Friday, April 14, 2006

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

A group of 10 Singaporeans born after 1965 met with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in a televised forum broadcast nationally on the evening of 12 April 2006. Among the issues the participants raised was the perenial question on whether there is a climate of fear in Singapore.

Kian Beng: Mr Lee, what good does it do for PAP to win all 84 seats? It will probably just increase the dissatisfaction on the part of the Singaporeans.

Ching Wern: I think all I want to ask is whether you think the complete elimination of the opposition is really what you think is best for Singapore?

MM Lee: You will never completely eliminate the opposition.

Ching Wern: Why not? It seems like you almost have done that!

MM Lee: You may eliminate them temporarily from Parliament. I eliminated or they eliminated themselves in 1965 when Barisan had 13 out of 51 seats and they said bogus Independence, fake - we leave. So we fielded in all the by-elections. And from 55 to 81, in three elections we swept the polls with opposition.

Mabel: But is that the state that you really want Singapore politics to have... bearing in mind that your GRC system results in walkovers. You have a young generation of people who really don't care about politics. Or, they're even fearful if they do get to vote. So is this the system that we really want?

MM Lee: Are you fearful to vote against the PAP?

Mabel: Perhaps, yes. Honestly -- a little bit.

MM Lee: Why? Tell me why. What will happen to you? How will we know that you voted against us?

(Group laughs)

MM Lee:No,no - Let's pursue this "Because I'm afraid!" You tell me you've gone through O levels, A levels, university, working in 93.8 Live and you're afraid that if you vote against the PAP, something will happen to you?

Ching Wern: I think this is the impression that the PAP has created.

MM Lee: (Laughs) No, you're spreading the impression.

Ching Wern: No - you can ask everyone of us here...

Pearl: Add to that effect that there isn't a level playing field for the opposition in the terms of upgrading.

MM Lee: There is no level playing field for any government helping opposition to win votes.

Ching Wern: I think going back to the point when you say how will the PAP know who we voted for? What SM said just yesterday about the area at Realty Park - 60 per cent - if more than 60 per cent of them vote for the PAP, they will get the upgrading. So how does the PAP know it's 60 per cent? So how can the residents not be fearful?

MM Lee: We can guess from our campaigning and our house-to-house visits. But we won't know who comprises that 60 percent right?

Ken: You don't need to know that to strike fear though.

MM Lee: Come off it. You mean to tell me - you're one of the 40 percent that voted against the PAP and something happens to you?

Ken: Well, I've never voted for that matter. But I mean, we talk to 100 voters in the course of our work and it seems - no comment or if I vote against the PAP, I may...

MM Lee: Let's get down. What are the 100 of voters? You name the 100 of voters - a few of them. Tell me.

Ken: Well, I mean I can't name them by name but...

MM Lee: No,no. You tell me who you've spoken to and they say we're afraid to vote against the PAP?

Ken: Well, a few weeks ago, The Straits Times did a report. We polled 100 voters...

MM Lee: No, no, never mind the Straits Times poll. You made a statement just now, look, I started life as a cross-examiner right? You made a statement just now that "I spoke to 100 people and they're all afraid". I say name them, tell me who.

Ken: Why should I name them on national television?

MM Lee: No. Therefore you tell me - it's not "I who spoke to them - the Straits Times carried the poll". And you carried out the poll?

Ken: I was one of the reporters who...

MM Lee: No, did you carried out the poll?

Ken: Yes I did.

MM Lee: And how did you carry out the poll?

Ken: We went out and we asked 100 voters what they thought.

MM Lee: How many voters did you ask?

Ken: Well, we have to get more than 100...

MM Lee: No, how many voters did you ask?

Ken: About 120.

MM Lee: You yourself personally?

Ken: I spoke to about 40?

MM Lee: You spoke to 40. And did they tell you, you noted down, grievances?

Ken: Ya. I do have most of their names - ya. Some of them didn't want to identify themselves.

MM Lee: What did they tell you?

Ken: Well they said, well we ask them, you know - who do you think will win? We were not asking what your vote is but, you know, who you think will win in this coming election. And some of them say: "Oh it's hard to say." Some of them say: "Oh I think Low Thia Khiang still has enough to hang on." And some just say: "Oh, I better not say otherwise..."

MM Lee: So when they say some of the 40 - "I better not say" - you assume that they're scared to tell you?

Ken: Yes, because it's not something that you can prove in a court of law, but it's something you can...

MM Lee: But that's the point I'm saying. You're in the media, you're in the Straits Times - you're purveying an unnecessary falsehood. We have said categorically - the vote is secret. This started off with Jeyaratnam saying "Oh, they're afraid". So we said, "Right - here're the boxes - count, finish the count - lock up." Go to Supreme Court - it's locked up, time's up, incinerator, you can see. All election agents watched - it's burnt. And you're going out as The Straits Times man - how many said we're afraid. They just said, "No, no I don't want to say something". And on that you started off with a statement - 100 told you they were afraid.

Ken: No, I didn't say that.

MM Lee: You said that - it's on...
Please, I haven't lost my memory. We can go back on the tape.
As I told you I allow my grandchildren to speak back to me. But from time to time when they're out of bounds, I put them down. And when you make that statement without any evidence I have to put it to you, get to the bottom of it and you interviewed not 100 but 40. And a few of them said "Oh I'd rather not say" and therefore you assumed that they were afraid. How are they afraid, because we terrified them? Isn't it your job to say that it's nothing to be afraid? Are you afraid? Surely you're not?

The statistics of votes analyzed by the authorities appear in three forms:
1) Total votes per electoral area (GRCs, SMCs),
2) Total votes for individual constituencies (division within a GRC) and
3) Total votes in Bloc areas, Private Estates (comprising 150-200 units of private housing units) or Residential Zones (comprising about 10 or more blocks).

Another topic of contention brought up in the dialogue was the system of GRC, which MM Lee insisted was instituted to help minorities get elected into parliament. The number of candidates per GRC has been increased every election from 3 in 1988 to SIX in 2001.

It was started with ten GRCs in 1988 with THREE candidates each. All ten GRCs were contested and the closest fight was at Eunos.

Eunos (75,723)
Chew Heng Ching [PAP] 36,500 votes, 50.89%
Tay Eng Soon
Zulkifli Mohammed

Lee Siew Choh [WP] 35,221 votes, 49.11%
Mohd Khalit B Md Baboo
Francis Seow

In the next Election in 1991, number of GRCs were increased to 15 and each GRC was increased to FOUR candidates each. Only 5 GRCs were contested, 10 GRCs were not contested. The closest fight was still at Eunos but without Francis Seow.

Eunos (92,728)
Chew Heng Ching [PAP] 45,833 votes, 52.38%
Charles Chong You Fook
Sidek B Saniff
Tay Eng Soon

Lee Siew-Choh [WP] 41,673 votes, 47.62%
Mohamed Jufrie Mahmood
Neo Choon Aik
Wee Han Kim

In the following Election in 1997, number of GRCs remained at 15 but number of candidates in each GRC had been increased to FIVE each. Only 6 GRCs were contested, 9 GRCs were not contested. The closest fight was still at Cheng San with Jeyaratham and Tang Liang Hong.

Cheng San (103,323)
Abdul Rahim Bin Osman [WP] 44,132 votes, 45.18%
Huang Seow Kwang
J B Jeyaretnam
Tan Bin Seng
Tang Liang Hong

Heng Chiang Meng [PAP] 53,553 votes, 54.82%
Lee Yock Suan
Michael Lim Chun Leng
Yeo Guat Kwang
Zainul Abidin Rasheed

In the following Election in 2001, five GRCs were increased to SIX candidates each. Nine GRCs remained with FIVE candidates each Only four GRCs with 5 candidates each were contested. None of the opposition contested in GRCs were able to get more than 27% of the votes casted.