Monday, July 26, 2010
Their Dreams, Our Nightmares
The larger than life portraits staring down from their dreamy ivory tower heights can afford to smile - each of them gets at least $14,500 per month. That's on top of their day job. And lots of juicy paying directorships to collect along the way. The figure may be outdated, their MP allowances rise faster than the flood waters at Orchard Road. S Iswaran is featured prominently, he's Indian, but the rest of the mega GRC team all have Chinese surnames. So who's speaking up for our Malay brothers and sisters in the West Coast?
In 1988, the ruling People's Action Party amended the Parliamentary Elections Act to create GRCs and to move away from the single member constituency system. The official justification for GRCs is to allow minority representation. The Elections Department website clearly states that, "At least one of the MPs in the group representing a GRC must belong to a minority racial community, either the Malay community or the Indian and other minority communities." With the floodgates opened wide to welcome foreign imports from India, especially the snooty types who look down on the local community in Serangoon Road, it's no wonder Mas Selamat Kastari prefers to reside in a Malaysian cell.
On 28 April 2006, Lee Kuan Yew justified the GRC system thus, "You watch the 9 single seats. We fielded 9 male Chinese, the Opposition also fielded 9 male Chinese. What does that tell you? Without group representation, no minority candidate would be elected nor any woman candidate." Critics were quick to correct his fading memory, J B Jeyaratnam won the 1981 Anson by-election in a Chinese-majority constituency, and ever since the GRC system was implemented, minority representation in Parliament has actually declined. PAP's own Dr Seet Ai Mee became the first Acting Minister of State to be defeated at the polls in a straight fight, not because of minority issues or gender politics, but for making a beeline to a water tap after reportedly shaking hands with a fish monger in 1991. (Her personal beef on this incident was that it was a pork seller, and that PM Goh Chok Tong did not check with her before airing her hygiene obsession at the General Elections rally.)
Opposition parties know the real story, however, GRCs are just another tool to make it even more difficult for independent and opposition members to get elected, since a steep group deposit of S$13,500 per candidate is required to stand for election in a GRC. Low Thia Khiang reflected on how institution and legislation could act as barriers to the opposition, "The re-drawing of electoral boundaries (in 2001) wiped out the ward across the road from my house — Cheng San Group Representation Constituency (GRC) — and it became part of Aljunied GRC. Cheng San GRC was where The Workers’ Party almost won in 1997."