#15: Someone's started a FB page called PakaTan Cheng Bock..

I’m trying to keep things brief this week; I don’t think I’ve succeeded, but perhaps I should tell you that this is after I’ve nixed entire sections! But I’ve just kind of run out of time to write them up properly—trying to get the workload under control here.


An opposition coalition? Tell me more…

The big political story (well, kind of) this week is the announcement that seven opposition parties intend to come together to form a coalition, which they propose to be led by former PAP MP and presidential hopeful (until he was blocked by amendments that resulted in the last presidential election being reserved for Malay candidates and Halimah Yacob’s “victory”) Tan Cheng Bock.

Of course, this isn’t an idea that has come from nowhere; there’s been talk of alliances and coalitions for ages, and the election results in Malaysia gave the idea a new boost. Lim Tean, the leader of the as-yet-unregistered People’s Voice Party, makes it clear that he’s setting his sights on kicking the ruling PAP out of power. Tan says he’s already 78 years old, which means he has a “short time to mentor a team to work for the good of the nation”, but he hasn’t actually decided if he will lead this proposed coalition or not.

My two cents? It’d be interesting to see a coalition form, but I’m not going to be holding my breath. I think Singaporeans could do with more experience in coalition-building and navigating conflict and differences—and I’m not just talking about opposition parties here—but there are also a lot of egos involved. I mean, some of those seven parties exist because someone who was in a different party disagreed over something and decided to strike out on his (let’s be honest, it’s pretty much always “his”) own. Can they set all that aside to work as a coalition, even if that means—as Tan suggests—that some might have to play more supporting roles and not stand as candidates themselves?

The other thing: it’s not always clear what the politics of some of these parties are. I’m not talking about policy suggestions or tweaks; I’m talking about vision and principles. If they do form a coalition, they’re going to need to articulate something bigger and more sustainable than “KICK THE PAP OUT!” Having seen some of the rhetoric deployed at rallies during the last election, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to worry that a coalition might be in danger of pandering to the lowest common d̶e̶n̶o̶m̶i̶n̶a̶t̶o̶r̶ xenophobe.

That said, I’m looking forward to it coming together, and hope that the various parties can successfully and thoughtfully navigate these challenges. In any case, unleash the memes.

Suicides

The Samaritans of Singapore reported that 129 people aged 60 and above committed suicide last year. They fear that this number will rise as Singaporean society ages. It’s raised the question of whether, despite its wealth, Singapore is leaving the elderly behind.

While we’re on this sad subject, an off-duty regular serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces was found dead in his bunk.

If you need help and support, the Samaritans of Singapore operates a 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444. You can also email pat@sos.org.sg.

Keppel, a “sterling example”… wait, what

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has praised Keppel Corporation as “a sterling example of a successful government-linked company that is run completely on a commercial basis.” About that pesky corruption case, he said: “When things go awry from time to time, it is important that the company is resolute in putting things right, as Keppel has done in the recent case in Brazil.” Which is a nice way of talking about one of the largest corruption cases to hit Singapore. By the way, former key executives were arrested in Singapore in February—anyone remember seeing any updates about that? (I might have missed something!)

Stop saying “fake news”!

This is technically UK news, but I think it’s worth taking note of since we’re also waiting for the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehood’s report. The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which has been tasked to examine the “fake news” issue, has been at it for 18 months. And they’ve only just released their interim report. One of their findings? Quit using the term “fake news”. They’ve also suggested clearer laws for digital campaigning during elections so there’s more transparency and accountability. There are also calls to hold the tech companies to account (unsurprisingly, this is the bit the mainstream media in Singapore preferred to emphasise, although I believe they picked it up from the wire). While it is important to hold tech companies to account and make sure they shoulder the responsibility for content they are profiting off, the context in which this is said—as well as the freedom of expression situation in the UK in general—is pretty different from what we have in Singapore. Read the interim report (always go to source if you can!) and make up your own mind.

A bit more chatter on activism

CAPE, a student group focused on political education, has released a statement in response to comments made by the SJI vice-principal (see last issue): “Activism is not in and of itself divisive; instead, it exposes and reveals the inequalities and injustices that lurk beneath the facade of stability and harmony.” Constance Singam, who has been an activist in Singapore for three decades, also wrote to the SJI vice-principal, and even gifted him a copy of The Art of Advocacy in Singapore.


And now for a visual break…


Events and announcements

IndigNation
It’s Singapore’s LGBT Pride month, so check out IndigNation SG’s Facebook page for all the activities they’ve got on—there’s lots!

Poverty has a woman’s face
There’s a panel on 11 August on gender and inequality, led by AWARE.

Theatre and community
Shoes Theatre is inviting young Singaporeans to co-create theatre with the migrant worker community—it starts on 2 September to 2 December and will take place on Sundays.

Support The T Project!
The T Project needs to raise funds to renew the lease for their shelter for transgender people, and they need your support!