On Sunday, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) held a rally in support for Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss at Mountbatten SMC, where she is facing Lim Biow Chuan, the PAP incumbent. Roughly 1,000 people attended it.
1. Chiam See Tong, a ripe ole 80, looked and sounded his age, but was warmly welcomed by the speakers and the crowd.
Mr Chiam arrived late at the rally and was wheeled up to the steps of the stage.
He then laboriously pulled himself up on stage by holding on to the staircase railing and was guided to a chair.
When it came to his turn to speak, the podium was moved to the front of his seat. Many members of the audience stood up at then with cries of “Chiam See Tong”.
He then spoke a few short sentences to thank the audience for staying to listen to all the speakers and to support Chong-Aruldoss, albeit with long pauses in between his sentences. It was unclear whether he was gathering his thoughts or just intent on speaking slowly enough for everyone to understand him. The pauses were filled with cheers from the crowd.
Later as he left the stage and was seated again in his wheelchair, fervent supporters (ie. half the people in the field) clustered at the fence around the stage to shake his hand. Old but gold indeed.
2. Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss was praised by all the speakers.
Potong Pasir candidate Lina Chiam declared that Chong-Aruldoss would be a “tigress” in Parliament. Her husband, James, took the stage to wax lyrical on how sharp she was. Choo Zheng Xi, lawyer and campaign volunteer for Chong-Aruldoss, praised her hard work in getting up early every morning to give out flyers at the MRT station. He also commented on how the 40-page manifesto on her plans for Mountbatten SMC was atypical of SMC candidates.
On a more bizarre note, SPP’s new candidate for Hong Kah North Ravi Philemon exclaimed: “Jeannette knows where the best durians are!”
3. There was free food.
Maybe the other opposition parties (minus the Workers’ Party) should take the lead from the SPP and start offering free food at their rallies to attract a larger audience. The SPP were very considerate in serving up free old-school biscuits, cotton candy and even freshly-popped popcorn.
4. Mr Lim Biow Chuan, the PAP incumbent, was gently criticised.
Chong-Aruldoss said of Lim, “Do we need another PAP backbencher to okay public transport fare hikes… to vote for the 6.9 million Population White Paper, to attack the Aljunied MPs? No matter how much he wants to, my opponent cannot always speak for you because he has to toe the party line.”
We note how her comments on Lim are not an all-out attack. Perhaps as a lawyer facing off against a fellow lawyer, she wants to keep the battle relatively civil… Solidarity among lawyers, anyone?
Responding to Lim, who highlighted his work in managing the estate as a plus point, Chong-Aruldoss said, “Don’t make a virtue out of a necessity.”
“The role of an MP isn’t just to be a glorified estate manager — the real role is to lead, to inspire, and to fight for the residents of the constituency,” she said.
5. Ultimately, the SPP rally fell rather flat in inciting fervour in voters.
Yes, there were soundbites, criticism of policies and Chiam See Tong…
… and also popular presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock —
but as a whole, the SPP rally had an atmosphere of a family picnic rather than a politically-charged rally. Most of the crowd seemed keen only to see Chiam.
This was evident by how
sad self-obsessed sod and ex-SPP member-turned DPP-secretary-general Benjamin Pwee had to tell the audience to pay attention to his speech, and that he would inform them when Mr Chiam arrived.
When Chiam eventually did arrive during Mr Aruldoss’ speech, there was a mad rush by the media and rally-goers to his proximity.
Chong-Aruldoss refrained from harping on the CPF, foreigners and ministers’ salaries, the pet topics of most opposition parties. Her focus was more on the role of MPs as legislators and checks on the Government. Her speech, therefore, didn’t rouse much fiery passion from the crowd.
Her fellow speakers, in largely sticking to backing Chong-Aruldoss, also cruised along instead of firing up the crowd. Mr Chiam, the star speaker of the whole rally, did not speak at length, and so the crowd went away feeling perhaps roughly the same as they did when they arrived.
Do buck up, SPP, the support for Mr Chiam See Tong and his past glories can only bring you that far. That extra something to garner support for those elusive Parliament seats will only come from your current crop of candidates and whatever feelings they can inspire in voters for GE 2015.
Top photo by Mindy Tan for Mothership.sg.