OPINION | The entitled establishment, tone-deaf politicians, trading influence for cash and other stories in review

On top of raising important livelihood issues in Parliament, the Workers’ Party (WP) as the only elected opposition party in Parliament has also been drawing attention to environmental and cultural issues that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has not.

Member of Parliament (MP) Leon Perera has asked in parliament whether there are any processes in place to ensure the protection of widely recognised heritage sites, such as Haw Par Villa, which do not fall under the purview of the National Heritage Board and existing laws that protect heritage sites and national monuments.

I am personally a huge fan of Haw Par Villa and believe that it is a unique part of our culture that is worth preserving. From its kitsch statues to its fascinating history, it has an authentic place in the story of our nation – much more organic than say Sentosa.

Yet, without official recognition, this piece of history can easily be lost to the sands of time, and I am heartened that the WP has seen fit to bring this up. Given that Singapore has the reputation of clearing away sites without any sentimentality, it is important to remind Singaporeans that Singapore belongs to all of us and that we should have a right to decide what should be preserved.

It bears remembering that it is also the WP that drew attention to the potential destruction of Dover Forest, Clementi Forest and Bukit Brown. Some of these sites may have received a reprieve as a result of citizen action. But would there have been traction without publicity? It is scary to think that these swathes of nature, such as those in Clementi Forest and Dover Forest, could have been mercilessly ripped apart had there not been some publicity that galvanised Singaporeans.

This is why having opposition parties in Parliament shine a light on issues that the ruling party may have missed is so crucial for the interests of Singaporeans. In that regard, the WP has been doing a credible job in fighting for fair wages for workers, spotlighting cost of living issues and the protection of the environment, just to name a few.

To reinforce the need for accountability and the role that opposition parties play in this, Temasek has come under fire this week for investing in a company that has now filed for bankruptcy. Temasek Holdings issued a statement on Thursday (Nov 17) saying it will be writing down its investment in cryptocurrency exchange company FTX worth US$275 million (S$377 million) regardless of the outcome of the firm’s bankruptcy protection filing. FTX filed for bankruptcy in the US on Friday (Nov 11), leading to the possibility that all of its investors would lose everything they’ve put into the cryptocurrency exchange giant if the company cannot be saved.

Another issue spotlighted by the WP is that of mental health. In October this year, Sengkang GRC MP, He Ting Ru brought up the issue of mental health in Parliament, a topic she has previously been vocal about. Has the PAP given enough attention to mental health?

Just this week, an SBS Transit bus captain was punched in the face after he advised a passenger to put on his face mask while on the bus. This overreaction could be symptomatic of a wider mental health concern in Singapore. Are people struggling with expressing themselves appropriately? Are there stress management struggles etc?

Added to that is how domestic helpers may end up bearing the brunt of our society’s “un-dealt with” mental issues. From violence to sexual assault, our domestic helpers are in a vulnerable position. But yet, this group remains inadequately protected by the law.

A man was sentenced on Wednesday (Nov 15) to 24 years in jail for repeatedly raping their domestic helper from Indonesia while his wife and children were out of the house. “This case brings into sharp focus the plight of a foreign domestic worker who becomes a victim of rape in the household where she works,” said High Court judge Dedar Singh Gill when the man was sentenced.

The prosecutor said that the man had claimed to have been feeling frustrated since his wife could no longer satisfy him sexually. To what extent has our society’s straightlaced and often repressed attitudes to talking about sex and mental health issues aggravated the situation? Could this have been avoided if this man could have sought help and intervention (such as therapy) earlier?

To end on a more lighthearted and frivolous note, a Pontianak was apparently spotted on Hougang Avenue 8.

For the uninitiated, a Pontianak (Malay name) or a Kuntilanak (Indonesian name) is a female ghost common in South East Asian myths as a pregnant woman who died giving birth, usually, in white, who’s also said to be a bloodsucker. In other words, she’s the vampire of our region. Legend has it that when you smell a plumeria flower or a decaying dead body or hear a baby crying, a Pontianak is close.

Whether the Pontianak was truly there, it is good to see that some folklore has withstood the onslaught of demolition.