Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Politics of Changes

Memory of Deyi 3                               

Politics of Changes

No, I am not talking about the breakthrough of Aljunied GRC. Rather, I would like to say some things about how the returned opposition candidates react to changes and in particular Chen Show Mao and Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

Perhaps, in a small way using the Book of Changes (Yi Jing) to explain the ‘timing’ (时) and ‘positioning’ (位)of how different two of them react to the situation.

It seems that all went wrong for Kenneth.  It is very sad that I have to use him as a contrast to explain why Chen is successful in positioning and timing.  Kenneth achieved good academic results and graduated from top university and has the advantage of carrying the brand mark of JBJ. 


The date of General Election is always a “change” factor as this is fixed by the ruling party in our parliamentary system. So, you have to prepare for the “time” change, i.e. date of nomination and voting.

Kenneth came back to Singapore much earlier than Chen and also announced his interest to contest in GE2011 earlier.  He even wanted to contest with Chiam See Tong in a GRC.

Then, he entered negotiation with Chiam and in the mean time, having 2 scholars joining him.  He exposed himself too early and created rooms for people to attack him. 物极必反(Wujibifan, things will turn bad once they reach the maximum (good).  The highest rating of Reform Party was at the beginning of the year and after that, it dropped.   

It was not sure whether Kenneth expected all these fallouts or not.  Anyway, by the time, the GE2011 was announced; it was too late for him to make any corrections.  Even today, I still doubt that he knows the real meaning of the politics of changes (see below).  

Chen only returned and entered the fray early this year. Lianhe Zaobao did a very good write-up for him and the articles caught many Chinese readers’ hearts.  The Straits Times did a follow up but not as impressive as the one in Zaobao. However, it still projected a positive image for Chen.

While in the meantime, all negative news about RP were reported. Kenneth appeared to be a ‘headless’ leader with all good quality candidates leaving RP.  Even Alex Toh, another returned candidate after appearing in the TV on RP ticket also left to join SDP.

While timing is an uncertain factor but the reactions from both of them clearly make a different to the voters and the general public.


A team player wants to be a captain – this is my opinion of Kenneth. There were several “ifs” when he positioned himself:

1.           If he could join Chiam to be a teammate at Toa Payoh GRC, rather than a team leader.
2.           If he did not insist to stand in West Coast GRC.
3.           If he chose to step down as Secretary-General of RP to save the party.
4.           If he chose to miss the GE2011.

Kenneth was given an opportunity to speak in the Channel News Asia talking point program but even that he did not score well.

Chen at Deyi Nomination Centre
Chen never wanted to be highlighted and played his role as a team member well. He did not say a single word when WP Aljunied team spoke to the supporters after the confirmation of candidates at Deyi Nomination Centre.  If you observed careful, he was always standing behind party leaders. 

Chen kept low profile through GE2011 and spoke clearly but in short sentences. His rally speeches were not the most outstanding ones as compared to other WP candidates. He projected himself as man with a vision and mission to help to build the First World Parliament.

In all the news events, rallies, walkabouts, campaigns, he never wanted to outshine his party secretary-general and chairperson. He was always playing his supporting role, i.e. he knew his position even though LKY described him as a celebrity.

Kenneth seemed to choose a wrong position and Chen cleverly positioned himself as a supporter who wanted to help the team to win. 

A westerner in an Asian land 

Kenneth is like a westerner returning to Asia. He spent many years in London working in the financial industry.  Not sure because of the financial figures, he sees things in a ‘straight’ line.  But politics is not a straight forward thing.
Even with family history of opposition politics in Singapore, Kenneth seems to need to learn everything from the beginning.
He needs a guardian to coach him. In fact, Chiam is the best person to coach him.  But, unfortunately, he did not continue his partnership and relationship with Chiam. 

The advantage of Chen is he is bilingual in English and Chinese.  He can easily adapt to the Singapore political environment.  Although LKY questioned his intention, however, not the voters, they saw him as a hope to change, to have a breakthrough in the GRC.

Kenneth did not complete the National Pledge at the last rally of RP. This was another sign that he was not familiar with the local politics.    

Politics of changes

Politic is a change game.  There is no permanent enemy or permanent arrangement. When forming government, political parties need to consider the wishes of the people and its consequence to the country.

RP was sad to learn about the possibility of WP forming a coalition government with the PAP in future elections in stead of other opposition parties.  RP seems to suggest that since all opposition parties dislike the PAP, they should join force to work against the PAP even without considering the wishes of the people and the good of the country. 

Kenneth has failed to see the multiple changes of politics. For example, we change our position from a country against the communist China to a country that likes the communist China; children of former opposition leaders joining the PAP; and DAP working with PAS in Malaysia.

In reality, even the PAP loses the majority to form the government, still voters want to see a stable government or an experience government in place. WP-PAP government may be the best option for the benefits of Singapore. Who know with the combined two-third majority in parliament, WP can force the PAP to have an immediate electoral reform, and does not have to wait for Referendum# like the one in the United Kingdom (the first coalition government since Second World War) last year?

# you can find some important changes in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement here.    

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