By now, every one knows about the Bukit Batok SMC story. The PM has declared that a By-Election will be held soon. No sooner had the incumbent MP stepped down, our energetic Dr Chee and his party have already hit the campaign trail walking the ground in Bukit Batok canvassing for votes. All the other opposition parties have so far stayed away from the SMC gracefully bowing out to allow Dr Chee a free hand.
The public has been waiting with abated breath until recently when the PAP suddenly announced that their candidate for the Bukit Batok SMC is one Murali Pillai. Up till now, we could expect a straight one to one contest for the coveted SMC. Why did the PAP choose a minority to stand in the SMC? Most of us have not heard of M Pillai before the official announcement. It’s quite surprising and that has sent many observers to speculate on its implications.
The most glaring fact is that M Pillai is an unknown minority to the the general public. The only thing we know about him is that he stood at Aljunied GRC and lost to WP. I feel that if M Pillai could get elected into Parliament on his own merits via Bukit Batok SMC, then the concept of GRC becomes irrelevant. When GRC was first introduced on 1 June 1988, it was “primarily implemented to enshrine minority representation in Parliament.” Obviously, if M Pillai being a minority could get elected into Parliament on his own in the SMC, then it clearly demolishes the logic of GRC.
When the GRC concept was hotly debated before it became law, our founding PM repeatedly said that people usually vote along racial lines no matter how capable the candidate is. Unless, that minority candidate is someone of the highest stature eg David Marshall ( former Chief Minister ) or JBJ, most of the voters would prefer to vote along racial line. Fact is that there are no racial clusters in Singapore with racial quota imposed on public housing, the tendency is for the majority to vote their own preferred race of the candidate irrespective of whichever party. If such a trend continues, our Parliament may end up without any minority representation. Hence, the GRC was introduced to counter such a trend in our multi-racial society. The GRC is to ensure that minority MPs get into Parliament where at least one of the GRC members must be from the minority. The Americans took more than 200 yrs before they could accept a minority President. We have not reached there yet. That’s another reason why the govt is reviewing our PE to ensure that minority will have equal chance.
If it is a recognized fact that voters will vote along racial preference, then is it not a foregone conclusion that Dr Chee being Chinese from the majority race will get into Parliament in this By-Election? Why then would the PAP allow Dr Chee to have a better chance of winning the coveted seat? Some speculate that it’s actually a giveaway.
The WP having more than 25 years of experience since they first won the Hougang SMC is still having problems running Aljunied GRC, will Dr Chee and his party able to run the town council efficiently? Not forgetting that the incumbents enjoy economies of scale in running the town councils. The PAP has been emphasizing this point to the voters in Bukit Batok. Vote for the opposition your estate may end up as ghetto and not run as efficiently as before when it was under PAP management.
Now back to the speculation that it’s a giveaway to the opposition. It’s a gamble where the PAP is trying to show to the whole Singapore that by voting in Dr Chee and his party to Parliament and if they could not run the town council well, the residents will suffer. By the next GE in another 4 to 5 yrs’ time, the incumbent party will ensue another big mandate from the electorate – a repeat of the last GE where nearly 70% gave them the mandate to rule. Co-incidentally the last GE, they also made a big fuss about the WP’s incompetence in managing their town council!
In the days to come, there will be interesting exchanges from both sides. The cut and thrust, the sound and fury in the heat of the campaign trail from both camps will certainly create much excitement. It seems that our ever cool and gentlemanly DPM is the key strategist and in-charge for the incumbent party. Whichever way the votes swing, let’s hope that the newly elected MP will serve the residents well. It also acts as a barometer to gauge the performance and popularity of the incumbent party since they swept almost all the seats except WP stronghold with much higher percentage than before. Let’s hope this By-Election is conducted in a fair and amicable manner. Remember the whole world – not just Singaporeans is watching this interesting contest with equal interest.
Will the voters in Bukit Batok SMC take the gamble and take the chance by sending Dr Chee to Parliament even though he doesn’t have the full machinery behind him? That’s the question in everyone’s mind.