Thursday, February 16, 2012

No By-election = Hougang Singaporeans not important?

Not having a timely by-election sends a negative message to Hougang residents

Author's note (19.2.12): This letter was published in Straits Times Forum ( Online) here

Dear Editor,
All of Singapore is acutely aware of the vacant seat in Hougang now that Mr. Yaw Shin Leong (formerly of WP) is no longer its elected MP. Although the law states that a by-election must be held when an MP has vacated his seat, it does not spell out when the Prime Minister must call the by-election.
However experts on constitutional law say that if no timeframe is stipulated, it should be interpreted as “ with all convenient speed” and SMU assistant law professor (Nominated MP) Eugene Tan, has quoted “three months” as a reasonable period.

Unfortunately on several occasions including two in 1986, single seats were left vacant for close to 2 years and by-elections were not held and replacement MP’s were elected only in the next general elections!

All of us understand that there are always important matters of state that require our politicians’ full attention. It will be the national   budget this week; the MRT inquiry in March or the Greek crisis and of course the US Presidential elections in November.

But how about Hougang’s residents?

Not to have a by-election in a timely manner or worse, not having an election till the next GE (possibly in 4 years’ time) would not just seem to disingenuously breach the spirit of the by-election act but will also signal to Hougang residents that their right to have an elected MP speak up for them in Parliament is unimportant. It is to take 23000 Singaporeans for granted!

We need assurance that a by-election for the vacant seat in Hougang SMC would be held at the soonest possible time after our very important budget.

Best wishes,
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Woodlands "not in my backyard" syndrome and how politicians should overcome this together

Author's note: Edited letter printed in Voices ( Today newspaper 11.2.12 here)
Dear Editor,
I refer to the negative reactions of some HDB residents when they found out that eldercare centres were slated to be built in the void decks of 2 blocks in Woodlands Street 83.( Click here)
Among reasons to support their petition to their MP included concern that the flats will drop in value and that it would be inauspicious when there are more deaths in the estate!
Ugly examples of “not in my backyard" syndrome
This troubling phenomenon is the often mentioned “not in my backyard” syndrome where Singaporeans will publicly welcome community amenities such as hospitals unless it is to be located in their community.
We saw this in Serangoon Gardens when the government wanted to build proper dormitories for foreign workers only to face vociferous protests from residents there.
These Singaporeans recognize that foreign workers are needed for our economy and that the older generation had made significant contributions in Singapore’s success, but nonetheless, prefer that these groups of people be kept out of sight, hidden somewhere else.
Politicians should discard partisanship to support the common good
Sound community initiatives such as the eldercare centres would risk being shelved due to the parochial reactions of some Woodlands resident unless politicians from both sides of the political divide openly support them.
These protesting residents often use the threat of their vote as a lever (like a child who tries to play one parent against the other) but if all major political parties openly state their support for such initiatives, such essential facilities for our elderly will not be discarded.  
Skeptics will say that politics in Singapore would never allow non-partisanship and may (with some justification) point to instances when sound policies such as the WP’s Sylvia Lim’s attempt at introducing “Happiness Index” was shot down by PAP MP’s in a very partisan manner. I also sadly recall Ex-MP Chiam See Tong’s suggestion for smaller classes for more effective schooling being dismembered and ignored for the very same reason ( partisanship).
I am an optimist and hope for a new political norm where policies and initiatives are supported or rejected by politicians on their merits alone. And nothing else.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan