Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Braving the Rain on 22 May 2012

Heavy downpour fails to dampen the crowd at Workers' Party's 2nd rally in Hougang on 22 May

Source: Channel News Asia

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They attended in support, despite the lack of goodie bags and free transport

Photo credit: Lawrence Chong

It started out as a slight drizzle and all of a sudden, it began to rain furiously as Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party Low Thia Khiang began his speech. Many from the crowd used this opportunity to open up their blue umbrellas with the party logo, some sharing with people standing next to them while the rest without umbrellas began to move away from the field.

For a moment I thought they were going home but instead, they went for shelter under the void deck of the nearby block. Some even walked up the stairs and filled up the corridors of that particular block. There were also a handful who preferred to take shelter under the merchandise tent.

A genuine sense of support was in the air and it was pretty overwhelming. These attendees went on their own accord, by their own means of transportation and were not given free dinner nor goodie bags. But they stayed and they cheered til the end of the by-election rally (22 May, Tues), regardless of gender and age.

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Roystan Tan on last night Hougang Rally

This is not about support ANY parties but tonight i experienced one of the most moving things in hougang that will last for a long time! what is amazing is that when it started to rain, those with umbrella started running around , sheltering strangers without umbrella, aunties tearing plastic bags into 2 to give to others, family of 5 gathers under one tiny umbrella, uncle taking off their shirt and shelter older folks and kids. Singaporean placing others before themselves, ! Respect! Tonight Hougang residents, i salute you for your giving spirit!

This makes my day. I have been so disappointed with DPM Teo. I wished he was a better campaigner and communicator helping Desmond Choo in this by-election. His suggestion that WP have not chosen their best man for the by-election is simply inane. If I were WP and LTK, I would want to hold Hougang at all cost. Losing Hougang is like losing the Big Flag of your army. They will be completely deflated. I remember when Burger King took over the Liat Tower premises which used to house McDonalds first outlet here. Some of us thought Burger King was winning the burger war against the Golden Arches.

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Hougang by-election – an alternative perspective of the second WP rally

Photo from TOC, taken by Chan Zhi Jian, Jeremy.

I was at WP's second rally of this Hougang by-election. Towards the end of it, a heavy downpour descended upon us. Singaporeans from all walks of life, young and old, men and women, stood shoulder to shoulder in the soggy field, in one of the greatest show of solidarity I have ever seen in my life. Strangers became friends, friends became comrades. A woman standing behind me, old enough to be my mother, came over and shared her small umbrella with me. As it was too small for both of us, like all others in the rally, we became totally drenched.

Some of us, including me, were not Hougang voters. Neither were we WP apparatchiks – there was no reason for anyone to be one as it is not because of fear or favour that we turned up for the rally.

Amidst the chanting of “Workers’ Party” and “Huat Ah” that continued to resonate throughout the field, the real reasons why we displayed such behaviour are more than skin deep. It reflects upon our conscience as human beings. This is more than being “emotional” that the PAP had branded WP’s rallies to be. It was a display of our hard headedness against unfairness, and our desire for equality for Hougang residents who are also fellow Singaporeans.

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Braving The Weather

Lee Kuan Yew's election rallies of the 80s at Fullerton Square were legendary. He and his audience braved downpours during the rallies, when he would speak, off the cuff, for hours, spelling out his hopes, fears, and dreams for the country. (LKY: The Man And His Ideas, page 143)

How times have changed. A new generation of political leaders braved the rain at the Hougang field facing Block 837 on 22 May 2012. Their supporters were not deterred by the downpour, taking in the speeches with the showers from the heavens, with strangers sharing their umbrellas or makeshift rain coats.

But where are Lee's modern day troops? After one pathetic rally on Sunday, they retreated to the mainstream media, taking potshots ad nauseam like Wong Kan Seng did at the integrity of James Gomez over the filing of his minority candidate papers at GE 2006. Which provided inspiration for the brilliant persistently non-political podcast no. 6 of Mr Brown, same guy Denise Phua credited for a check on the government. DPM Teo Chee Hean should pay heed to what the younger Lee used to say in 1956 about steering the press.

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Some touching scenes have emerged from the by-election campaign. The WP rally held in the rain, with the audience and supporters staying on and sheltering each other, and the continuation of the rally by the WP members without shelter and in solidarity with each other provided a powerful projection of solidarity and a positive image of the party.

The Warrior in blue

Unfortunately, I can't quite say the same for the PAP campaign.

I have to admit that this post is written partly out of indignation, specifically about how farcical the Hougang campaign has become.

For some reason, the campaign is no longer about the interests of the residents of Hougang and the future of our politics, but has, as had happened time and again in our political history, devolved into a round of mud-slinging that frustrates all concerned about the character of Singapore's politics.

I'm referring to the debate stirred up by the PAP leadership about Png Eng Huat's (non-)removal of his name from the ballot for the NCMP post (which went to Gerald Giam), an episode (rather tastelessly) phrased as "Png-gate" by some commentators.

Any food, drinks or vouchers at the by-election rallies?

I am just wondering out aloud... Did either the WP or PAP rally involve any supply of free food, drinks, vouchers or other gifts?

Political parties should be aware that treating is an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

58. —(1) A person shall be guilty of treating if he corruptly, by himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving, any meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing or any money or ticket or other means or device to enable the procuring of any such meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing, to or for any person —

(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting;

(b) for the purpose of inducing that person to attend or remain at any election meeting;

(c) on account of any such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting or being about to vote or refrain from voting at the election; or

(d) on account of any such person having attended an election meeting.
(2) A person shall also be guilty of treating if he corruptly accepts or takes any such meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing or any such money or ticket or who adopts any other means or device to enable the procuring of such meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing

It is clear that treating for the purpose inducing persons to attend a rally or to remain at the rally is an offence. So, has anyone attended these rallies? Do you have knowledge of infringement of this law?

Eric said: Wasn't there this video of a particularly elderly folk attending a rally saying that she was supplied transport, refreshments and lunch?

Subra said: You are referring to the following video, I guess:

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By-Election Rally: Workers’ Party May 22 – call for greater respect of the elderly

Singapore senior citizen: still toiling away at 10:30pm when she should be at home spending time with her family or grandchildren.

In stark contrast, cleaners in China are young people!
Many issues, points and rebuttals to PAP’s claims were made at the Workers’ Party by- election rally last night.

I’ll just focus on one. WP brought up the plight of the many elderly who still need to work as cleaners and in other menial jobs. A speaker urged the ruling party, the PAP, to accord the elderly greater respect as they helped to build up Singapore.

These elderly people are the current younger generation’s fathers and mothers. Do the young really understand what hardship and sacrifices their parents went through?

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Teo Chee Hean launches another scathing attack against Png Eng Huat, 23 May 2012
For the third time in four days, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has kept up pressure on the Workers’ Party (WP), questioning the integrity of WP Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat.
“Mr Png was not truthful when he tried to explain away why the WP did not select him as an NCMP,” Mr Teo said in a statement to the media.

He was responding to WP’s explanation on the selection process of Non-Constituency MPs (NCMP) at their by-election rally on Tuesday, which was sparked by DPM Teo’s questions to the WP over their choice of NCMP following the 2011 poll

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Gutter politics and biased reporting by Straits Times

The PAP is up to its usual bag of tricks again. When the campaign for Hougang began, Mr Desmond Choo, the PAP candidate, promised a clean fight. What he did not promise however, was that his fellow PAP ministers would also fight fairly. It is disingenuous that the dirty work of smearing the opposition has been left to his colleagues while he preserves his clean image.

This was the same tactic used on James Gomez in the 2006 general elections. The last few days saw an intensive smear campaign, which was throttled only because of backlash from the ground.
This time round, the smear campaign by the PAP machinery is directed at Png Eng Huat’s stand on the NCMP issue and whether or not he was on the party ballot for the NCMP post. The fact that this is completely irrelevant to the needs and aspirations of Hougang residents has escaped the PAP.

The Straits Times, leader of PAP propaganda, has joined in the smear campaign by publishing an unflattering image of WP leaders at the rally on Tuesday night, together with the headline: “Workers’ Party faces allegations of dishonesty”.

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Will DPM Teo say “Let’s move on”?

DPM Teo Chee Hean endorses PAP candidate Desmond Choo

Let us wind the clock back to General Elections 2006. When James Gomez, a minority candidate, for Workers’ Party (WP) had claimed that he submitted his minority candidate forms but video footage showed that he had not, he was to become the focal point of the hustings.

Senior members of the PAP leadership were to concentrate their attacks on Gomez, questioning his integrity and character, so much so that WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang had refuted that the PAP made baseless allegations.

WP finished with 43.91% of the votes, the best losing margin by the opposition that was sufficient to send Sylvia Lim into parliament as a Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP). A statement from the PAP branch secretary at Aljunied, Tan Bee Lan, implied that the WP had gained from ‘canvassing’ for sympathy over Gomez.

Tan’s contention can be easily rebutted; what happened to Gomez took two hands to clap. Gomez made a mistake, but the PAP leadership had a choice on whether to move on immediately or keep harping on the issue. Bottomline was, if anything, the focus on Gomez had indeed won WP sympathy votes.

Fast-forward 6 years later, we are seeing the repeat of Gomez-gate in WP’s candidate for Hougang, Png Eng Huat. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean initially questioned why WP did not send Png into Parliament as an NCMP due to the party’s results in East Coast GRC where Png originally contested, which was among the top three losing results in terms of percentage.

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