Every Nov 13th is a significant milestone for me, as it marks the anniversary of my entry into the Workers’ Party. I just looked back at my diary in 2001 of the events surrounding this decision. The mood then was sombre, post Sep 11th, with Singaporeans somewhat afraid of the future. Faced with two-thirds of Parliamentary seats in the 2001 General Elections being walkovers, I was sure of my decision. It was a cathartic moment; but the future was unknown.
Eight years on, what have I learned?
Being involved in opposition politics has its ups and downs. I feel elated when WP grows, attracts good people, and makes an impact in Parliament. I feel otherwise when I think we could have done better. But the uncanny thing is this. Regularly on Sundays when we go out to sell our Party newspaper Hammer, or during our house visits, there will be people who thank us for our work, encourage us on, or take time to share with us their aspirations and concerns about life in Singapore. This is, to me, the true purpose of being involved in politics – to listen to every person, whose vision of a better life is ipso facto valid.
Eight years may sound like a long time to some, but I am dwarfed by the commitment of others. Each week, party veterans turn up for Party activities, as they had been doing for decades before. One example is Mr Lim Ee Ping, who joined the Party in 1959. Today, during our Hammer sales, I asked him whether he had been shouting: “Workers’ Party Hammer” in the streets for 50 years (based on simple arithmetic). He matter-of-factly said that it was “only for about 30 years” because “it was only after JB (Jeyaretnam) joined the Party (which was in 1971) that we started selling Hammer”.
As this is a bit of a David and Goliath battle, on a lighter note, I was thinking that fighting skills might come in handy. Yesterday I went along to observe a wing-chun (永春) class, taught by a friend of mine whom I never knew was a sifu (师父) until 2 weeks ago. Wing-chun is most prominently associated with Ip Man, teacher of Bruce Lee, which exploded in popularity after the release of the film “Ip Man” (2008) starring Donnie Yen. Wing-chun is eminently suited for use by a person against a stronger opponent. I have committed to start learning next weekend…I do have some concerns about my many injuries, which include fractured ankles, previously cracked ribs, and a broken index finger and toe. But my logic is this: if the factory workers in “Ip Man” could do it, I can too! Akan datang.