Party activists share hopes and thoughts

Party activists share hopes and thoughts

The first walkover was a relief. But each successive uncontested election in her Kaki Bukit ward made People's Action Party (PAP) activist Normah Ahmad (left), 62, increasingly worried.

By the time the 2011 General Election rolled around, Kaki Bukit ward - absorbed into Aljunied GRC after being part of Eunos, East Coast and Marine Parade previously - had been untested for some 20 years, and the party lost the GRC to the Workers' Party.

Even as PAP activists redouble efforts on the ground, with community programmes and social assistance schemes, Ms Normah, an activist since 1980 and former chair of Kaki Bukit's Women's Wing, thinks winning back Aljunied GRC will not be easy.

"Realistically, it will be a very tough fight to dislodge the Workers' Party," she was quoted as saying in a 158-page book launched to mark the PAP's 60th anniversary.

Titled PAP 60, Forward Together, the book charts milestones in the party's journey since 1954.

It also features the quiet work of six activists, including Ms Normah, in working the ground. She said last night that the PAP must be more proactive in engaging residents as fewer instinctively turn to it for help.

Also featured is NTUC industrial relations officer Jagathishwaran Rajo, 27, a political science major at university, who says in the book that he was one of the few who spoke up for the Government in class: "It has become glamorous nowadays to be anti-government, anti-PAP and anti-establishment. My honours year thesis title was 'End Of PAP dominance?'

"We do have to think about whether the days of very high percentage of votes are over. After all, in developed countries, it is very rare now to get a majority. So, this is maybe the new normal - more debate, more contest, but also more new ideas."

That is why the Young PAP branch chair in Zhenghua ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC thinks it is important for the young to take politics seriously: "It is normal for young people to care for their country, and indeed to play a large role in the party."

In the book, veteran activist Png Wee Chor (left), 74, agrees that young people have a part to play. Since 2011, he has seen more of them helping at his Kampong Chai Chee ward in East Coast GRC.

He, too, got involved at a young age. In 1956, at age 16, he was pushed through a window after a pro-independence rally went out of control.

He needed 13 stitches on his leg.

"Battles for a good cause attract the young - that was true when I was young, that is true now. In my time, the cause was freedom and anti-communism. But at the bottom of it all, it was the dream of a good life."

The book is not for sale to the public, but will be distributed to the 87 PAP branches. Copies signed by the three secretaries-general of the PAP - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Hsien Loong - will be sold at $10,000 and $20,000, with proceeds going to charity.

This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
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