It is often said that the Opposition finds it an uphill task to recruit good candidates to stand for elections. The PAP, on the other hand, has the privilege of picking the cream of the crop through a sequence of tea parties.
To-date, the Opposition has yet to formally announce their candidates for GE2006. The PAP, meanwhile, has announced 18 candidates and more is expected next week.
A preliminary glance at the CVs of the first 18 PAP candidates is revealing. The most obvious trend, of course, is that female representation marks a substantial increase. Each batch of new candidates introduced so far includes one woman candidate, thus giving a one-third representation in the list of eighteen. This is an encouraging sign. Given the country’s very limited resources, our political system will definitely benefit from a greater pool of talent.
Another trend is the significant number of new candidates from the so-called "post 1965 generation". No doubt, there is an effort to appeal to the young voters who were born after Singapore has achieved independence in 1965.
Of course, PAP being PAP, the new candidates comes with CVs reflecting their individual achievements in their respective professions. This is something that we have come to expect. The label "elites" is often placed on PAP candidates. Having excellent academic and career track records, it seems, can be a double-edged sword. While capability is beyond question, the ordinary citizens caught in his or her struggles of daily livelihood may question whether these leaders truly empathise with them and understand the magnitude of their problems.
There seems to be a subtle message from the 18 new candidates to address this concern. I do not know if it is a co-ordinated effort, but it does appear that most of these candidates tend to emphasise on their humble backgrounds. Each have their own story of how, despite the hardships faced during childhood, they have progressed to where they are currently in their chosen professions. The perhaps not-so-subtle message that comes across is that "These are the people who have gone through the same hardships as you do and they have survived. They can lead you likewise".
The underlying message is that the system allows for people who may be disadvantaged by circumstances to progress and improve the quality of their lives. It is up to the individual to fight on his or her betterment. This is consistent with what the PAP government has always believed, as evident in their dislike for the type of social welfare policies that puts the bulk of the responsibilities on the government. With these new candidates, the PAP is giving a gentle reminder of what every individual can achieve.
But the one thing that really struck me about some of these new candidates is their track records for community work. Ms Denise Phua, for instance, quit her corporate job to be a full-time volunteer. She is currently the President of the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore). Then there is Dr Lam Pin Min, who is a founding member and Director of Compass Welfare foundation. There is Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who is actively involved with PERDAUS. The list goes on. This common trait speaks volumes of their dedication to the task of improving the community.
There are well qualified candidates, scholars, corporate leaders, geniuses … but without the dedication to serve, they will not be good leaders.
To me, these new candidates have spoken with their actions. And actions speak louder than words.