Saturday, September 12, 2015

Picture of dejection in WP supporters' camp

12 Sep 2015

John Lui
Film Correspondent

This is where I have trouble with people who want to change the government of Singapore: They tend to be the ones who have gained the most from it.

Mr S. Ho is a semi-retired commodities trader who has sent two children to Australia to study, which is where they have chosen to settle. "They cannot stand it here. Who can?" he says. I want to say us, for one, and a few million others. But he goes on to other issues.

The dismal results for the opposition last night have the 64-year-old grandfather and two of his friends, both men who look to be in their 60s, shaking their heads and saying "jia lat", that useful Hokkien phrase that expresses that peculiar mix of regret and resignation that overcomes a person when all is lost.

These old friends from various parts of Singapore have come here to Hougang Stadium, the assembly point for Workers' Party supporters.

The new sample count system is wrecking the mood here, at 10pm. Mr Ronald Lee, a 33-year-old engineer, is trying to keep his chin up.

"This is like football. It's not over until the end of the match," he says. There is bravado in his voice, but his face tells me the opposite.

Older Chinese-speaking people are confused by the English news broadcast of the sample counts projected on the big screen. What? they ask. They have the results already? People around them do hasty translations.

The trio of grey-haired men grimace when they hear about independent candidates losing their deposits. "This round, they all thought they had a chance. Tikam-tikam," says one of them, choosing the Malay word for placing a bet.

He crosses his arms and squares his shoulders, as if bracing himself for more bad news.

"Singaporeans are not politically aware," he says several times, like a mantra, as the results come in. Like Mr Ho, he stares at the big screen crossly.

The night goes on, and the results of the opposition retreat roll in like an icy tide. The blare from the speakers in the stadium resonates well outside the carpark. Rarely has so much bad news been broadcast to so many with so many decibels.

Despite the flagging spirits, pockets within the crowd of 5,000 remain upbeat, holding up their blown-up hammers (the symbol of the WP), blowing whistles and yelling cheers well past midnight.

After a long conversation with Mr Ho, in which he details the horrendous state of everything, starting with the education system and ending with me, a drone of the suppressed media, he explains why a man like him, living in a landed home, with two children given an overseas education, wants to swop out the government.

Things are not like they used to be. The system he enjoyed is not what his children and grandchildren will inherit if they had stayed. The dice are loaded against them.

Does he have hope for Singapore after this election, I ask him and his friends. After their long list of ills plaguing the governance of this nation, they sound horribly pessimistic, as if they would wake up tomorrow to see smoking ruins. Do they have any hope?

They think about it.

One of Mr Ho's friends finally says something. "I don't dislike the PAP. I dislike their policies. And tomorrow, when the GST is 10 per cent, don't look at me," he says.

Somehow, I can tell he dislikes the PAP.

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