Tag: Barisan Sosialis

VOTE FOR ME: Elections Posters in Singapore (2)

In the previous post, I talked about the manifesto posters that the various political parties put up during a General Elections. This time around, I’ll be looking at the posters that feature the candidates. Above are the various poster designs of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1972, 1976, 1988 and 1991 respectively. The lack of colour coincides with the period when colour printing wasn’t cheaply available yet. The choice of portraits was also conservative, or maybe even practical, since it is just as likely that these would have used for Identity Cards, or worse, funerals. It was only in the 1997 elections that the candidate photos came in colour, and by 2001, Photoshop also came into the picture.

1972 PAP Lim Kim San

1976 PAP Lim Kim San

1988 PAP LKY

1991 PAP Single

In contrast to these posters of the ruling PAP, the candidate posters of the opposition parties have generally been ‘less designed’, as evident in these posters of the Workers’ Party (WP) (1980), Barisan Sosialis (BS) (1984), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) (1984), United People’s Front (1988), Democratic Progressive Party (1997) and National Solidarity Party (NSP) (1997). With the exception of NSP’s poster, the other opposition candidates don’t subscribe to the “less is more” attitude of the PAP posters. Instead, they try to squeeze the logo, slogan, party name (in all four languages!), candidate name, and in case you still don’t get it, icon or tagline reminding you to vote for him or her. One might attribute this desire to squeeze as much as they can to the lack of funding to print better posters, but one must also remember that by law, each candidate has a fixed budget for their elections campaign. For the last elections, one could only spend on average, $3 per voter.1980 WP Single

1984 SDP Chiam See Tong

1984 BS Lee Siew Choh

1988 UPF Single

1997 DPP Tan Lead Shake

1997 NSP Christopher Neo

There few exceptions of distinctly designed posters of opposition candidates have come from two controversial ones: SDP’s Chee Soon Juan (1997) and Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Steve Chia (2006 and 2001). For some reason, the latter’s posters reminds me of real estate advertisements. I think it’s the man in a suit with the choice of colours.

1997 SDP Chee Soon Juan

2001 SDA Steve Chia

2006 SDA Steve Chia

A new type of candidate posters had to be designed in 1988 when the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) came about. Suddenly, one candidate had to share the same space with two or more as seen in these posters of the PAP (1988), WP (1997), SDA (2006) and PAP (2001).

1988 PAP GRC

1997 WP GRC

2006 SDA GRC

2001 PAP GRC 1


Finally, just a quick look at a quirky category of posters that belong to the independent candidate, a breed that has not existed since the 2001 elections. Their posters reflects how inadequate they are without the resources and machinery of a party.

1984 IND Lee Mun Hung

1984 IND Stanley

1988 IND Harry

1988 IND MG Guru

1991 IND M G Guru

1991 IND Yen 1

2001 IND Tan Kim Chuang

Look back to find who we are

In a year, Singapore has lost two men who were at the forefront of its development to a modern nation today.

While many of the older generation mourned the passing of Mr Lim Kim San and Mr S Rajaratnam, such feelings were lost on our youth. There is a sense that the youth today only begin to discover about these great people in Singapore’s history only after they become, well, history.

Mr Rajaratnam himself had feared that the youths today would not have a sense of nationhood as they did not experience the struggles of the pioneers.

And he may be right, despite how well Singapore seems to be doing, a recent survey of teenagers by the Singapore Press Holdings indicated that slightly more than half of them would consider emigration. Perhaps the reasons for emigrating are not explicitly a lack of sense of nationhood, but surely, giving up citizenship for somewhere else does imply a lesser value on what Singapore means to these teenagers.

As I consider heading overseas for exchange and perhaps even a career out of Singapore as well, I find myself going through scenarios where foreign counterparts ask me, “What is a Singaporean?” and I find myself lost for words.

This is where I think history can play a larger role in our lives, because by looking back at our nation’s history we can find out where we have been and where we are going as a nation.

Like many youths, I only learnt about the contributions of Mr Lim and Mr Rajaratnam from the news coverage after they passed away. My history lessons in secondary school never taught me this much.

In fact, I think many youths grew up with the simplest view of our history: Raffles founded us as a modern trade port before Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) successfully brought Singapore from independence to where it is today. Along the way, we had to deal with communists and racial riots, but we survived them all.

It is this lack of colour and depth that might have failed to capure the imagination of many of our youths, leading to apathy towards our history and nationhood. There is a need to delve much deeper and encompass a much wider scope in the history of Singapore that we are exposed to. Perhaps, in our desire to simplify history to make it easier for our youths, we have made it too bland.

Beyond Raffles, the PAP, the struggles with communists and racial tensions, there is much more.

For instance, who were the Barisan Socialis? For an opposition group that actually won 13 out of 51 seats in the 1963 state elections, the most ever by any opposition even up to today, few Singaporeans know about them. Tell me more about the other men who worked with MM Lee, like Mr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Toh Chin Chye. I do not want to learn about their contributions only when it is time to mourn their passing.

Perhaps due to the necessity of the situation then, some stories could not make the light of the day, but as Singapore forges towards its 41st National Day, there is a need to view our past much more critically to grow as a nation.

Let us hear more points of view so that we can have a more holistic notion of our history. How did the communists themselves view their place in the struggle for nationhood? What was it like being hounded by the Internal Security Department?

Our knowledge of history seems to lack a kind of contrast that will serve to illuminate our understanding of this nation.

So, what is a Singaporean?

I think he is someone who is still unsure of his past and place in today’s world. He is someone who is only beginning to dig deeper into history so that he may one day proudly proclaim: I am a Singaporean.

The Nanyang Chronicle, 8th Aug 2006