Dear Dr Tan
It has been four months since the 28 July, SDP-initiated discussion to form a new opposition coalition. But there appears to be no progress since. If our past is prologue, the formation of any alliance is dead in the water. The 2001 Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) made no meaningful headway with only Mr Chiam See Tong retaining his pre-SDA Potong Pasir seat while SDA’s chairman Desmond Lim set 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”. https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2018/08/15/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 necessarily in the better interest of Singaporeans or the opposition cause. It’s mostly just to have a frontseat at the table. My GE2015 experiene suggested to me that most opposition parties have less than 100 members each and even lesser than 20 who are active.
Consider; and one must wonder why, after being graciously accepted in April 2011 to contest under SDP in GE 2011 in May, some candidates would then decide to quit SDP to form anothernew 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 had fought this long and paid a high personal price doing it. Persistence is neither reason nor justification to insist on taking leadership positions 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?
The Workers’ Party and SDP excepted, many of the other opposition parties’ candidate-support structures 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, maybe 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 coalition or their party (very unlikely), you are much better off on your own, with a clean slate. Trying to insert yourself into the mishmash of opposition parties meansfinding the lowest common denominator amongst all the sec-gens – a hopeless proposition against the PAP’s overwhelmingly successful 12 x GE juggernaut. why not capitalize on the strength of your own name andreputation amongst voters? Choose a path forward – and if anyone wishes to ride with you, well, youand not those sec-gens decide the goal, direction and terms of theride.
The urgency and the goal is to create 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 nowshowing up but which the PAP continueto fudge and fortify, never admitting to being mistaken or wrong.Time is critical to draw in more voters on the peripheral into that groundswell.
Forget unitingthe opposition. Instead, Dr Tan, please seek to coalesce and unite the people’s anger, frustrations, cries, disbeliefs – and surely, the other opposition parties willfall in place – if they want to stay relevant toand true tothe cause of building a stronger, more inclusive Singapore.
A broader common goal for all non-PAP forces is to deny the PAP their 2/3 pariliamentary majority. While the next GE objectiveis for you to win aGRC, if not two. If you are able to do that – and surely it can be done! – then with 3 to 10 MPs under youand together with WP and others, Singaporeans will see that the PAP can no longer run this place like it belongs to their party – or their father– like changing the Constitution to put their preferred Indian-Malay or Malay-Indian? candidate as President.
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.
This 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 perhapsthe 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,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 hard work begins.
You will need a competent and totally-committed campaign manager from the very start. He hasto give shape and sharpness to your campaign. He will have to plan, execute and also instill discipline to your team – the way the Ng Eng Hen did in GE2015.
In your legal battle on the presidential election, you were right to decide to spend your own money to engage aQueen’s Counsel. But in your Facebook, I suggested that to bolster the psychological winds behind yourcause, you should nonetheless appeal to Singaporeans to contribute money to the legal effort. Butyou should guarantee that whatever money Singaporeans contribute will NOT be used to pay for your activities and instead given to charity. All contributions received will be professionally and transparently audited by an established auditor.
Imagine if you had raised S$100,000 from 100,000, 200,000 or moreSingaporeans then! That would send a message to the PAP – and to Singaporeans, too, wouldn’t it?
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