From ‘PAP wins in a landslide with 69.86% of votes’, 12 Sep 15, article in CNA
…Among the winning PAP candidates, clear common themes arose in their victory speeches and interviews: Gratitude to voters, the humbling mandate, and the work to be done.
For example, Cabinet Minister Grace Fu – one of the first winners to be announced on Friday night – said that while she was happy to see her share of the vote in Yuhua SMC improve from 66.9 per cent in 2011 to 73.54 per cent, she was “very humbled” by the mandate and would work hard to prove herself worthy of voters’ trust.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his victory speech for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told voters: “We are very grateful and happy but at the same time humbled by the result, by the trust you have put on us, by the responsibility we have taken on to serve you.”
In any sporting contest, to be ‘humbled’ usually refers to an unexpected result when a crowd favourite suffers defeat at the hands of a less worthy opponent, such as Man U were humbled 1-2 by Swansea City. In 1984, one would celebrate with champagne upon seeing the ‘mighty PAP humbled’ post-election. If you use it in the first person, however, it expresses something rather different, a feeling of surprise and gratitude mixed with mild self-deprecation. Like ‘I’m not a man with many friends, therefore I’m humbled to see all of you here at my wedding’, or ‘I’m a terrible writer, so I’m humbled to see people clicking on this blog’.
So the PAP, sensing that they may be in for a tough fight, decided to thank their supporters with some syncopatic grovelling when they were rewarded with a rock-solid victory margin. Being ‘satisfied’ , ‘happy’ or ‘relieved’ (or as Lim Swee Say would say, ‘heng ah’) isn’t enough. You need to give the masses the illusion of authority, that you, the MP, are the ‘chosen’ one, that you’re proud to assume the role as a servant of the people, a steward, a ‘JAGA’, as PM Lee described. That you’re so honoured by the overwhelming mandate that you could drop on your knees and kiss our feet for this opportunity to serve. Like we’re 18th century plantation owners buying you out of a life of tunnel digging or dragging boulders up a hill.
For a while at least, we, the PAP voters, are made to feel like the masters of our fate. The people have spoken, and whether you call it a mandate, upswing, or some severe ‘groupthink’ on the part of the electorate, we always bring out a crouching, simpering tiger during the victory parade, but come SG51, let us brace ourselves for the searing heat when that familiar fire-spewing dragon emerges out of its subservient shell. I suspect most Singaporeans already know this, that the U-turns, the misguided policies, the preservation of a conservative status quo, can be seen a mile away, but they decided that they would rather live with a painful, but apparently successful formula, than put their faith in the Opposition. Which makes us, well, political masochists who love complaining, who attend Opposition rallies and raise their candidates to the pedestal of heavy metal gods, but when it comes to the crunch, go for the only option that will enable us to continue complaining, to live in fear of getting arrested for defamation, to huddle with more sweaty bodies on the train, to save up for more goddamn Walls ice cream promotions. As long as someone is putting up a sheltered walkway, a lift upgrade, a new hawker centre, or giving away the occasional public holiday for no good reason.
As Kenneth Jeyaratnam sourly observed, Singaporeans got the government that we deserve. It’s only a matter of time before we see this charming humility being shed like a snake moulting its scales, and for the PAP to revert to its old highfalutin ways, with men and women with not just IRON in them, but willing to push policies with an iron fist as well. Until then, revel while you can, rest assured that with the PAP cruise ship restarting its voyage, and the mango fruits of election promises just starting to seed, there won’t be any dead founding fathers rising out of the grave to set things right anytime soon.