Deja vu: Empty stadium or full house at PAP rally?


Singapore holds a much-watched by-election tomorrow for the Hougang seat, a Workers Party stronghold. In the 2011 general election, the Workers’ Party polled 64.8 per cent of the votes to win by a 6787-vote majority. And the contrasting turnouts at the PAP and Workers Party rallies this time around have been telling.

Does this look familiar? The first video below (loaded by The New Paper) is of a PAP rally on 20 May and the second is by someone else from a different angle. The difference lies in the camera angle and perspective.

From a different perspective:

And this was the huge crowd at the final Workers’ Party rally last night:

The contrasting visuals of the stadium compared to the huge crowd at the Workers’ Party rally should ring a bell for us across the causeway. (Think of the turnout for Umno’s 66th anniversary celebration at Bukit Jalil Stadium compared to the massive sea of people at Bersih 3.0.) Many of the current political and socio-economic issues in Singapore too have a striking parallel to those in Malaysia:

– ruling party in power since Independence
– very high income inequality
– many among the working class struggling on low incomes
– call for minimum living wage
– rising number of migrant workers
– rising house prices
– tight media controls

Do these similarities suggest the governments, long in power, on both sides of the causeway, have been increasingly out of touch with the people’s aspirations for greater democracy and social justice – at a time when workers are struggling to cope with the forces of full-blown corporate-led globalisation, which thrives on reaping maximum profits on the back of low wages?

Read this statement from Think Centre:

Hougang By-election: Vote on national and local issues, not party and petty politics

25 May 2012 (Singapore) – Think Centre (TC), Singapore’s oldest political association, calls on fellow Singaporeans to review, reflect and respond rationally after the past nine days of political campaigning in the Hougang by-election, the only second such instance for a single member constituency since the Anson by-election in 1981. Given that national and local issues are at stake and stoked for political mileage in any electoral contests, the dominant PAP cannot frame the political agenda as a local one unrelated to the tenets of democracy, governance and human rights. While local issues are of immediate concern to the voters of Hougang, some issues cannot be taken as exclusive and unrelated to the national agenda.

The WP took up the political cudgel to take their opponents to task for public (mis-)policies on housing, transportation, immigration, education, health care and cost of living. Over the last nine days, it has on behalf of Hougang voters and Singaporeans, raised these issues of national concern, only for the PAP candidate and his culpable Ministers to deflect them with allegations of political flippancy, party dis-unity and personal integrity against WP and its candidate. TC expresses its disappointment with the PAP and its candidate for their political high-handedness and inadequate addressing of national concerns to focus only on municipal estate upgrading and community assistance schemes.

TC expresses its concern on immigration, employment and incomes issues that are contingent to Singaporeans’ human rights to decent wages and work conditions.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s data, local employment grew by only 36,600 in 2011, a decline by 35% from 56,200 in 2010. In contrast, foreign employment increased by 42% from 59,700 in 2010 to 84,800 in 2011. More worrying, there were 236,300 Singaporeans and residents who earned a gross income of less than $1,000 per month as of June last year, up from 218,700 a decade earlier. The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) is only given to Singaporeans aged 35 and above who earn less than $1,700 a month. In 2010, there were more than 100,000 households with an average monthly income from work of $1,400. For housing, despite the measures taken by the government, the HDB Resale Price Index increased by 9.6 per cent from 174.8 to 191.6, from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012. All signs and indications that since the 2011 General Elections, workers and their families are still pressured without respite to play the role of “cheap workers”
and without due access to a decent living wage, better working conditions, adequate social protections, and universal health care.

Although WP touched on those concerns to varying degrees over the nine days, TC urges the WP to continue speaking up on them and to push for people-centred policies such as minimum wage, regardless of the by-election results. The WP must show that it will not let down Singaporeans willing to trust and entrust it with their mandate, by strengthening the recruitment of right-minded members and strengthening its internal ranks. TC also encourages the WP to continue the practices of democratic process in its decision-making and be more open and transparent in its various deliberations so the public is informed.

On Polling Day, TC has faith in and calls on the voters of Hougang to vote in the candidate who has championed national and local issues of concern and protection of their human rights without discrimination. Only with more independent-minded, selflessly-serving and people-centred voices in Parliament, can we take this place we call home towards a first-world nation where no one is left behind and their human rights fully protected.

Majulah Singapura!

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