COMMENT: A voter's responsibility to sieve out the noise, words matter

People's Action Party Secretary-General and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right, fields questions from the media at a nomination center ahead of the general election in Singapore, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Campaigning began Tuesday for Singapore's general elections, with the opposition hoping to dent the ruling party's supermajority in parliament with support from Prime Minister Lee's estranged younger brother. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)
People's Action Party Secretary-General and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right, fields questions from the media at a nomination center ahead of the general election on 30 June, 2020. (PHOTO: AP)

by Chua Ming Xuan

As a first-time voter, I take my new responsibility very seriously.

I am part of a new generation of voters, who are creating viral memes highlighting important socio-political and environmental issues close to our hearts. It is deeply encouraging to see my peers beginning to explore the diverse manifestos proposed by the various political parties, scrutinising each detail and debating the future they envision and aspire towards. We are putting in tremendous effort to understand before we vote, showing that we aren’t as apathetic as critics might say.

I believe that each General Election (GE) allows Singaporeans to make a stand about the type of social contract we want. However, we must ensure that decorum and rules are abided during a GE.

We need to hold our politicians and ourselves to high standards – to use words responsibly so that everyone can vote wisely. By doing so, we can leave a legacy we are proud of for the next generation.

The rules of political discourse was less of an issue decades ago. Our forefathers focused on existential realities, not having the luxury to pontificate on such philosophies. I only gained a deeper appreciation of this perspective when I started volunteering in grassroots activities. My conversations with the older generation allowed me to empathise with their concerns.

Today, most of us are fortunate to enjoy the fruits of the labour of our “ah gongs” – many of us no longer worry about how or when to get our next meal. We must use this privilege to think about the ethos that defines our generation.

We are facing challenges besides those brought on by COVID-19 – such as climate change and inequalities across various measures (economic, social and other markers of identity). Finding the words to understand and analyse the facts and feelings, and to mediate between different solutions to these problems, will be another challenge.

Take the Raeesah Khan controversy, for example. There are moments where “regardless of race, language or religion” is tested – when we discuss issues of privilege and race. While she may not have worded her feelings well in her social media posts, in my opinion, she does point out some hard truths we must face.

Moving beyond the specifics of her comments, she and other minorities have raised issues about race in Singapore – let’s debate about that. Let’s listen to each other and get educated. We need to build a society that’s able to deal maturely with different viewpoints and emotions. Right now, in an era where social media enables individuals to express their views more freely, we seem to be drowning in a competition about who is louder and forgetting to meaningfully explore differing perspectives.

For young voters, we must learn to sieve out the noise. It is our responsibility to do so as I sincerely believe that each and every one of our votes matter.

Beyond choosing the people who will form the government, we are deciding what type of politics we want to see – and eventually leave behind for our children.

Chua Ming Xuan is a final-year student reading International Relations at Singapore Institute of Management (University of London). The views are his own.

He will be a panellist on “Inconvenient Questions Special - Panel Discussion with Prof Tambyah, Chairman, SDP”. Organised by Strategic Moves in collaboration with National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), it is a one-hour panel discussion with the SDP chairman and his party colleagues, Damanhuri Abas and Min Cheong. They will be joined by six panellists from a range of industries. Watch the session live on the NUSS YouTube channel at 6pm.

Follow Yahoo News Singapore’s GE2020 coverage here.

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