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]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What's the hurry?

I happened to work from home today, and as I was about to get ready to leave my flat for lunch, there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and a helper from PAP handed me a copy of the PAP Manifesto. She also told me that a candidate from PAP, Dr Lam Pin Min, would be coming around shortly do his house visit.

I have been waiting for someone to visit us at our home since the recent wave of local politics leading up to the General Elections, and was glad that finally someone turned up.

A few minutes later, Dr Lam appeared with two helpers. Good first impression, as he took a casual walk from my neighbour's door to mine, with the all-white uniform helping in the overall clean image. I extended my hand and we shook hands. He introduced himself as a candidate for our constituency, and asked me to vote for him.

I have been preparing a few concerns and issues (about 5) for candidates should I meet them, and I see that this is a good time to voice out the issues. I asked him if I could bring up a few issues. He said yes, and I proceeded with my first comment, planing to start with local issues around the estate, before moving on to large issues later.

He listen to me as I took less than a minute to describe my first issue - the problem with the fire alarm in the LRT Depot across the road going off in the middle of the night for no good reason. A helper with him took notes while I attempted to go on with my second issue.

However, seeing that I was about to start talking about another issue, Dr Lam suddenly seems to be in very much of a hurry. He told me that the helper will take down my contacts and the rest of my concerns before scurrying off. Of course, before going off, he repeated "vote for me, ok?"

I was left with bringing up one more local issue (I suddenly could not remember the other two), and the one national-level concern about Peak Oil. The helper did not know what Peak Oil is, as I expected, because I was expecting to direct the question to the candidate. The only thing the helper could do was to tell me that Dr Lam would coming again in the near futre.

That left a bad after-taste for me. The conventional wisdom, and what has always been on the lips of candiates are setences similar to: "we would like to hear from the residents and feel the pulse of the ground". However, in reality the feeling I get is that he is trying to show his face to as many people as possible, and issue/concerns can come later.

Granted that this is the elections period, and the objective is to garner as many votes as possible, but surely spending a slightly longer time with a resident with issues/concerns and most importantly, willing to share these issues/concerns, should not be too much to ask of a candidate.

So what's the hurry after all??

P.S. I read in the Straits Times Forum a few days ago about "Grassroot supporters led minister away from resident who had much to complain about" (Straits Times Forum, April 22, 2006) [archive link], and I think I could be one of the 'victims' of such modus operandi.

N91 on sale in singapore

Finally N91 is available in Singapore. It was launched over the weekend, but the newspaper advertisements only revealed the price during the last two days. The no-contract price of S$1099 (or was it S$1098? typing this from memory) is still quite affordable. However, since my T610 is still working pretty ok, and my two-year-old son would occasionally like to play with my phone (and sometimes drop it), I think I will stick to T610 for now. The 4GB harddisk in N91 would probably cannot stand the constant dropping that my son might subject it to. :)

Filed in:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mr Wang

I recently came to Mr Wang's blog through a link from a friend's blog. I like the way he presents arguments and his strong preference for equitable education opportunities in Singapore. One more RSS feed I add to my RSS reader, and I foresee that I will be reading all his articles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

News Video from MNM

Some one with too much time on their hands poking fun at Singapore-Malaysia politics.

Nissan Service Center - nice!

I took delivery of my second vehicle at the end of last month, and today I sent my new Latio to the Nissan workshop in Kampong Ubi for its first 1,000km servicing.

The service center is located at the basement of the new Nissan building, with ample parking space for my to park my car properly before the servicing engineer come to inspect and collect my car for servicing. This is a stark difference from my experience going to other Nissan servicing centers previously, where I have join a car queue while waiting for the service engineer.

The engineer took my vehicle and my remarks that the brake pedals are a little squeaky, both during depressing and releasing. I was told that since I brought the vehicle in at around 11am, it would only be ready around 3 or 4 pm later in the afternoon.

Ok, that means I have a few hours to kill. A few options are available to me: 1. Take a cab and go to office. 2. Take a cab and go home, work from home. 3. Check out the Customer's Waiting Lounge and see whether I can work from there.

I took the last option, and proceeded to the 3rd level of the building. To my pleasant surprise, the environment is good and quiet. They have nice couches where one can snug up with a newspaper or a book, and also library-style tables (the kind where there is a translucent piece of plastic between two facing occupants of the table). There is a mini bar with a bevereage making machine where I make either coffee or milo for myself. The best thing about it is that when I tried to connect to the wireless network they provide for free, it works!

So here I am now, working from the comfort of the Customer Waiting Lounge, waiting for my car. The only downside is that they don't seem to have a canteen or eatery in the building, and I will have to pack up and go to the next building for my lunch. Note-to-self: next time bring the car in either early in the morning, or after lunch, so that I don't have to go out to somewhere else for my food. :)

Nice work, Nissan, I would probably continue to come here for servicing after my first 3 free servicing expire, provided the difference in servicing charges between here and the one at the petrol kiosk near my house is not too huge. (Need to check tat out)