Leong Sze Hian /
I received an SMS at around 7 pm, asking Singaporeans to go to Blk 108 Potong Pasir Ave 1, to sign a petition for another election at Potong Pasir SMC. The battle for the opposition stronghold was decided by a mere 114 votes in the end, giving victory to the People’s Action Party candidate, Mr Sitoh Yihpin over Mrs Lina Chiam.
Apparently, after counting the votes from overseas Singaporeans, Mrs Chiam had lost by only 97 votes
Supporters of Mrs Chiam then organised this petition-signing to collect signatures to call for a by-election. It is unclear what the supporters are basing its request on, or which part of the Constitution it is referring to.
When I arrived at Blk 108, there was already a traffic jam, with a volunteer helping to direct traffic – telling people not to enter the car park as it was already full.
There were about 300 people there, with two queues to sign the petition – one for the residents of Potong Pasir, and the other for Singaporeans from other constituencies.
As I mingled with the crowd, I was told that those who had already signed the petition were waiting for Mr Chiam See Tong.
People were passing the word to tell their neighbours, those at the coffee shops, etc, to go to Blk 108 to sign the petition tonight or from 6 to 8 May, from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.
At around 8.45 pm, people were shouting that Mr Chiam would arrive at the Potong Pasir Town Council office at Blk 121 at 9 pm.
People were saying, “No speech, but just to see Mr Chiam”.
Almost instantaneously, the crowd began to stream out of Blk 108 to Blk 121, which was about 150 metres away.
I estimate that a crowd of around one thousand plus people had gathered at Blk 121, when there was thunderous applause and shouting – it was a false alarm, as it was only a bus that had arrived, to the laughter of the crowd.
Then, there was thunderous applause and repeated chants of “Potong Pasir! Chiam See Tong!”, as the crowd moved in unison towards the car park, where Mr and Mrs Chiam had arrived in a pick-up truck.
The pick-up stopped for a few minutes and then slowly began to make its way out of the car park, with the crowd following behind.
I heard from some of the people there that they walked to Blk 108, and then returned to Blk 121 again, as the word went round that Mr Chiam would be there again later.
But later word got round that Mr Chiam would not be coming after all, as the authorities was believed to have informed him that it would be illegal as the crowd was a large one.
A close aide of Mr Chiam confirmed that the Police had advised against Mr Chiam from appearing before the crowd.
One of the two Potong Pasir resident volunteers who were manning the petition tables told me that about 5,000 plus people had come for the petition.
Is history being made in Potong Pasir? – Will Singaporeans keep coming for the next three days to show their support?
As I walked towards the MRT station at around 10pm, I saw that almost everyone had stopped to take out their mobile phones to take pictures of the billboard which says, “Chiam See Tong, Welcome to Potong Pasir”. It was as if everyone knew that that signboard, which has been a familiar landmark of Potong Pasir for the last 27 years, would be gone in a few days time . Mr Chiam won Potong Pasir in 1984, after suffering two previous defeats in 1976 and 1980.
I was dead tired and took a cab home, when I heard on the radio that 8 May is singer icon Teresa Teng’s death’s 16th anniversary.
Perhaps Mr Chiam See Tong, like Teresa Teng, as Singapore’s longest serving opposition Member of Parliament (MP), whom many call fondly – the Lion of Potong Pasir (or the Lion of Singapore), will always be remembered as the single flame which played such a significant and crucial role in the democratic and political development of Singapore.
Mr Chiam declared he will carry on with his political career, as long as his health permits”. (“GE: We’ll win Potong Pasir back”, Channel News Asia, May 8.)
The lioness (Mrs Lina Chiam) is also set to create history as the closest ever losing margin Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) to enter Parliament.