NEW! Life-size "Upgraded Lift Gods", available now at your friendly Town Council office. "Un-upgraded Lift Gods" are out of stock.
Yesterday, since we didn'tt get to vote, L&G, J and I, trooped across the border instead, across a narrow stretch of water to visit our Malaysian neighbour, Johor. It was perhaps apt, this short visit, on election day itself. It showed me at least 2 things:
1. We Singaporeans are a rude, impatient, ungracious lot - regardless of the "first/third-worldness" of our political scene. Stuck in a queue (or the semblance of one) for over 1 hour at the Checkpoint, we witnessed such poor behaviour from our queue-jumping/cutting, fist-waving, unruly countrymen.
2. There is nothing like leaving Singapore to appreciate its administrative efficiency. But over a dinner of assorted deepfried foods, we also talked about the importance of living away from Singapore to not only appreciate its comforts, but also to assess the alternatives we normally won't even entertain on this siege-like island.
But as the evening crept towards 10pm, we started to get a little anxious to be home for the election results.
When we finally crossed the border home and switched on our telly, we were just in time for the announcement of the Prime Minister's 66% win over the Workers Party's self-declared "suicide squad" of political novices. I was surprised that as many as one-third of voters in Ang Mo Kio had protested so clearly their dissatisfactions, but before any more could be said, I heard the lorries bearing the victorious Mr Chiam and blaring his message of thanks! I rushed down to the street (the lift, now "upgraded" to have Geylang-karaoke-style wood panels, stopped right outside the door of our flat), but was still too late to extend a friendly wave to the MP of my neighbour constituency.
image by J - the lorry has left, walking away a little disappointed
But congratulations nonetheless to our neighbours, the voters of Potong Pasir - Congratulations for sticking with Mr Chiam and proving that the offer of upgrading from the PAP candidate is not what will swing your vote!
Many times during these past 9 days, I tried to ask myself how I would vote if I lived on the other side of the Toa Payoh Lor 8 road, this 4 lane asphalt border we cross several times daily. After all, it is easy for J and I to root for Mr Chiam when PAP's upgrading efforts gave us a lift right outside the door of our flat this year - which was good news for the 80 year-old lady living across us. We have the best of both worlds: a living environment that is cleaner and feels safer (though no doubt we lose other things along the way); yet also easy access to our neighbour/the opposition ward's laidback, down-to-earth, kampung charm and its political underdog pride.
Would I decide, if I lived in Potong Pasir's slightly run-down estate (where the pavement slabs are cracked, the grey walls need a fresh coat of paint, the lifts don't stop at every floor and the grass always overgrown), to cast my vote for "upgrading" - let my political existence get caught in that endless material chase? Would I instead think my vote is valued more and deserved to mean more? Would I help provide, with my vote, other Singaporeans the opportunity to have a non-PAP voice in Parliament to test, question and exercise the government's policy muscles whenever there is a hint of possible injustice and myopia? Would I ignore Mr Chiam's hard work, integrity and dedication all these 22 years? Or let's say I lived in Aljunied GRC (just a 5 minute drive away), would I extend my vote to the Workers Party team led by the intelligent, human and articulate Sylvia Lim - thereby taking my vote away from a PAP team led by George Yeo, probably 1 of only 2 PAP Ministers who would pay more than lip service to the arts?
I think I have started to get some clarity as to what my answer to these questions may be. And I hope, by the next general elections:
1. I will get to give my anwer, however secretly.
2. The term "opposition" is dropped. Call each party and candidate by their name. Break out of having to define all questions asked or alternatives offered as mere reflexes or reactions to some unnamed hegemony. After all, both Mr Chiam and Mr Low, our two longest-serving and returning non-PAP MPs, have always said and proved that they would never oppose for the sake of opposition. After all, this is not a boys' playground fight.
If not, this border crossing to Johor may just become my 5-yearly ritual!
P/S: If like us, you've never crossed the causeway by public transport to visit Johor, here's a quick guide:
1. Take the north-South train to the Kranji train Station
2. From the bus stop directly across the station, take the 170 Bus to the causeway
3. Alight the 170 bus to clear Singapore customs
4. Re-board the 170 bus which will now bring you across the Causeway to the Malaysian customs
5. Alight the bus to clear Malaysian customs
6. Walk away from the Malaysian customs and see, on your right, the foundations for a bridge to Singapore that may never be.