Still, having listened to him twice, I cannot help but be impressed. Not only does he appeal to the intellect, but he also appeals to the emotions. At the Raffles Place lunchtime rally, I stood in the heat listening to snatches of his speech; I couldn't catch the whole thing because I went there an hour after it'd already started and I was at the back, and the acoustics were not great, so I couldn't hear everything that he said. And yet, I heard enough to understand the basic point that he made, but perhaps more importantly, to be moved by his conviction in a more just society that he envisions for Singapore, and to feel his passion for this vision. Honestly, the Singapore Democratic Party is probably the party that best represents me if I had to pick one. I haven't disagreed with them on anything so far, and their championing the plight of the poor and the elderly speaks straight to my bleeding, liberal heart. I am so happy that there is an opposition party who is making the points that need to be made, and doing so in an articulate and intelligent manner, almost without sweeping statements, and presenting facts and figures to back up their arguments. Both Chee and Tambyah are so impressive and articulate in this regard.
On the other hand, I listened to one of the opposition candidates contesting in my GRC on Toggle, and although it was okay, there were a couple of moments when I was just groaning in agony. I don't fault Goh Meng Seng for his average command of English, and I appreciated his steering the election away from issues like town council and flats upgrading and whatever, things that don't apply to me at all because I don't live in government housing. But his comments about immigration - oh my god. First off, I am anti-anti-immigration. That is not to say that I am pro-immigration, but I am against anti-immigration sentiments because I believe that having a good mix of foreigners is good for society. As a result, I cannot stand it when opposition candidates bring up the immigration issue and start blaming everything on the foreigners. GMS said that the root cause of the MRT break downs is the irresponsible increase in the number of foreigners in Singapore, as mandated by the PAP government. Huh? Is this even factually correct? It could be a contributing factor, but to say that it is a 'root cause' is a bit of a stretch. (Of course, I'm not familiar with this, so correct me if I'm wrong.)
It's all well and good to start off your speech with 'I'm not xenophobic', except if you have to clarify that, then maybe you are a bit xenophobic. In contrast, the SDP does not make such statements. They articulate a reasonable immigration policy that actually makes sense. Tambyah said that they believe that immigration is good for society (I paraphrase really badly because it's late and I'm tired), but only after the infrastructure is already in place. They also endorse a minimum wage scheme so that immigrants can enjoy the rights to which they are entitled (and there are many, despite what people like Yeo Guat Kwang or whatever would want you to believe) along with Singaporeans. That makes complete sense to me as a matter of principle. I would put my trust in a party who operates on the right principle over one that's merely results-driven anytime, anyday. It's too bad that I can't vote for the SDP.
GMS also said that the PAP lets everyone (i.e. every foreigner) in, which is blatantly untrue. There are conditions attached to the employment pass, the S pass and the work permit - and the PAP doesn't even want work permit holders to stay in Singapore after they've fulfilled their economic function. I did research on this issue for my Singapore human rights paper, and it is actually shocking, the dehumanising view of these 'migrant workers' that the PAP's regulatory framework has in mind. But that's another issue for another day (or when my chapter is published...bwahaha).
In a perfect democracy, there's no way in hell I would vote for GMS or his party after listening to his speech, and especially not after finding out that one of the candidates contesting in Choa Chu Kang is one of the Hong Lim Park loonies (I don't even remember her name...). However, Singapore's democracy is so imperfect that 'imperfect' is an understatement. I vote against the PAP on principle (unless I'm in Ang Mo Kio - it says a lot about how much I despise Gilbert Goh and Roy Ngerng that I wouldn't even vote against the PAP if it means voting for them, so I would definitely spoil my vote in this case) and it's a really simple one: an unchecked government is an unaccountable one. The PAP government needs to be accountable to the people, and the only way to do that is to have opposition voices in Parliament. I would say 'effective opposition', but democracy in Singapore is so threadbare that I would take virtually any opposition voices except proven-and-tested clowns like Roy and Gilbert.
I'm also not sure if Singapore in general is aware of what it means to live in a democracy. It goes beyond mere voting; it is also about the relationship between the people and the government. This is especially acute when some people bang on about being grateful to the PAP government for our comfortable lifestyles. I'm sorry but that is such a load of shit. The government is here to serve the people. They are not doing us a favour. It is their job to run the country, and it is their job to run it well. Of course I take it as a given that they would do a good job; why else would I submit to the rule of the government? Their competence is surely a condition of them asserting legitimate authority over me, not a by-product. I've honestly not heard of anyone outside of Singapore, from developed countries, who are grateful to their governments for doing a good job. This idea of being thankful to your government for doing what it's supposed to do (and in Singapore, who are preposterously paid millions to do it) is just insane.
What is a lacking, I think, is a proper democratic theory. I would expound on this a bit but I am tired; and frankly, I'm not all that familiar with democratic theories so I shouldn't comment too much on things of which I have mere scant knowledge.
Also, for the avoidance of doubt, even if Singapore were a proper democracy, I probably would never vote for the PAP, ever. Ever. Me and the PAP simply do not sync. Apart from immigration to some extent, their values are practically antithetical to almost everything that I believe in, which is precisely why I even have a PhD topic to begin with. I don't even understand how a country can claim to adopt a 'communitarian' approach to human rights and yet have almost zero socio-economic rights or social welfare. What can be more communitarian than welfare? If 'communitarian' merely means sacrificing the individual or a minority group for the greater good, which seems to be the case in Singapore, then it's not a very appealing society to live in. It is quite ironic that Singapore society, which has ostensibly rejected liberalism (though I'm not sure if the PAP legitimately made that choice for us considering the amount of walkovers it received in past elections), could actually be more self-centred and selfish than liberal democracies. I heard a bit of Tharman's speech about increasing welfare and how it would mean increasing taxes for the middle class. I am a member of the middle class and I couldn't see the problem with what he said. Of course, it depends on how much the increase is, but come on, taxes in Singapore are not high at all.
Anyway. I am tired. I was only planning on writing briefly about how much the SDP appeals to me and move on to something else but this entry has clearly taken a life of its own, if that makes sense. I am too tired. Bed time.