By Goh Meng Seng (People’s Power Party)
written in May 2016, after the Bukit Batok By Election
Warning: This article may make you feel uncomfortable, increase in high blood pressure… read with care.
Reflections on Bukit Batok By Elections
Right from the start, the deal looks just too good to be true. Nobody has talked about David Ong’s scandalous affairs but PAP imploded the issue on their own accord.
Curiously, Bukit Batok was just carved out from Jurong GRC during last GE2015. Then, PAP announced quickly that it will be sending an Indian candidate who had contested in Aljunied GRC to become its candidate for this BE.
It is just ALL TOO PERFECT and a GOOD deal for any aspiring opposition politician. Dream conditions BEST ever to happen in Singapore’s context.
A By-Elections due to PAP scandal, opponent is a minority candidate in a dominantly Conservative Chinese ground.
My first instinct is, this is just too good to be true. PAP isn’t that generous and its track record has shown that it is a petty and vindictive political party. Thus, the only logical deduction or conclusion is that, this must be a trap bait.
Well, whatever it is, we decided NOT to have multi-corner fight as an opposition. But under such suspicious circumstances, I also believe that we shall practice caution.
I checked on the demography of BB and found that it has an exceptionally high proportion of Indian voters. It is no wonder PAP is willing to field an Indian candidate. Well, isn’t this ironic for PAP to accuse SDP of practicing “Racial politics”?
It would be PERFECT if SDP has sent Prof Paul Tambaya as its candidate because he will be effective in contesting the same group of voters against Murali.
Bukit Batok had a love hate relationship with SDP. It used to support SDP strongly back in the late 1988 and 1991 GEs when SDP was under the leadership of Chiam. However, it is also precisely due to this linkage to SDP, it has turned against SDP when Chiam left SDP under ugly circumstances/parting.
Thus my initial assessment is that Dr Chee is not exactly the right candidate to contest in BB due to this past baggage. It would be great if Prof Paul is fielded by SDP instead and he would surely have a fighting chance to win when he is short of such past political baggage. This was the basis of my first statement on this By-elections. If Paul is to contest, I will personally campaign on the ground for him because there would really be fighting chance to win.
But SDP has decided to field Chee. With due respect, I would think that this is really a strategic mistake. SDP and Chee is basically “showing hand” in this BE, without a proper assessment of the chances of winning.
True enough, the past baggage of Chiam came back to bite Chee. Whether we like it or not, this dagger is sharp and went deep down right into Chee’s heart.
To be fair, SDP has a fantastic and wonderful team of back room operation team. It has run the logistics and media machinery very well. This is the real strength of SDP. Even WP political machinery cannot match SDP’s backroom ops.
However, the reality is that Chee’s leadership has only a track record of under 40% for the past two decades. SDP has never crossed the 40% barrier ever since Chee took over the leadership. (It is important to strike above 40% because it will keep PAP at their toes as this will make them vulnerable in these seats)
While many people would encourage Chee and SDP, citing this as the Best result Chee has achieved under harsh circumstances, but the hard truth and cruel reality is that JBJ has faced even more difficult and harsh smearing by PAP and its controlled media in the past but he has proven himself to be the true fighter who could bring WP to cross 40% and even won seats.
Whether we like it or not, whether we think it is FAIR to Chee or not, PAP has successfully decimated Chee’s political credibility so much so that it actually affects the whole SDP.
And sometimes, I feel that it is really Chee’s own doing in which he has given more than enough ammunition to PAP and its media to smear him.
For example, just for this BBBE, Chee has made quite a number of strategic erros.
1) The mismanagement of the Chiam meeting and saga is pretty glaring. While there will always be closed door negotiation but if it is agreed that this meeting should not be publicized or made known to the press, then SDP should keep to that promise. Furthermore, I hate to say this, although I dislike what Lina Chiam has done to Chee during this BE, but Chee must realize that he needs Chiam more than Chiam need him. Chiam is basically the KEY to his FUTURE political success and reconciliation should be achieved at all cost. Never mind on who is right or wrong in the past or present, but public Perception is everything in politics.
For SDP to come up with such conditions for Chiam, that is really a non starter. If there is no sincerity to strike a deal, then there should not be a meeting in the first place. The worse part is, when you come up with such unacceptable proposal but later, seen to milk on the perception that there is reconciliation process, then it is no wonder Lina Chiam is unhappy. She most probably feel that she has been taken for a ride or made use by SDP!
Thus, whatever excuses SDP come up with, any person with a reasonable mind would regard SDP in an extremely bad light, though we may feel that Lina Chiam is just too much to throw such a big dagger at Chee right at such critical moment of BBBE.
2) The focus on Town Council management has been overdone. The over promise of making Bukit Batok as the BEST Town actually backfired on Chee’s credibility. No sound mind would believe in that promise basically because we know that to achieve that Best Town promise, you need funding and millions of it. Such funding is controlled by PAP via PA.. People’s Association’s CCC which will decide whether funding will be given to ANY upgrading projects proposed by any TC.
3) Having said that, swing voters know pretty well that there will be offset or trade off if they were to vote for opposition. Opposition must give them a solid reason for them to vote for them, making compromise or sacrifices on their HDB upgrading. Thus, the focus is about how good you will be as a REAL Check and Balance force in parliament. How good you will be as an MP to scrutinize PAP’s policies in parliament. Chee might have that ability backed by his set of policy papers but yet, sorry to say that, he screwed it up when he REPEATED the mistake on MOM’s statistics. If you have shown that you cannot digest, grasp or understand simple statistics as such, would the educated swing voters believe that you could debate and scrutinize PAP’s policies in parliament properly? Some may believe that but most level headed person would not believe that.
I have tried my best in my own little ways to help SDP during the BE and I have witnessed Chee’s family going all out to support him. However, when the dust settles, I feel extremely bad for Chee and his family. His wife and children have suffered much when he was fighting this war with no sign of victory around. When I read commentaries congratulating him and urging him on to continue fighting, I feel angry as well as sad. These people have unknowingly given Chee false hope.
We have to come to terms that Chee isn’t going to go anywhere further than the current result due to many reasons and factors. Whether we like it or not, the Chiam baggage will always be on his shoulder if he didn’t want to clear it off with sincerity.
He has given his best under the best circumstances any past and contemporary opposition politicians could dream of but yet, unable to cross that 40% barrier. No matter how we look at it objectively and rationality, it could only mean one thing, whether we like it or not, he has been tainted beyond hope. He is just unelectable.
This is this cruel but honest view I have with regard to Chee. As I have said, SDP has a fantastic support team behind but as long as Chee is leading SDP, all their effort may just come to nothing.
I guess for the sake of Chee’s family, it is time for him to take a back seat and allow others to take SDP to greater heights. 5 years is a lot of time for a human being, 20 years of his prime has been spent in this opposition fight. It would be too cruel to ask him to continue to fight a destined lost war without much concerns of the sacrifices made by his family members.