Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Spirit of 1959 : Be Bold and Change Government

Tan Jee Say’s speech at May Day rally

Good evening, fellow Singaporeans and friends.
I wish we could all rejoice and celebrate Labour Day today. But alas our labours for our country have been mocked and rubbished by a government that rules to benefit the elite and the rich, people like themselves. This comes out clearly in the recent White Paper on population.

TJS speaking to the crowd at the May Day rally in Hong Lim Park. (Photo by Wilson Wong of wilzworkz.)
Future of the PAP

The White Paper is not concerned about the future welfare of ordinary Singaporeans. Instead the White Paper is all about the future of PAP, about how they can continue to be very rich and stay in power. They will bring in 90,000 foreign workers every year to depress the wages of Singaporeans so that companies can make enormous profits and pay huge salaries and bonuses to CEO’s and professionals. Ministers’ salaries will also go up as they are benchmarked against the total pay of CEO’s and professionals, so ministers will continue to draw their million dollar salaries even when the wages of ordinary Singaporeans go down.

But when Singaporeans want to register our unhappiness, the PAP  brings in new citizens to dilute our vote.130,000 new citizens voted in the 2011 general election. Another 125,000 new citizens will be brought in to vote in 2016. That’s about 12% of the total vote. I want to emphasize that we are not against the foreign workers in Singapore. You can’t blame them for wanting to seek a better life or career. It’s the government’s policy of continually importing foreigners that we are against. We can understand why new citizens are grateful to the government. But gratitude is not servitude. It does not mean blind loyalty. You work hard to earn a living. But you will soon discover like all citizens before you that even then you have to struggle so hard just to feed your family and barely so. So do not vote PAP just out of gratitude because gratitude is about the past not the future. Vote for the future not the past.

Be clear that the White Paper is not about helping citizens including new citizens. The White Paper is a plot by the PAP to tighten its grip on Singaporeans with the help of new citizens. This is the real objective of the Population White Paper. Make no mistake about it. Have no illusion that PAP is looking after our interest. If they have the interest of Singaporeans at heart, they will do what other cities do in tackling the issues of an ageing population and low total fertility rate.

Well said!
Different approach by other cities

I visited Hong Kong and mainland China recently. They face the same population issues as Singapore but solve them differently by tackling the root cause directly. I had discussions with experts who are professors at the University of Hong Kong. They told me Hong Kong’s priority is to fix basic infrastructure first particularly in housing and transport. At the same time, they seek economic growth outside Hong Kong mainly southern China so that business firms can grow without adding strain to public facilities in Hong Kong. Here in Singapore, the PAP does the exact opposite – they bring in more people, 90,000 foreign workers every year, before they have improved the basic facilities. So there will be more over-crowding, not less. How can this be in the interest of Singaporeans?

DPM Teo Chee Hean visited Hong Kong last week, one month after my visit to the city. He brought along officials from the National Population and Talent Division to learn population planning from the Population Commission of Hong Kong. One commissioner Mr Paul Yip told them and I quote : “I shared how we might be obsessed with big numbers for GDP growth, but we need to think of what people want and the need to get their support.” Unquote. I hope PAP listened to what Mr Yip said about the need to think of what people want. But don’t be too hopeful. The PAP government only thinks of what they want for themselves; whether they perform in their job or not, they take their million dollar salaries first and leave you to pick up the crumbs. Have they listened to your cries of despair over falling wages and rising costs of living, and about the difficulties of bringing up a family? If they had listened earlier and acted upon your worries, Singapore today would not have the problem of low birth rates. Because the fundamental cause of low fertility is the people’s lack of confidence in the future.

Confidence in the future

Which young couple will not think twice about having a child when it costs $900,000 to raise the child from birth through childhood, school and university including private tuition in their school years?  Who would dare to have a child when they do not have enough savings for their own retirement? Singapore has the highest savings rate in the world and yet 55% of CPF members do not have enough balances in their CPF account to pay the required minimum sum. Which Singaporean couple will be in the right frame of mind to bring up a family when they work the longest hours in the world and are the world’s most stressed and least emotional people?

Young parents worried for their kids’ future.
These are not just excuses for not having babies but are real hard truths faced by ordinary Singaporeans.Will they disappear? Not under the PAP government because these hard truths are the result of PAP’s core policies.The only way to remove these hard truths that affect ordinary Singaporeans is to change the government. Are you ready for change?

Work experience in government

The  PAP will scare you and tell you that the opposition has no experience and is not ready to form a government. The fact is that the opposition today is more ready than the PAP was in 1959. How many in the PAP then had any experience of working in government? Only one, the late Dr Goh Keng Swee who was director of social welfare in the colonial government. Today spread out in the opposition ranks, I can count at least 9 individuals who have had many years of experience working at senior levels in six government agencies including finance, trade and industry, foreign affairs,national development/URA, health/hospitals and defence. The PAP in 1959 had only one PhD, the late Dr Toh Chin Chye who was a lecturer in the university. But we in the opposition today have 7 PhD’s of whom 3 are associate professors including one teaching in an overseas university. In addition, we have several doctors,lawyers, economists, ex-bankers, ex-fund managers, corporate executives and entrepreneurs.

Together there are at least 25 to 30 of us with a wide range of expertise to run an effective, competent and caring government.  By the time of the next general election in 2015 or 2016, more will join us like many of you here in the audience who have the passion, courage and desire to serve your fellow Singaporeans. Our team will be lean, definitely not as bloated as the PAP one which has 18 ministers for 15 ministries, which means 3 ministers are redundant, with titles like minister without portfolio, second minister here and there, but no real responsibility. In the army, we call them GD officers, GD for general duty, who are on call to do anything that no one else is available to do or want to do like attending funerals or F1 races. What does this tell us about the confidence of the Prime Minister in these redundant ministers’ ability to head and run a ministry on his or her own? Are they just there as tokens?

Spot on!
Coalition government

When the opposition forms the government, there will be no token ministers. Every minister will carry his or her own weight because they get in under their own steam and not under the coat-tails of some long serving ministers. They will bring with them the most important quality in a political leader, the passion to serve all Singaporeans regardless of race, language, religion or social class. Can we work together coming from different parties to form a coalition government? Yes we can. Do not let PAP frighten you into believing that coalition governments are unstable and life will be chaotic. Nothing is further from the truth.

Today life goes on in 75 countries that are governed by coalition governments. Finland has shown the way. Coalition governments have ruled Finland for nearly 100 years with their so-called “rainbow coalition” of 5 political parties recently increased to 6. Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million people, is a world leader in many fields. It has a high quality of life and is the third most competitive nation in the world according to the latest Global Competitiveness Index. So when the PAP calls the opposition a “rojak” bunch, point them to the rainbow in Finland. In fact not only is our rojak as multi-coloured and beautiful as the rainbow, it is also  delicious. So go for it Singaporeans, have our favourite national dish; your life will taste much better under a rojak coalition than under the bitter fruits of a self-serving leadership.

Be bold

There is a saying :”Fortune favours the bold.” In 1959, Singaporeans took the bold step of voting for a change of government and ushered in a higher standard of living for many years up to a point. That point of stagnation was reached about 5 years ago and more and more Singaporeans are now experiencing a decline in their standard of living. It is time to put a stop to this decline. Will you do so? We are the Lion City – brave and strong. The Singapore Lion roared in 2011. Will you roar even louder in 2016? Will you be as brave and as strong  as the 1959 generation to vote for change? Will you vote out the PAP in 2016?

Yes, I heard your loud cheers, thank you. There is hope for a better Singapore. Majullah Singapura!

Placards designed by ordinary Singaporeans.

One of five bales of cloth with signatures of protest.

Getting the shot for posterity.
Jee Say speaking at Hong Lim Park on May Day (from 07.02 minutes onwards):

Tan Jee Say

Source:  Jee Say was a Presidential candidate in the 2011 Presidential Election. The article first appeared on his facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TanJeeSay.

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