We are Citizens, NOT just consumers.New PAP candidate Miss Jessica Tan used the analogy of the cutthroat world of business to make her point on the weak Opposition and the accusation that they are hamstrung by the fact that Town Councils in its wards had lesser grants: "Our objective is to win and serve the needs of our customers. If our competition is unable to catch up with us, I'm not going to apologise for that. I don't think the party needs to make apologies for the fact that the Opposition is weak."
Well, although PAP need not make apologies for the weakness of the opposition parties, it cannot be said the same for giving the opposition wards’ Town Councils lesser grants.
The reasons are simple.
Firstly, we are Citizens, NOT just consumers. We, Citizens, have our rights and obligations. It is not as if people in opposition wards had a choice of paying taxes or serving NS. Since our fellow Citizens in the opposition wards has fulfilled their obligations by paying their taxes, serving their NS and etc., why should they be discriminated in this way?
Secondly, even in the business world there are anti-trust laws to keep the big companies in check. Why shouldn’t this be the same for politics?
We should always have enough safeguards to prevent the giant political party from crowding out its competitors through anti-competitive methods. I am sure, as a general manager with Microsoft Operations, Miss Tan knows what I mean.
Lastly we, as Citizens, wanted to see a competition of ability between each of the political parties. By denying the Opposition ward’s Town Councils the same level of funding that the PAP wards Town Councils received, it is skewed the competition in PAP’s favour and thus giving it an unfair advantage. One might even called it unethical since the fund for the Town Councils also comes from the taxpayers.
If PAP really has better candidates, the performance of its Town Councils should surpass the opposition wards even with the same level of funding. But as Workers’ Party chief Mr Low Thia Khiang had said: "The current situation now is not like comparing which candidate is more capable but whose father is richer."
Friday, March 31, 2006
New to the fray but up for the fight
No 'armchair critics', PAP's three new candidates are here to stand up and be counted
Loh Chee Kong
A FORMER model, a lawyer and a high-flying businesswoman got together yesterday to talk politics.
Described as "typical Singaporeans" of the post-independence generation, they spoke on issues that have engaged others of their vintage: Does Singapore need an Opposition? Are Opposition parties here inherently disadvantaged? Should younger People's Action Party (PAP) candidates be allowed to breeze into Parliament so easily, sometimes without even a contest?
Broadly speaking, their answers to these questions were: "Not just for the sake of it", "Not really" and "Why not?" — though sometimes they had different points of view. And the three young Singaporeans — the latest batch of PAP candidates to be trotted out — had no hesitation in sharing their perspectives.
So, should the talk of a clean sweep by the ruling party worry younger voters?
"Do you want an Opposition just for the sake of Opposition? Or do you want an Opposition because you feel that many or some things are not right? If something's not right, then don't be an armchair critic. Do something about it," said Mr Michael Palmer, 37, a lawyer with Harry Elias.
Added his colleague Teo Ser Luck, also 37 and a one-time model who is now a general manager with DHL Express: "You cast your vote for your future and who can take better care of this country."
The third new candidate, Ms Jessica Tan, 39, said it would be good to have political debate and differing views. But stability was equally important, according to the general manager with Microsoft Operations.
But wasn't the Opposition weak and hamstrung by the fact that Town Councils in its wards had lesser grants?
Ms Tan used the analogy of the cutthroat world of business to make her point: "Our objective is to win and serve the needs of our customers. If our competition is unable to catch up with us, I'm not going to apologise for that. I don't think the party needs to make apologies for the fact that the Opposition is weak."
Lawyer Palmer likened the election process to two parties arguing their case in court. "Ultimately, who wins and who loses — the judge decides. In politics, it's the same. It's the people who decide. So, I can't see why they say there's no level playing field."
Mr Teo responded more specifically to the issue of lower grants for Opposition wards. People vote not just for candidates but also for the parties they represent, he said.
"They need to be well-informed on whether the person and the party will be able to deliver what is promised," he said. "Voters have increasing demands. Who is the one who can meet their demands? Not everyone can — you have to decide."
Another point on which all three candidates agreed was that a contest would be good. "But if there's no contest then I'll still go ahead and do the job," said Ms Tan. "At the end of the day, it's not just about the contest but being able to represent the residents and do the work, although a contest would give clearer mandate."
Even so, what of the impression that rookie PAP candidates breezing into Parliament, either through walkovers or by hanging onto the coattails of Ministers?
Mr Palmer spelt out his feelings on this. "First of all, I'm actually looking forward to a contest. I would be disappointed if there wasn't one," he said.
But he dismissed the notion of hitching a free ride. "I don't think you can say any of us will be riding on the coattails of Ministers because we will have our own divisions within the GRCs to deal with. We have our own work cut out for us. You can't just let the Minister do the walkabouts and meet-the-people sessions while you just sit back."
In the end, there appeared to be just one issue on which the candidates did not see eye to eye: Party political films.
Mr Teo Ser Luck felt films with "certain political agendas which will better the lives of the people" should be allowed, while the other two candidates disagreed.
It was left to Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who introduced the three candidates, to have the final word: "Politics is a serious process of understanding issues, of making important decisions on issues affecting our future," he said. "Politics as an art form — as entertainment — would deflect from that."
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Compare apples with apples: WP's Low
IF my rival can do it, then so can I, indicated Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang in response to reports that PAP's Eric Low had promised to help Hougang residents privatise their HUDC estates.— LOH CHEE KONG
He said that if his constituents wanted their estates privatised, he would certainly fight for it as hard as Mr Eric Low had.
"Is he saying the Opposition MP can't fight for it in Parliament or is less effective in fighting for certain rights or interests? I think we are equally effective," said the Workers' Party (WP) chief.
Speaking to reporters after his meet-the-people session last night, Mr Low also touched on the issue of upgrading which, he acknowledged, could be important for residents.
"But when it came to improving amenities, MPs should be given similar resources, he said. "The current situation now is not like comparing which candidate is more capable but whose father is richer," said Mr Low.
"If the Government gives me the same amount of resources as the other PAP wards, I'm very sure that if I can't do a better job than PAP MPs, at the very least, I can do an equal job."
Mr Low also leapt into the lift upgrading debate started by Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, who said his Town Council's proposal to stop lifts at every floor had been rejected two years back.
The HDB then stated that the previous Town Council Act had prohibited the use of residential sinking funds to upgrade the lifts to stop at every floor. The act was amended last year.
Mr Low claimed that his Town Council had a lift upgrading programme approved by the HDB six years ago, though he clarified that the money had come from the Town Council's surplus funds.
But one year after that, another application to carry out similar works also using surplus funds had been rejected, he said. The HDB said it was looking into Mr Low's remarks, made late in the day.