Saturday, April 29, 2006

Attending my first rally

When I arrived at Yishun St 11 at around 2045hrs, the traffic along the road was jammed up with vehicles trying to look for parking space near to the rally point. Looking out of my window when my car went past the field, I can see thousands of heads with their sights trained on the small figure in the brightly-lit stage in the distance, with the impassioned speech coming through the trumpet-style loud speakers mounted on poles erected on the ground.

15 mins later, I finally found a parking lot two streets away, in the neighbouring Nee Soon Central Consituency. No choice, the HDB parking lots in the vicinity nearer to the rally point was so crowded that even getting into the carpark was a problem.

I followed some others and treaded through the Yishun neighbourhood park, walking along a path with two street lamps broken down, rendering the path pitch black, save for the lights coming from the surrounding blocks of flats. (Hmmm....what has the incumbent MP done about this?)

Coming to the junction where the rally point is, I see that there were many motorbikes parked along the pavement, presumably belonging to other attendees of the rally. Crossing the junction brought me to the edge of the field, and I started to walk around to get a feel of the number of people who were there.

I cannot provide a good estimate of the number of people there, but from my many experiences of attending pop concerts, I can say for sure the crowd last night was definitely more than the crowd at either a MayDay or 伍佰 concert.

[crowd (with flash)][crowd (without flash)]

The ground was muddy, and luckily I anticipated that, switching to a pair of old beach sandals before leaving my car. As I weaved my way through the standing crowd to get closer to the stage for a better view, the ground got increasingly muddier.

I finally settled down at a point about a 100m away from the stage and started to pay attention to the speech. Dr Poh Lee Guan was at the microphone. Speaking with the standard slow, clear and powerful tone, he resembles Mr Low Thia Kiang from where I was standing (I have high myopia, so I cannot see very clearly even from 100m). It was only when he spoke about learning the ropes about running a Town Council from Mr Low in the last few years that I realised he was not Mr Low. :)

One interesting thing to note, which the media did not seem to pick up, is what Dr Poh referred to himself as: "Ah-Poh", and this is reminiscent of how Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian always refer to himself as "Ah-Bian". Dr Poh's speech was peppered with requests to the Yishun East residents to "Give Ah-Poh a chance to serve you", or "Give Ah-Poh a chance to prove that WP can run a town council". (Note: I am writing on the next day of the rally, so I cannot remember for sure, verbatim what was said, but that is what I got walking away from the rally). I am not a Yishun East resident, so I cannot be the judge of whether Dr Poh's claims about the incumbent Dr Ho Peng Kee are true or false. However, I do think that if I am an Yishun East resident, I would respond to his statement "Vote me in so that I can prove myself. If I am no good, you can always kick me out 4 years later." We shall see how many of the Yishun East residents think like me.

Throughout Dr Poh's speech, I looked around the crowd again, and noticed that even the corridors of the surrounding HDB blocks of flats were lined with people.

Although I arrived at the rally late, with only 1 hour left in the permitted time for speeches, I was lucky in the sense that the schedules of speeches for Mr Low Thia Kiang and Ms Sylvia Lim were arranged to be in the last hour.

Mr Low proceeded to ask Mr James Gomez to make a public statement about his administrative issue with the Elections Department. I think James Gomez was courageous enough to make a public apology for the matter. The matter has been blown out of proportions by both PAP and the media, with full pages of the Straits Times and minutes of national tv time on TV News dedicated to it. To me, the average citizen, the amounts to a smear campaign. What was a simple genuine mistake was made into a grave matter that has our PM and DPM harping over it. To give the media the credit, Mr Low made a mistake during his speech, when he said "making a molehill out of a mountain", but the Straits Times report corrected this when quoting him. To me, both the administrative mistake and the phrase mistake fall under the same category, permissible mistakes which does not need any further attention.

Mr Low's point of the night was on the accountability of the government. He pointed out that the reason that there is a need for spending money on adding after-the-thought enhancements is due to a lack of foresight and planning in the first place.

Ms Sylvia Lim won my support by parrying PM Lee's attack on the WP candidates by turning the attacks into her advantage. These has been reported in the media, so I shall save some typing time.

When the rally ended slightly after 10pm, the crowd started to disperse, and I followed suit. However, after walking a few steps, I noticed a crowd lingering near where the candidates were about to board their transports to leave the location. I went on to join the crowd and found many supporters chanting "Worker's Party". The police on duty had a hard time trying to convince the crowd to clear a path for the vehicles. The crowd only made way when a WP member wearing a light blue polo shirt with hammer logo come up to ask the crowd to give way.

It was really a moving moment, seeing the kind of support the WP is getting this time round. This is the first Rally I attended, so I am not sure if the level of support was the same during the last elections. Maybe some of the crowd that were there because it was a Saturday evening, maybe some were there for the fun of chanting "Worker's Party" in a crowd. However from the expression on most people's face, and the occasional overheard conversation between friends in the crowd, I can tell that
the level of unhappiness amongst the people is really quite high. Are we near the tipping point, for a radical change in the political landscape in Singapore?

I walked back two streets to where my car was parked, and changed into my clean shoes. Recalling that the last time I got my feet so dirty with mud was probably when I was serving my NS. Guess it is about time I start on the second phase of my National Service: stop being an apolitical citizen and do my due diligence to understand underlying issues before exercising my right to vote for the party that I think should receive support.

More rallies to attend over the week. :)

[photos at flickr/dunpanic/tags/crowd]

1 comment:

Anarchy said...

i'd never refer to politicians by their titles, not even mr.

in fact, until he wins the election, pm lee is not pm lee