From ‘Aljunied GRC voters can ‘have cake and eat it’:ESM Goh’, 6 Sep 15, article in CNA
While on a walkabout with the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Aljunied GRC team, ESM Goh said his sense of the ground in Aljunied, which was won by the Workers’ Party in the 2011 General Election (GE), is that “many people are caught in a dilemma”.
“They tell us quite openly that they want to support the PAP, but at the same time they are afraid. Vote for PAP, and Workers’ Party will be out. And therefore there will be no more opposition party, led by Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, in Parliament,” he noted.
The NCMP scheme ensures that there will always be a minimum number of opposition Members in Parliament. Citing the scheme, ESM Goh said voters and WP can, in fact, “have their cake and eat it”.
…The former Prime Minister also likened the dilemma Aljunied voters face as between a cruise ship with a destination and one without. “If you go with the PAP, you are actually embarking on a cruise ship with a definite destination. You know the destination, you know the journey, the path taken by the cruise ship. You know the captain, the crew members, you know the quality,” ESM Goh said.
“The other choice you’re given is take my cruise ship, I’m going to nowhere. You know there are cruise ships that go on a journey to nowhere. These are gambling ships, very exciting. You take my ship, you can gamble but go no where, just go round and round and so on. The point I’m making is there’s a choice for yourself.”
The phrase ‘having our cake and eat it’ has been used in the GE context to refer to Singaporeans wanting the PAP to lead the country, but at the same desire alternative voices in Parliament. In 1991, WP candiate Jufrie Mahmood used the same idiom to urge Singaporeans to vote for the WP (WP targets floaters and predicts a close fight, 31 Aug 1991, ST). Since 2011, Aljunied residents have indeed been enjoying cake, despite LKY’s insistence that they would repent for the indulgence. Come a week’s time and we’ll see if 4 years of cumulative indigestion would lead to voters puking all WP MPs out of their Parliament seats. Or, if voters are not swayed by the AHPETC salvos, Aljunied continues to eat the same cake. And then some.
ESM Goh’s cake comment reminds me of those ominous words erroneously attributed to Marie Antoinette. When told that the people were starving and had no bread to eat, she supposedly replied: ‘Let them eat cake!’, a phrase that alluded to the class separation between France’s aristocracy and the common people. It’s no coincidence that PM Lee not too long ago spoke of this ‘natural aristocracy’. Well, most Singaporeans can afford more than their daily bread, or even cake, of course. At least we don’t have to eat our own words. And we all know what happened to Marie Antoinette’s head after that. It rolled.
Since the watershed victory in 2011, it would be an insult to the Opposition to settle for NCMP positions in the catastrophic event that the PAP swallows all 89 seats this year (i.e they eating the whole damn cake, sugar frosting, candles and all). The scheme was a token creation of the late LKY in 1984 to help the younger generation appreciate ‘constitutional Opposition’. Having gained considerable ground since then, no ‘self-respecting’ WP candidate especially the likes of Low Thia Khiang or Sylvia Lim would re-enter Parliament through the ‘back door’ if they could help it. It’s like having a chocolate lava cake one election, and being presented with a combat ration sponge cake the next.
ESM Goh’s analogy of the Goverment being a luxurious cruise ship also seems at odds with what PM Lee had to say regarding Singapore being compared to the same vessel. He said:
Once you think you are in a cruise ship and you are on a holiday and everything must go swimmingly well and will be attended to for you, I think you are in trouble.
No, it definitely doesn’t feel like the Royal Caribbean to the average Singaporean. Some of the houses we live in are even smaller than those cabin suites on board. I’m also not sure what this ‘definite destination’ that ESM Goh painted for us is (Switzerland?) Whatever happened to choppy waters, stormy weathers and such? Didn’t we learn anything from killjoys like SARS, or the haze? Isn’t the Singaporean journey together as one united people, through ups and downs, more important than the final destination?
In fact, the casino ship seems a more appropriate analogy if you consider our dependence on the 2 IRs. Except that they’re more accommodating to foreigners than our own people, who’re probably stuck in the cargo hold peeling potatoes while the elite dance in banquet halls and have artisan cocktail parties with the captain. We need people to peep out of the porthole, to survey the ocean every now and then to look out for impending icebergs. We’d rather be a cruise to nowhere than the Titanic.
For a man who spoke only ONCE in Parliament these few years, he’s rabidly vocal this week alone. When asked about that one speech on the Population White Paper, ESM Goh admitted that it was a one-off, but at least was ‘impactful’. You can still read the 2013 speech online and in essence he’s saying ‘I support the White Paper’, and something about pushing boulders up a mountain (Sisyphus much?). No one will remember it, quote abstracts from it, or say ‘GCT WAS RIGHT!’ should the 6.9 million target indeed turn out to be a lucky number. It doesn’t, however, beat his immortal speeches about our ‘Swiss standard of living’ or ‘stayers and quitters’ in terms of impact. Talk about Ownself praise ownself.
We’ve had a taste of cake, now here, have some humble pie, sir.