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Saturday, April 30, 2011

#sgelections My parents brought me up this way.

Today I am not ashamed to say I am anti-PAP, nor am I afraid to do so regardless of where I am declaring this. As I have been saying a lot recently, I am just a kucing kurap 3-room flat resident and am no threat to anyone. If declaring my political alliance and disagreements is illegal, saying I am anti-PAP would merely be a petty crime. That is also why I firmly stand on planting the opposing party's flag at my corridor window on the very night I bought one.

That flag represents my household's vote - officially on paper, my mom and myself are the owners and family unit members of this flat. My dad is a Malaysian, I have no siblings, and I only have a common law husband. When I called my mom to tell her she had to come back to Singapore to vote this May 7, she said, "Come back just vote for the opposition will do." That's my folks for you. If we could have voted every year there were elections in Singapore, it would always be a cross in the opposition party's check box. My dad has told me before, and I paraphrase, that PAP sucks. He did not elaborate much further than that. My dad is a river-runs-deep kind of guy.

The audacity with which I proclaim my anti-PAP sentiments today would have been a big problem in the past, so I never heard my parents outright declare their disdain for the ruling government too often when I was growing up; I shut up for a long while myself too, only proseletysing the need to rage against the machine in private circles, in somewhat hushed tones. Well, if you know me in person, you know I can't really do hushed tones, but you get the drift.

Even in the early noughties, it would have been quite a silly thing to declare on the internet your hatred for the ruling party - the blogosphere was small and blogs were the bread and butter of online citizen journalists. With the proliferation of social media today I doubt any one will knock on your door to send you to jail just because you tweeted with a hashtag that states an opposition party's name or have become a fan of an opposition party's Facebook page.

This levels the playing field, so now I am about to delve into how my parents helped turn me against the Lee regime from early childhood.

You know by now I was that girl who went up on stage to deliver flowers to Tan Chee Kien at an opposition rally when I was around nine years old. That night itself was my first experience in rally-chasing. In my parents' car, we drove round from location to location and I remember thinking to myself, 'Finally!' when we arrived at the rally I was supposed to do my job at.

As time unfolded, so did more stories from my parents about their political affiliations and the forces behind them.

My dad is a Malaysian, and when he first arrived in Singapore in the early seventies, he worked for the Singapore police. After that, he and my mom, aspiring entrepreneurs with a kid in tow, tried countless times to apply for some form of residency for him to remain in Singapore with his Singaporean wife, Singaporean daughter and to build a Singaporean registered company.

They went to meet the MP in their ward. They wrote letters of appeal, they hired lawyers to write the same. My mom was chided by the PAP MP she met to discuss this, told off with a "Who asked you to marry a Malaysian?" and sent away from the Meet-the-People's session. No can do, didn't work, my dad had to leave the country. For good.

So my mom had to raise me on her own. I didn't know that till much later. I had depression even as a child, so I really don't have a full-strung chain of memories.

My mom and dad are renegades, so eventually they found a way to beat the system. It involved something illegal, and I will share it here only because it happened more than twenty years ago - I reckon it would be too late now to consider it a chargeable offence. My mom couldn't possibly run a business and raise a little girl on her own while knowing her husband was suffering and lonely in nearby JB, so she drove over with me in tow, and smuggled my dad back to Singapore. I was an accessory, told to smile and chat to the customs officer as we passed the gantry with my dad in the trunk. My dad stayed in Singapore to provide for his family - us - for five years, illegally.

My mom would only tell you this story in person when she is adequately inebriated, so that was how I found out about it myself too. When I did know about it at last - no, I didn't know at the time during the actual smuggling - I pieced together the reasons for my parent's disagreement with Singapore's ruling party.

Their MP didn't listen, and not only that, he provided no solution to my parents' very real problem in protecting their livelihood and family unit. The government declined my dad's countless applications and appeals for a permit to stay in Singapore, no matter that he worked for the very same government before, no matter that his family needed protection from separation and a means of living.They were tossed aside like garbage, literally, and my dad had to be reunited with us clandestinely.

My mom herself, she was more of an ardent PAP supporter to begin at first. Because she witnessed firsthand the advent of HDB flats - respite from the horrid longhouse conditions she grew up in. But after seeing what my dad had to go through at the hands of the same government that built the houses, she had her Hillary Clinton moment and switched sides. It was a gradual switch, my mom isn't easily convinced. Other clinchers included the cruel way she was instructed to have very few children and thereafter see the policy change in front of her when Singapore's birth rate declined too far. I don't know if she had to do drastic things like an abortion when she was young, which would be very much in line with the population policy advocated at the time. But having to go through two very different kinds of instructions where life is concerned, will be traumatising for any young woman.

Then came the financial hardship. My mom's family is wealthy, but being female, the family business she helped build did not give her any share of the profits. So it was just her and my dad, building a business on their own together. It was hard, because not too long after, the 1987 recession occurred.

Today we hear opposition parties talk about financial assistance for the poor and marginalised of society. For us when I was growing up, the only means my parents could turn to for financial assistance was by going into debt. We were the poor and marginalised, and we definitely did not get any help at all by the ruling party's government.

I pieced all of my experiences, recollections and retelling of my parents' stories, and now it has become our family's identity to be pro-opposition. For the marginalised like we were, the opposition parties were our only hope for change.

With that kind of a political upbringing, it isn't too difficult for me to be left-wing. Combine  that with my constant desire to help the voiceless, the poorest of the poor, those without basic care. Combine that with the well of empathy in me that overflows into tears for the lonely. Combine that with my destiny to be in the business of making a difference in this world. It really is no wonder that I am a renegade replica of my parents.

Karl Marx was right, the marginalised population produces the political change necessary to overthrow the ruling power. The PAP marginalised my parents throughout their adulthood spent in this country. Thanks to that, May 7, the opposition party gets our votes.

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