1. What are the reasons for Reform Party’s interest in Hong Kah GRC as a battleground at the next general election?
2. How many walkabouts has Reform Party held in Hong Kah GRC? How would you describe the residents’ response, and why?
3. What are the local and national issues that Reform Party will focus on if it does contest in Hong Kah GRC?
The above questions were posed to the Reform Party by Straits Times. Here is Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s responses:
The Reform Party has announced its intention to stand in at least Hong Kah and West Coast GRCs on its own and in Toa Payoh-Bishan in alliance with the SPP. In addition we will be contesting Choa Chu Kang and at least one other SMC. This does not rule the Reform Party out from contesting more GRCs should more suitable candidates come forward.
The Reform Party has stated its opposition repeatedly to the GRC system which it views as anti-democratic and and primarily as a tool to deny the people of Singapore choice and accountability from their government. It is telling that it is currently in use only in three African countries, Chad, Cameroon and Djibouti, none of which are, to put it mildly, models of democracy. By raising the barriers to political participation dramatically, it has resulted in 65% of Parliamentary seats being uncontested in 2001 and 47% in 2006 ensuring that the people of Singapore might as well be living in North Korea or China for all the right they have to choose their representatives. On top of this the accentuation of the winner-takes-all feature of the Westminster system that is the end-result of the GRC model, resulted in only 2% of the seats in Parliament (and most importantly no GRCs) going to non-PAP candidates despite a national vote for the Opposition of 34%. It is astonishing that the PAP regards this system as a cause for pride rather than a reason for shame, as evidenced by SM Goh’s comments in 2006 where he is reported to have said that the GRC system was necessary in order to give new would-be PAP MPs a practically guaranteed route into Parliament.
Despite its opposition to GRCs the Reform Party wants to see that the people of Singapore should have a chance to judge for themselves as to who has the better policies, the PAP or the Reform Party. The voters in Hong Kah, West Coast and Toa Payoh-Bishan have not had a chance to choose their representatives for some time. Many people approach us on walkabouts and say they have never voted in their lives despite now being middle-aged. They often express the hope that they will get to vote before they die.
We have been holding regular walkabouts, on our own in Hong Kah and West Coast and in TP-Bishan in conjunction with SPP, since last year and are now stepping up the pace to three walkabouts a week. The Reform Party has held at least five walkabouts in Hong Kah. The response has been extremely encouraging as it has in all the areas we have walked in and at least fifty percent of Singaporean residents buy a newsletter from us or greet us warmly.
National issues tend to predominate in Singapore due to the fact that in a city-state, local issues are of necessity national issues and vice versa. Predominant in voters’ minds are issues such as stagnant or declining real incomes and unemployment and lack of higher-paying jobs for older workers, particularly men, where competition from foreign workers as a result of the PAP’s very liberal foreign labour and immigration laws. Secondary issues are the high cost of housing and medical care as well as lack of provision for old age. The Reform Party is not xenophobic and views the rise of anti-foreigner sentiment in Singapore as being the end-result of the government’s failure to tackle economic insecurity (indeed it could be viewed as a deliberate attempt to foster insecurity because of MM Lee’s oft-stated fondness for Darwinian principles). While continuing to welcome foreigners with scarce skills, the Reform Party would address this insecurity by adopting tighter controls on unskilled or semi-skilled foreign labour and introducing a minimum wage However all our 19 policy pledges resonate with the electorate. They demonstrate the Reform Party’s intention to change current economic policies. These may be effective in growing GDP through the extravagant use of labour and capital inputs but do not benefit the majority of Singaporeans. The Reform Party’s policy pledges may be found on our website at http://www.thereformparty.net and on our candidates’ blog at www.votingrp.wordpress.com.
The Reform Party