My Learning Journey In Politics

Singapore just finished its two elections. One is the General Elections in May 2011, another is the Presidential Election in August. One selects the Government, one selects the President. It’s now all over, and we will have our new Government who will govern Singapore for the next 4-5 years, and our President doing his duty for the next 6 years.

There are lots of reports online talking about the 2 elections, the analysis and so on. But i don’t think I will go into that. Rather, I like to sham my learning journey in politics and how I did become so interested in politics, since April/May, when the General Elections begins.

No Interest
Before this May election, I have no interest in politics before. When my parents told me that this year we’ll be having a General Election, and I’m eligible to vote, it got me excited. Because it is my first time voting! But I’m just interested to vote for the incumbent party then.

One thing that come to my mind, is that I heard many people say they are voting for opposition, and all their lives, they only vote opposition. Then, I ponder, “Not say I don’t want to vote for opposition, I want to know if they are as capable as the incumbent. If not, why vote for them?”

That was my thinking then, and it carried on as I began my interest about politics. I was never anti-government polices. Cos I was never interested. Back then, when i see my friends always post those Facebook status that complains about the government, my first response is “eh, don’t kpkb la. Normal Singaporean – just want to complain” To me, they don’t know how good their life is, and just want to complain all those small little things, but not look at the bigger things that they already have.

Before all these, I’m quite a personal development type of guy, in which I have learnt several principles to get things done.

Things like: Talk is cheap. A person can complain whole day non-stop, but if he still stays there and complain, then he’s not going to change anything. For things to change, we have to change. We get what we pay. If we pay peanuts, we get monkey – in other words, if we anyhow do things, then the results we get are also ‘anyhow’. Hence, when I see people complain how their life so terrible, how they didn’t get this, how they don’t have that, I would rather they look into themselves, than blame the government for causing it.

So before all the GE stuffs, I don’t really care much about government policies or news. To me then, they are just like those news we see everyday. Care or don’t care, not really important.

Then, when the General Elections started to get near, about mid April, I found myself reading more and more stuffs about politics and policies. I also began to search for more policies that have been implemented in the past and how it changed our lives now. To gain this interest, I think social media did helped a lot. Then, I didn’t know what Temasek Review or The Online Citizen is. I heard about it, but told you, I was never interested.

Started To Read Politics Stuffs
But when the GE nears, I’m their fan on their Facebook fan page, and I began to dig out articles after articles from their website. I also want to know how past elections are like. The more I read, the more I know how our country is run, and also some dirty politics played by politicians. But I can tell you. Reading about these politics news can really make you boil, if you feel that some policies implemented doesn’t resonate with your principles. Of most common one today in Singapore, are those of influx in foreign talent (or workers), rising age-withdrawal limit of CPF.

And of course, you will also find out that whatever policies that are implemented, there are bound to be reasons to justify them. Some will obediently follow the rules, while some will disagree and will contest them. That’s normal. I also realized I’m not someone who can follow rules obediently and just do what you tell me. Anything I don’t feel right, I will just contest them. Not throwing punches, but throwing ideas. Much like debate. And that is why I also get into so much debate with my Facebook friends during the GE period. I can say all these policies debate can be tiring, and it is really tiring – but it allows me to see the different points of views too.

I Finally Know What Propaganda Is
So when GE campaigning starts, I follow every single news information that is released. And from the daily news that is broadcasted, I also finally understand what people always mean by ‘biased news’, or ‘gutter journalism’. I think you see best during election period. Then in the past, when there’s only controlled news resources – TV, Radios, Newspapers – people says that they have turned into propaganda weapons for our incumbent government.

But now, with internet and all, the traditional media felt the heat of just reporting news from one side. So in the GE, it helps me not to read news ‘blindly’ anymore. It makes me look deeper into the agenda of this news writer, and what message is he trying to send into my subconscious mind – “this party has no substance, this part is pure!”

Losing Of Friends
In this GE, I would also said that I do make many friends, but also spoiled many friendships. I do make friends who share common cause and feelings for our country, but also broke friendships with people due to differences. Now looking back, I realized that it is not that the relationships with my friends broke down due to differences in opinions, but is more of inability to agree to disagree. I can say I’m more of a pro-opposition guy during this GE campaign, but I also have friends who are pro-PAP too. Some of my friends even worked in their own GRC grassroots. We debated a lot on many issues, of course, we agree on some, we disagree on some. We are still friends.

What I can’t stand is that when I debate on issues with some of my friends, when they run out of thoughts or ideas to throw at you, they start calling you names. Then they go on to criticize you on whatever opinions you have. I think that’s childish. That’s not a debate anymore. I mean, debate is like this – you just need to come up with more stuffs to justify your stand. If you can’t, then go research more, then come back with ideas. Calling people names is like little kids stomping  on the ground and crying “Mummy I don’t care, I don’t care…I’m the winner” LOL.

And this also reminds me of the point that there are some issues in life that will never have the right or wrong answers, and will always cause controversies – Politics, Sex, Religion. Yea. Politics is one of them.

Voting Is Secret
Now the next thing is about voting is secret. And this really got me more interested in politics! I know voting is secret, but why can’t I tell people who I vote for. I experience this when I’m not a supporter of PAP during GE nomination day. I didn’t wear white, but orange. So a reporter come and ask me “If you don’t vote for PAP, aren’t you afraid that you can’t find a job when you graduate?”

That makes me laugh-out-loud. I looked stunned at the reporter face. I reply “I don’t think this has any effect on my future next time. I decide my own future, not PAP rite?” The report also looked stunned at me. I wonder “If I have to vote PAP to get a job, then I rather don’t vote for them.” What if I vote PAP, and PAP is not the government anymore, then I will have to worry about my future also! I never feel good about letting others deciding my career or life. I believe in taking control of my own life – whatever it may be.

After all, I don’t see myself working in the government in the near future, after knowing how it’s like inside. But I know that there are many people in the civil service who feel obliged to vote for the incumbent party. Hence, that’s why you can hear many opposition rallies calling that voting is secret, and vote with courage for the opposition.

This is also partly because of the fear that passed on that civil servants will lose their job if they change government. But I think people are more educated now, and they know that civil service will not collapse if there’s any chance of a change of government. But still, I heard of reasons from people like “I’m in civil service, so I have no choice but to vote for PAP”. So I hope next time when the government is not PAP, you vote for that party also. But anyway, it’s their choice anyway.

Too Engrossed in GE
But one down side of this GE, is that it is very near to my exams. So near that the polling day is my first day of exam. I went to poll, then take my exam paper. As the GE fever is burning, I find myself reading more politics news and GE reports, than my math formulas. And expectedly, I didn’t do well in my final exams. And this is also probably the worst result I get in NTU. I failed one subject, but luckily, it’s not a core subject that affect my marks. But I just have to re-take it next time. However, I don’t wanna blame the GE for my results. I just found that my interests lies more in those politics, economics, government policies reports, than my math formulas. This also brought me to writing my hearts out in a Facebook Note about the GE, and also a blogpost review of social media and politics in Singapore during the GE. (Ya. And not writing out math formulas :P)

Cooling Down After GE
After the GE, the fever in people also subsides already. Mine too. I’m not that active on those political stuffs, but my interests in politics continues. And as I do my intern in, which I think is the best internship I can get, I read more and more economics and political news – local and foreign news. And also get to debate more on those stuffs with my internship mentor, who is also very interested in all those stuffs.

While I’m not doing so much after the GE, I still meet up with friends I make during the GE, knowing each other, and sharing opinions too. I also met some of the GE candidates, and getting to know them better.

I also attended public forums which was chaired by some ministers, for discussion of policies in Singapore. I attended the National Day Rally Forum, representing Youth.SG. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean is the minister for that day.

National Day Rally Forum 2011 Youth.SG

with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and fellow Youth.SG mates

National Day Rally Forum 2011 Teo Chee Hean

and now with , and my friend and fellow NTU Toastmaster Vernon!


And Then The Presidential Elections
After the GE, we have the PE. But this time I’m not that an activist like I am during the GE, after knowing what our President of Singapore can and cannot do. But still, I try my best to help to support the best candidate for the role.

I did my best in helping my preferred candidate out as a counting agent to ensure all votes are counted properly. On that day of counting, there’s a situation of recount, as the difference is less than 2% of votes. I counted from 8pm till 1am, and continue overseeing the re-counting process till 3.30am. Then, I left home for the final results. Though my preferred candidate didn’t win, I glad I did my part, and that’s a good experience for me.

PE 2011 Counting Agent

The Least I Could Do For Doc.

My Thoughts On All Things Politics
– Citizens should play a part in our nations’ politics. We should know what policies are affecting our country, instead of just being at the receiving end.

– We can’t escape politics. Somehow or rather, you’ll be interested in it. Especially if you’re the one suffering from it.

– Voting for opposition doesn’t mean those problems caused will go away (FT, High Cost of living..etc), but it will at least send signals to the incumbent. Voting for incumbent means you agree with most of their policies.

– I’m don’t see myself as a pro-PAP or pro-OPP person. I’m more of anti-Unfair-Policies person. I don’t like to oppose for sake of opposing, and hence, I hope people don’t propose for the sake of proposing. Saying that, there are some websites which are against whatever the PAP says. I think that’s lame. There’s a difference between being critical, and stirring shit.

– I like things to be fair. After knowing the politics of Singapore, we see how one party mistreat the people in other constituencies who don’t vote for them. I don’t think it’s nice, and I don’t know how supporters of the party can justify this.

– The government, at the end of the day, cannot do everything for us. Though they can help us in some ways (open new markets, create jobs, ensure national safety…etc) I believe in taking control of our own lives, and not relying on our government to live.

– I’m not afraid of telling others who I support, and I don’t think anyone should. We should be Fearless Voters. There’s nothing wrong in telling others what you believe in.

– Lastly, after this round of elections and introduction to politics, I never read news from its surface and content anymore. Do read deeper into the mind of the writer, his agenda. Do read into the real message he is sending into your subconscious mind.

That’s my learning journey in politics for the first time, but I don’t think it will stop here. Of course, I will contribute to whatever way I can to make the country I love a better place.


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