GE2015 [Immersion Journalism]: An Underage Voter Virgin experience at a Non-PAP rally

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)..will contest the polls under the slogan “Now is the time”, which the party said conveys the importance of electing an alternative voice into Parliament. In a press release on Saturday, the party called on Bukit Batok residents to send SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, 53, into Parliament, saying: “Now is the time to get even more alternative voices into Parliament. Adding one more People’s Action Party MP to the existing 82 will not make any difference in any way.” (ST, March 26 2016) 

Their slogan seem influenced by the part of this September 2016 post bolded in red below.

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On our way to the stadium for my virgin rally experience – Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at the field beside Commonwealth MRT , me and my parents had walked past a secondary school nearby. I saw men in black shirts and long trousers sitting at the canteen, casually chatting or doing their own thing. I assumed they were personnels’ on standby in case riots broke out during the rally? I really don’t know. We were unsure of our way from the bus stop and had walked in to the entrance of that very same school. We were met with the presence of a few uniformed personnels’ in the green luminous jacket, which reminded me of traffic polices. One stated they had cordoned off the school compound so we could not walk through. I’m guessing it was most likely for safety reasons? When we reached the stadium, I saw 2 plainclothes men with ear pieces standing near the back of the crowds. I was thinking they could be once again, police or safety personnels.

Moving on from that, I had worn a red shirt, wrongly assumed that majority attending the rally would be wearing the colour of the party and thus, did not want to stand out. Nope, everyone was wearing any colour they wanted. I looked like an out-of-place Manchester United fan with my shirt. I decided to walk around to observe the environment and structure of how rallies were like. They actually have booths placed of giving out their brochures, flags,donation box etc. Two volunteers were giving out brochures and flags, which I took and read – it introduced 4 of their candidates in Holland-Bukit Timah, as well as briefly sharing why the residents should support SDP, what they would fight for, their website, and how to donate to their campaign.

I sat down on the grass patch with the rest of the crowds. What I initially expected was a rock concert style environment with many die-hard roaring fans, just that the singers singing were now replaced with candidates speaking for their political party. However, the atmosphere was not as “electrifying” as I imagined. Nevertheless, whenever a candidate mentioned something that spoke to the people’s heart, they cheered and rallied on. I realized speakers would also ask questions back to the people with one-worded replies as a way to engage them and maintain the atmosphere. The two candidates that received the loudest cheers as they were being introduced up on stage were Dr Paul Tambyah, and Dr Chee Soon Juan. Their jokes were also funny and relatable to the listeners, who cracked up at such witty moments. I realized people in general get up on their butts and leave the rally quite fast once it ends. What are they rushing for I wonder?

At the end of the rally, me and my parents later went to near the front of the stage. It was cordoned off by steel barricades. I saw 2 plainclothed men again wearing ear pieces. Curious about their presence, I stood beside them for about 3 seconds. I heard one of them whispering to the other in the ear “disposal”. I have not idea what that means, maybe it means to end the rally or to prepare for Chee Soon Juan’s or the crowds departure? I asked my parents if they were policemen. I did not get an answer so I turned back to ask him myself “Are you a policeman?”. “Why?” was his neutral response. I replied that I was “just curious”. He signaled with his hand for me to politely look in front, most probably as a subtly way of rejecting in giving and answer, and inviting me to concentrate on the front stage instead. My mum swiftly ask me not to probe, as though I was disturbing the plain clothed man.

Soon after, Chee Soon Juan came and I was excited to see face-to-face, as well as the prospect of shaking the hand of this well-known politician for the first time in my life. I had watched the video “Behind the man” where his wife and children were interviewed about their lives and Dr Chee Soon Juan. I also knew he had gone to jail before when his 3 children were of a tender age. It was a funny sight seeing my father who is pro-PAP pouncing forward to shake the hand and shouting to Dr Chee Soon Juan – “SDP” and “ITS TIME!”, as an encouraging phrase to suggest that it is Dr Chee Soon Juan’s time to enter the parliament. I could see the media rushing to hover over us, to take pictures of Dr Chee Soon Juan who was passing by us.

He somehow missed my hand though when I reached out, even though he did shake the hand of my dad and the other person beside me. As soon as the flashlights fell into the area I was in, I quickly turned my head for awhile as I did not want my face to appear in any candid shots of the media. Dr Chee Soon Juan too, made the effort to thank every hand he shook for coming. The only other politician hand I shook before was Lee Hsien Loong a few years back. Back then at that event, he had to walked past the crowds and I bravely shouted for his name “LEE HSIEN LOONG”. Luckily, his guard allowed me to shake his hand.

On our way home, I asked my dad how he found Mr Chee Soon Juan after hearing his speech. “Humble” was his response. When I enquired if he would vote for Singapore Democratic party if they were in our constituency, he said “yes”. “Why?” I asked. “Because he has been fighting. He has been fighting for so long.” I read up only briefly on his background so I can’t really say much about Dr Chee Soon Juan. What I can only say is that having known my dad for so long, and the fact that he is pro-PAP, Dr Chee Soon Juan must have been someone with a certain calibre and background story, for my dad to respect and support, or even like.

My parents later chided me for asking the plain clothed man wearing a ear piece the unnecessary question since he was just “doing his job”. When I retorted if they knew who they were or what they were doing, they answered “no”. When I exclaimed why asking the plainclothed man that question was wrong, they said that the man would most likely not have answered, so why should I even ask? Yes, it may look like a stupid question to my parents, and I shouldn’t “disturb” if I know someone is doing their job, but still, why is asking the unknown not a good thing? I might be asking the obvious, and though I know I may not get a reply, but does that mean I should not have the right to ask? Like how the plainclothed man had the right not to answer my query. Maybe they are just safety personnels or maybe.. they are doing a certain type of job that does not allow them to reveal their identity?

Nonetheless, last night was my first experience at a rally, and it was an interesting sight I must say.

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Written by: Cass

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