So, previously, when we covered the Workers' Party's final candidate introduction, where Leon Perera was unveiled, attention was regrettably drawn away from him and to (what else but) AHPETC.
We now regret this unfortunate event, for my, were we impressed with Perera's latest speech at the WP's East Coast GRC rally on Sunday night.
Perera was the eighth speaker to take to the podium that evening, following candidates from Nee Soon and Jalan Besar GRC, and also after running teammates Daniel Goh and Mohamed Fairoz Shariff — but what he said in his speech made any concern about him being dwarfed by Goh or his succeeding speaker Gerald Giam combust quicker than a cartoon character being fried to a crisp.
Now, the Oxford double-first-class degree-holder spoke for 15 minutes, so we understand it might not be easy to sit through it all. But just like how we said DPM and Finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's video was totally worth watching (and it's double the length), we're going to strongly recommend you hear the words directly from him too.
(He even calls you "friends"; wouldn't you want to be his friend too?)
Nonetheless, we shall once again be helpful (as always) and share the key points he made in his speech:
1. He said the PAP needs to stop praising itself.
- He said in the numerous countries he's been to (especially for his company, which is based in eight countries), he never hears
"a never-ending barrage of statements about how superior they are to everyone else, about how things are so much better than everywhere else. But in Singapore, we hear this, all the time."
- Sharing a story about how he heard a Korean documentary presenter say their state of tourism is something to be ashamed of, he said it's rare to hear such talk here.
"Has anyone in the PAP ever said that we should be ashamed that so many elderly Singaporeans have to work in food courts, or collect cardboard boxes and that we should solve this problem?"
- He said even when it seems like there are problems with something, the party's way of "admitting" it is by saying it's good, but they will make it better.
"We hear statements like for example the CPF is a good system but we are going to make it even better. Our education is among the best in the world, but we're going to make it even better. Do you think that the PAP admits frankly when it makes a mistake?"
2. It also doesn't know how to admit it made mistakes, he says.
- He said they attempted to explain away the resale market rocketing out of control as "unanticipated" and us being "in a bad place in the property cycle" and the government's foreign manpower policy as being "right for that era", with the current measures to tighten inflows being "right for today".
Really? When you control the number of foreigners given work passes, when you own most of the land in the country, when most housing is public housing, when you know the rate of new household formation every year, is this the fault of the property cycle?? Or is it a failure of government-forward planning?
- Even the most clear "policy failure" on the part of the PAP that happened in what Perera calls "the lost decade before the 2011 General Election" was resolved with just one apology from PM Lee Hsien Loong at the party's lunchtime rally, days before the end of the campaign.
"Did the PAP admit these mistakes squarely? did they explain in detail how such a massive failure of planning could happen? did they explain why the ministry in charge of granting permits to foreigners did not plan with the ministries in charge of building infrastructure? Did the ministries talk to one another or did they just bochap and do their own things? ... Friends, up to today they ahve not explained how exactly they will ensure this will never happen again to the country that we love."
3. He reminds us that the PAP likes to say things are "perfect or close to perfect, because we are in charge. So keep voting for us".
My friends, this is going to breed complacency. Ultimately it will lead to the decline of Singapore... A few days ago I represented the Workers' Party in a TV debate. I started by thanking the PAP for its contributions to Singapore.
Ms Denise Phua replied by thanking the WP for acknowledging the achievements of the PAP.
Friends, the PAP likes to accuse the Workers' Party of claiming credit. But honestly my friends, they are number 1, they are the Olympic gold medallists when it comes to claiming credit! They have claimed credit for everything that goes right in this country. When something goes wrong it is airbrushed from history, or it's the fault of the world economy or some other anonymous force, or it's the fault of the Workers' Party. The PAP slogan is "with you, for you, for Singapore", but actually it's all about them, not you!
4. The ever-accomplished student reminds us of his book-smarts by critiquing the PAP's manifesto as "backward-looking" (because admit it, you didn't read it, or at most skimmed through it.)
It's not just the manifesto, the PM's national day rally last week; the entire PAP campaign in this general election, friends, is all backward-looking, designed to make you think that this election is about the past 50 years. But you are voting for the PAP leaders today, not the PAP leaders 50 years ago.
What is the PAP's vision? What is the PAP's programme for the next 5 years? They have outlined no specific programme, they expect your blind faith. But the WP has a manifesto with a coherent vision and specific plans. You can disagree with our proposals, you can say it is boring. But when you look at the WP manifesto there is a vision and there are plans. What are their plans?
5. And here's where he wins our vote (alongside that of possibly-frustrated mainstream media journalists): he talks about actual things the WP plans to champion in parliament.
Balance instead of dominance. Passionate striving for improvement instead of complacency, admitting mistakes and preventing their recurrence instead of pretending that there were no mistakes, humility instead of arrogance.
Our way is not to depend only on a strong state dominated by an entrenched party. It is to rely on a strong civil society, a strong private sector, an active citizenry, a strong responsible opposition.
Our way, my friends, is about all stakeholders in Singapore finding solutions together. Not just ramming policies down our throats through speed-reading bills in parliament. We want to ensure free and fair debate about Singapore's problems and Singapore's solutions, not a debate where we only hear the good stuff.
In our manifesto we propose a public consultation select committee and standing select committees in parliament to debate bills before they become law, and to scrutinise each ministry's spending policies and operations. We propose freeing up our newspaper and braodcasting industry to open, regulated competition.
And we call for an end to the requirement that internet news websites need to comply with cumbersome registration requirements. (woohoo! -our addition)
From the looks of social media reaction, it seems like we aren't alone in our assessment. Here are the top Twitter trends for the night, for instance:
Sounds like a pretty solid team the WP is fielding for East Coast. Tough choices ahead, East Coast voters...
Meanwhile, watch his speech here:
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(Editor's note: Not sure if these PAP answers would adequately answer his questions from point four?)
Top photo by Gerald Chan