Workers’ Party (WP) politician Yee Jenn Jong has revealed that a primary school teacher asked a pupil who chose him to feature in an essay about political figures asked the pupil to rewrite the essay and choose someone else instead.
The teacher, who taught a gifted programme at a top school, explained that Mr Yee is a “failed politician” since he lost the 2011 General Election. Revealing that the incident occurred shortly after the 2011 General Election, Mr Yee recounted:
“Some years ago, shortly after GE2011, a friend and regular volunteer during my GE2011 Joo Chiat SMC campaign told me that her son, then in the gifted programme in a top primary school was asked to write an essay about a politician. Of all people, he wrote about me.
“The teacher returned his essay and asked him to write about someone else, saying that I was a failed politician. I lost in the elections and he cannot write about me. Ouch.
“The boy had followed his mother along and attended some of our rallies. He had the chance to speak with me first hand during the campaign and probably the mother had told him stories about stuff that we were doing.
“To the boy’s great credit, he told his teacher that he was not going to rewrite the essay because he considered me to be a legitimate politician. Today, the boy is in a top secondary school and he will do well for having the guts to reject the teacher’s suggestion, young as he was then.”
Clarifying that he is not blaming teachers, Mr Yee said that there are teachers and civil servants who are opposition supporters who would not talk about politics in their workplace. He said:
“I am not blaming teachers. I recently met a retired teacher and her retired civil servant husband who are staunch opposition supporters. They have not voted for PAP for decades but of course they would not talk about politics at their work place when they were still working.
“Some retired educators and civil servants have openly helped us with their time and donations as well.”
Mr Yee recalled the 2011 incident in the same blog post in which he had revealed that a young boy had asked his father why he spoke to WP politicians who were canvassing the Marine Parade area. The boy’s father later told Mr Yee that his son had asked him:
“Why are you talking to them? They are against the government and they are bad, right?”
The boy’s father corrected him and explained that there is nothing bad about different parties contesting one another in the elections in a democracy like Singapore. Mr Yee said: “It is quite a scary thought though. So to the young boy, I was evil because I chose to be in the alternative camp. My fellow party members and all who chose to participate in the democratic process according to our constitution are deemed bad.”
Although there is support for the opposition, Mr Yee pointed out that Singapore has “grown so accustomed to only having one party running Singapore” but having no checks and balances to the Government may not lead to the best outcome for Singapore. He said:
“Even today, there are only 6 elected opposition members out of 89 elected seats. The ruling party has so successfully, through the mass media and education, created the impression that they are the only ones who can make it.
“Singapore only has enough for one A team (which of course needed to be remunerated well to attract the best). We are so used to people excelling in their studies and careers being red carpeted into politics on the ruling party’s side, guided in through the GRC system.
“They are not expected to fail at elections, so much so that some people see only those who have won in elections as legitimate politicians, nevermind that some of these ‘winners’ hardly have to break any sweat contesting by coasting in through sure-win GRCs and having things nicely organised for them including by the ‘non-political’ PA.”
Pointing out that criticism against the alternative camp are magnified and those who are in the alternative camp are sometimes painted as “disruptive, unpatriotic, harbouring evil intentions for Singapore and more,” Mr Yee alluding to the tensions in Hong Kong, and said: “Some look at chaos in the region and quickly point out that this is what will happen if we are to elect the alternative. We will have violence and street demonstrations.”
But it is precisely because he does not wish to see chaos and riots in Singapore that Mr Yee chose to join the political field as an opposition candidate. He explained:
“It is because I do not wish to see chaos and riots that I chose to stand in the alternative camp. Prior to 2011, I was concerned that we were betting everything on one party assuming that the PAP will forever be competent and honest. Then, our founding PM, the late Mr LKY was visibly physically weak.
“I was concerned over the way policies were made. Obvious missteps have been made and the ruling party had refused to admit their mistakes. There were significant anger on the ground over various policies.
“I had wondered what Singapore’s options would be as we only had two elected opposition members then; and Mr Chiam’s own health was failing. We should not take to the streets to force change as we have a democratic process to vote for change.”
Mr Yee, however, knew that “it would be impossible to have more of the alternative elected unless they are deemed sufficiently competent by the electorate.” While acknowledging that this process takes time, he cautioned:
“This process takes time and it is best to build a respectable, rational and responsible alternative whilst we have the calmness in society to do so.
“The barriers have been set real high for the alternative because of constant tinkering of our constitution to entrench the ruling party and an iron grip control over the media, all apparatus of government, the economy through state-owned enterprises, the PA, trade unions and more, plus a great fear factor for capable people to come forward.
“All the more, the alternative has to be build up till there is one that is ready to take over if the people so chooses. I think this is a better way to ensure Singapore’s resilience.”
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