Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Singapore lawmakers groove to hip-hop

`GIMMICKY' Public reception to efforts by the ruling People's Action Party to ditch its authoritarian and conservative image drew criticism from bloggers and humorists

AP , SINGAPORE

Clad in military-style pants and dangling chains, 12 Singaporean lawmakers groove to hip-hop music at the city-state's largest annual street parade on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Clad in military-style pants, bright T-shirts and dangling chains, 12 Singaporean lawmakers grooved to hip-hop music at the city-state's largest annual street parade.

The ministers, most of whom entered parliament in last year's election, were joined by 300 dancers as they executed their moves at the Chingay parade on Saturday.

An audience of thousands crowded the sidewalks of the Orchard Road shopping district, which was ablaze with lights and pyrotechnics.

"We enjoyed it," said civil servant Kok Ping Soon, 36 who attended the parade with his family. "It was good to see them dancing, to see that they are part of the community."

BREAKING DRESS CODE

The ministers' grunge style was a far cry from the usual dress code of the nation's ruling People's Action Party, who wear all-white at party functions.

The flamboyant display at the parade was seen as part of the party's continuing efforts to ditch its authoritarian and conservative image.

The ruling party is first to admit that it is "conservative, even retro," in the words of Lee Hsien Loong, the party's chairman and Singapore's prime minister.

P-65 GENERATION

He tasked this younger generation of ministers -- dubbed P-65 because they were born after Singapore's independence in 1965 -- with making the party more "hip and happening," according to a party newsletter issued shortly after a landslide victory in last year's parliamentary election.

The party is hoping to win over P-65 voters, who it expects will make up around 60 percent of its supporter base in the next general election in 2011, the party's newsletter said.

BLOGGING MINISTERS

Among other measures to liven up the party, many of the ministers maintain blogs in which they write about soccer, offer baby photos of themselves and discuss the kind of music they listened to in the 1980s.

Public reception to the party's efforts has been lukewarm at best. Several local humorists and bloggers have labeled the move as "gimmicky."

The Chingay Parade itself also carries political undertones.

Conceived 35 years ago by Lee Kuan Yew -- former prime minister and so-called "founder of modern Singapore" -- the parade was meant to "make up for the absence of the traditional sound" after the government banned the use of firecrackers.

The parade, attended by some 18,000 people, auctioned off VIP seats and float standing space for as high as S$10,000 (US$6,530) on eBay as part of a charity auction.

Organizers had video cameras installed along the parade route to feed live footage via the downtown's wireless Internet network onto its Web site.

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