We’re the best of times, we’re in the worst of times. We’re in the age of wisdom, we’re in the age of foolishness, we’re in the epoch of belief, we’re in the epoch of incredulity. We’re in the season of Light, we’re in the season of Darkness. We’re in the spring of hope, we’re in the winter of despair. We have everything before us, we have nothing before us. Are those who lead us going straight to heaven, or are they going direct the other way?
My apologies to Charles Dickens, but the season of contradictions will soon be upon us. GE2015 is coming.
First and foremost, let’s give a round of applause for the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (ERBC) for a job well done. It’s no easy task coming up with good reasons for redrawing boundaries which worked pretty well just 4 years ago – not that we’ll ever get to hear what the reasons are.
Anyway, the battle lines for GE2015 have finally been revealed (though I’m not sure when they were actually drawn) with some newly minted constituencies effectively scooping in new people and shovelling out old ones. Many have forgotten but some still remember that Mr Yee Jenn Jong (Worker’s Party), lost the contest at Joo Chiat by a narrow margin of 2.04 per cent to Mr Charles Chong (PAP). Mr Yee became a NCMP after that. I’m curious how he will fare this time round but thanks to the new electoral boundaries, there will be no rematch. The ERBC had taken the liberty to make the residents of Joo Chiat feel safer by merging them with the folks at Marine Parade. On a radio show, Mr Yee Jenn Jong told 938LIVE he was “highly disappointed” that Joo Chiat SMC, which he contested in 2011, has been scrapped.
“I believe that Joo Chiat SMC has been an SMC for a long time, from 1959 to 1988, and then from 2001 until now. I would have hoped that Joo Chiat, because of its special characteristics, could have remained as an SMC,” he said. Indeed, if Joo Chiat were a “natural fit” for Marine Parade, why did the previous EBRCs single it out in the first place?
I guess unlike Potong Pasir, Joo Chiat is probably not “special” enough. Things might have been different if he had not outshone the “harmless” Mrs Lina Chiam. There has been a flurry of comments about the disappearance of Joo Chiat on social media, the rationale of it being so blatantly obvious to the commenters in this epoch of incredulity. In a media statement, Acting Secretary-General of NSP Hazel Poa said that the ERBC report gave no explanation to why it was necessary for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, helmed by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, to be divided up, nor for the dissolution of Joo Chiat SMC and Whampoa SMC, as well as the range of electors per MP used by the ERBC to determine the boundaries. Explanation? Gosh, Mr Low Thia Khiang is going to choke on his bak kut teh if he hears that. Meanwhile, Mr Lui also expressed disappointment in not being able to serve the same people.
“For me of course there is a sense of disappointment because I have been with the residents for so many years already and I’ve really come to become very fond of them and I will miss them dearly.”
That’s Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP and Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew expressing disappointment on 24th July that his constituency will be dissolved. Mr Lui’s GRC will be absorbed into four constituencies: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Tanjong Pagar GRC and the newly-created Jalan Besar GRC. He sounded as if he would be leaving retiring, but even even if he gets out of the limelight, I’m sure he will be remembered by people who take the MRT for a very long time.
Leaving the cynical remarks, the mockery, the speculation and conspiracy theories on social media, our reputable newsPAPers present the views of the more qualified individuals who seem unperturbed by the new lines running in different directions. For some residents of Feng Shan SMC, which is also new, the quality of the political party, as a whole, is more important. The words in bold send a powerful message. It’s just like large medical groups which almost never promote their individual doctors in satellite clinics. The management is promoting the brand and they want people to recognise the logo, not the individual doctors who come and go. I’ll revisit this concept in a moment. First, let us take a closer look at what is being said.
Commercial pilot Victor Ng, 56, said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a GRC or SMC, it’s all about what the party can give me.”
Mr Richard Eng, 48, a director at a marketing company, added: “For me, it’s about the big picture; it’s about what they can do for Singapore, not just one constituency.”
Yao mo gao chor ah? I thought Singapore is an land of opportunities. Didn’t Ms Josephine Teo once say that we are co-authors of this wonderful game plan? We are supposed to be in the spring of hope and not the winter of despair. In this land of plenty and little bribery where the policies are sound and farsighted, shouldn’t a commercial pilot or a director of a marketing company be thriving without any additional help? Shouldn’t these intelligent and resourceful individuals in a prosperous, progressive free market economy be able to achieve what they want in life without any further government aid and intervention? Why is Mr Ng talking about what the party can give him? Why are people like Mr Eng not doing things for Singapore and expecting the government to do them? Do we have everything before us? Or do we have nothing before us?
Likewise, Ms Blossom Siew, 21, a teacher, does not think it makes a difference, policy-wise, that her Macpherson ward will be an SMC in the coming elections. “If the Government implements any policy, we will still benefit from it,” she said.
Now, I’m not sure what sort of new policies Ms Siew is expecting (after GE2015), but is she assuming that all policies implemented by the “new” government will benefit her regardless of who wins the election in her constituency? And it gets even more mind-boggling than this. People living in landed property complain about high tuition fees at boutique tuition centres and expensive fencing gear for their children who are interested in the sport.
Responding to the opposition parties’ accusations of gerrymandering in the latest electoral boundaries review, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean pointed to the fact that the demarcations of opposition wards Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East were largely intact, and noted that the incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) were most affected when boundaries shift.
“The ones who were disrupted most are the incumbents MPs. And actually from that point of view, I would say the opposition wards have not been touched at all. That’s a great advantage to the (opposition) incumbents. Whereas for … my GRC, every election I’ve had to cope with new boundaries and that’s because my GRC has been growing at the fastest pace in Singapore,” said Mr Teo.
Indeed, it’s the season of darkness. What is meant by “disrupted most” when the MPs themselves are often playing musical chairs? The pilot, the director and the teacher at Feng Shan SMC (at the moment) have already told us that it’s the party as a whole that matters. It’s not like they’re going to be bothered who the MPs are as long as they belong to a party with long arms and deep pockets. Like the satellite clinics under a large medical group, the patients only recognise the logo and not the individual doctors. The voters like our pilot, our director and our teacher probably only recognise the logo and the potential benefits associated with it.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a GRC or SMC, it’s all about what the party can give me.”
© Chan Joon Yee