Mr Law Kim Hwee, a Singapore People’s Party (SPP) candidate who contested the 2015 General Election, has urged former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock to form his own party and win targeted GRCs in the next election instead of accepting to invitation to lead an opposition coalition, in an open letter. Read his appeal in full here:
Dear Dr Tan,
It has been months since the 28 July, SDP-initiated discussion to form a new opposition coalition. But nothing appears to have progressed since. If past is prologue, the formation of any alliance is dead in the water. In the case of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), it made no meaningful headway with only Mr Chiam retaining his pre-SDA seat and the SDA’s chairman Desmond Lim setting the “record for the lowest percentage garnered in an election since Singapore’s independence” or 168 votes (0.57%)
There’s already a very well-written analysis of why the “coalition of convenience will not make minor opposition parties electable”.
I would like to add my observations.
Everyone wants to be secretary-general
…and not in the better interest of Singaporeans or the opposition cause. It’s mostly just to have a front seat at the table. I wager that the majority of the opposition parties have less than 100 members each and even lesser than 20 who are active members.
Consider; and one must wonder why, after being graciously accepted in April 2011 to contest under SDP in GE 2011 in May, some would then decide to quit SDP to form a new political party. Or, what is one to make of another secretary-general-wannabe pledging “total commitment to the coalition” when there was no evidence of he ever seeking to work within existing, alternative parties? Instead he hastily formed another party after resigning from one.
Fence-sitting voters, prepared to give the opposition a chance, are not that dumb not to see through the charade.
Self over Cause
Some had fought the opposition cause for many elections. Now, they appear to think that voters owe it to them to elect them into parliament – all because they have been fighting this long or paid a high personal price doing it. Persistence is neither reason nor justification to insist on taking leadership position when the electorate has apparently made clear through the ballot box as many times that they just had not measured up to expectations – or came with too many historical baggage.
This is especially true if one cannot even secure 40% votes in a by-election. Yes, a by-election where voters are already “assured” of a PAP government and are more inclined to vote in an opposition MP! Isn’t it painfully clear why Bt Batok voters were so reluctant to tip that opposition candidate over into parliament when the understandable concern of a voting a non-PAP government was non-extant?
No, sir. Your time as party leader is up. Please, for Singapore’s sake, let your cause that you have invested in, outlast, outlive you. Thank you for your service. It’s past time that someone else takes the baton and you play a less glamorous but no-less vital supporting role – if you are truly vested in the good of Singaporeans and Singapore.
Opposition Party? What Party?
I write this from my GE2015 personal experience as a candidate. Whilst I gladly acknowledge and thank Mr and Mrs Chiam for their generous personal and material support, the party support that a candidate so needed to contest the GE was pathetic. It was non-existent. Similarly, the Workers’ Party and SDP excepted, many of the other opposition parties were a joke compared to what they were up against i.e. the well-oiled, well-funded PAP monster election machinery. Many so-called opposition parties come with a sec-gen and just a handful of members (active? non-active?) that you can count on one hand or two hands.
Therefore, in light of all the above realities, Dr Tan, you won’t be losing very much, if at all, not to head any coalition. You are wise to have withheld acceptance to lead a non-starter of a coalition.
Unless the Workers Party is prepared to carve a role for you in the party (very unlikely), you will do much better setting off on your own. Instead of trying to insert yourself into the mishmash of opposition parties and finding the lowest common denominator amongst all the sec-gens, why not capitalize on the strength of your own name and known reputation amongst voters? Choose a path forward – and if anyone wishes to ride with you, well, you and not those sec-gens decide the terms of the their ride.
Then, it’ll be the “Dr Tan Cheng Bock vehicle” they are opting to ride with and you, the good doctor, get to set the goal, direction and pace of the journey. Not the other way around.
The objective is to start a focal point for the groundswell of voters questioning the competence of PAP’s current slate of leaders and the PAP’s old, albeit past successful policies (housing as assets, inadequacies of CPF for health and retirement, cost of living etc) which are now showing up collateral failings but which the PAP continues to fudge and fortify, never admitting to being mistaken or wrong.
Don’t let’s unite the opposition. Instead, Dr Tan, seek to coalesce and unite the people’s anger, frustrations, cries, disbeliefs – and surely, the other opposition parties must fall in place if they want to stay relevant to the cause of building a stronger, more inclusive Singapore!
From that objective therefore, Dr Tan, the immediate goal is to win a GRC, if not two, in the next GE. If you are able to do that – and surely it can be done! – then with 3 to 10 MPs under you, Singaporeans will see that the PAP can no longer run this place like it belongs to their PAP or their father. And Singaporeans will be the better for it!
With the said clear objective and goal, one or two opposition parties may perhaps see the wisdom of a combined, broader goal to deny the PAP of their 2/3 parliamentary majority in the next GE. Talk of forming the next non-PAP government in GE2020 is a pipe dream.
From gaining 1/3 of parliamentary seats, the momentum towards change will then be more doable. And, perhaps, an opposition alliance in the GE after the next will be a viable option, not a pipe dream. We owe it to Singaporeans to do that.
The next step is where our election history informs us.
Mr Chiam and Mr Low all won their parliamentary seats only after walking and working the grounds week-in, week-out. This is the way, perhaps even the only proven way to win voters hearts and minds. No webcast, no newsletter, no FB posts can substitute for walking and working the ground in person. That’s the S$5000/- lesson I learnt in GE 2015.
Hence, with that clear goal in mind, the next step will be to identify the GRCs or SMCs to contest in. But we also know that the PAP are dirty, filthy actually, political practitioners, always ready to gerrymander to their advantage. That is a given that we will live with it. But if we go on the walkabouts single-mindedly, deliberately, regularly, humbly and gerrymandering occurs the next GE, voters will have another reason to carefully consider how they have been manipulated – and hence vote even more wisely.
Once the GRCs/SMCs are identified, the work, the hard work begins.
And next? You will need a campaign manager from the very start. A competent, focused, committed person to give shape and sharpness to your campaign over the long haul.
During your legal battle on the presidential election, you were right to decide to spend your own money to engage the Queen’s Counsel. But in your Facebook, I suggested that to bolster the psychological winds behind your noble cause, you should nonetheless appeal to Singaporeans to contribute money to the legal effort. However, you guarantee that whatever money Singaporeans contribute will NOT be used to pay for your activities and instead given to charity. All contribution received will be professionally audited by an established auditor.
Imagine if you had raised S$100,000 from 100,000, 200,000 Singaporeans then! That would send a message to the PAP – and to Singaporeans, too, wouldn’t it?
You did not respond and, unfortunately lost an opportunity to gauge the true support of Singaporeans for your cause. Please do not waste the opportunity again! If, and I think, we can raise S$500,000/-, the psychological message will NOT be lost on both opposition supporters and PAP farts and fans. It will also give you and us a fairly accurate indication of the true level of support for your leadership role as we go into the GE proper.
I firmly believe that this suggestion merits your careful consideration. To put my money where my mouth is, I volunteer to raise for you.
My 2cents’ worth of appeal and ideas can surely be refined and reinforced. But I sincerely hope you will give it your careful considerations.
Law Kim Hwee