Sunday, 27 May, 2012

That spirit, the HOUGANG SPIRIT!

As we were making our way out from the Counting centre, my phone cannot stop beeping.  Congratulatory messages as well as 'live' updates on the 'party' going on at Blk 322 kept coming in.

As we approached Blk 322, we could hear the thunderous cheer.  What greeted us was the 'Hougang Spirit'.

Both sides of the road were filled with people.  They were chanting non stop.  Whenever there is a car that passed by with the WP flag on it, the crowd will cheer even louder.  The drivers will then respond back with a series of honking.


As if that wasn't enough for the police to handle, the drummer was there!  The one that will sit right in front at every of our rally :)  I turned around and was pleasantly surprised to see a huge WP flag, about the size of 4 mahjong table and a banner hanging from level 2!

62.09%........... Hougang is truly unique.

We have a lot of people to thank for.  Logistics support, house visits team, Admin and paperwork team, IT team, photographers, research team, bouncers, sellers at rally, runner for food, creative team, flyers distribution team, polling and counting agents and most importantly, the people of Hougang.  Without them, there will be no victory.

Another amazing night in Hougang! If I am ever ask what the 'Hougang Spirit' is, my reply would be, 'you got to experience it yourself, there is no way to describe it.'

风雨同舟二十一年!
后港,谢谢!

Friday, 2 December, 2011

LIVE – GE2011 and I

This article was first published in 'Hammer', issue: 1102

Getting Ready

I received a message to meet Mr Low Thia Khiang after a weekly Hammer outreach in February 2011. I sensed that it was about the General Elections. I was right. Mr Low asked me to run as the Workers’ Party (WP) candidate in the new Single Member Constituency (SMC), Punggol East.

Questions raced through my mind. ‘Am I up to this responsibility?’ ‘Can I deliver?’ ‘Will I be a liability to the Party?’ ‘Will I be better off as background support, which is equally important?’

Everything happened rapidly after that. Bernard Chen was assigned to be my Election Agent. I was glad because as a first time candidate, it would definitely be an advantage to have someone I have known and worked with for years as my Election Agent.

Bernard and I started planning for house visits in Punggol East as soon as we got the electoral map from Elections Department. This was critical as it was the only opportunity I had to get to know the residents. With maybe only two months to complete 133 blocks of HDB flats, we were short of time. I wanted quality house visits but I knew that we might not be able to visit every household.

Bernard and I did house visits at least thrice a week with different volunteers each time to prevent volunteer fatigue. I was very fortunate to have a committed, disciplined and responsible group of volunteers who came from all walks of life. Some had signed up via the Workers’ Party website. Others came through personal contacts. Even my father and uncle were roped in. Not to forget Uncle Ee Ping, WP’s veteran, and the parents of some of our members. Having elderly people with us had certain advantages. I was very touched. The warm reception from residents was just as motivating and encouraging.



Nomination – Spirit of Blue Umbrellas

Then Parliament was dissolved and 27 April 2011 was announced as Nomination Day. The first thing I did was to apply for leave. Next I had to prepare for candidate introduction, my nomination speech and to get my Assentors and documents ready for Nomination Day.

We continued with house visits, more often and more quickly. Time management was essential. Whatever pockets of time I had, I wrote down notes for my speeches. I was among the first batch of candidates to be introduced by WP. An hour before meeting the reporters, I was still editing my introductory speech!

The night before 27th April was incredibly long. Bernard and I made phone calls to remind all Assentors and the volunteers who were picking them up to be on the time and to bring all the necessary documents.

Finally came the Day – our Assentors, Commissioner for Oaths, supporters and umbrellas for our supporters were ready! I remember telling our supporters, “We will be outnumbered by the whites but it is the spirit that counts!” With that, both the Punggol East SMC and East Coast GRC team were on our way to the Nomination centre.

Nomination was nerve wrecking. But we were the first to arrive which had a psychological advantage. The entire process took about 20-30 minutes to complete. I looked at my speech and I thought to myself, “Come on Lilian, you can do it!” As I walked out to face the crowd, I was heartened by the sight of the blue umbrellas. They looked magnificent in the sun! The responsive crowd under the hot scorching sun inspired me to deliver my speech.



Campaign – Strength to Journey on

The next 9 days of campaigning was a test of our mental and physical ability. A typical campaigning day included waking up at 6am, meeting with the volunteers at 7.30am before meeting working adults and residents on their way to work and market. Because I could not visit all the households, we decided to spend about 30 mins at each MRT/LRT station. We would start at Kangkar, move on to Bakau and finally, Rumbia. From Rumbia, we would proceed to the junction outside Rivervale Mall to continue our outreach.

On certain days, we would also go to the market and the shops. Our outreach was well planned and effective and many shop owners and residents soon recognised me. The fish stall owner even had my calling card pasted on the wall!

We also did house visits in the afternoon so as to not waste time. I would then make my way back in the late afternoon to prepare my rally speech for the night on which I was slated to speak. On the nights when I was not scheduled to speak, we conducted outreach in the evenings as well.

My maiden speech was on WP’s home-ground, Hougang SMC. I may be a Trainer but to speak before a 30, 000 strong crowd for the first time was definitely nerve wrecking. I can hardly remember what I spoke about but our campaign theme, ‘Vote Workers’ Party, Towards a First World Parliament’ rang out loud and clear throughout the night.

For the subsequent rallies, I gained confidence and was able to deliver speeches that were more engaging, at least according to the feedback from friends and supporters!

Despite the gruelling schedule, the stress of a 3-cornered fight and the constant fear of saying or doing something wrong, I never thought of giving up. The committed volunteers who walked the ground with me, the volunteers who hand-delivered my profile to each and every household, the numerous smses I received from my colleagues, the constant calls from my parents to ensure that I had taken my meals, my husband who gave me his full support, residents who left me encouraging messages and the trust of the WP leadership gave me the strength to journey on.



Polling Day and the Night of Blue Flags

Polling Day started with ensuring that our Polling Agents were in place at all the polling stations. I stayed at one polling station for a while to witness the polling.

I remember several encounters as I was walking out of the Polling Station. Residents came forward and shook my hands and told me that they had voted for me. I appreciated and acknowledged their gestures but we were not allowed to speak to voters at the polling stations. There were also residents who probably knew this and smiled at us instead.

The day continued with activities such as buying and delivering meals to our Polling Agents. Finally, voting closed at 8pm and the counting began.

I was struck by the thought that, all the months of walking and the 9 days of intensive campaigning would be reflected in one little result slip that night. For my colleagues contesting in East Coast, Nee Soon, Aljunied and Hougang, it was years of walking the ground.

The atmosphere was tense as I entered the counting hall. The respective counting agents were waiting for the ballot boxes from the polling stations to arrive. My counting agents assured me that they would watch out for every vote.

As the counting commenced, I made my way around the 5 counting tables, spending a good 7-10 minutes witnessing the sorting and counting for every table. I could see that for every 4 in 10 ballot paper, there was a cross for WP. I then went to the counting center for 'Punggol East' and 'Pasir Ris-Punggol'. As I was arriving, Mr Michael Palmer was about to leave. We wished each other luck and moved on.

I went through the same routine in the second counting center. About an hour into the counting, it seemed like 38-40% of the valid votes were for WP. We had hoped for the best but were also prepared for the worst. All of us prepared two speeches for Polling Day, a ‘winning’ and a ‘losing’ speech.

I then went to the Assembly Centre. My family was there. Before I could even say anything, my father came up to me and said, “Regardless of the result, you have done your best and we are very proud of you.” I was so moved by those words. Ever since I knew that I would be the candidate for Punggol East, I had spent almost all my time covering the ground. I didn't have much time with my family during that period.

WP members and volunteers were all there to support the candidates. I found a chair and sank into it. I looked at the volunteers and members around the assembly area. They looked exhausted but were in high anticipation.

Forty-five minutes later, Mr Low arrived and came to me. He asked, “How was Punggol East?” “I think I did ok, probably about 38-40%.” I replied. He nodded and gave me an encouraging pat on the back, before moving on to talk to the other candidates.

The official result for the Workers' Party in Punggol East was about 41%, better than I expected. My team and I had done our best given the amount of time we had. We have no regrets.

Cheers and shouts rang out when it was announced that we had won Hougang SMC. At about 2.30am, WP supporters, members and candidates turned the entire Hougang stadium into a jubilant sea of blue flags. WP had won in Aljunied! Cheers and tears filled the night. The tears that I had been holding back flowed freely. It was tears of joy, relief, and perhaps exhaustion too. The people have acknowledged our message and our years of efforts.

I hope that my experience as a candidate will propel me to greater things.


Sunday, 6 November, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya Haji!

A few WP colleagues, MPs and myself were privilege to be given the opportunity to visit a mosque today. What is even more special was today is the day Muslim friends celebrate Hari Raya Haji also known as Hari Raya Korban.

The mosque, 'Masjid Al-Istiqamah', is located at Serangoon North, in the Serangoon division of Aljunied GRC.

On this day, the sacrifice of 4-legged animals is performed. These animals include goats, cows, bulls and camels. In Singapore, our Muslim friends usually performed such sacrifice on goats. To find out what Hari Raya Haji means, click.

We were allowed to take pictures of everything except the sacrificing process.

We were first brought to the place where the goats were kept. Young men ranging from age 18-25 were the ones responsible for transporting the goats from the storage place to the place of sacrifice. When transported, the goats were held by the legs cuddled in a comforted position in the arms of the volunteer.



Next came the sacrificing process. It was done over a man-hole so that blood will drip directly into it. The animals were killed in accordance with the proper religious rites and the meat is then distributed.

Having the opportunity to witness the sacrificing process up close, it has definitely enabled me to better understand the word, Halal and let us remember each others sacrifices, big or small.

Thanks to Azman, the organizer of this visit!

Wednesday, 13 July, 2011

Kallang roar is roaring BACK!

'SSShhhhhh!!!'

My mother will often have to repeat this several times to remind us to keep our volume down.

The year was 1994, Singapore won the Malaysia Cup with a 2-1 over Kedah, I was 16 :)
It was also after this win, Singapore withdrew from the competition.

My family except my mother, often have our eyes glued to the television set every weekend evening. We will curse, shout, stamp our feet, jump in joy and sometimes swear! That was by the far the only thing that really brought the family together in front of the television.

Singapore won the Malaysia Cup 24 times and is the 2nd most successful side in the competition's history after Selangor :)

Back in the 80s and 90s, we will often keep our weekends free for moments like this:



Needless to say, my father was the one who influenced us :) Watching the Malaysia Cup and English Premier League was a weekly affair for the family.

My grandma who often commented on how silly it was to watch 22 men running around for a ball, can never understand why we were so passionate!

Seriously, I have no idea too! It was the only event that will bring the whole family together. The National stadium will come to life with the Kallang roar, Kallang wave and the simultaneous feet stamping. Strangers will hug, cheer and laugh when goals were scored.

I miss the Malaysia Cup.

In the Workers' Party 2011 manifesto, the party proposed the re-entry of Singapore team into the Malaysia Cup. The news 'Singapore back in Malaysia Cup after 16 years', was hence very welcoming for me!

I know that I may never find back the likes of Abbas Saad, Sundram's famous bicycle kick, Super Sub (Steven Tan), Rafi Ali, Malek Awab, Lee Man Hon, David Lee, Suave Nazri Nasir and of course Fandi Ahmad, but the thought of watching the nation cheering together perks me up!

2012, I can't wait for it to commence!Link

Monday, 11 July, 2011

AJCC's first community event

The 1 day durian trip on 10th July 2011, was a first for a couple of WP members who have been volunteering our time for such trips for the past few years in HOUGANG.

First, because of a couple of reasons:

Reason no 1 - New constituency with new constituents.

Our first community event for our newly won constituency. We didn't dare to be too ambitious with ticket sales, not knowing whether the residents are keen with such activities. But we also understand that we need to give it a try.

As we were not able to put up posters on notice boards yet, we did it the conventional way; flyers distribution. 3 Sundays before the trip, teams which consisted of myself and a handful of volunteers who signed up through our website to help, were activated :)

Likewise for the rest of the division, we all did it the conventional way. Not forgetting netizens who helped spread the word :)

Thank you to Tai Ann, Zhijian, Marcus Lee, Zuraini, Mustafa, Linda, Winston Roy and Winston Loy who responded to my call :)

Next came the ticket sales which was overwhelming! We went through 3 weeks of sales. The bulk of the sales came from week 2, probably after a week or so, word starts to spread :)

During the 3 weeks, it was a common sight to see residents queuing up at Blk 616 Bedok Reservoir to purchase tickets. Most of them walked away elated to have bought their tickets while a handful were disappointed that they didn't.

Thank you to David Chua, Marcus Kong, Binson Tan and Gordon Lim for helping out with ticket sales :)

When all that was done, preparation for the day starts!

Reason no 2 - Working with new volunteers.

After determining the no. of buses, we will need to allocate 2 bus leaders to every bus. They are the ones, residents will get to interact with throughout the journey.

This was when the challenge starts :) 

I did my best to allocate an experience one to every new volunteer. As much as I would like to do that, I have 2 buses that were made up of 2 new volunteers with no prior experience as BL with residents.

Nonetheless, I'm giving it a try!

Bernard (the rep from Bedok Reservoir-Punggol) and myself (rep from Eunos) conducted a BL briefing a week before the trip. With the logistics prepared by Swee Bee, we took turns to do our best to communicate effectively to our new BL on what needs to be done and what to look out for. We hope that with the experience we got from volunteering previously in HOUGANG as BL, we were able to impart all that in that hour of briefing :)

On the morning of 10th July, I gave a wake up call via sms to all BL. Everyone of them reported 6am, at meeting place. I was relieved that I didn't have to activate my back up BL.

James, thanks for agreeing to be my back up BL :)

It was a frenzy start as the residents boarded their respective buses rapidly. They were all eager to start the day!

With everything checked, the buses moved off in an orderly manner.

We met each other occasionally during the trip and from what I can see, our BL were fitting into their roles very well :) They were walking around looking for residents, mingling with them, assisting them and of course helping them to take pictures with their MPs!

The only time I got to see all BL was during dinner where all 16 buses gathered together in Restaurant Cathay 88, for a 9 course dinner :)

The next thing I know, I was at Blk 615, waiting for the last bus to pulled in at about 12am. My heart warmed at every feedback that the residents gave when we shook hands at the end of the day.

Thank you to all BL (you know who you are), both new and experience ones, for making the day a great one!

With this experience, I'm confidently sure that all new BL are now experience to lead the next one! Woohoo!

Not forgetting, Davis, our photographer :)

Reason no 3 - New role.

Since I joined the WP in 2006, I volunteered my time for most if not all of the day trips as BL. I remembered my first partner was Auntie Yizhi, resident from HOUGANG. Subsequently, I'm always paired up with a new BL so as to show them the ropes.

This year, I've got a new role. No longer a BL whose role is to take care of a bus, but the co ordinator for Eunos Division, to take care of all the buses.

From printing of tickets to the day of the trip, I was fortunate to be assisted by great volunteers and members.

I remembered meeting Bernard (also first time co ordinator) at the Singapore checkpoint. The first thing he said to me was, relax lar!

A few mins later, Bernard saw one of his BL and he asked her where her bus was. She shrugged her shoulders while searching for her bus.

'Huh? Where is your bus?', exclaimed Bernard.

My turn to go, relax lar!!! Hahaha!

It was a case of, 'easier said than done' :) We were anxious probably because it was our first time as co ordinator working with new volunteers in a new constituency, serving new constituents :)

Soon, we were doing bus hopping, moving from one bus to another to ensure smooth operation :)
Just when I thought I could relax myself for dinner, Bernard and myself were called up to address the crowd as well as to conduct lucky draw. Well, this to me isn't new. This happens to me all the time hahaha!

Next week, 17th July, I will be volunteering my time for Serangoon division. This time, I will be reverted back to my old role, BL :)

Regardless of whatever role we play, the objectives are the same. That is, to serve the community to the best of our capabilities.
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