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I’m having my air-conditioned serviced at home as I write this.

My conversation with the air-con guy disturbed me. He is Chinese, 30, married with a daughter. He is in the Mountbatten SMC. He admits he has not been following the elections.

However, he has decided to vote for the PAP. Why? Because he does not believe his vote is secret and his daughter attends a PAP school and is worried that she will be kicked out if he votes for the opposition. This was a serious, honest conversation. This is terribly, terribly worrying.

Later on in the conversation, he related his conversations with the various people he has met. You see, in his job, he goes from home to home servicing air-cons and being a young man with a pleasant disposition, he strikes up conversations easily. This is what he said to me. He said that almost everyone in private homes have indicated that they will vote for the opposition while almost everyone in HDB will vote for the PAP.

I was surprised. He was surprised I was surprised. He raised two points. HDB dwellers need the PAP to fix stuff. They equate PAP with HDB. Secondly, their lives are already so difficult that if they vote against the PAP (note, not for the opposition but against the PAP), their lives will be made all the more difficult. They too, do not believe their vote is secret. He even gave me an anecdotal example of someone who voted against the PAP and he was denied certain privileges.

This is a scary thing. A very scary thing.

Excerpt from today’s The Straits Times page A14.

Speaking on the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), he said:

“What really blew my mind was the 50,000 volunteers… they were doing it not for the money. They were doing it because they were proud of Singapore. That is something money can’t buy.”

Emphasis in italics added by me.

Over the past week, I have spoken to the following people:

A Chinese taxi driver living in Jurong.

A Chinese chicken rice seller living in Sengkang.

A Malay lontong Aunty staying in Geylang.

A Chinese cze zhar cook (can’t remember where he stays).

A Chinese NTUC Fairprice checkout aunty staying in Radin Mas.

A Chinese check out assistant staying in Aljunied (yeah Aljunied).

A Malay curry puff uncle staying in Pasir Ris.

A 21 year old student/surfer dude staying in Aljunied.

This is not a representative survey but let me nutshell it for you. Please note, I did not ask any of them whom they would vote for. My conversations consisted of these questions:

Which GRC or SMC are you in this election?

Quite exciting this time can get to vote, hor?

A Chinese taxi driver living in Jurong. Doesn’t know which SMC or GRC he is in. Doesn’t matter what he votes – PAP will win most of the seats. He was scared to vote against PAP.
A Chinese chicken rice seller living in Sengkang. Same as above. No idea what SMC or GRC is in. He’ll go to the polling station under the instruction of their kids and anyway PAP will win (implying he’ll just cross the lightning).
A Malay lontong Aunty staying in Geylang. Also did not know which SMC or GRC.
“Anyway, I’m old already, what does it matter? I have 3 kids, they can choose lah. PAP will win anyway”.
A Chinese cze zhar cook (can’t remember where he stays). Also did not know which SMC or GRC. “I work so hard. Where got time”?
A Chinese NTUC Fairprice checkout aunty staying in Radin Mas. Also did not know which SMC or GRC.
A Chinese check out assistant staying in Aljunied (yeah Aljunied). Although she was staying in Aljunied, she did not know which GRC or SMC she was in (and I don’t blame her). She was very reluctant to engage in further conversation with me. Could be a language thing – her English was not good and my Mandarin is non-existent – but I think she was just suspicious of this Indian dude asking election questions J
A Malay curry puff uncle staying in Pasir Ris. Again, no idea which GRC or SMC. “Aiyah, must vote PAP”, like he had no choice. Also, given his job, he had neither the time nor inclination to follow the campaigning.
A 21 year old student/surfer dude staying in Aljunied GRC. Only guy who knew he was in Aljunied GRC. First time he is getting to vote and he was very excited. He did not give any indication which way he was going to go and neither did I ask him.

Granted, these were 8 random conversations and hardly representative but this got thinking. If this is wide spread, this is what is happening.

The older generation seems to think it is pointless to vote against PAP. The working class has no time to think about it – they spend all their time making ends meet and hence will go with the status quo. My hypothesis is that it is only the younger folks, the more educated and the unemployed that are aware and have the time and inclination to follow the elections and make up their own minds. In other words, political engagement is not widespread through the entire populace and that the largely anti-PAP buzz on social media sites are simply noise from the vocal and connected group.

What is needed is education on these counts across the board.

  1. Everyone’s vote matters
  2. The vote is completely secret
  3. Voting is absolutely important
  4. All parties, including the PAP has to actually win votes – it’s not mandated or magic that they form a majority government each elections

I already see that the opposition understand this and are doing exactly this sort of education. Children of older parents please also educate and assure them that that their vote is important and actually matters.

The fear factor is hard to let go. I can understand that given the era in which they had grown up.

I hope this election is the start of a more educated and thought out public discourse and good men and women with a passion to serve the country will arise.