Today (Edit: 2nd September) I, like many others in my ward, attended the Hougang rally held by the Workers’ Party. It was a magnificent sight, so many Singaporeans – true blues, not the foreign imported kind who have just gotten their PRs – gathered in front of the bright spotlights of the famous Hougang field. All of us there for one purpose – to hear what Mr Low Thia Khiang and the Workers’ Party candidates had to say to us, for them to give us their new direction for the people.
The first few rally speakers prepped the crowd. They gave speeches to a roaring crowd. There was Yenn Jenn Jong, the Marine Parade representative who roused the crowd when he spoke about the Opposition’s commitment to the Singaporean people. He said that the government was wrong about the opposition, that they are not anything close to nomads. Singaporeans, normally reticent and “emotionless” – as some surveys would have us believe – groaned and expressed their disgust as Yee told us about his fight for Joo Chiat SMC and how the PAP cruelly snatched his turf away from him with just a quick redrawing of the electoral map.
Then Chen Show Mao, the scholar lawyer of the party, gives his speech. He is an affable, likeable man, with a fatherly disposition much like some Taiwanese celebrities on TV. He spoke in Mandarin, telling the crowd about the fable of the rooster and the 10 suns. Speaking with dramatic flair, he got the crowd to clap vigorously many times, even if he was simply telling us something that we all knew from our childhood. He spoke about the story of Hou Yi, who shot down the 10 suns in the sky that were oppressing the people, much to the delight of all those present – for we all knew who the “Hou Yi” in the story was referring to and who exactly we had to shoot down. We clapped instinctively and felt the pride in our hearts surge, because all of us at the rally knew.
Mr Pritam Singh spoke too, his booming voice reassuring residents that there was nothing wrong with AHPETC and that it was the government who was withholding funds from AHPETC which caused it to run into a deficit. He went into other specifics, about AIM, about $2 companies set up by the PAP, about other PAP TCs. Here, the fast flowing statistics and financial details flew slightly over our heads, but we didn’t care. We simply cheered when he spoke about the government’s faults because they resonated with us. AHPETC is a fuzzy concept to us, but at the end of the day, our root grievances were with the PAP, not with any abstract town council issues. In our minds, as long as the town council was honest and busy keeping our estate clean, technical problems could be ironed over.
Then Mr Png, our Hougang representative spoke too. In his now characteristic Hokkien, he spoke about AHPETC again. Breaking the issue down, dear Mr Png said that the key issue was that the government was not giving AHPETC funds, and so it was not their fault that AHPETC was running the red. All the other TCs were getting their money, all except opposition run ones. Obviously this was unfair, and so we cheered when Mr Png said wryly, “If the government withholds funds from us, and accuse us of missing funds, I think the government is missing their brains!”
Saving the best for (second) last, Mr Low Thia Khiang strode up to the stage to the thunderous applause of all present. His welcome was the loudest, and although he chose to speak in his native Teochew (I can’t really understand the language, despite it being so close to my Hokkien heritage), you could see the crowd of Indians, Malays, non-Teochew listeners pricking their ears and hanging onto every word Mr Low said. This is a man who commands the respect of the nation, I thought. He may well be our next prime minister, said a few onlookers. I had no doubts about that.
I was one of many who left early after Ms Sylvia Lim was well underway with her speech. Not because I didn’t care to listen or because I didn’t like her. I wanted to beat the post-rally crowd and had to get home to work the next morning. But the spirit of the WP followed me on the long journey home, as I heard echoes of the people’s chanting “Workers Party! Workers’ Party!” in my ears even in the quiet subway.
Now that was a rally worth attending.