The Holland-Bukit Timah Connection

Faisal Wali

St Andrew Cathedral, Singapore

St Andrew Cathedral, Singapore

A few days ago, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, incumbent MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, quizzed the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in a cryptic manner over a video featuring Dr Vincent Wijeysingha on YouTube. Vivian was alluding to the question of SDP’s position over the promotion of the gay cause. The SDP has responded that it would not be pursuing the gay issue and both parties mutually agreed not to further pursue the issue further.

When Vivian brought up the question to SDP, the first question to most people’s mind is whether the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC contest will be based on public morality debates. Now that the issue is laid to rest, will Holland-Bukit Timah GRC still be the focal point of the public morality debate? After all, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC is a bible belt, home to many Christian churches in Singapore.

Based on the current situation, yes, public morality may arguably still be the focal point of the debate. The issue will not be on gays since both sides came to an agreement not to pursue that. Rather, it will be on the casino debate. SDP’s candidate Mr Tan Jee Say, a former Principal Private Secretary to then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, highlighted the casino issue as one of his main points of contention during his unveiling.

Tan believes that the casinos and the gaming sectors are the wrong type of services to go into, as compared with more noble sectors like healthcare and education.

“What is this 35,000 jobs in the casino? Nothing. You just spend five years, S$10 billion, you create 30,000 jobs for teachers. These are noble jobs, good and meaningful jobs, to invest in the future of children. Not the casino jobs (of) dealers and croupiers,” he said. – Mr Tan Jee Say, reported in Today

During the SDP rally last night, Tan emphasised on the social cost borne by society due to the introduction of casinos in Singapore. According to him, PAP ministers have lost their moral compass when they supported the building of casinos which created jobs but with high social costs.

During the height of the 377A debate, the conservative position has been that the advocacy of unnatural sex could lead to erosion of the traditional nucleus of a family unit. The same concern applies to the establishment of casinos. The fear is that the casinos will encourage the gambling vice, and strain relationships between gamblers and their families, affecting the stable family unit. The gambling vice also brings with it other social problems like prostitution and alcoholism. Even Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former Prime Minister was against the idea of establishing casinos during his reign.

When Vivian first broached the question of Vincent’s YouTube video to SDP, some observers online wondered whether the site of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC is equivalent to the conservative “Bible belt” of America. However, this is at best speculation, and there is not much information on how conservative residents are in the ward, especially with redrawing of electoral boundaries.

It isn’t a coincidence that Vivian, Tan’s opponent at the polls, was responsible for pushing through with plans to establish the casinos when he was then Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and chairman of the Remaking Singapore Committee. The Remaking Singapore Committee was tasked with identifying new sources of growth.

It may be premature to rule out the possibility of a public morality debate. Although this is not about the gay issue, the ingredients are definitely there. We have a member of the opposition voicing his disagreement to the establishment of casinos up against an incumbent responsible for their establishment. So watch this space.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.