Failure is not to fall down; it is to remain there when you have fallen.
Finally this Sept, Ong Ye Kung decided to bow out of the political arena after his first and only political loss in Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Elections. His initial calculations probably didn’t work as planned as no GRC had ever fallen into the hands of the alternative parties before in Singapore’s history. Like many other current Cabinet ministers such as the likes of Teo Chee Hean, Chan Chung Sing, Heng Swee Keat who were parachuted into the Cabinet without having to stand on his own feet for elections, he too could have ridden on the backs of the GRC system to sail straight into Parliament. He could easily have been the future minister. And laps of luxury will await him thereafter.
Thanks to the GRC system which exposes opportunists on both political camps, PAP or the alternative parties.
The PAP ship that was sent to contest Aljunied GRC sank pathetically. Not because of the defeated outcome but by the way the candidates lost. The seconds the ship sank, those on board, including two heavy-weighted ministers, scurried out of the political arena literally like mice fleeing a sinking ship. And it only takes a single loss to bare the opportunistic quality, the little passion and the hardly-there political will against adversity of these candidates who were touted to be crème of the crop hand-picked by PAP. Only one GRC fell this far and already, the entire PAP team of incumbent and rookies exited out of politics, unwilling to make an extra effort to regain the GRC which they have lost.
How many of such undesirable weak-willed, passionless candidates sneaked into our Parliament and Cabinet through the GRC system? Among the 80 odd candidates, only Sitoh Yih Pin persisted for three elections before he finally won over Potong Pasir residents. On the contrary, I have seen more defeated opposition members coming back in subsequent elections. Chiam See Tong is one good example. Sylvia Lim won in her second contest.
At their first taste of loss, George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hua and Zainal Abidin “retired”, more aptly fled, from politics immediately after the election. George Yeo and Lim, both ministers, who spent 23 years and 13 years respectively in politics, suffered the only loss in their political career in Aljunied in 2011. Coincidentally, both had never stood in any elections in a single ward fighting their own political battle for survival. As seen in this classic Aljunied example, GRC has always been the short cut to politics for PAP rookies until 2011.
Their hasty departure speaks volume of the need of guaranteed political power and monetary rewards for them to “commit” to the politics of Singapore. This explains the forlorn state of the PAP Aljunied team and best expressed by George Yeo:
“I thought if there wasn’t something that I could change, because it wasn’t something about me, maybe it was time to open a new chapter of my life.”-- George Yeo, Oct 2012.
And ironically, these are the talented people who Lee Hsien Loong is trying to thrust upon the people and they fall within LHL’s definition of “good candidates”. If justice, inevitably will always have to be fought for, or moral values need to be upheld, we will have to wait till the sun rises from the west before George Yeo and the likes will lift a finger to change.
“And you must always be part of the larger flow. If you want to fight the flow, you will be very tired. It is always important to know where the big flows are and to move to the big flows, then you can do a lot of things.” George Yeo, Oct 2012.
And such materialistic “leaders” simply contrasts and accentuates the strength and commitment demonstrated by the alternative parties. J. B. Jeyaretnam’s name came into my mind. Twice thrown out of Parliament and was still fighting his political battle till his last breath; Chee Soon Juan has been in and out of prison for his political ideals and is still fighting till this day; Chiam See Tong won his first victory after two defeats and is still continuing his political path after his last defeat in 2011 despite his age and health. And these “losers” as labelled by the PAP incumbents, swam against the tidal currents for what they believed in, against all adversities to uphold their beliefs so as to change the larger flow of voters. Each time, they failed and persevered.
JBJ stood tall in his entire political life even though he passed on without a single seat in Parliament; even though he was crushed repeatedly by libel suits that dented his political career, JBJ always come back from where he has fallen. Time after time. Till the age of 82 when he drew his last breath. And during an era where the fear of associating with the opposition was still very real. JBJ swam against the huge currents and that spirit alone dwarfed all the candidates of the Aljunied team piled up together. Yes, to fight against the flow is tiring, as George Yeo has mentioned, and thus not many mundane figures could do that. JBJ has his own career before his political attempt, he has his own family too, not much difference from George Yeo or Lim Hwee Hua. But JBJ rises many levels above the PAP premium cadets with the beliefs that he has held and choose to uphold. Beliefs, larger than any amount of monetary rewards and yet, is the most powerful motivational drive that gives strength to a crestfallen being. Where self sacrifices are nothing to be mentioned. Because those beliefs were not meant to be self-beneficial to start with but to benefit the masses out there.
Failures are definitely the names for those who could not stand the test of time.