Saturday, May 06, 2006

WP Serangoon Rally: Sylvia has no last name now

Serangoon Rally was interesting. I got there in time for Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang, which is far more impressive than it sounds since the jam around the Stadium area started in...

.. Clementi. Seriously. The PIE was jammed from there - a moving jam, but jam nonetheless.

When we finally got there, the place was filled with people - less than the Hougang rally, but it could be because the place was larger, so the impact was somewhat less. But there were still people pressing in to listen, climbing on top of cars, of fences.

Sylvia was considereably more impressive than she was on Sunday - kept the message short, and sweet. She hammered home a few points that mainly appealed to the crowd's sense of being ignored by the PAP. A few that stood out, and were emphasised by Low:

1. The WP has run a clean campaign, with no insults. Unlike *cough*youknowwho*cough*

2. The WP does not, and never has, intended to take over the government. They want to be the Opposition, not just an opposition party. Which brings us to point three...

3. The point of having an opposition is to make the government work for the country. She brought up the 2001 elections versus the 1991 elections. During the first in 1991, the govt received a narrow margin of victory, and the subsequent years saw pork barrels and goodies galore. After the 2001 elections where the govt won by a large margin, the electorate got.. nada.

The last point was the one that I considered interesting. Many people that were fence sitters sometimes confessed that they were fence sitters because they didn't see the need for an opposition for the sake of opposition. They felt that the opposition should talk about more bread and butter issues, and couldn't make the mental connection between having an opposition party and the impact on their lives.

And that's why I found Sylvia's point a good one. The idea of having an opposition is an intellectual one, and some people can't wrap their minds around that idea. Others are pragmatic - they think that having an opposition is some liberal arts western intellectual academic masturbation, that has little actual practical purpose. Sylvia's example (and naturally, a teacher would think of this!) managed to link the theory and the practice of having an opposition. She un-intellectualised it, and showed how an abstract idea had actual bread-and-butter issues.

The WP rally ended with Sylvia and Low leading the crowd in a recitation of the pledge, which was rather interesting since it drove home that being an opposition member didn't make you un-patriotic, or un-Singaporean.

Well, that's the last rally for another 5 years. But going to them has been interesting in many ways, partly because you get to learn a lot more about Singapore than you normally would. And you get to see Singaporeans that you never really see. As a member of the intellectual elite, going to the rallies is one of the times that I get to interact, however superficially, with the species known as the Heartlander.

And there's the thing that has always struck me about these rallies. They defy everything that I've ever been told about these heartlander Singaporeans, or indeed, Singaporeans in general. Politically apathetic? The numbers say something else. Anti-social to strangers? As Yawningbread pointed out, this is one of the few times where Singaporeans will talk and discuss with complete strangers. (The other time it happened, as I recall, was the NKF period) Un-co-operative? The people quietly translating for strangers say otherwise. Pushy and rude? The entire crowd was Singapore on its best behaviour, acting together gotong royong style, determind not to give the police any reason to intervene.

And they were here to listen. All over, you could hear the sound, or lack of sound, that people make when they're actually.. listening.

The PAP tried to claim that people were attracted to the opposition rallies because they wanted to see the show. It may have had to do something to do with this compared to this. But it is true that high turnout doesn't translate into voter inclinations.

But did Singaporeans come down see show only? Well, of course we're there to see show. If we didn't come down to just see the show, it would suggest that this was somehow important to us.

And that just isn't Singaporean, now is it?


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