Written by: Jillian Colombo and Aretha Chinnaphongse
Singapore — On Monday (July 20), just over a week after the General Election, TISG sat down with Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Kumaran Pillai for an interview.
Mr Pillai contested in Kebun Baru SMC against a candidate from the People’s Action Party. He polled 37.03 per cent of the vote, which according to observers was a good result considering that this was his first contest in a GE. As it had been indicated that he would be in the constituency for the long haul, we took the opportunity to ask him to share some of plans that he and his party had for the constituency.
Commitment to Kebun Baru SMC
After intensely walking the ground in the constituency during the nine days of campaigning, Mr Pillai felt that he would give the incumbent a good fight — and he did, as the election results showed.
This was why, when asked about his post-election plans and if he intended to continue to be involved in the SMC, he answered: “My first take on politics is that it is not like instant noodles… I see it as a cause.”
Mr Pillai aims to continue to serve the residents with the more than 50 people who have signed up as volunteers to address some of the issues in the community.
As for his days on the ground, he recounts meeting a dialect-speaking rojak store owner who was struggling to make ends meet. The man had a visually-impaired son and a visually-impaired daughter. Mr Pillai is now trying to help him get support through official channels and non-government organisations.
From working “so closely” with the community, Mr Pillai said: “I don’t see that as purely just elections and then do nothing for the next five years.” He said that he would continue to “serve the residents, looking after their needs and after their welfare”. Similarly, he would also like to “give the incumbents a run for their money” in the next General Election.
Working with other opposition parties
Given the strong showing by opposition parties in GE2020, TISG asked Mr Pillai whether his party intended to work more closely with the other opposition parties in the coming years.
He said: “Certainly I think looking at how the other parties have performed, it makes sense to consolidate.”
He added that, a few years ago, he had written an article about the importance of having an opposition alliance. This was still something he viewed as vital today.
Looking at the media and how the media is essential in providing coverage to the various political parties, he stated that it would be much more effective if there were fewer opposition parties. He said: “Most of the alternate (media) platforms are under-resourced. It is very difficult to give attention to nine parties. If there are just three parties or four parties, it would be that much easier.”
He felt that smaller opposition parties were, therefore, putting themselves at a disadvantage, and it would be better for them to collaborate with larger parties.
In this regard, Mr Pillai had special praise for the Singapore Democratic Party’s Mr Tan Jee Say, who had launched a new party in 2014 called Singaporeans First (SingFirst). However, in June this year, Mr Tan decided to abolish the party because he felt that a strong opposition was best attained through consolidation. He then returned to the SDP.
Mr Pillai said such a move by Mr Tan was an extremely hard and serious decision, but that it was a move that some of the other smaller parties should consider.
He said: “Alliance is one way to go, the other way is to look at consolidation. If it’s not working out for them and they are averaging much lower, they should really seriously consider pooling their resources. Larger parties, we’ve got a larger ground of operation. We’ve got a media team in place, we can really run a really good campaign. Smaller parties are at a disadvantage.”
Ultimately, for a strong opposition to emerge, Mr Pillai felt that the onus for this to happen was on everyone in the opposition parties. The failure to have an alliance would mean more three-cornered fights, which he called “suicide missions” for some parties. /TISG