Election fever is sweeping across the Internet. But I’m immune.

Funny words coming from the guy who covered the Singapore People’s Party for The Online Citizen.

Even more so since I live in Punggol East. Over here, the Singapore Democratic Alliance, Workers’ Party and the People’s Action Party are competing against each other for votes. The viability of three-cornered fights have been vigorously debated online and offline. To more than a few spectators and participants in the debate, this is an exercise in theoretical reasoning. I’m living the reality of a three-way election, and I have to live with the consequences.

I’m not excited, though. Not one bit.

This looks like apathy, doesn’t it? I’ve got more important things than politics to worry about now. How to pay the bills. How to make money. How to embark on my writing career. A dozen other things, all associated with the art of living. Politics is at the back of my mind.

Doesn’t mean it’s indifference. It’s more akin to disappointment. Disconnection.

I believe in a better world. A world founded on democracy, justice, freedom, reason, and the dignity and worth of all people in it. I believe that the human race has the ability to elevate itself beyond ignorance, corruption, greed and bigotry. Politics is the instrument to achieve this end. But the politics available to me don’t come close to what I believe in.

The SDA’s representative is its Secretary-General, Desmond Lim. I am singularly unimpressed with the SDA. The SDA’s History page is lifted almost entirely from its Wikipedia entry. With some citations, even.

This is a symptom of superficiality. The SDA has not articulated any of its policies on its website. The closest I have seen is ‘Singapore for Singaporeans’, which ‘stands firmly on the ground to prioritize benefits for Singaporeans’. No elaboration provided. There’s nothing about public transportation, rising costs of living, civil rights, nothing. It’s telling that the campaign fliers the SDA gives out during its walkabout has more details than the website. These ‘details’ amounting to little more than limiting the influx of foreigners in Singapore and reaffirming democratic freedoms. And slamming the ruling party. The SDA’s videos on YouTube are no better.

To be fair, the SDA suffered a major setback in March. The Singapore People’s Party pulled out of the alliance, taking with it the heart of the SDA. The SDA had had to play catch-up ever since. But it does not excuse the lack of effort put into politics. I don’t see an attempt at a manifesto. I don’t even see an attempt at a proper website: it presents no more information about the party than what an hour on Wikipedia and YouTube can dig up. It’s as if the SDA is running for the elections for the sake of opposing the PAP.

The Workers’ Party is decidedly the opposite of the SDA. It has a detailed manifesto. It looks like it has been written by a team with more than a passing familiarity with public policy and economics. Also, I don’t know who I’m voting for.

I’ve encountered WP volunteers in my estate. On both occasions, I’ve asked them who is contesting here. On both occasions, they replied, ‘You’ll find out on Nomination Day’. Of walkabouts, I have seen none.

This is poor strategy. I am not voting for a party. I am voting for a party and a person. I want to know the measure of the person who thinks he can represent my interests. I want to feel her out, understand what she can bring to my constituency and to me, in addition to Singapore. I need to know who I’m voting for. I need a reason to vote for a person, and party affiliation is not a strong enough reason. I can’t wait for Nomination Day – I’ll be too busy following the SPP during campaign season.

As for the PAP? It is a union of the objections I have with the SDA and the WP. The PAP has released its manifesto – which is full of hollow words and pictures. Michael Palmer is expected to run here – only I haven’t seen him before.

This video sums up the PAP’s manifesto. The video has a lot of promises: ‘We will help lower-income Singaporeans improve their lives’, ‘we will bring out the best in every child with paths for students of different abilities and interests’ and ‘We will develop an endearing home. A city for the young and old.’ These promises are backed up with lines like ‘affordable new HDB homes’ and ‘workfare’ and ‘more teachers in every school’ – but little more. There is no elaboration on how the PAP intends to carry this out, why this course of action, or even what terms like ‘vibrant arts and culture’ actually mean. There’s nothing of importance in the manifesto, nothing that would comprehensively address the challenges Singaporeans face.

As for Michael Palmer, I don’t know him. I’ve been living in the same area since 2007, but I have never seen any of my Members of Parliament. I haven’t seen the PAP doing any walkabouts in my area. The PAP hasn’t even left any fliers around here. Why should I vote for a man I’ve never met? Because he’s the incumbent? That’s not a good enough reason.

Elections should be about choosing the best candidate and party. Instead, I have to choose the least worst. I don’t fully agree with any party, and none of the candidates inspire me.

So, do I care about politics? I care enough that I’m voting by my conscience. I care enough to look into what the parties stand for. I care enough to spend an afternoon writing this post. I care enough to cover the elections for TOC. I care enough to be disappointed. And to be disconnected.


3 thoughts on “Disconnection

  1. Dear Benjamin,

    You have hope as a writer. What an eloquent disconnection. I feel both your disappointment and desire for change. Hang in there. We are entering unchartered waters. It is not easy to define this unknown phase in Singapore politics. I agree with you the opposition has been found very wanting. But who can blame them? They lack resources and personnel. Many people are still fearful to be associated with the opposition. See tearful WP newcomer Watson Chong. They are now scrambling to put up a good fight. For that, they deserve our patience at least. Keep the faith and the hope. If everyone disconnected, we all stand to lose and lose big.

    It doesn’t surprise me you have not met Mike, your MP. I haven’t met mine either. And that is why this election is so important. We all have to take our country back. It is a shame we have so little time to scrutinize our representatives but let’s give them a chance to make their case.

    Good luck! And happy voting!


  2. Double standards here. I’m extremely confused. Why give the opposition patience, faith and hope when both are equally insincere about helping the people? Politics in Singapore is useless, considering what we really need is a strong civil service. Politicians just talk, but implementation comes to the civil servants.

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