The very thing that I hoped not to see happening has happened, and it has happened within the leading opposition party in the Singapore political scene.
At a time when the opposition should be building and consolidating on the gains it had achieved in the 2011 General Elections, party in-fighting has emerged within the Workers’ Party (WP).
This in-fighting, which I hope is contained, casts a blemish that may overshadow the WP’s successful campaign to retain Hougang and wrest Aljunied GRC from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
The resignation of Eric Tan, a WP veteran, over being passed over for the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat is certain to cause disquiet among the opposition parties and possibly even more so among members and supporters of the WP.
This may also provide fodder for the ruling PAP to cast doubts on WP’s ability to serve the people and its First World Parliament slogan.
Although, Eric Tan has claimed that the WP central executive committee’s decision goes against the people’s wishes, it presumes that East Coast GRC voters who voted WP voted for him and not the entire team.
If anything, Eric Tan had probably over-played his cards when he presumed that he would be the automatic choice for the NCMP seat after the team secured 45.17% of the votes, the third best loser in the elections.
However, looking at the bigger picture, WP’s decision to hand Gerald Giam the NCMP seat that their East Coast GRC team was entitled to is probably the right choice. He represents the future of WP.
He had also represented the WP in the ChannelNewsAsia debate which featured Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and had acquitted himself well despite playing it safe.
Going by how the 2011 General Elections played out, it is very much apparent that the growing number disenfranchised voters is made up of younger and better-educated Singaporeans, a section of the population that a much younger WP representative could better champion as an NCMP.
And with his stint as an NCMP, Gerald Giam would probably be able to build his political credentials by the time the next elections roll by in 2016. He would also only be 39 years old by then, as compared to Eric Tan’s 61 years of age.
Understandably, having contested the elections, there are those among the many who have come forward to offer themselves as a voice of the people who would undeniably feel a strong desire to be part of the highest law making body in the land, even if entry were by the NCMP route.
However, it must be remembered that the privilege to be a voice in Parliament is something that must be bestowed and not claimed – whether it be by the voters at the ballot boxes for elected MPs or by the political party for NCMPs.
I am glad to see that both Yee Jenn Jong and Lina Chiam, the best losers in the Single Member Constituencies of Joo Chiat and Potong Pasir, had deferred to the party instead of presuming their automatic appointment.
As an alternative voice in Parliament, they must always remember that they are there as part of a collective, a collective that has entrusted them with the platform to speak for the party and the causes it champions.
At the end of the day, there has to be a realization that the needs of the many outweigh those of the few, and sometimes personal sacrifices need to be made for the greater good.