Sunday, 27 January 2013

Tipping Points and Point Scoring

Two things caught my eye this morning.  The first was the convincing win by the Workers Party in this Punggol East by-election.  This was called by the PM after the former Speaker of the House was caught having an extramarital affair and had to resign his post and his electoral duties.

What is interesting about this result is that this is not what one might term a traditional "workers" electorate; it is largely middle class and populated with well educated voters. Not, if you will, the home of the "working classes". I use this term advisedly as the middle class works just as hard as anyone else and especially in Singapore where long hours are the norm.

The result was a resounding victory to the Workers Party who secured 10.8% more of the vote than their nearest rivals, the ruling PAP.  Even the normally reserved Straits Times is wondering if this result is a tipping point in Singaporean politics?

Their Opinion Editor,  Chua Mui Hoong, says "The WP is now firmly entrenched as a serious challenger to the PAP in the battle for votes".

The rather hackneyed term "tipping point" also applies to the ongoing campaign to stop the Bukit Brown cemetery being turned into an eight line highway.  The 23 tropical acres are also very popular with nature lovers and joggers. It also happens to be the biggest Chinese cemetery outside of China.

As the Voice of America reports, "The ornate tombstones of many famous Singaporeans, some who are now immortalized in the city’s street names, reside at Bukit Brown Cemetery. But they might not rest in peace for too much longer."

It comes as no surprise that this plan has angered many Singaporeans.  Not just those with relatives who will be exhumed should the plan go ahead, but also those who value the country's heritage; what remains of it in the rush to modernise.

Source: All Things Bukit Brown

Sociologist Terence Heng describes the cemetery as a kind of material anchor for the Chinese Diaspora.

But just like the legendary King Canute, stopping the tide of progress has proved to be an impossible task despite the vocal and social media-savvy opposition to the project. They have however managed to create a wonderful online tribute and record and an online petition is being widely circulated.

There are very few traditional cemeteries left in Singapore.  I referred to the Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery in an earlier post but I wonder if its days are also numbered?
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