Tuesday, July 14, 2020

2020年新加坡独立后第十三届全国大选落幕

九成白云,一成蓝天


新加坡共和国独立后第13届全国大选在新冠疫情笼罩下进行,于2020710日投票,11日凌晨陆续开票,清晨4时一切尘埃落定。人民行动党夺得83席,工人党10席。

新加坡的政治生态特殊,就成熟的民主社会来说,行动党能够夺得九成的国会议席,可谓战绩辉煌,但执政党对整体表现并不感到开心,反而有挫败感。工人党不仅成功保住阿裕尼集选区和后港,甚至意外地攻下新划分的盛港集选区,从原有的6个国会议席增至10个,缔造新加坡历史上的新里程碑。


(选票分布图。图片来源:The Straits Times)

集选区制度对反对党是不公平的,他们没有基层实力,也缺乏曝光率,因此由重量级部长领军的集选区几乎十拿九稳,其他候选人可以乘搭顺风车进入国会。

前总理李光耀曾经挑战工人党前秘书长刘程强,若想在国会有所作为,就别窝在后港。刘程强真的走出后港,阿裕尼集选区落入工人党A队手中。

回溯那场2011年大选,阿裕尼集选区选情告急,前总理李光耀对阿裕尼选民发表“懊悔论”,大致上说行动党输了一个集选区没什么大不了,但是阿裕尼选民在接下来的五年将会懊悔不已。

落败的行动党部长杨荣文事后解密,表示李光耀向他道歉,说帮了倒忙。杨荣文认为选民要反对党来制衡政府是成熟的民主社会的特征,大势所趋,非战之罪。

一代新人换旧人,十年风雨几番新,工人党十年内第二度攻破集选区堡垒,集选区已经不再是铁仓。更多新加坡人相信国会需要反对党确实是大势所趋,不过选民那一票,也是对工人党多年耕耘所树立起来的正面形象的认同。

平均票数


平均票数方面,行动党获得61.24%,比上一届(2015年)减少近9%;工人党50.49%,比上一届增加近11%。由于2015年的大选主要借助于第一任总理李光耀的光环,选民或多或少都有通过选票向逝世的前总理告别的心理,因此这年的票箱可能含有许多感性的成分,未必真正反映民意。

1984年以来的九届大选,除了2001年(911)和2015年(前总理李光耀去世)的突发事件为执政党制造“危机选票外,其他七届大致上是40:30:3040%行动党铁粉,30%中间选民,30%反对党选民。只要反对党的素质不太差,都能得到约30%的选票,如果反对党候选人的素质优秀,选票则达到40%以上。譬如这届新成立,尚欠地气的前进党的得票率近41%,西海岸集选区的选票甚至达到48.31%;民主党秘书长徐顺全改变愤怒激进的形象后得到45%的选票,主席淡马亚教授(传染病专家)46%


(人民行动党历届得票率。)

这次行动党制造“疫情危机”选举,可能是自我感觉良好,认为抗疫成功,因此重施故技。防疫措施是双刃剑,政府应对冠病疫情,从最初的成功控制,到客工在Mustafa受感染后没有针对性处理,造成新加坡进入封锁阶段,经济与就业都遭重创。

政府动用储备金援助配套救市的当儿,过去被掩盖的社会讯息无可避免地浮出台面,凸显新加坡虽然是GDP首富,实际上社会资源分配不均,贫富悬殊的情况依然严峻,无形中让好些人如梦初醒。

这回选民不买危机账,卫生部长颜金勇所领军的蔡厝港集选区选票大跌17%。其他五个跌幅超过10%的选区都是PAP的铁票仓:西海岸集选区(票数减少26%),丹绒巴葛集选区(减少14.7%),先驱(减少14.36%),丰加北(减少14%),武吉班让(减少13.4%)。

逆流而上的只有两个单选区:接地气的林谋泉(蒙巴登)以及曾经被吴作栋点名说受到拖累的陈佩玲(麦波申)。

陈佩玲的经历是个传奇故事。2011年大选,麦波申划入马林百列集选区,网民将陈佩玲表现得有点小女孩的视频放上网,吴作栋领军下的马林百列竟然只获得56%的选票。2015年麦波申被重新划分为单选区,陈佩玲的耕耘受到居民肯定,两届的成绩都优于马林百列。功夫下得深,铁棒磨成针,是由一定的道理的。

以工人党与行动党直面交锋的六个选区相比,工人党赢得一半议席,总票数多出约1%,阿裕尼集选区的票数更相差近20%,可见针对阿裕尼市镇会的政党政治已经失去效应。

如果未来五至十年里,工人党与其他有素质的反对党声势继续壮大,可能会演变成全新的局面。因此执政党的真正隐忧应该不在于眼前,而是可见的未来。

(工人党与行动党的票数比较:工人党参选4个集选区与2个单选区,结果一半胜出。)

举步维艰


有些人会误解反对党的意义,以为是在兴风作浪,惹事生非。实际上,成熟的民主社会必须有反对党制衡的力量,健全的反对党机制并非为了反对而反对,而是通过不同视角参与辩论,提供替代方案,使到政策更加灵活合时宜。

新加坡的民主进程走得很慢,关系到1966年李绍祖率领社阵抵制国会,走向街头斗争,紧接着放弃参与1968年的独立后第一届选举,等同将了反对党一军,让执政党稳住阵脚,从容地建立声望。19681980年独立后连续四届的国会都由行动党完全垄断,直至1981年才由时任工人党秘书长惹耶勒南在安顺区补选突破僵局,成为13年后唯一的反对党议员。1988年第六届大选推出集选区制度,直至2011年第十一届大选,反对党经过23年的奋战才赢得第一个集选区。

2020年的选举结果,显示多数选民认同温和、自信、有建设性的反对党,希望执政党能够敞开心胸,聆听多元化的声音,改变多年来一意孤行的做法。

第十三届大选的“十大”


传统媒体社交传媒有许多不同的选后分析文字,以下 “十大” 是我在这段竞选期间的一些个人体会:

1. 刘程强效应:两年前刘程强放下工人党秘书长职责,这届不参选,表现的是政治家的气度,该放手的时候就放手。长江后浪推前浪,每个时代都应该由属于该时代的后生挺身而出。相信刘程强的后座角色在关键时刻还是起着一定的作用的,譬如他在竞选的最后一天的华语与潮州话录音,可能进一步争取到一些中间选民,包括增加陈立峰在后港的选票。

2. 毕丹星渐趋成熟:毕丹星,林瑞莲,莫哈默费沙(Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap),贝里安(Leon Perera),严燕松所组成的阿裕尼团队中有三名旧人和两名“新人”,由贝里安和严燕松取代原议员刘程强和陈硕茂。两位“新人”都有非选区议员的经验,在国会的表现可圈可点。近年来毕丹星的国会表现稳健,竞选时从容地化解三场“危机”:行动党议员陈有明医生质问毕丹星力挺剧作家亚菲言的评论,没有派候选人参与电视台的华语辩论,以及辣玉莎(Raeesah Khan)不慎失言。毕丹星不推卸责任,勇于担当,展现出优秀的领袖风范。

3. 辣玉莎事件发人深思:26岁的辣玉莎被网民就发言失当报案,配合警方调查下继续沉着参选,具备新加坡的反对党那种打不死的小强的抗压能力。事情的起因是两年前辣玉莎在一则脸书贴文中,针对城市丰收教会判决发表看法,称新加坡无情地判少数族群坐牢,骚扰回教领袖,却让偷走5000万元的涉贪教会领袖逍遥法外。两个月前,辣玉莎在另外一则脸书贴文中,指新加坡执法单位歧视公民,与其他群体相比,富裕的华人和白人享有差别待遇。这是针对疫情期间,一群人违反阻断禁令,在罗拔申码头喝酒有感而发。

由于辣玉莎的言论可能涉及到种族与宗教的敏感性,辣玉莎在媒体前为无知之过诚恳道歉,反而刺激大家思考,在网络上公开讨论。其实无论是咖啡店或网络世界,这些都是公开的话题,主要在于出发点是否存在颠覆社会和仇视其他族群的企图。新世界的思维不可能继续套上古老的枷锁,相信辣玉莎事件将刺激政府重新检讨言论自由(或不自由)的准绳。

4. 个人背后有个撑腰的团队:盛港集选区的工人党团队有何廷儒,蔡庆威,林志蔚,辣玉莎。何廷儒于上届出征马林百列集选区,数场群众大会的演讲都表现不俗,这回在网络论坛与媒体镜头前同样落落大方,温文儒雅之余不乏宏观视野。辣玉莎道歉的时候,整支盛港团队,秘书长毕丹星和主席林瑞莲都站在她身后,这股团结力量肯定提高士气。相比之下,行动党的新人林绍权(Ivan Lim)提名前面对一些前同事与军队下属的爆料,必须独自为过去的行为辩护。行动党那种迹近于大难临头各自飞,撇开关系的处理方式,最缺的就是人情味。

5. 年轻议员的亲和力:林志蔚在电视辩论时与行动党维文交锋,表现亮眼,让选民对正面的国会辩论有所期待。何廷儒胜选后发表感言,不忘提起前榜鹅东议员李丽连和上届盛港西候选人许俊荣过去十年来孜孜不倦的努力耕耘,为今天的胜利打下根基;蔡庆威谈到对盛港未来的希望,接下来任重道远。他们的语气诚恳,亲和力强,可以感受到发自内心的热忱。

6. 总理区流失选票:虽然行动党在宏茂桥集选区的得票率超过70%,但跟上届相比流失了约6%的选票,高达2.8%的废票也是最多废票的选区之一。值得注意的是,李显龙的行动党团队面对较弱的革新党,党魁肯尼斯惹耶勒南甚至因疫情被隔离,没参与竞选活动。或许将家事升级为国事的李家个案、强行通过的总统选举修宪、过度政治化的阿裕尼市镇会等事件所引起的反效果,已在宏茂桥发酵。

7. 失去集选区的现实:2011年大选,明眼人都看得出行动党无法接受阿裕尼集选区败选的现实,在国会内外搞党派政治,由许文远扮演黑脸的角色,刻意将工人党管理的市镇会政治化。如今行动党失去另一个集选区和三名部长与政务部长,是否会依样葫芦?相信这回不论是行动党或是工人党都学乖了,不至于重蹈覆辙,否则双方都必须付出很大的代价。

8. 新移民铁票仓的趋势:新移民一路来都是行动党的铁票仓,上述的几起事件与后期的新冠疫情的处理方式,可能使到一些新移民对行动党政府改观,铁票仓不再那么牢固。我还从新移民那里学习到 “德不配位,必有灾殃”,八字真言的意思是为人处世必须以厚德载物为出发点,胸怀积善修德,浩荡之气,不做奸邪不义之事,否则多行不义必定自己遭殃。

9. 建设开放、平等的民主社会:疫情就像其他大小危机一样,总有过去的时候,年轻选民更关心的是他们和孩子的未来。国会的制衡力量,多元化的思考模式,言论自由的空间,以及并没成为竞选议题的地球暖化等,比起眼前的疫情冲击更重要。

10. 传统媒体与自家网络各放异彩:报章与电视新闻都给予执政党与反对党不偏不倚的新闻追踪,一些网络视频更让读者对候选人的政治观点、生活态度与草根性多一些了解。工人党录制的候选人日常生活视频自然清新,比行动党的创意点子强多了。

就像人们重视女政要或夫人的时尚品味一样,我也八卦一下,观察女候选人连日来的穿着。行动党、前进党、民主党是一贯的党T恤与长裤,工人党的年轻女候选人则多数时候以蓝衫长裙平底黑鞋上阵,造型跟新文化运动的新国民服装有几分神似。一个世纪前的新文化运动促使女性角色朝多元化发展,社会地位开始转变,成为社会进步的重要力量。那个时期中国女生的装扮,亦成为上世纪20年代新加坡的女生校服。工人党的服装是否隐藏着新文化运动的含义或者纯属巧合?柔化的形象是否为竞选加分呢?


工人党女候选人的服装是否带着改变新加坡民主进程的含义或者纯属巧合?

后续事宜


当然还有好些后续事宜将对新加坡往后的政治生态影响深远:

1. 阿裕尼市镇会的官司尚未了结,虽然生米已成熟饭,但上诉庭的最终判决将为市镇会的管理与运作模式设下法律界限。

2. 毕丹星将成为正式反对党领袖,国人会更加关注他和另外11名反对党员(10名反对党议员和两名非选区议员)在国会内外的表现。水可载舟,亦可覆舟的道理,同样可用在工人党身上。

3. 行动党实力雄厚,不乏真心为民服务之士,亦不可能坐以待毙,相信接下来几年会看到另一番改革。如果日后的国会真能落实健全的制衡与合作的政局,那才是国人的福音,符合分水岭选举的意义。

相关链接
5, 5, 5与2011 GE
当年轻离我而去
Orchid evolution
挽歌
武吉巴督补选 Bukit Batok by-election
AHPETC 阿裕尼后港榜鹅东市镇理事会
1989年:新加坡国会代表团访问苏联 (Perestroika)
21st century's parliamentary general elections 2001-2011
怒汉柔情:后港之子刘程强 Low Thia Khiang
化愤怒为行动: 刘程强的黄金时代
城市丰收教会失信案(City Harvest Church)
城市丰收教会失信案的上诉庭最终审理 City Harvest Church
With me, like me 榜鹅东
友爱长存
保留总统选举 Reserved presidential election
陈清木的国会教育委员会建议书(1988年)

Friday, July 10, 2020

一日童军,一世童军!:养正童军公开团

养正学校读书的时候已经舞狮的董惠芳,离开学校40年来,依旧是一名活跃的养正女童军。她语重深长地告诉我:“一日童军,一世童军!”


(养正学校童军醒狮团(1975年)。 图片提供:董惠芳。)

认识董惠芳是因为她知道我写博客,主动联络上我,从中了解到她的家族曾经在死人街(硕莪巷)附属郭文殡仪馆的养病所工作,水车街的矮仔居染衣店就是由她的父亲经营的。这些都是死人街消失的行业


(死人街的郭文养病所。图片来源:互联网。)

我常在一些公开场合见到养正童军的醒狮,这是校友会所舞的狮子,而不是养正学校小学生的狮队,现在的养正学校并没有醒狮团。对于通过校友会维持的舞狮文化,我深感好奇。


(1960年代,养正童军团的醒狮为直落亚逸联络所开幕 。图片提供:黄顺佩。)

董惠芳引荐我认识在养正童军公开团服务大半辈子的黄顺佩(74岁)。黄顺佩在养正学校读书的时候,因为生性好动而学舞狮。升上华义中学后,依旧对养正的狮子一往情深,一个甲子以来都没有中断过,目前继续担任狮团顾问。此外,他也在本地多家体育会与大专院校的醒狮团传授心得。


养正童军醒狮团的成立与坚持


养正学校是1905年由广东人创办的新式学堂,创校时位于现在的珍珠坊的柏路(Park Road),1918年才搬到大门楼(客纳街 Club Street)。

1980年代市区重建计划下,牛车水一带的居民逐渐离开多年来生活的地方,搬迁到各个组屋区去。养正、直落亚逸与伯城三所小学合并,不过无法改变学生人数下降的趋势。1988年,养正学校搬迁到实龙岗,成为一所政府小学。至于原址踏入养正大门,被莘莘学子踩过100万人次的四级石阶在2010年成为新加坡历史古迹。

黄顺佩的口述,让我梳理出养正跟鹤山会馆醒狮团渊源深厚的线路。

养正创校60年后成立的养正童军醒狮团(1965年4月25日),便是由鹤山会馆醒狮团的梁肇富、李权、李当泰等人协助下成立的,不过,养正的舞狮活动早在1950年代便已开始。

养正童军团于1954年由李穆龙和翁肇良创建,三年后翁肇良引入舞狮作为课外活动。


(养正童军团醒狮团于1965年正式成立。图片提供:黄顺佩。)

1966年新加坡独立后第一届国庆庆典在大草场举行,正式成立一年的养正童军醒狮团派出十头醒狮参与庆生,可见当时养正学校人丁旺盛,舞狮深入民间。狮头的制作费昂贵,这十头醒狮都是梁肇富号召一群人集体报效的。


(参与新加坡独立第一届国庆庆典(1966年)的养正童军醒狮团。图片提供:黄顺佩。)

1980年,鹤山会馆的李文忠在养正教导狮艺,进一步将鹤山狮的舞法形态传授给养正校友。

1988年养正学校搬迁后,校董将原址出售,成立养正基金。醒狮团的校友则在阿里哇艺术中心(Aliwal Art Centre)租下单位,还成立北狮团和练习舞龙呢!

如今,养正童军公开团的醒狮团依然参与许多社会活动,是少数活跃的校友会醒狮团。


两大特色


跟一般狮团相比,养正童军公开团有两大特色:

(一)虽然女生力气较小,舞动狮头、支撑队友等都是挑战,但巾帼不让须眉,养正有三支女子醒狮队。

(二)坚持“养正文化”,团员不抽烟、不刺青、不当“金毛狮王”(将头发染成金黄色)。

发扬本地的舞狮文化离不开本地人,附属于会馆与庙宇的狮团可以跟会馆庙宇的运作互补,一些没有“后台”的联谊狮团如养正童军公开团,则通过到学校董事家采青贺岁来资助活动。团员多数是养正小学的校友,大家聚在一起,义务培训母校的学弟学妹。

重新咀嚼董惠芳 “一日童军,一世童军!”那句话,兴起一丝丝感动。


(校友使用破旧的狮头学习舞狮,左一为指导狮艺的黄顺佩。图片提供:黄顺佩。)

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Friday, July 03, 2020

陈清木的国会教育委员会建议书(1988年)

“乡村医生”


陈清木医生于2006年离开政坛多年后,去年成立新加坡前进党(Progress Singapore Party),参与来临的2020年全国大选。

80岁的耄耋长老重出江湖,乡音无改鬓毛衰,使我想起40年前,年方壮年的陈清木踏入政坛的情景,多年来以他谦卑的童年背景与不畏强势的作风,在阿逸拉惹区(Ayer Rajah)所向披靡,在国会中多次跟部长针锋相对亦毫不逊色

陈清木为平民百姓所争取到的利益,其中对我个人影响深远的是放宽公积金用途,让会员可以选择使用公积金来支付自己或孩子的大专教育学费。那时候我已工作数年,回到校园进修,经济日趋拮据。此新法令如及时雨,让我向自己的公积金户口贷款支付大学学费,生活可以过得自在些。

记得林厝港村民谈起对陈清木的印象,原来早在 1971年,30岁出头的陈清木已经在亚妈宫村开设医务所,当个“乡村医生”,乡民甚至以蔬菜和农产品来付账。陈清木形容那是他一生最美好的时光。


1988年:公积金与大专教育“挂钩”所带来的激辩


关于陈清木领导的国会教育委员会,将公积金与大专教育“挂钩”,我重新翻阅了1988年与1989年的国会记录,激烈的辩论场面重新浮现,重要的交锋过程摘录如下。

1988年3月中,国会教育委员会提出建议,公积金会员可从户口贷款,为自己或子女支付大专教育费。

3月29日,国会辩论劳工部财政预算。关于陈清木的建议,最强烈的“反对声音”来自国会劳工委员会主席林文兴和劳工部长李玉全。林文兴以国会劳工委员会主席的身份发言,认为陈清木的建议书走的是民粹路线,甚至连国会劳工委员会的委员都受到影响而产生分歧。

林文兴不认同将公积金用在教育上是正确的做法,他提醒议员们别受到民粹主导,而是应该有个人的见解和立场,毕竟民众的诉求未必是正确的。

林文兴表示陈清木的建议将打开潘多拉盒子,如果国会接受放宽公积金来支付大专教育的学费,那政府以什么理由来阻止低收入人士的要求,动用公积金来支付中学与小学教育?这些基本教育不是更重要吗?接见选民时,有些低收入的民众已经要求使用他们的公积金来偿还屋租和水电费,我们如何向他们解释,允许少数高收入人士使用公积金来缴付大专学费,但不允许穷人用它来应付日常生活?

他认为更实际的做法是鼓励年轻父母未雨绸缪,趁早规划孩子的教育费,或者为孩子购买教育保单。他们也可以考虑贷款。社会上有许多借贷的渠道,他不认为父母供孩子读大学会有困难。如果陈清木不以为然,明年此时可以回到国会重新讨论。

黄贵祥(经禧区议员)虽然也是国会劳工委员会的成员,但不赞同林文兴的看法。他举出公积金的使用范围已经从原来的养老扩大,可以用来买屋子和居家保险,投资私人产业、股票与黄金,支付自己与亲人的住院费,那为何不能用它来支付教育费呢?教育是为未来投资,中小学教育的费用不高,多数新加坡人能够应付,但大专教育不一样,大学文科的学费每年$2,000,理科$2,400,医科$3,900,对每月收入少过$1,500的家庭来说,这是沉重的负担。根据1985年的公积金局常年报告,新加坡有超过80%公积金会员薪水少过$1,500,这些会员的孩子将会从此建议获益。

简丽中(尚育区)认为投资教育就是投资人力资源而不是消费,因此不认同林文兴的论点。她认为时代改变了,当今的社会,“教育”指的是大学文凭而不是上中小学。简丽中坦言她曾顾虑到,用公积金来支付大专教育是否会影响到养老的本意,最后她认为应该“还政于民”,让会员自己决定是否投资在孩子的教育上。

陈清木为国会教育委员会的建议辩护,称自己并没有如林文兴所说的打开潘多拉盒子,打开盒子的是劳工部长,是他允许公积金作多方面用途。

使用公积金来支付教育费是个情感问题,因为它牵动许多人的情绪。对许多国人来说,教育是改善未来的希望。教育委员会知道公积金制度的原意是为了养老,现在国人的年纪渐大,养老的用途也越来越显而易见。但是,我们的大专教育费越来越高,去年教育部长才公布提高大学与理工学院的学费。银行贷款并不吸引人,因为偿还的利率比公积金高,更重要的,教育贷款跟亚洲价值观不符。

陈清木也反驳关于顺应民粹的指责。从1980年到1987年间,多名国会议员和基层组织已经提出问题,只是没获得正视。劳工部担心公积金被滥用,孩子不归还父母的公积金,不过这些风险都是可以通过政策来降低的。教育委员会的建议不过是给公积金会员多个选择,将自己的钱用在教育,或是投资股票与黄金。

陈清木回溯独立以来,新加坡将教育列为优先任务之一,家长也十分重视孩子的教育。今天,家长对孩子的教育要求已经不是剑桥O或A水准,而是理工学院或大学文凭。长远来说,将钱放在大专教育总好过股市。如果孩子读完书后不归还父母的公积金借贷,那就让他们自己面对良心的指责好了。劳工部长不需要马上给国会答案,可以慢慢研究,再回到国会宣布决定。

劳工部长李玉全发言,他看到国会的看法并不一致,因此希望国会议员能听他解释公积金制度。我们不能忽略公积金的原意就是存款养老,除了一些公务员之外,新加坡人都没有退休金,因此放宽公积金的用途必须十分小心。政策影响长远,现在的老人可以依靠他们的孩子,将来的老人必须依赖自己的积蓄。

多年来,公积金制度修改过几回,最重要的是让会员动用公积金买屋子。屋子是新加坡人最重要的资产,年老时他们可以卖掉屋子,大屋换小屋。推出住屋保险是为了保护他们的房产。人的年纪大时,保健户口可让他们应付住院开销。

李玉全强调,公积金制度是为了多数非高薪会员养老而设的:第一,会员可以根据自己的入息来购买适合的房子,对多数人来说就是政府组屋;第二,保健;第三,退休后有些现钱可花,大概是退休前薪金的三分之一。对多数会员而言,公积金刚好足够应付房贷、保健和退休后的生活,他们没有多余的闲钱,所以基本考量是不要消耗他们的公积金存款。

李玉全指出,1986年政府推出公积金最低存款制,3万元以上的存款可以用来投资其他产业、股票和黄金。这并非设立公积金的原意,但让一些自认可以增加回报率的会员去投资。教育不一样,并没有投资回报。教育委员会的提议其实就是向公积金贷款,让家长借钱给孩子读书。这是全新的原则,最主要的考量是如何确保钱会回到会员的户口。万一孩子不归还贷款该怎么办?议员们必须了解,孩子读完大学时,公积金会员已经55岁,需要这笔钱生活。美国的教育贷款制度崩溃,成千上万的学生不偿还贷款,今年的坏账约16亿美元,占总贷款额的16%。

李玉全身为劳工部长,责任是确保公积金会员有钱养老。既然有些议员这么坚持,他准备认真地考虑。

陈清木澄清教育委员会并没有建议新的公积金制度,只是让会员在购买股票与黄金之外多一个选项,是否要将钱放在教育。他也提醒劳工部长,1985年的时候劳工部长已经说过会仔细考虑议员的建议,现在已经是1988年了,他还在考虑,时间是否太长了?


1989年:公积金可用来支付本地大专教育学费


转眼间一年过去了。

1989年3月28日,又是国会辩论劳工部财政预算的时候了。劳工部长李玉全已于一天前宣布放宽公积金用途,可用来支付自己或孩子的本地大专教育学费。

林文兴坚持设立公积金的初衷是为了养老,如今让会员提早动用公积金来周转,将带出新的问题:会员是否有足够的金钱退休?劳工部长宣布可以使用公积金作为本地大专教育用途,是后座议员集体施压下的结果,这是“被误导的同情心” (misguided compassionate crusade)。

林文兴说去年他认为这个做法将掀开潘多拉盒子,如今他还是不赞同政府向公众舆论低头的做法。现在已经有更多的要求出现了,其中一个顺理成章的提议是动用公积金来支付外国留学的费用。今天的海峡时报已经有记者提出此看法了,一些国会同僚昨晚接见选民时,也已经有人提问了。他希望劳工部长能够坚持己见,不再受他人左右。

陈清木提醒林文兴,去年此时,国会教育委员会提出建议,经过艰苦的交涉后,劳工部长才答应接纳。最后的结果是劳工部决定的,国会教育委员会并没有跟进,没有影响部长的决定。


多年以后


多年以后回眸,当年我毕业后,花约两年的时间将贷款连本带利填补回自己的公积金户口。孩子不归还父母的公积金的个例应该不多,否则该条例早就修改了。

以此“陈清木个案”为例,代表劳工部立场的李玉全和林文兴,所看到的是累积公积金来养老,即使是放松政策,让会员购买产业,投资股票与黄金,前提是现金回报。代表民间发言的陈清木和其他国会议员,所看到的是父母之心与百年树人的“软回报”,站在箱子外面,观望的角度不同,得出的结论自然不一样。双方都振振有词,只是到头来谁的观点更合理,当权者是否愿意让步。

我始终相信从政的初衷是为了改善人民的生活,国会因为有不同出身,不同声音,有责任感的国会议员而变得多元,政策经过不同角度的审视与辩论而变得有弹性和人情味。当然扮演此角色的人,必须脸皮够厚,敢于据理力争,凭良知做事。近年来的国会,像昔日的陈清木这样用头脑和论据来推动边界的白衣后座议员,总觉得寥寥可数。


参考资料
1. 国会会议记录1988年3月29日 https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic?reportid=009_19880329_S0002_T0003 accessed 2 July 2020.
2. 国会会议记录1989年3月28日 https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic?reportid=013_19890328_S0003_T0004 accessed 2 July 2020.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

化愤怒为行动: 刘程强的黄金时代

没有刘程强的国会


今天是2020年6月30日,新加坡2020年全国大选提名日。

6月25日,工人党秘书长毕丹星在记者会上宣布,刘程强、方荣发与陈硕茂不会参加本届大选(2020年7月10日投票)。

工人党前秘书长刘程强接受媒体访问,表示完成党内领导团队更新,并且攻下一个集选区。他已完成设下的两个目标,可以功成身退了。参政没有所谓的完美成绩,只能说自己尽力而为,问心无愧地付出了。

(2015年勿洛体育场的群众大会:因新冠疫情的影响,这样的画面今年不会重来。话说回来,这样的激情是否真的换来相应的选票?投票是神圣的,投票是秘密的,只有自己知道。)


化愤怒为行动的潮州人


63岁的刘程强于1991年由后港居民送入国会,29年的付出已经超过詹时中,成为国会里任期最长的反对党员。“潮州怒汉”敢怒敢言,而且言之有理,难以驳斥,虽然在国会里势力单薄,无法动员政府资源做事,但已经跟詹时中一样,赢得许多尊重。

刘程强效应固然不可忽略,但可能局限于上了年纪的人,年轻选民可能更关注的是言论自由、气候变化的冲击等。两年前,刘程强将秘书长职位交给毕丹星后,已经自动退居幕后,毕丹星的表现也越来越成熟,甚至可以开玩笑说原来自己的中文名听起来像是“不担心”

刘程强相信政党是个集体,必须建立体系,而不能长期依赖个人的魅力。我也相信人的魅力光环会减退,也不可能长期只手遮天,无论执政党、反对党、公司或社团,都避不开此定律。


后港的经历


去年有关阿裕尼市镇理事会财务管理事件在高庭审理,刘程强的宣誓书叙述初次当选(1991年),接管后港市镇会的辛酸史当工人党当选阿裕尼集选区议员后(2011年),临时作出的许多决定,都跟当年后港的经验有关。

刘程强指出,后港的经历是这样的:8月31日当选,一个月后,建屋局通知将于年底终止市镇会的管理代理服务,并收回原来的办公室。他必须在剩余的三个月内招募新职员,安排他们接受培训,以及兴建新的办公室。幸亏有一群人乐意帮忙,才在短时间内克服难关。

接管阿裕尼集选区后,初期的电脑系统与管理程序所引起的财务损失,成为阿裕尼市镇理事会控告该理事会管理层的导火线。


黄金年华


在新加坡建立有实力的反对党不容易,吸引优秀、意志相投的人士是项艰难的挑战。刘程强因为对中文政策与教育制度的不满而从政,奉献人生宝贵的青春。60多岁的人,应该是回复平民生活,度过黄金岁月的时候。

刘程强已经做了很多,新加坡应该以有他这样的斗士,不眷恋权势的华校生引以为豪。

刘程强对民主政治的进程所付出的精力与勇气,值得许多掌声。

萧红的《黄金时代》:“我不能选择怎么生,怎么死,但我能决定怎么爱,怎么活。这是我的自由,我的黄金时代。”

感谢刘程强为新加坡的民主进程,奉献个人宝贵的黄金时代。


(培道中学学生跟老师合照。穿便装的老师为国会任期最长的工人党前议员刘程强。图片来源:Stella。)

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Friday, June 26, 2020

A century of Singapore intangible heritage: The origin of local lion dance and development

This article is published in the heritage book鹤山狮 风雨兼程硕果百年 Lion dance: A century of Singapore intangible heritage, Publisher: Singapore Hok San Association, December 2019. A publication supported by National Heritage Board, Singapore.

During Chinese New Year, many places in Singapore are immersed in thunderous lion dance performances. A key part is “plucking the green” (采青), i.e. getting the treasures from the mouth of a lion at the end of the performance to symbolise good fortune. 

Indeed, there are many Southern lion dance troupes local and abroad such as Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and Canada. Their basic forms are similar. Although Vietnam has its own version of performance, those local Chinese still engage in traditional Southern lion dance. [1]

Yi Yi Tang Lion Dance Troupe


According to sources from Hok San Association, the Yi Yi Tang stele stated that during Qingming and Chongyang festivals, the Singapore Heshan clansmen would perform lion dance at the ancestor tombs to symbolise brotherhood and loyalty. [2]

The stele made reference to another document from “Tongyi She” (同义社) dated Guangxu 14 year, i.e. year 1888. It may be deduced that Heshan lion dance had been brought to Singapore back then.

For “Tongyi She”, this association was established during Qing dynasty. In 1924, the association founded Tongyi School at today’s Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City. It formally registered as Hok San Community Guild at Cholon in 1943.[3]

Hong Kong Street near Singapore River was where the early Cantonese immigrants set up their businesses to trade with China and Hong Kong. In the early 20th century, some coolies from Heshan (鹤山) prefecture of Guangdong province, China, congregated around Hong Kong Street to practice lion dance and martial arts.  This led to the establishment of Yi Yi Tang Lion Dance Troupe. The lion was invited to perform at Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng (广惠肇碧山亭), the Cantonese cemetery, during Qingming and Chongyang festivals as a form of ancestor worship. [4]

The lion dance troupe "Yi Yi Tang Lion Dance Troupe" was formed in 1920. It evolved into the forming of Singapore Hok San Association (鹤山会馆) in 1939. The lion dance troupe was subsumed under the Association. [5] 

(Hong Kong Street near Singapore River was where the early Cantonese immigrants set up their businesses to trade with China and Hong Kong.)

Yi Yi Tang Lion Dance Troupe is recognised as the first lion dance troupe in Singapore. In 1939, the second official lion dance troupe, the Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆) Lion Dance Troupe, was established. Hok San Association and Kong Chow Wui Koon are formed by Cantonese clansmen. Historically, Hok San (Heshan) was part of Kong Chow (Gangzhou) but separated as a new prefecture during Qing Dynasty.

After the Japanese occupation period, other lion dance troupes, regardless of dialects, were officially formed. The lion dance troupes help members of the group to build coherent teamwork and improve bonding among each other. 

Having said that, in 1951 when Singapore was conferred city status and held a celebration parade, only 6 lion dance troupes participated of which Hok San Association was one of them. [6]

Apparently, lion dance also attracted English newspaper reporters. For example The Singapore Free Press described that “a lion ran loose in the Happy World stadium. To the background music of a Chinese brass band, the lion danced fiercely and attacked an old priest. This was one of the many scenes in a lion dance display staged by the Singapore Nanyang Hok San Association last night in aid of the Singapore Anti-tuberculosis Association. [7]

In its heyday, The Hok San lion was invited to perform in front of the local TV audience. In 1968, the Hok San lion recorded the 45 minute stage drama “Hero and lion” in the studio of the Radio and Television Singapura (today’s Mediacorp) . 

(The hero of the stage drama “Hero and lion” performed in the studio of the Radio and Television Singapura.)

Tracing the legacy of lion dance


The lion dance is a pugilistic performance dating back to more than 1,500 years. During the Southern Song Dynasty about 1,000 years ago, the lion dance was known as the Northern Lion and commonly performed in festivals. The Southern Lion was developed much later in the Guangdong province. [8]

Singapore’s lion dance was originated from Southern provinces of China, in particular Foshan and Heshan. 

The Foshan lion has a high forehead, curved lips and a very sharp horn. The main traits of the Foshan lion dance are its attention to making larger strides in movement and strength in posture. 

Heshan lion is known for its richness of expression, unique footwork modelled after the cats and vigorous drumming style. The forehead of the lion head is lower. Its horn rounded and has a duck beak mouth with flat lips. The body of the lion is also explicitly more colourful. [9]

Distinguishing the various lions


Southern Lion also called Nanshi (南狮) and Xingshi (醒狮). The word 醒(xing)carries the meaning of awakened and is deemed auspicious. [10] Heavy eyebrows, bulging eyes, big nose, big mouth and single horn are the common characteristics of Southern Lion. 

The lion heads have two unique features based on shape and colour.  

For shape, the lion heads can be divided into the Foshan lion (佛山獅) and the Heshan lion (鹤山獅). 

For colour, the lion heads are distinguished by yellow (刘备, Liubei), red (关羽, Guanyu), black (张飞, Zhangfei). In the recent years, we have seen blue-white (马超, Machao) and green (赵云, Zhaoyun). They are based on the classic literary text Romance of Three Kingdoms (三国演义).  The values of brotherhood and loyalty are thus embedded into the lions. 

(Some of the lion heads displayed in Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre.)

‘Dotting the eyes’ (点睛) of the lion is a vital process as it symbolises giving life to the lion before it can perform. A person of significant social standing would usually be invited to dot the lion eyes to signify bright and clear vision. [11]

Chin Woo Athletic Association (精武体育会)formed the Northern Lion Dance Troupe in 1947. The Northern Lion is also called Beishi (北狮) which resemble closely to stone lions that stand in front of Chinese temples or traditional Chinese buildings. However, the Northern lion is less popular in Singapore and probably only confined to Chin Woo Athletic Association. [12]

An open area named “精武体育会操场” next to Pinnacle on Neil Road was belonged to Chin Woo Athletic Association. The Chin Woo lion dance troupes used to practice there between 1940s and 1970s. 

(The Chin Woo lion dance troupes used to practice at the open field next to today’s Pinnacle on Neil Road.)

Lion dance performance process


Lion dance performances are accompanied by drums, gongs and cymbals. Normally a performance group consists of about 8 to 10 people: 2 of them are lion dance performers. The accompanying percussive instrument players consist of 6 to 8 people.

Every movement of the lion has a specific musical rhythm. The music follows the moves of the lion. The drum follows the lion, and the cymbals and the gongs follow the drum. Throughout the performance, the lion will, based on the study of actual lion’s behaviour, mimic the moods and physical gestures which combine art and kungfu moves. 

The lion is played by two persons dressed in the lion costume. The Shitou (狮头, front performer) assumes the front body and controls the lion’s head, eye lids, ears and the mouth. The Shiwei (狮尾,back performer) arches forward to form the back of the lion and controls its tail.

The lion dance will begin when the percussive instruments are struck. The lion will enter the centre of the stage with strong rhythm and greet the audience, or ancestor or gods on altar (if playing at temple or within clan premises) with three bows. 

The performance usually takes about 15 minutes. Obstacles are laid by the party that has invited the lion dance troupe to perform. The lion has to compel to overcome these obstacles to finally acquire the “treasures”. 

In the process, the lion will perform eight movements - drunkenness, sleep, wakefulness, suspicion, anger, fright, happiness and merrymaking. Each movement is expressed by a different rhythm. 

The lion dance performance will end with three bows to the audience or the altar.

Plucking the green


 “Plucking the green” is a special lion dance routine performed on joyous occasions like Chinese New Year, new business launch and mid-Autumn festival. 

(The Hok San lion performing plucking the green during Chinese New Year.) 

Normally after the eight movements, the lion would pluck the green vegetable, swallow and throw them out. 

When performing during Chinese New Year in recent years, the lion would perform additional tasks such as peel open the oranges and leave a display of orange petals for audience to decipher for lucky 4D numbers. 

In the past, some customers would arrange for the lion to peel open a pomelo, pick up crabs, snakes or fish from a bowl. [13] Some secret societies would lay special array to test the lions.

Lion dance troupes usually have their main source of income in the form of red packets during “plucking the green”. Other incomes are commonly come from invited performances. The actual amounts are agreed beforehand with the customers. Some troupes are able to generate about $30,000 to $40,000 during Chinese New Year period. This amount is enough to cover rental, utility bills and travel expenses for that year. [14]

The origin of plucking the green can be traced back to the anti-Qing movement (反清). The phonetic similarity between “plucking the green” (采青) and “trampling the Qing” (踩清) were used to belittle the Qing government. Likewise, “swallowing the green” (吞青) signifies “overthrowing the Qing Dynasty” (吞清), and the routine of “throwing out the green” (吐青) is for “dissolving the Qing government”(吐清). 

As lion dance passes down over the generations, other elements such as fortune, wealth and prosperity were included in the plucking green themes, leading to the rich traditional culture today. [15]

People involved in lion dance in Singapore today


There are about 300 lion dance troupes registered as affiliated members with the Singapore Wushu Dragon & Lion Dance Federation but not all are active. [16]

It is estimated that there are about 10,000 people involved in lion dance. [17] Nevertheless, some of the performers are representing multiple lion dance troupes and not all are active. 

The lion dance circle in Singapore is closely-knitted and with strong networks between troupes. Troupes usually help each other out when there are manpower shortages. For example, the members of Stamford Dragon Lion Arts and Cultural Troupe (史丹福龙狮文化艺术团) are mainly students or national service personnel. Because of their other commitments, when come to important performances, the troupe would combine with another lion dance troupe to complement each other. The average age for the troupe has also been raised from 25 years old several years ago to 30. [18] This is typical among the lion dance troupes in Singapore.

New Southern lion dance troupes were formed from time to time. For example, Xinyang Athletic Association which formed in 2007 was started out as members of Nanyang Junior College Pugilistics Society and then Nanyang Junior College Alumni Dragon and Lion Dance Troupe. [19] Kuan San Tang Dragon and Lion Dance Troupe were set up in 1991 by more than ten teenagers who had great passion for this performance arts. [20] Lion dance is growing strongly as compared to before and immediately after the Japanese occupation period where there were only three officially registered lion dance troupes in Singapore: Hok San Association, Kong Chow Wui Koon, and Chin Woo Athletic Association. 

As physical strength and endurance are quite demanding for lion dance, the active practitioners are mainly in the range of 18 to 60 years old. The older ones would usually assume coaching role.

Learning to perform lion dance


Lion dance performances are usually coached by masters who have acquired sufficient skill, experience and knowledge through years of practice. The masters are assisted by their senior disciples. The learners are generally students, national servicemen and young male and female adults who have strong interest in lion dance and martial arts.

Performing lion dance requires physical ability and kungfu skill. It is pertinent for the practitioners to have already learned martial arts.

Lion dance practices usually carried out at the troupe vicinity, once a week at night during weekends so that they would not conflict with school and work. The frequency would increase before important performances and competitions. 

(Hok San lion dance training on Sunday.)

During normal training sessions, members get to learn about musical instruments, lion movement and coordination between music and movement. [21] They may choose their specialty after acquiring the basic skills. 

The hierarchy for the lion dance troupes is simple. Typically, the lion dance master is the leader sits at the top of the hierarchy. Under the master, there are seniors, juniors and those who are playing drums and gongs. 

If the troupe belongs to an organisation such as clan association or temple, the troupe will have to report to the higher echelon, i.e. the board of directors of the organisation. 

The evolution of lion dance performances


Lion dance performers are from different Chinese ethnicities with some performers from other races. Hok San Association and Kong Chow Wui Koon attracted Indians in age 20s to join their lion dance troupes. JingYang Lion Dance Troupe attracted Malays in their 20s.

Lion dance techniques are increasingly pushing the boundaries of height through high poles and freeform style. By pushing the boundaries, lion dance appears to become more attractive to the youth and has spread to China and Vietnam. In 2007, Malaysia government announced high pole lion dance as national heritage which attracted other races into this special form of martial arts. Currently, Malaysia is preparing to apply for UNESCO intangible heritage. [22]

However, local traditional lion dance troupes prefer to hold on to the inherent values embedded in the dance and would not move along the direction of acrobatic lion dance which is deemed as high risk and may cause severe injury.

The traditional lion dance routine had props and sets which was based on cave and crossings. These props and sets became mountains and gigantic bridges. In recent years, lion dance training has begun to incorporate video technology to complement the traditional method of demonstration and verbal dictation. The lion dance troupes also leverage on social media, websites, blogs and Facebook to broadcast their activities.

Other challenges


The situation of insufficient lion troupe members to meet the Chinese New Year demand was apparent in the last few years but this should be deemed as a happy problem. In 2015, only 194 out of about 300 lion troupes applied for plucking the green license due to manpower shortages. This was a drop of about 5% as compared to the previous years. [23]  Nam Sieng Dragon and Lion Dance Activity Centre invited lion dance performers from Vietnam to help out but they were stopped from entering Singapore by the immigrant custom at Changi Airport due to Ministry of Manpower’s policy. [24] 

Some Singaporeans have perception that lion dance troupes are linked with secret society. At least one of the troupes (Ding Sheng Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe as reported in newspaper) was battling with this concern. This is probably due to some lion dance performers resembled with “Ah Beng” style and with tattoos on their bodies. For those lion dance troupes which are affected by “tattoos image”, the performers are advised to put on arm sleeves. The masters also serve the role of educating their disciples. [25] Although this may impact on the general image of the lion dance troupes, there is no adverse trend affecting the development of local lion dance for now. 

References

1. 2013年越南胡志明市第五郡华人舞狮表演,You tube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21AvqNDSmZU, accessed 11 January 2017.

2. 《新加坡鹤山会馆二零零六年纪念特刊》,新加坡鹤山会馆出版,p. 47.

3. “旅越鹤山同乡会概况”,《新加坡鹤山同乡会十周年纪念特刊》,新加坡南洋鹤山同乡会,31 December 1949,p.31。

4. 《新加坡鹤山会馆二零零六年纪念特刊》,新加坡鹤山会馆出版,p. 47.

5. 霍炳权主编,《新加坡鹤山会馆二零一五年纪念特刊》,新加坡鹤山会馆出版,pp. 25-27.

6. “一舞龙队六舞狮队花车二百余架”,《南洋商报》19 September 1951, p.5.

7. The Singapore Free Press, 3 October 1951, p.8.

8. “Lion dance”, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_dance,accessed 5 January 2017.

9. “Southern lion classification”, Singapore Wushu Dragon & Lion Dance Federation, http://www.wuzong.com/en/wushi_nanshixingte.php, accessed 5 January 2017.

10. Mo Cuiyu, The Cantonese lion head: the process of making a lion head in Guangzhou. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5071629, p. 25.

11. “Lion Dance”, Singapore Infopedia: an electronic encyclopaedia on Singapore’s history, culture, people and events, http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_57_2004-12-27.html , accessed 11 January 2017.

12. 关于新加坡精武体育会, http://www.sgchinwoo.com/Home, accessed 7 January 2017.

13. “Lion Dance”, Singapore Infopedia: an electronic encyclopaedia on Singapore’s history, culture, people and events, http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_57_2004-12-27.html,  accessed 11 January 2017.

14. Fabian Koh, “Roaring interest in lion dance”, Straits Times 20 November 2016, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/roaring-interest-in-lion-dance, accessed 7 January 2017.

15. “Lion & Dragon Dance Curriculum”, http://www.kongchow.org/index.php/en/dragon-dance,  assessed 22 April 2019.

16. 会员名单,Singapore Wushu Dragon & Lion Dance Federation, http://www.wuzong.com/affiliates_list.php, accessed 7 January 2017.

17. Fabian Koh, “Roaring interest in lion dance”, Straits Times 20 November 2016, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/roaring-interest-in-lion-dance, accessed 7 January 2017.

18. 薛淑慧,“年初四开工大吉:采青预约大增 应接不暇”,http://www.channel8news.sg/news8/singapore/20160211-sg-lion-dance/2507030.html 11 February 2016, accessed 10 January 2017.

19. About Xinyang & Yongyang Athletic Association, http://www.xinyang.com.sg/aboutxinyang,  accessed 7 January 2017.

20. About Team KST, http://www.teamkst.sg/, accessed 7 January 2017.

21. Fabian Koh, “Roaring interest in lion dance”, Straits Times 20 November 2016, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/roaring-interest-in-lion-dance, accessed 7 January 2017.

22. “大马高桩舞狮申世遗 张盛闻促响应百万签名活动”,星洲日报 2017年10月10日,http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1689995, accessed 26 April 2019.

23. “农历新年醒狮团员人数不足 采青工作减少”, 狮城6点半 2 February 2015,8频道http://www.channel8news.sg/news8/ca/newsbulletin/episodes/20150222-news-630/1672976.html, accessed 12 January 2017.

24. 李蕙心,“人力部拒发特别准证: 培养本地采青人员 舞狮团不能找外援”, 《联合早报》 20 January 2016.

25. Fabian Koh, “Roaring interest in lion dance”, Straits Times 20 November 2016, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/roaring-interest-in-lion-dance, accessed 7 January 2017.