Places of worship not for political parties

From ‘Parties should avoid places of worship’, 19 April 2011, Voices, Today

(M Lukshumayeh): Watching the News 5 Tonight on Sunday, it seems that the Singapore Democratic Alliance led by the party’s secretary-general included in their walkabout a Hindu temple and a Chinese temple, where they were seen distributing the party’s leaflets.

While it is understandable that political parties wish to reach out to people in every nook and cranny, it may be better to refrain from going into places of worship to disseminate their political ideologies.

Singapore has always taken the position that politics and religion should not be mixed and it is, therefore, hoped that this transgression is not repeated by all political parties. Let worshippers at places of worship undertake their prayers without unnecessary distraction.

Eat, Pray, Vote

Conveniently omitted from the complainant’s letter is how a similar ‘transgression’ took place around the same time involving none other than SM Goh, who visited the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar temple, and even had warpaint on for the Hindu Holi festival. Dropping by religious buildings, of course, nothing new to our SM, who started bridging the religion-politics divide even way back in 1982 during his walkabouts as Defence and Second Health Minister (Walkabout way to meet people, 11 Oct 1982, ST)

On the election warpath

So perhaps the Opposition were a little less subtle in their mode of winning the hearts of a minority race, that distributing pamphlets was seen by the writer as ‘disseminating political ideologies’ while doing a simple ‘walkabout’ and becoming a pilgrim for a day isn’t. Of course if there were such a distinct line between the two oldest institutions of human endeavour, then we shouldn’t even allow staunch Christians in parliament (e.g. Lim Boon Heng),  or even Muslims for that matter, whose opinions on vices like sex and gambling would have been pesky deterrents to economic growth i.e casinos. Nothing speaks tolerance and multi-racial harmony like a Chinese politician reaching the Hindu community by the only way possible short of dipping nude in the Ganges or doing a cameo on a Vasantham drama serial, being touchy-feely with a holy man in their temples and making sure the media is around to capture it. Or how about an Indian politician decorating a Christmas tree in a church (see Tharman in Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, also PAP by the way, below).

Deck the polls

So all’s fair in votes and war, and such antics, ruling party of Opposition alike, are mere ploys to score brownie points with an increasingly skeptical public, if not with monetary goodies and lift upgrading,  then something which touches them on a fundamentally deeper level. How’s this different from the emotional impact of seeing your MP break sweat planting a tree in your neighbourhood, dressing up in ethnic attire doing an ethnic dance, kissing your baby in his arms, or reading a fairy tale in sign language to deaf orphans? It would take a prudent voter and ultimately, the intelligent citizen that we would hope all Singaporeans to become, to see through such pantomime and make decisions with their heads rather than hearts, by assessing the groundwork and track record of their candidates than be moved a few images of them dunking their heads in baptism rituals with flower garlands around their necks.

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