SINGAPORE - The second last night of rallies before the Sept 11 polls was a very lively affair. From Serangoon North to Sembawang, candidates were forceful in making their points and fans rowdy in their support of their candidates, as the countdown to Cooling-off Day on Thursday (Sept 10) began.
A total of 12 rallies were held on Tuesday (Sept 8), seven by the People's Action Party (PAP).
The ruling party kicked off the day's rallies at lunchtime, at the UOB Plaza promenade in front of a large crowd.
In an hour-long speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on Singaporeans to vote for the right people who can get policies right and put the country on the right path. He reiterated that the PAP would be able to take Singapore forward in the right direction for a long time to come.
"Vote for what you believe in. Vote for the candidate you trust. Vote for the party that has never let you down," he said. He also said that while the core of the next generation of leaders who can move Singapore forward is taking shape, more leaders are needed
He dismissed the Workers' Party's (WP) argument that a strong opposition provides insurance against the ruling party's failure, saying that while insurance is good "you must buy the right insurance from the right company".
For the record, the PAP's night rallies were at Ngee Ann Secondary School, Hong Kah Primary, Pasir Ris Park, Stadium Drive, Toa Payoh Stadium and Yishun Avenue 1.
The WP rally was at Serangoon Stadium, Singapore People's Party (SPP) in Potong Pasir, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at Woodlands Stadium, National Solidarity Party (NSP) in Woodlands Drive, and independent candidate Han Hui Hui at the Delta Hockey Pitch.
1. SO WHO WENT
Election fever looks to have truly caught on in Singapore. The WP venue was packed but big crowds also turned up at the PAP, SDP and SPP rallies. Rallygoers also showed their support with flags, garlands, placards, whistles and party merchandise.
2. CHIAM'S DAUGHTER ENTERS THE FRAY
She has been seen on walkabouts and also wheeling her father around in his wheelchair on Nomination Day and at rallies.
On Tuesday night, Ms Camilla Chiam - the only child of Mr Chiam See Tong and Mrs Lina Chiam - came out to campaign openly for her mother.
She took the stage and addressed the crowd in Mandarin, although she has previously given interviews more comfortably in English. She spoke about how she practically grew up in Potong Pasir, having been just eight when Mr Chiam was first elected in 1984, and reminisced about how the area always had a strong kampung spirit.
In asking for residents to vote for her mother in Potong Pasir, Ms Chiam also pointed out that Mrs Chiam was one of the most active speakers in Parliament where she was a Non-Constituency MP. Also, even without the aid of funding, her father, the previous MP, and his team had managed to build lifts without asking for co-payment from residents.
When Mr Chiam, 80, later got up to speak, Ms Chiam interpreted for him as his speech was not clear. He has suffered two strokes in recent years.
PAP: Big guns were out in full force at rallies across the island. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean spoke at the PAP rally in Pasir Ris; Defence Minister and PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen at the Bishan-Toa Payoh rally; Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at the rally for Nee Soon GRC; and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat in Tampines.
Mr Teo's speech was on the theme of unity and how it has brought about progress for Singapore. "We work for consensus and not confrontation, for the future and not just for the present, for others and not just for ourselves," he said. The opposition, on the contrary, he pointed out, has been sowing disunity and engaging in the politics of division and envy.
Mr Ng said that the prices of the oldest flats in the ward have risen 50 times since they were built. He listed not just amenities in the ward, but also infrastructural plans around Singapore, from the High Speed Rail in the west to Changi Airport in the east.
He added that he was happy to see people in their 30s and 40s being engaged and coming up to him to discuss issues, as they "will take Singapore to SG100".
"So after this election, I intend to continue speaking to these people that I met, even some in the opposition parties."
Mr Shanmugam's message for voters: The coming election is not about how many opposition MPs there should be in Parliament. It is about the kind of politics and politicians Singaporeans hope to see. "Candidates must be honest and say, these are the costs, these are the trade-offs, not just pretend that the skies will be blue, the clouds will lift, and all will be somehow better, if voters picked them," he said.
He reminded the audience how the WP has changed its stance repeatedly on the foreign manpower issue. "Will you say anything to win votes? Sway your position with the wind? Turn cartwheels on policies?"
Mr Heng spoke about the challenges that Singapore will face: Ageing population, rapid changes in the region and around the world, and technological disruptions. He emphasised the importance of the Singapore Spirit in staying united, and described it as the most special thing Singaporeans have built together.
WP: After a week of campaigning, the WP candidates seem to have their messages down pat. The rally formula has been for the younger candidates and new faces to have their airtime earlier in the evening, speaking about their pet causes as well as reiterating the WP manifesto. Then the big guns in the form of Aljunied GRC incumbents Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh, Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim come out to raise the more cerebral arguments about separating government from party politics.
The ship analogy was the popular theme of the evening for veterans Png Eng Huat (Hougang) and Low. Referring to Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's analogy of the PAP being akin to a cruise ship with a definite destination while the WP was that of a casino ship for gamblers, Mr Png said: "First, the WP opposed the casinos, so the WP won't be on that ship. That ship belongs to the PAP."
He went on to criticise the PAP's ship as being in need of urgent repairs, where "the sick have to sleep in the corridors, the ATM doesn't dispense cash, only statements, and the captain and crew are grossly overpaid". His final punchline: "We are here to change the crew."
Mr Low, who had earlier said that if the PAP was a cruise ship it would be the Titanic, added another twist saying: "The PAP has been on a luxury cruise ship but the people have been riding a sampan." He added that the PAP is removed from the realities of people struggling in the sampan.
SPP: The SPP rally saw friends and fellow candidates contesting the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Mountbatten SMC take the rostrum. Most speeches focused on the character of Mrs Chiam, emphasising her courage and years of service alongside Mr Chiam while he served as Potong Pasir MP.
Upon ending her speech, Mrs Chiam read something a supporter had used to describe Mr Chiam.
"I'm not sure if you will agree with what is written," she told the crowd, before going on to recite the lyrics from the chorus of Ronan Keating's When You Say Nothing At All:
The smile on your face
Lets me know that you need me.
There's a truth in your eyes
Saying you'll never leave me.
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me wherever I fall.
You say it best when you say nothing at all.
SDP: The speakers raised different points. Dr Paul Tambyah (Bukit Timah-Holland) said Singapore was a great place for three to four million people rather than 6.9 as envisaged in the Population White Paper, and said: "Most Singaporeans would favour a sustainable growth model instead of growth for growth's sake." He also attempted to reassure voters that they will not lose amenities should they vote for the SDP. Secretary-general Chee Soon Juan reiterated the need for an alternate voice and second opinion in Parliament.
* Teenage rebel-turned-criminal lawyer Josephus Tan, who was emcee for the PAP rally at Yishun Stadium, stole some of the limelight with his jokes, lively exchange with the audience and his rocker image. With his long hair tied in a pony tail, he led the crowd in doing the "Nee Soon wave". He introduced Nee Soon GRC candidate Lee Bee Wah as Nee Soon's "Ah Huay" - a play on her name which means pretty flower in Chinese - and told the crowd that candidate Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim could sing Hokkien song well. There had been talk about Mr Tan being a potential candidate for PAP, but he denied it.
* There was a stir in the WP crowd at around 8.30pm when former PAP MP and one-time presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock arrived at Serangoon Stadium. He made his way through the crowd, which obligingly made way for him to get to the front of stage.
* After the large-scale PAP rallies of recent days, it was slightly strange to see Mr Lim Biow Chuan's solo act on Tuesday night. With just the emcee for company on a comparatively small stage, the PAP's Mountbatten incumbent began his rally at 8pm. He is fighting the SPP's Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss. If he was nervous, he did not show it. "I am the only speaker tonight, so there is a lot of time," he said. About 400 were there to cheer him on.
"Do we want our people filled with anger, envy and hatred for one another? Do we want this kind of politics? Do we want political parties that only speak out during campaign rallies, just to score cheap political points? Do we want political parties that avoid tough decisions and make empty promises that they do not have to keep?
- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
"Do you entrust it to people who built it in the first place... or you want to entrust it to people who have no idea how to build a house in the first place?"
- PAP's Josephine Teo on Singapore
"I would have brought a piece of paper to show you tonight, but I don't think that kind of theatrics is necessary or constructive."
PAP's Charles Chong, alluding to WP's Low Thia Kiang's rally speech on Sunday where he flashed a piece of paper on the Punggol East's accounts
"Candidates must be honest and say, these are the costs, these are the trade-offs, not just pretend that the skies will be blue, the clouds will lift, and all will be somehow better, if voters picked them."
- PAP's K. Shanmugam
"If you vote me in, you will get 2-in-1 coffee mix. The sweetener, the coffee, and with my other volunteers, the creamer too. So maybe 3-in-1."
- SPP's Lina Chiam on her and her husband Chiam See Tong
"People asked me why I didn't join the PAP after RI. I said I decided to stop wearing my school uniform after I left secondary school."
- WP's Dennis Tan, who studied at Raffles Institution
"I have a good feeling about this election."
- WP's Sylvia Lim on how she was bitten by a dog during her last campaign for Aljunied GRC in 2011. During the campaign this year, she was bitten again by a dog
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