The Future of the Parties

Sylvia Lim was introduced and received applause. Dr Gillian Koh, who was introducing the speakers, then said that the applause was because she was the NCMP, "the best loser". You begin to understand why some people stick to their scripts.
<h4>Points from Speech by Dr Derek da Cunha, Independent Scholar</h4>
After 11 years and 3 elections later, Chiam See Tong established the Singapore Democratic Party as the leading opposition party. Chee Soon Juan, after having ousted Chiam, has successfully brought it back to square one, "or as some say, behind square one".
According to Derek, PAP: centre-right of the political spectrum, WP and SDA are on the centre-left while SDP is flush left. One can see the SDA and WP cooperation during the next election to avoid a three cornered fight. Due to the law of large numbers, it is virtually impossible for the opposition parties to win a GRC.
The opposition needs to hotly contest several GRCs, rather than concentrating on just one. This would involve fielding several A-teams – teams of their best and brightest. It is a mammoth logiistical task.<h4>Sylvia Lim, Workers' Party</h4>
Workers' Party: Hope for the future?
Pleasant surprises:
<ul><li>Fate of SM Goh's "mission"</li>
<li>Open rejection of selective upgrading</li>
<li>Role of cyber community despite threat of illegality</li>
<li>Voter behaviour pre- and post-election</li></ul>
Fielding first-time candidates probably helped engage the younger voters. A lot of the younger voters don't have the baggage of fear – having seen many opposition members jailed.
Note: The opposition manifestos need to be put in a language (possibly visual) that is easy to understand. Most people don't know what they stand for, settling only for the things of PAP they are fighting against.
<h4>Points from Speech by Dr Vincent Yeo, Singapore Democratic Alliance</h4>
There were huge carrots offered by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in Potong Pasir and Hougang, upgrading plans worth $80 million and $100 million respectively. SDA salutes the people of Potong Pasir who put aside the $80 million carrot to vote for Chiam See Tong, who has in all these years wanted to be identified as one of the residents.
The younger voters are going to cyberspace for their news because they know the papers are controlled. The present generation wants more freedom of speech.
<h4>Points from Speech by Chee Siok Chin, Singapore Democratic Party</h4>
We're talking about over 90% PAP dominance every elections. Are opposition parties so bereft of good candidates that we cannot gain more than 4 seats in parliament? MM Lee would like people to believe that talent only exists within the PAP. This is the excuse our ministers use to justify the highest governmental salaries in the world.
Are the political parties really in control; are our future in our hands? The future of the SDP seems unclear because of the legal action the Minister Mentor and his son have taken against us.
The perception that SDA is more gentlemanly and moderate while the SDP is more confrontational is the product of PAP's use of the mainstream media. As long as the PAP continues to have a stranglehold over national institutions, the opposition parties can only participate as much as PAP allows.
The SDP is heartened that they are not the only party calling for political reform. Unlike what the other speaker said, reform has to come from the people, not the ruling party. That is what the Singapore Democrats are trying to do.
"We all know that the elections process here in Singapore is far from free and fair". Many politicians have said that we ought to abide by the rules the PAP has set. But the rules keep changing. After the SDP made their corporate video, the next year a rule was enacted to ban the making of political videos. The rules keep getting smaller and smaller and we keep playing within those limits. Forty years on we will still have 2 seats in parliament.
The progress package and the timing of upgrading to elections is unfair and unethical.
Note: Ms Chee Siok Chin has filed a summons in open court, saying that linking the upgrading to the elections is unethical, and is calling the 2006 general elections null and void.
The PAP's control of the mainstream media has controlled the mind of the people. Nowhere else do you find the people of a first-world country so docile.
PM Lee Hsien Loong claims he read SDP's article on the NKF issue on the day he announced the elections. But Ms Chee says that the SDP has been writing these articles long before the elections. The coincidence that the elections and the lawsuit stemming from SDP's article comes across as uncanny.
Whatever happens to the party, it is more than the party as an entity. It is the people. We will not cow down and we will not be destroyed by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, by Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
<h4>Points from Speech by Indranee Rajah, People's Action Party</h4>
Lessons learned: We cannot afford to ignore the ground. We have to listen to them and act on what we hear. People need to feel that their lives have improved, that their representative made a difference. Never take voters for granted. Minorities matter. There has to be credible messages from all the parties.
What do the election results say of the PAP? We should be grateful because it means the people have trust in the PAP. By and large, people are generally happy to have a PAP government. It is remembering that we are <strong>the People's</strong> Action Party.
There was a general perception that the PAP was arrogant. That is something the PAP needs to learn to deal with. We also need to learn to deal with the David and Goliath issue. We need to use a lighter touch.
We need to know how to "deal with" the cyberspace community. Ms Indranee clarifies that "dealing with" means hearing what goes on in cyberspace.
The Singapore of today is not the Singapore of the 1960s. The challenge is carving policies which reflect correctly the sentiments on the ground. And the PAP will meet that challenge.
<h4>Points from the Question and Answer Session</h4>
Q. There are different demographic groups within the growing group of senior citizens. How does the WP hope to cater to them?
A. The WP seeks to improve the returns on citizen's CPF, a more comprehensive health insurance scheme. The people above 65 will still have the same concerns over the accountability of the government and so on.
Q. The WP is the Workers' Party, but has no workers' organisation.
A. The PAP has successfully joined all the workers union in NTUC, which enjoys a "symbiotic" relationship with the government. The WP seeks to work outside of worker's organisations but will watch out for the worker's welfare in a more open platform.
Q. I find it hard to believe that the SDP has had its image foisted on it by the PAP. What can the SDP learn from the WP in reforming its image?
A. The PAP targets the party that is a threat, crucifies and destroys it with the public media it controls, and plays up the image of the less threatening party. Do not underestimate the power of the controlled media. Do not believe everything you see.
Q. The heartlanders have stood up at great cost to themselves. Have the public institutions, the newspapers and so on, failed Singaporeans as a form of check and balance?
A.Indranee: The function of the institutions is not to be a check and balance on all levels. The check and balance comes within the political system, maybe a multi-party political system.
A. Chee: The controlled media has not sped up the democratising of the country. They have failed Singaporeans in that respect.
A. Yeo: Mr Chiam has never stood for a pseudo-opposition in the government. PAP members are bound to tow the party line. Eg. the building of the casinos.
Q. What is the reason for the ban of political videos, podcasts etc? If you are listening to the ground, you need to acknowledge the citizen's use of cyberspace.
A: Indranee: The main concern is that you could use electronic media to for eg. splice voices, put together something which may not be real and put it out and people would believe it. I am not sure that they (the people) are ready to understand how to deal with it. Dr Lee Boon Yang has specified that the next GE, there will be a lighter touch.
Q. To Ms Indranee, you have said that politics was local and that people voted on bread and butter issues. But the people of Hougang and Potong Pasir voted against their own benefit. Do you think their estate should be upgraded?
A. When I said that politics was local, I meant that it touched the voter personally. I'm not sure whether the Potong Pasir and Hougang voters voted against their own benefit. They may not have wanted upgrading; the co-payment may not have been something they were ready to meet. There have been places which rejected upgrading. It is Mr Chiam and Mr Low who should answer for their respective constituencies as they are in charge, but PAP is the party in power. I can't tell you right now whether or not they should be upgraded. We need to look into whether or not they want upgrading, whether there are other wards in greater need of upgrading.

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