Today, Singapore votes. At a virtual Youth Day Celebration last Sunday, we asked our young people what they understood or thought about the elections as they were enjoying a meal prepared and delivered by a family living near them. With COVID-19 looming, we are mindful that wherever possible we provide opportunities for our members to put some money into their pockets.
Perhaps, the food was so good that the question was ignored but eventually, one replied that he was a little too young to understand. Others concurred but another who was a little older added that if given a chance, he would vote for those whom he believed had done much.
The discussion continued with a small group of first-time voters 2 days later. They recalled the experience of having voted in school as “sabo-ing,” which was assigning a responsibility to someone because one personally did not want it. However, they were aware that those asking for their vote now have put themselves up for the responsibility of leading their constituency. They wanted to learn and understand the electoral process better and as one put it, “In 5 years, I will be 27 and I need to pay attention to what’s going on because this is going to affect my life.”
As we provided information on the election process, the role of parliament and the different manifestos, we sensed their deep interest as they sought clarifications how laws and policies were passed and enquired about affordable education, healthcare, and housing. The also had questions about the Central Provident Fund and employment laws.
A day later, one young lady shared that she left the session with a heavy head as there was so much to take in. Nonetheless, she was pleased she came because she could now understand the headlines on Telegram and what the debates were about. She valued receiving the information and being trusted to speak up and to make up her own mind. Similar discussions at home were always tense and issues were never delved on in the interest of family harmony.
2 days ago, while with a mother of 5 children, we asked her what advice she would give to first-time voters in her neighbourhood. “Vote wisely. Make sure you are voting someone you can trust,” was her spontaneous reply. During the circuit-breaker, her husband lost his job and her elder children who supplemented the family income by working at the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, could not bring back much. She hopes that the candidate she votes for will create conditions that “makes life easier.” She elaborated that this meant jobs for her husband and her and opportunities for her children to further their education. Most importantly, she felt that her Member of Parliament must be one who listens to ordinary folk like her and her neighbours.
As voters we want to be listened to but perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that as voters, we choose the candidate that speaks to us. Voting wisely is only possible if we are able to listen and comprehend the issues of the day.
Wishing you health and peace of mind.
We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business. We say he has no business here at all. – Pericles