I lived in Bukit Batok from 1985 to 2007. If I were still a resident of Bukit Batok, I would vote for Dr Chee.
For as long as I have been eligible to vote, I have voted for an opposition candidate for the primary reason that there is a need to bring some balance to Parliament. The motivation has not been about replacing the PAP immediately as the government of the day but about having sufficient number of non-PAP MPs in Parliament. 2 reasons: Diversity of views & Checks and balances.
Diversity of views and ideas is sorely lacking in our Parliament and debates in Parliament regularly echo the same thought processes, the same arguments and the same assumptions. Non-PAP MPs from multiple parties will help to introduce that diversity into Parliament. WP MPs do provide alternative ideas in Parliament but they tend to be weak-voiced not due to the lack of trying but because of the sheer magnitude of the PAP numbers.
The 1st priority for an active democracy in Singapore is to reduce this overwhelming dominance of the PAP in Parliament. 83 – 6 is a rugby scoreline, not the Parliamentary composition of even a moderately representative system of government.
Checks and balances are absolutely crucial as we move further away from our nation-building era. While we could count on leaders that had passion and drive to chart a path of success for the country in the initial phase of our independence, the same cannot be said as we contemplate the future and future generation of leaders. A strong opposition presence in Parliament is necessary in order to act as a check on the PM and the Cabinet and to hold them accountable for policy decisions. A strong opposition presence is needed in order prevent wanton Constitutional amendments. A strong opposition presence is needed as an insurance policy: if massive corruption were to arise in the governance of the country or massive incompetence, there must be a political opposition that is not only ready and willing to form the government, but also capable of forming the government. If we wait for too long, we will never have an opposition capable of taking over governance when the current ruling party fails catastrophically. That will be when this country will implode.
By-elections have no impact on continuance of the PAP as the ruling party. For Singaporeans that want a greater opposition presence but are usually afraid to vote in an opposition MP during a general election for fear of the so-called ‘freak’ election, a by-election has been almost a gift. I hope that the residents of Bukit Batok will make use of this opportunity to increase the opposition numbers in Parliament. It will still look like a rubgy scoreline but it will bring the tally to 82 -7. A modest improvement. An improvement nevertheless.
Should I fear that estate renewal plans will be withheld? This would never have influenced my vote one way or the other. But, for many Singaporeans, this is a real fear. Thanks to Murali attempting to throw in that carrot and thanks to some due diligence by some netizens that forced Murali into a clarification, it is now plainly obvious that the renewal plans have already been decided upon and they will be carried through regardless of the party that wins the Bukit Batok seat. If I were a Bukit Batok resident, I need not worry that the PAP will resort to punishing the constituents by withdrawing urban renewal plans that have already been drawn up.
Besides, there is some confirmation from the Workers’ Party MP, Pritam Singh, that our public bodies will carry on with planned projects. He made a facebook post confirming this based on his experience in Aljunied GRC when they had taken over from the PAP run Town Council. HDB honoured its prior commitments. As he rightly pointed out, HDB would have been subject to a judicial review application if they didn’t honour their commitment.
Thus, there is no need to fear that the PAP lightning will strike.
Municipal issues or National issues. Often a false dichotomy is presented between voting based on local estate management issues and voting based on national level policy issues. What many of us fail to appreciate is that national level policies have a direct impact on our daily lives. I don’t want my MP to be merely the guy that is going to repair leaking ceilings, maintain a clean town, and build covered walkways and playgrounds.
My MP is my representative in Parliament who will question the kind of policies that can lead to the death of one of our sons after being questioned by the police. My MP will question the policies and laws that would render it impossible for us to be compensated for the death of our sons during National Service. My MP will interrogate the Transport minister to find out the kind of structural problems that lead to repeated breakdowns in our transport system. My MP will interrogate the Health Minister about how rising healthcare costs can be managed. My MP will question how the TPPA may be adversely affecting us in terms of those rising healthcare costs. My MP will raise raise alternative approaches to retirement planning and retirement savings. My MP will question defence spending and scrutinise any profiteering by defence contractors, if any.
Most of the day to day bread and butter issues are ultimately traceable to policy positions adopted by the state. The executive arm of government has to be kept honest and made to work diligently. “ownself-check-ownself” works in the fantasy land created by the wild imagination of those that want to maintain the political hegemony of the PAP-state.
Between Murali and Dr Chee, the former suffers from the handicap of being a member of the ruling party. There is only a limited room that a party member has to navigate within. The Party Whip will ensure that Murali will toe the official line. Dr Chee will question fearlessly. Much has been said about his character. But, one thing is for sure. He is combative. He will not shy away from asking tough questions. Sometimes we need the ‘crazy’ ones that are willing to stick their necks out to ask the kind of questions that may be considered too sensitive.
Murali appears to be a nice guy but nice guys within the ruling party eventually become ‘yes’ men. Already, campaign pictures and videos show a subservient body language when he is in the company of the PM and other Ministers. He will have difficulties questioning the establishment.
I would vote for the SDP because over the last ten years, they have been carefully developing policy positions with alternative approaches. I don’t agree with many of their proposals. However, there are an equal number of policy positions which are interesting and deserve an airing in Parliament. It is through thrashing out differing ideas and views that we will be able to arrive at more focused solutions to the problems facing the country.
One less seat in Parliament is not going to change the power dynamics in the country. But, one more opposition voice in Parliament will sharpen debate and help to contribute to reform.
I don’t live in Bukit Batok now. Many of my ex-neighbours will be exercising their choice on Saturday. Good luck to them.