By Asia Samachar Team | SINGAPORE |
This is the third time Harmindar Pal Singh is offering himself as a candidate in Singapore’s general election. As with the last two, it is again an uphill battle against a very entrenched and dominant out-going political party.
As with his earlier two attempts, the 48 year-old member of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) is preparing to give his best.
“We’re doing this for one reason only: to be the voice of the people, to speak up on issues that no one else wants to talk about. There are so many bread and butter issues,” he told Asia Samachar.
Harminder Pal and his team will be contesting in the Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency (GRC) will see a three-cornered fight with out-going ruling party People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Peoples Voice in the fray.
In the 2015 polls, PAP won the seat with a whooping 73% of the votes, with SDA getting 27%.
On the expected uphill battle against the incumbent, he said SDA will not give in and will march ahead despite the ‘insurmountable challenges thrown at our path’.
In 2015, PAP bounced back from a lackluster showing in the 2011 polls. In 2011, PAP won 80 of the 87 seats with 60% vote share, its all-time low since independence in 1965. In 2015, it secured 83 out of 89 seats, garnering 70% of the ballots cast. The 2015 turnout was 93.56% among 2.46 million voters, according to the Elections Department. Voting is mandatory in Singapore, with few exemptions allowed.
Workers’ Party (WP), the main rival to incumbent PAP, won six seats in 2015, down from seven in 2011.
With no electoral success so far, why is he still in the political arena. Speaking to Asia Samachar, Harminder, the SDA chief media officer, reflected on the Sikh ethos.
“From the Sikh perspective, it’s about caring for the downtrodden and the meek, giving voice to the voiceless. Our people may not be suffering under a tyrannical regime like how Sikhs suffered under the Mughals once upon time, but let me tell you something: there is still a lot of suffering out there.
“On the outset, the facade of a first-world country is superbly marketed and advertised. But, no-lah. The lives of people…they’re really, really, in pain,” he said.
Harminder Pal, who is seen as potential successor to Desmond Lim Bak Chuan as the SDA chairman, also spoke about the ideas of seva (selfless service) and sarbat dha bhalla (goodwill to all).
“These values has always been ingrained in us. These are principles on which I grew up, thanks to my parents and also to those people who used to run samelans (Sikh camps) which I attended in my younger days. These values guided us in our formative years.
“By running in elections, it’s an opportunity to serve back on a wider scale,” he said.
He noted that Sikhs are a small minority in Singapore, counting about 12,000.
“If we can contribute in the public arena, it will give the Sikhs a milder touch, [project] a more humane community in the eyes of the wider Singapore and global communities,” he said.
Asked if his party had been able to make a difference over the years, Harminder Pal said the party has made some headway.
“We have always being there for the residents of Pasir Ris Ponggol where we have focussed on for the last 13 years. We are there throughout the year, not just during the election period,” he said.
Among others, SDA has been running at least four food collection points in the constituency.
“It’s not just the free meals. Some of the elderly people live isolated lives, they look forward to this daily collection times. At times, when one of the regular ones don’t turn up, we do go up to check on them. These are on-going work,” he said.
The other candidate from the Sikh community in the current general elections is Pritam Singh, the secretary-general of the Workers’ Party (WP).
Singapore ruling party is safe till 2030 (Asia Samachar, 30 June 2020)
Harminder Pal raring to return to Singapore campaigning (Asia Samachar, 23 June 2020)
Pritam Singh all set for “a good fight” (Asia Samachar, 2 July 2020)
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