Hougang by-election: “Always here for you” – Really?

I refer to the article “Hougang’s PAP man to lobby for new market” (ST, May 9).http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_796876.html

Win or lose will keep promises?

It states that “Mr Choo the grassroots adviser to the ward, maintains that his plans are not electioneering tactics, but long-term schemes that will be carried out “with or without the by-election”. “Nothing is done for the purpose of the election””.

As to “But the timing of these events, he insisted, is “coincidental”. Grassroots activities have been humming along since the election last year “and “The job centre is one of seven schemes Mr Choo promised residents before the general election”, I find this strategy rather puzzling – since the losing candidate will continue to keep and implement all his promises and plans before the election, what is the incentive for residents to vote for him?

The election strategy of “you will not get upgrading if you vote for the opposition” may seem to have turned one full circle to “I will keep my promises and implement my plans whether I win or lose”.

2 MPs, better than 1?

After all, history has shown Singaporeans that an opposition ward actually has in a sense, the best of both worlds – with a Member of Parliament (MP) and a grassroots adviser serving them at the same time.

As to the remarks “Hougang can get best of both worlds: DPM Teo” (Straits Times, May 12)http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_798070.html, have we forgotten that residents only get the “best of both worlds” in opposition wards because of the position of a grassroots adviser which cannot be from an opposition party?

No “freak election” fear?

Also, going by the logic that “After he lost, many Hougang voters told him that they had voted against him even though they believed he could help them, because they wanted to voice their displeasure over national issues. They also feared that Parliament would be left without an opposition voice after Mr Low left Hougang to contest Aljunied GRC”, perhaps some voters may now no longer fear the possibility of a “freak election” resulting in a change in Government, and vote over-whelmingly for the Workers’ Party (WP) instead.

How many Hougang grants requests rejected?

According to Mr Chiam See Tong, the former Member of Parliament (MP)
for Potong Pasir, a few years ago, his town council built 29 lifts
free-of-charge for the residents of Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, without them
having to make any co-payments like for the usual Lift Upgrading
Programme (LUP). http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/04/chiam-see-tong-clarifies-article-on-potong-pasir-lift-upgrading-programme/

This was achieved without a single cent from
Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds, which all
PAP-managed town councils in Singapore receive.

To apply for CIPC funds, he was required to have the endorsement of
the Adviser of the Potong Pasir Residents’ Committees (RC), who
incidentally was the PAP candidate for the constituency in three
general elections.

All applications over the years were rejected, with the sole exception
being one application made in 2011 for a barrier-free accessibility

So, what was the experience of Hougang in applying for CIPC funds?

Taking into account all the grants from the Government, PAP town councils like Aljunied Town Council received $560 per household for the financial year ended March 2005. (“The gathering storm”, ST, Mar 25, 2006)

In contrast, government grants came up to just $111 per household in Hougang.

Since Hougang residents received $449 less per household in just one year, how much less did they receive during the years that it was an opposition ward?

Still no full and proper account?

In announcing the by-election, the remark was made that “Until now, he said the Workers Party has not given Singaporeans a full and proper account of what happened, or why it acted the way it did” (“By-election should not distract focus on national priorities, says PM Lee” (Channel NewsAsia, May 9).http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1200190/1/.html

By the same token, perhaps “until now, the Government has not given Singaporeans (particularly the residents of Hougang and Potong Pasir) a full and proper account of what happened, or why it acted the way it did”, in denying CIPC funds to them over the last two decades or so.

“Always here for you”?

Finally, how do we reconcile the new by-election tagline “Always here for you” with what happened in Hougang over the last two decades?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.