23,000 voters, 13,447 WP supporters, and one old woman – We are all Singaporeans
I met an elderly woman at the Workers’ Party rallies. She lived at a flat across the rally site and attended all three rallies by herself.
On the first night the WP volunteers offered her a chair to sit on because her feet hurt from standing too long. When the rally was over, I watched her stagger across the field back home.
On the second night I was not there and as it happened, it rained very heavily.
On the last night I was very happy and surprised to see her again, at the same spot on the field where I was. You would not expect her to turn up again as the field was still damp but there she came, and brought along a stool to sit on throughout the rally.
With a slight frown on her wizened face, the old lady told me that it poured at the second rally, and I remembered the online photographs I saw, of undeterred supporters staying behind despite the sudden downpour and sheltering each other with their umbrellas. I was glad that she looked hale and healthy despite getting caught in the rain.
I am not a resident of Hougang and do not know if this endearing and resilient old lady exemplifies what many have touted as the “Hougang spirit”. What strikes me is this: like many elderly, the old lady finds it painful to stand for long periods. I imagine what a chore it is for her to climb up flights of stairs to get home, and how much good a lift that stops at every floor will do for old folks like her.
The lack of such imagination is the fundamental failing of the PAP.
In its petty endeavors to dispirit Hougang residents in the past decades, the PAP had, time and again, delayed lift upgrading in the old estate and denied it funds for other improvements. It had treated each Hougang voter as a pawn in its electoral politics, as a statistic that can be bought over to its side with carrots and sticks.
By so doing, the ruling party has revealed a lack of empathy with the residents, ordinary folks with humble wishes like having the lift stop at every floor so that they can walk less, like having sheltered linkways so that they will not get wet on rainy days.
It has conveniently overlooked the fact that this old woman whom I met at the rallies, and many others like her, are also Singaporeans.
In this by-election, Hougang has spoken, for itself, and for many Singaporeans. As a fellow Singaporean who is able to see this country gradually democratize because of the sacrifices of Hougang residents, I have this to say to the PAP:
Hougang residents are not just a statistic. They are your fellow countrymen. You are here to serve them, not to serve yourself, your own narrow party interests.
Have a heart.
And if you need more reason, look no further. Just remember this old lady, her limping gait and quiet resolve as she bears with the day-to-day inconveniences caused by your action.