It’s tough being an opposition party member in Singapore, but history undergraduate Bernard Chen of the Workers’ Party is unfazed as he meets voters, organizes events and attends internal meetings.
The 24-year-old is part of a new generation of activists fighting the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore for 51 years and currently holds all but two of the 84 seats in parliament.
All political parties in Singapore are reporting increased youth involvement as the country prepares for its next general elections, which are due by February 2012 but are widely expected to be held much earlier.
New voter-friendly measures announced by the government, such as caps on immigration following complaints from citizens about a spike in recent years, have further fuelled expectations of an early vote.
“The PAP started off as being a minority in government too, so it’s all about participating in the process and hoping to win the support of the people,” Chen said.
One of his pet causes is lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 to enable more members of the Facebook and Twitter generation to take part in politics.
Despite getting into occasional trouble with media censors and police, young Singaporeans have indeed become more critical of the PAP on social networking sites, blogs and Web sites like theonlinecitizen.com and temasekreview.com.
Opposition parties are also ramping up their Web presence.
“This interest in opposition politics will in a way require the PAP to raise its game,” said Eugene Tan, a law professor at the Singapore Management University.
He said the ruling party had far more resources than its rivals but believed the PAP was taking notice of young people’s involvement with other parties.
“I think overall a more competitive political scene should be beneficial to Singapore,” he said.
The PAP was founded in 1954 by Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), who went on to become the country’s first leader, serving from 1959 until 1990. His son Lee Hsien Loong 李顯龍) has been prime minister since 2004.
Despite the PAP’s record of rapid economic progress which has turned Singapore into one of the world’s richest societies, critics of the PAP say the city-state has lagged behind when it comes to democratic freedoms.
Opposition parties are reporting a rise in youth membership, with the Reform Party founded by the late democracy icon J.B. Jeyaretnam claiming 40 percent of its members are now aged 30 and below.
The Workers’ Party Youth Wing membership has increased 50 percent from four years ago, and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has likewise reported a healthy increase in younger members.
Jermyn Wee, 27, the webmaster of the Reform Party Web site, felt young members have a bigger voice in opposition parties.
“We have regular meetings with our secretary general, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, should he need to bring up a concern,” the information and communication technology executive said.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear