Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Policy, People, Presence

This article was first published in The Hammer, Issue 09/02

In every general election, Singaporeans who are fortunate enough to vote in a contested constituency are faced with a decision which will decide our government for the next five years.

Some may make that decision out of blind faith, some may do so out of spite. What about you?

This article outlines three points to help you in your decision which will determine the future for you and your loved ones.

Every serious political party will present a set of policy ideas to Singaporeans. These policy ideas are framed in a document called a "Manifesto". With this Manifesto, each political party sets out to persuade Singaporeans that its policy ideas will create a better life for everyone.

When a political party wins the election and forms the government, it then has the mandate and duty to carry out the policy ideas in the Manifesto. Should a political party not win the majority of seats to form the government, but wins enough seats to form a sizeable opposition bloc in parliament, it can continue to persuade the government to adopt its alternative policy ideas on behalf of its constituents.

In the 2006 general election, the Workers' Party presented its set of policy ideas to Singaporeans in its Manifesto entitled "You Have A Choice". The Manifesto contains 180 policy ideas in 14 distinct sections with topics ranging from the economy to national security.

Since the Workers' Party won only one elected seat in Parliament in 2006, and was given one other Non-Constituency MP seat, do our policy ideas get a chance to be heard after the elections? Yes, they do. However, it will take time.

The 1988 Manifesto of the Workers' Party contained a proposal for every child to have a basic education up to the age of 15 or 16. The 1994 Manifesto contained a similar proposal for such basic education to be made compulsory. In 2000, a full 12 years after the 1988 Manifesto, the Compulsory Education Act was passed by Parliament.

With your support and with more seats in Parliament, the Workers' Party will be able to speed up the implementation of such policies that benefit Singaporeans.

Without people, there can be no party. While a political party is made up of people who work hard on the ground and behind the scenes, the most visible are the candidates which a party fields during general elections.

With the rise in educational levels of Singaporeans and the increasing complexity of the problems that our country faces, Singaporeans' expectations of the quality of candidates have also soared. Political parties have found it increasingly difficult to find people who are willing and able stand as candidates and, at the same time, meet the high expectations of Singaporeans.

In the 2006 general election, the Workers' Party fielded a total of 20 candidates, its highest number of candidates since 1988. Most of these candidates were university graduates with professions such as teaching, and business.

However, the quality of the Workers' Party's candidates should also be measured by important intrinsic values - the passion to serve, the ability to connect, the drive to succeed - which stem from the desire to make Singapore a better home for Singaporeans.

The Workers' Party continues to seek new people with both ability and passion so that Singaporeans can truly have a voice in parliament.

When was the last time your elected MP came up to you to say hello? "Walking the ground" is what elected and aspiring MPs must do to better understand the concerns of Singaporeans. No aspiring MP will gain the support of Singaporeans without "walking the ground," and no elected MP should take Singaporeans' support for granted once he or she is in office. For political parties to win an election, they must frequently bring themselves to Singaporeans, instead of waiting for Singaporeans to go to them.

In this respect, the Workers' Party regularly presents itself to Singaporeans by going door to door visiting residents every week, and by conducting weekly walkabouts promoting its newsletter, "The Hammer," at various housing estates around the country.

At these walkabouts, the Workers' Party listens to the concerns of Singaporeans from all walks of life. Those concerns are ingrained in the minds of the party members who propose alternative policies for the betterment of our country. With an increased presence both on the ground and in Parliament, these alternative policies can then be put forward and implemented for Singaporeans' benefit.

In conclusion, the next time you have the chance to vote, think about which political party brings you the Policy, People, and Presence that can truly make a positive difference to you, your loved ones, and to the success of our country.

Picture taken by Terence Ong in May 2006. Published under Creative Commons.

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