Sunday, 9 August 2015

I'm not pro-PAP, I'm pro-Singapore

If you have read my “About Me” page, you would probably have realised that I am pro-government.

And if you ask me: why politics? Well, I have an unabashed deep admiration for my Singapore government…”

It was probably a risk to have made that statement in my introductory page. Fervent opposition party supporters would probably have blacklisted my blog or swore never to come by again. (Not that I’ve actually ever blogged about politics.) Yet, being the passionate person that I am, I had no qualms in professing my ardent support of the incumbent government, albeit not explaining why.

Today, on the 50th birthday of this country that I love with all my heart – that in order to protect it, (if need be) I’m willing to die on the battlefield – I will endeavour to justify my utmost support for the government: not with political arguments but with day-to-day experiences.

To begin, I confess that I used to be a naïve – critics call it “brainwashed” – supporter of the PAP. I would volunteer at the local Meet-the-People Session religiously every week. I would read the news and take the ministers’ words as it is. I would aggressively defend against irrationalised opinions of government policies. I chose to study Politics with a great intent to understand the psyche of politicians, to be well equipped to combat any accusations of the government that were poorly thought of.

I completed my freshmen year as a Politics and International Relations undergraduate in the United Kingdom (University of Manchester). What I learnt in university turned out to be different from what I had expected. Instead of reinforcing my beliefs, it made me more critical. Liberal democracy, checks and balances, free press, freedom of speech… The more I studied, the more I realised how my government was under the attack of the prodemocrats. However, at the same time, something else seemed to be invigorating my allegiance to the Singapore government. It wasn’t what I was learning in university. It was my everyday experiences – the long walks down the streets of Manchester, the trips to the Underground Tube in London, and the interaction with friends from all around the world – that bolstered my faith in how Singapore is being run, and my sense of pride to be called a Singaporean.

I walked to college and back every day, saddened by the sight of homeless men and women begging for spare change. I visited the city center every weekend to immerse myself in the vibrant city life, only to be tainted by the ugly streets plastered with splotches of unwanted gum. I tried my best to go home before the sun went down; otherwise, I would be jumping at every alarming sound that could possibly have been a gunshot or a violent attack. I ran to the bus stop on Sunday mornings, hoping and praying that I didn’t missed the bus (for I would never know when the next one would come). I walked to the nearby Underground Tube when I was in London for the weekend, half expecting the station not to be operating on that day. I learnt about the concerns of my peers in finding a job back in their home country upon graduation. I heard about their plans of not returning to their country, in search of better prospects elsewhere.

All of these are things I would rarely – if not, never – experience in Singapore. And on one of the occasions when I sought the opinion of a European friend of mine on Singapore’s lack of freedom of expression, his reply took me by surprise. “Who cares? You have money.” His reply brought things into perspective. I’m not saying (and I believe that’s not what he meant) that such freedoms aren’t important. What I’m saying, reader, is that compared to the people living in many other countries, in fact even in most of the 1st world countries, we are very fortunate to be living in Singapore. Before the anything-but-PAP supporters rebut with their arguments on how we – the average citizen - “technically” don’t have money, or that money isn’t everything, I would like to remind them that despite how financially handicapped you are, you still have the freedom to food security and personal safety that more than a handful of Europeans do not even have. My point is simply: do not take it for granted.

On the 23rd of March this year at about 9p.m., I was on a trip to London, waiting for my scrumptious dinner to be served at the very sought-after Burger and Lobster. While waiting for my platter of steamed lobster to appear in front of me, I was scrolling through Facebook. That was when I first caught sight of PM Lee’s official statement on the passing of former MM Lee Kuan Yew. My first instinct told me that his Facebook account was probably hacked, again. Denial. It was only after confirming with the various sources that I finally came to terms with reality. I, along with my fellow Singaporean friends who were on holiday with me, continued dining as though nothing had happened. Yet, deep inside, we all knew that something had changed. There was an extremely unsettling feeling within me – a subtle amalgamation of grief and anxiety. I was tempted to pour out my feelings in a blog post a few days after his death; to lament the death our dearest founding father, to vent my anger at those who were disrespectful, to express the innumerous worries that I was harbouring for the future of Singapore.  However, I abstained from doing so in order not to pass off as non-objective and emotional.

Today, more than 4 months after the death of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, I vindicate the anxiety that I had harboured and I restore the right to write this blog post. The general elections are coming. There are speculations that it would be in September. If that is the case, I wouldn’t get to vote – I would be a month late. Yet, I hope that through this post, I would convince at least one person to consider where Singapore is right now, in the light of what is happening in the world – what is happening to our neighbours, what is happening to our former colonial authorities, what is happening to the supposed 1st world. In the light of all these, there is a reason to be grateful to our government. There is a reason to rejoice for your birth in this blessed nation. There is a reason to stay and fight for the country amidst its challenges.

I do not want to sound over-optimistic. There are a myriad of issues and policies that I have started to question ever since I have been exposed to liberal democracy outside the country. I hate the inequality; my family struggled for more than a year with the meager earnings of my father’s small business. I do not believe in gerrymandering; I reckon that a capable party should compete based on fair elections. I don’t think that ministers should be paid so much; a genuine servant of the country ought not to be motivated by money. I disagree with certain aspects of how the public service is being run; more than 2 years in the Armed Forces has showed me more than enough flaws to convince me of the inefficiencies of the public service. Yet, unlike many who turn these frustrations into blind hatred for the government, I choose to accept that no government is perfect.

I’m no longer pro-PAP. I’m pro-Singapore. I love my country and I would support the party that proves its mettle and worth. For taking care of my country for the past 50 years and nurturing her to whom she is today, I’m grateful to the PAP. However, if there comes a day when the country is being wrecked in the hands of this party that I have placed my trust in, I will not hold back my vote for the opposition, if there be a more capable one.

And on a final note, to the Singaporeans who claim that they hate the country (especially because of the huge influx of foreigners) and are eager to leave for another country: by doing so, you are a hypocrite and you are no different from the foreigners in our country that you so very hate. You are not welcomed in another country either.

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