Why political parties like the WP distance themselves from Hong Lim protests
Written by Ng E-Jay
16 February 2013
According to sources, parties like the Worker’s Party have discreetly requested that their members avoid being openly or publicly associated with Hong Lim Park protests such as the one organized by Mr Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org to be held on Saturday, 16 Feb.
Mr Goh’s protest rally at Hong Lim Park targets the recently launched population white paper which projects that our total population could reach as high as 6.9 million by the year 2030.
Although Mr Goh’s rally has elicited much support online, an article published by him yesterday had some netizens put off. In this latest salvo at the population white paper, Mr Goh had lashed out at foreigners, detailing what he thought were negative traits possessed by workers of different nationalities such as China, Indian, Burmese, Filipino and Malaysian workers.
Some netizens have pointed out that this is not the first time Mr Goh has exhibited xenophobic tendencies. Mr Siew Kum Hong, former Nominated Member of Parliament, posted on his facebook wall: “I’ve been waiting for him to write something like this, because this is not the first time. This is one of the main reasons why I will not be at Hong Lim tomorrow. I’d take 2 million more foreigners than one more Gilbert Goh.”
Mr Goh’s disappointing behaviour explains why some political parties like the Worker’s Party have cautioned their members from being openly associated with such causes.
At this stage of our political development, it is very encouraging that there are many people from civil society coming forward to speak out on behalf of Singaporeans and raise concerns that opposition parties sometimes fail to raise, such as 377A legislation that discriminates against homosexuals, and the issue of the mandatory death penalty.
However, even when bread and butter issues like population and immigration are involved, it is not uncommon for organizers or other high profile personalities to go off at a tangent and shoot themselves in the foot, by displaying xenophobia, intolerance, or some other form of anti-social mindset.
The mainstream media and the government will no doubt pounce on this opportunity to tarnish Mr Goh’s movement as xenophobic, and in so doing, attempt to discredit both the organizers as well as its participants.
This is extremely unfortunate, because people are genuine angry, and their grievances are well founded because the policies have indeed been poorly conceived and horribly implemented.
Singaporeans are not by nature xenophobic, and many have come out to state explicitly that we should be attacking the policies, and definitely not displaying xenophobia toward foreigners.
When all the political calculations are made, parties like WP will realize that it is in their best interest not to be associated with such movements, even if it elicits criticism from some quarters that they are not being proactive, or that they are too lazy to support causes that matter to Singaporeans.
The political calculus for WP is that it is best to let civil society actors do their thing, make their own mistakes, and watch from the sidelines. If the civil society actors do the right thing and succeed is raising awareness, WP can still reap the benefits come election time.
That is why WP is requesting that their members exercise restraint and avoid being openly associated with such movements.