Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Open Letter to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

(Reproduced with permission)

An Open Letter to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan Responding to Channel Newsasia Report "Govt needs to improve communication with citizens: Dr Balakrishnan"

Dear, Dr Balakrishnan.

I wish you well. I am Richard Chua, an arts and culture worker in the Singapore arts scene. I am also a constituent in the Aljunied GRC. I read the online news report by Channel Newsasia (1) with interest. I find your medical analogy highlighting the importance of open discussion between a doctor and the patient fitting rather oddly with how conversation should take place between the state and its constituents, for the latter is carried out on levelled grounds as compared to the former: where the patient obviously is unable to treating him/herself out of an illness. His/her only choice is to either accept the doctor's treatment, or to reject it. More so than not, the patient -- in lieu of his/her survival -- is not given a choice. He/She has to rely on a doctor's opinion. If not, his/her life might be in danger. If a patient dies, the doctor assumes no responsibility, if proper treatment is given to him/her. Patients will not be able to make good judgement, for the discussion has high personal stakes. At the end of the day, the doctor has practically no risks.

However engagement between the government and its constituents is akin to parents deciding on whether their son/daughter should undergo a heart bypass, for stakes between the parents are equally high: the risk of losing their child. The quality of the conversation between the parents will be well-considered, informed, with consensus. Both parents assume equal responsibility for the child's well-being. Singapore is the government and Singaporeans' only child. Hence the government and Singaporeans are collectively responsible in the country's well-being.

A constituent's responsibility is to cast his/her vote wisely, to the right party, to the right government. Singaporeans have made their choice last weekend. Dr Balakrishnan, your constituents have exercised responsibility in casting their votes, electing you and your GRC team into parliament. There was only one vote per constituent, for a team of candidates running for places in parliament for the GRC. By having one vote per constituent electing a team of 5 or 6 people into the parliament is totally unfair. For they do not have the option to openly reject the team of candidates contesting in their constituencies during nomination day. Hence requesting constituents to exercise their vote to a group of candidates of whom they have had no say in individual candidates' nomination is fundamentally unfair.

Hence your opinion that George Yeo has lost his seat to Aljunied constituent's will is not well-grounded. For the voice of Aljunied constituents you referred to was a weak one. Aljunied constituents only have one vote per person. They can only elect one team of people, either from the People Action Party or the Workers' Party. They can't vote for the candidate of their choice. George Yeo might have won the hearts of many. Lim Hwee Hua might get my blessing, but in my opinion the new candidate Ong Ye Kung seemed to have a long way to go. Given the differences, and with only one vote on hand, as a voter, I had to exercise proportionate voting according to the number of potentially strong candidates in each party.

If the election results in Aljunied GRC happened otherwise, good Singaporean leaders such as Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim would be the country's losses too. Would you mourn for them? I seriously doubt so, and vice-versa, applying to Workers' Party too.

The problem therefore lies with the GRC system. As much as it is a fair system, allowing minority constituents to be well represented in a constituency, this fairness does not apply to Singapore's very own meritocratic system where the best shall be given the mandate to run the country. A constituent's vote can only be used once, for one group of able-people, not able-individuals. In the recent election, an able-individual George Yeo, from People Action Party, lost his chance to contribute to the nation, not to mention others -- Lim Hwee Hua and Cynthia Phua -- who suffered the same fate. One man's meat is another man's poison. People Action Party has been systematically castrated by its own flawed mechanism.

The GRC system is indeed problematic, and -- in my opinion -- it should be abolished. I sincerely hope that you will raise this issue in the new parliament sitting. If not, I will request my new members of parliament to do so.

Thank you for reading this open letter.

Best Regards,

Richard Chua Lian Choon


Notes
(1) Cheney, S. (2011) Govt needs to improve communication with citizens: Dr Balakrishnan. channelnewsasia.com. [Singapore] Retrieved from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1127734/1/.html

cc. Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, members of parliament, Aljunied GRC.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quoted: Young Faces Battle it out in Opposition Stronghold

(Quoted: Straits Times. May 4, 2011)

Also available on this website. I shall provide my comments below.

The men in white are at a temple dinner in Hougang Avenue 5, and People’s Action Party (PAP) Hougang candidate Desmond Choo is pressing flesh and greeting senior citizens.

... ...

Wide-ranging interviews with Hougang residents threw up a number of local and national issues.

Top of the list locally is maintenance and upgrading.

In its first Hougang rally on Saturday, former PAP candidate and grassroots adviser Eric Low said Hougang had ‘become a slum’, and warned Aljunied residents that their neighbourhood would degrade if they did not ‘make a wise move’ on Saturday.

But that injured some residents’ pride.

‘Ouch, I live there, I have feelings too,’ quipped Hougang resident Sam Ho, 27.

More seriously, he added, such scare tactics are a distraction from the service - sufficient, if no-frills - that Mr Low has provided to residents over the years.

‘Non-Hougang residents should heed the advice to walk the Hougang ground - to see the work Low Thia Khiang and his team do, such as at Meet-the-People Sessions,’ said Mr Ho, who works for a technology start-up and has lived in the neighbourhood for three years.

...

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May 8: Go MAN UTD!!! By the way, I was booing Pritnam Singh's Arsenal and Liverpool analogies.

Random thoughts: I think his WP teammate Toh Hong Boon is a United fan, so I'm sure he feels very uncomfortable wearing the Workers' Party light blue polo shirt. And I mean VERY UNCOMFORTABLE, like Vivian "OUT!" Balakrishnan uncomfortable, or Teo Ser Luck at the rally uncomfortable, or Wong Kan Seng Whitley Road uncomfortable, or Lim Hwee H... WHO ARE YA?! WHO ARE YA?!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Assessing GE2011 candidates

http://vote.individualpreference.info/

The above site assess candidates on these multiple criteria using a methodology variant of what is used by the Public Service to award tenders.

Have a look at it. It's a little complex, but interesting nonetheless.

Workers' Party for Aljunied GRC

"Emotional dilemma" is something Foreign Minister and MP/candidate for Aljunied GRC Mr George Yeo suggested the Workers' Party has put Aljunied GRC voters into.

I read this to be an insinuation by Mr Yeo that the Workers' Party appears to be manipulating voters for their cause. At the same time, it is very a patronising stance towards voters in Aljunied GRC, adopted by a Minister and a gentleman who is quite respected, competent and more importantly likeable.

In saying "emotional", you invoke its known diametric opposite - being rational. Are you trying to discredit any possible opposition victory as one that is based on an irrational electorate?

Well, let's talk about manipulating voters.

1. The Grow and Share Package and its very timely release.

2. Gerrymandering and the removal of the ineffective and unpopular Mr Yeo Guat Kwang from Aljunied GRC, resulting in thousands of voters being thrown in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Ang Mo Kio GRC. Never mind the disruption to the Workers' Party's work on the ground there, but voters feel cheated.

3. Conflating PAP votes with the support of the government, and justifying the uneven distribution of funds for public housing upgrade/renewal based on constituency. People fear their estates become Potong Pasir-ised or Hougang-ified, just by looking at media depictions of these old-looking estates. Manipulative tactic?

4. PM Lee's talk about "buying" votes in 2006.

5. Dangling carrots with very timely release of the masterplan for the Hougang area.

6. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's homophobic insinuations of paedophilia and ephebophilia against a political opponent, playing on people's prevailing beliefs.

7. The timely release of "good news" pertaining to jobs and transport, and not to mention the return of TV licenses. Hey, even the ongoing construction of the river at Bishan Park is good news. Piss away people's money to make a river while withholding support for public housing upgrades for Hougang and Potong Pasir SMCs. These lopsided national, landscape and housing development initiatives serve to manipulate voters, and put them into a dilemma.

8. The media suppression of news on opposition candidates and rallies, minimising exposure, so that the less media-savvy and less technologically-savvy electorate will be manipulated into believing what the politically conservative (i.e. conservative to the PAP government) media wants them to believe.

9. Reminding voters about their "property value" and making connections with that and support for the PAP.

10. Having Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to get Singaporeans to engage in a "yin shui si yuan" bonanza every once in a while. Now that is manipulative as it draws attention away from current and pressing issues, which spawn from ineffective policies and economic decisions. The ruling party wants to get freaky with voters' minds, with the systematic utterances of threats and doomsday scenarios.

11. Beating around the bush with Mr Steve Tan, who pulled out of the General Elections. (But we shouldn't be harassed by the desire to find out)

12. The alleged mobilisation (with transport and food incentives) of PAP supporters to attend and make up the numbers at PAP rallies. That does not happen for the 60 and 70 year old folks who walk 15 to 30 minutes to opposition rallies, on their own accord, but consumers of mainstream media won't be able to tell the difference. Their inability to discern may affect their decision to vote. Is that not manipulative?

When Singaporeans ask "why?" and "how come?", more smoke and more diversions are created. What does this say about the readiness to be honest, accountable and to stay in touch with various segments of society?

There are probably more examples of the ruling party putting voters in an "emotional dilemma", which opposition parties will elaborate in this General Election and beyond.

How can we have an informed electorate when the flow of information and the management of the mainstream media are all oriented towards the interest of a particular political party?

As for Aljunied GRC and Hougang, the 2 wards I have grown up in (since Cheng San GRC has dematerialised), I like to say that the Workers' Party, like the PAP, is imperfect. I disagree with a few of their beliefs. But the Workers' Party's sincerity, diligence, commitment and service to residents are things that don't go unnoticed.

My previous MP was Mr Yeo Guat Kwang as I previously lived in Hougang-Aljunied (which is now potong-ed and thrown into Ang Mo Kio GRC). One word from my family and neighbours sum up this man's presence in the ward - it starts with "S" and it rhymes with "hit".

As for Hougang SMC, I have the utmost respect for Mr Low Thia Kiang. He is a true servant to Hougang residents, and so is his team.

And more importantly, I look forward to being represented by Mr Yaw Shin Leong in Parliament.

But won't it be a sweet thing to know on May 8 morning, white hot Aljunied and Hougang will be a cooler shade of light blue?

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add: Any way, I'm not quite sure if I have previously mentioned about Mr Yeo Guat Kwang being rude to my mum. Here are the instances, from her account:

1. My mum voiced her concerns to Mr Yeo Guat Kwang that people are littering, chucking trash out of their windows and onto the ground below. Mr Yeo told her to contact NEA herself.

2. My mum asked Mr Yeo Guat Kwang about the lift upgrading. She recalled him telling her that residents on lift landing levels "pay a premium". She asked if this was true, because she understood that everyone pays, and the higher the level, the higher the payment. Mr Yeo waved her off and said something along the lines of "Don't believe then don't" and left. The HDB officer who was tagging along with Mr Yeo later told my mum that Mr Yeo wasn't correct about the lift upgrading payments.

3. Mr Yeo Guat Kwang knocked on my mum's door in a visit, and the first thing he said was "You again!". My mum replied, "Ya, it's me."

When she votes, she'll be seriously considering the work her MP has done for her block and the neighbourhood.