. For it is in politics that the whole tone of society depends. Leaders set the tone. The people elect the leaders. But the people must have a choice of who to choose.

The emergence of alternatives will not come unless and until Singaporeans realise, deep in their hearts, that the PAP will not always be there. That Lee Kuan Yew will one day leave this earth. That Singapore and Singaporeans will then have to be truly a global city with the attending democracy, freedom and the right to have choices.

But this will only come about if the people are willing to allow the alternatives a chance to serve the people. If the people keep being seduced by material baits, then I am sad to say that this country will be a vase - exquisite on the outside but hollow on the inside.

I do hope that the alternative parties will achieve a good result this coming GE.

It will be good for the country.

And for Singaporeans.