I am forwarding you an email I sent to the incumbent MP for Moulmein, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, and his subsequent reply. (They are reversed in order below). I have only deleted my name/addresses and Mr Lui's address for the sake of privacy in the event that you may wish to forward this to your own friends. I trust you will not use this email to "flame" (hope I used the term correctly), but instead to educate and perhaps generate informed discussion.
I am sending my friends this because I feel that it is important that you hear what happened to me personally, and how Mr Lui reacted to me during what I thought was a simple, agreeable conversation. Those of you who know me well know that I do not go around deliberately antagonising people or creating trouble of any kind. So the flow of the conversation that took place left me shocked, and I must admit, sad. Mr Lui explains his "disengagement" in his reply attached below. I will leave you to read the whole story and the two emails and then come to your own conclusions.
First, the background to this whole incident.
I have been a resident of Moulmein my whole life, and not once have I ever had the chance or privilege to vote. So you can imagine how excited I was when I realised that there may be a strong possibility that Moulmein would be contested this time round. Prior to Mr Lui being the walkover MP, our MP was Mr Khaw Boon Wan. If Mr Khaw had still been our MP, I would most likely have voted for him as Mr Khaw had made his presence felt strongly in Moulmein, even at a social level, and it had always been a very reassuring presence. Mr Lui, on the other hand, has not had much of a presence.
So, on a recent walkabout in Moulmein, I happened to have what I thought at the time, was the privilege, to meet Mr Lui and get to know him better. He started off very friendly and handed me the Moulmein newsletter. He asked how long I'd been living here, and I let him know that I have been in Moulmein my whole life, and that this was the first time I may get a chance to vote. His immediate reaction was, "Yes, blame the Opposition! I don't know what they ..." and he went on to say something more which I couldn't hear because my brain was trying to process the fact that he had actually openly said, "Blame the Opposition" in a serious tone, laced with annoyance. He might have sensed my confusion (I'm guessing here). I then changed topic and pointed out to him that I had felt Mr Khaw's presence much more than his, and I requested for him to let me hear some of what he had done for Moulmein.
He told me to refer to the newsletter. I then said that I really wanted to hear from him, and not read what other people (ie his grassroots team) had created. He immediately started listing all the playgrounds they had done up (there was always the word "We") and spoke about a unique-to-Moulmein schools programme, which I liked very much. I interrupted him a few times to clarify a few things he had said.
I next asked him to let me know why I should vote for him. (I'm serious about voting, and I have thought this through so carefully. I told myself that no matter what, it was my duty to try and understand each candidate and approach them one-to-one before I cast my vote. And it was, and still is, my resolve to ask each candidate this question - why I should vote for them.)
I'm now going to recount the dialogue word-for-word as it is still clearly playing itself over and over in my head:
Me: Could you please tell me why I should vote for you?
Mr Lui: You should NOT vote for the Opposition because they ...
Me: The Opposition? No, I want to know about you. Please tell me why I should vote for you.
Mr Lui: You should vote for the PAP because we ....
Me: The PAP? No, no. I'm not interested in the PAP or the Opposition. I'm interested to know about you. Why should I vote for you?
At this point, Mr Lui shot me a look of pure anger, waved his hand about in the air, declaring, "We could spend all night talking about me!", pointed to the newsletter and snapped, "It's all in the the newsletter!" He then swung round and stormed off.
I remember standing there, in total shock, wondering what on earth I had done wrong to deserve such an intense reaction. I watched as he couldn't get beyond two or three steps as he was stopped by someone else wanting to meet him. I watched as he switched on his smile, said a few polite words, thrust the newsletter into her hand and disappeared, still angered. (Those who know me well, know I did my MA in nonverbal language, and know how accurate I am with "vibes".) I watched as his posse scurried after him, not one of them daring and/or caring to turn to look at me or say goodbye, not one of them.
I had asked a simple question. I was not expecting rocket science for an answer or any deep psychological profile to be shared. Just a simple answer from the heart would have sufficed, or even a more measured response. But not anger, never in a million years would I have thought anyone would have, or could have, responded to my simple question with anger.
And I feel sad.
Sad that after all these years, what people have been saying has finally been proven true to my face, literally.
I then turned to the Moulmein newsletter, ploughed through it in the hope that perhaps there was a lot about Mr Lui in the newsletter. No, there wasn't. Not a thing. Instead, I was left very impressed with the Moulmein Citizens Consultative Committee, the various Neighbourhood Committees and the Residents' Committees - all of which I am sure will not disappear if there is a change in leadership.
So I sat down, and penned an email, which I have since sent, to Mr Lui. I chose to be polite and measured in the email, and not angry nor accusatory because to be angry would have been to stoop to Mr Lui's response towards me, and that would not do anyone any good. If he's going to continue as Minister (and it does look like he's on the PAP fast-track if he's voted back in), then really, he needs to hear, he needs to understand, he needs to be educated. And he needs to learn how to answer simple, non-threatening questions!
It's such an irony that prior to the dissolution of Parliament, he was the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.
You'll find the email below, and Mr Lui's response (in reverse order), which I just received a short while ago.
If you should choose to share my experience with any of your friends who need or would wish to read this, I request that you not include my email address and name.
Love and hugs everyone.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tuck Yew LUI (MICA)
Date: 22 April 2011 16:53
Subject: Re: Moulmein Walkabout
Dear - ,
i am sure this may not apply to you given that you have now taken the trouble to write this note but unfortunately I encounter some people whose minds are made up and whose main intent seem to be to slow us down in our outreach. And nothing, we say, no explanation we give whether to do with cost of living, etc will ever be good enough.
The pragmatic way to deal with this is simply to disengage at an opportune moment.
Dont worry, it didnt leave a sour note with me nor a poor impression of you.
Lui Tuck Yew
Sent from my iPad
On Apr 21, 2011, at 10:18 PM, "-" wrote:
> Dear Mr Lui,
> We met briefly at the walkabout at xxxxxxxxxx last evening. Unfortunately, I seem to have upset and angered you which was not my intention at all.
> If I appeared rude or aggressive in any way, then I apologise. I don't usually take too well to answers that are off-tangent, they tend to confuse me, and I always re-direct answers back to my original question which often means that I can appear too direct or clinical and therefore somewhat aggressive. As a teacher by training, I have always emphasised the importance and merits of listening carefully and answering to the point questions that are addressed to my students.
> I hope you understand that this is the first time in my life as a Singaporean I may be asked to vote. I take that responsibility very, VERY seriously, weighing all factors involved. Each political party has its own aims and objectives and track record (or none where some of the opposition are concerned) all of which I am very well aware of. The ONE thing which is not clear, and which is difficult to determine, is the individual politician - the person who will represent me in my constituency. It is this individual politician that I am genuinely interested to know. I need to know and understand what this individual can bring to the table.
> That is why I was so keen for you to convince me why I should vote for you. Not why I should not vote for the opposition. Not why I should vote PAP. But why I should vote for you. I was genuinely interested to hear your answers. Instead, not only did I not get direct a reply from you, I caused you to turn away in anger. Maybe it was the end of a very long day for you, maybe my tone and questions threw you off-centre. Either way, it left a sour note behind, I believe, for both of us.
> Right after you left, I immediately sat down to read the Moulmein newsletter cover to cover (the bits in English) exactly as you suggested I should do to find out more about you. Unfortunately, it doesn't shed any light on your as an individual or as the leader of Moulmein. It tells me instead about the wonderful grassroots teams and wonderful committees that have come up with truly great ideas, which I like very much. But it doesn't tell me about you. And so I am still left clueless.
> The questions I asked you will be the same questions I will be asking whoever decides (if at all) to stand against you in the elections. If the opposition candidate is equally stumped and/or angered by me, then you can rest assured that I will be forced to find another way to come to a decision well-thought through.
> Before I end, I would like to stress that I am not against the PAP in any way, nor am I for any particular opposition party. I am merely a Singaporean, proud and excited at the thought of a chance at finally being able to exercise my right to vote.
> With Regards
I couldn't help feeling surprised by Lui's email reply to the Moulmein resident. Specifically the part where Lui wrote: "Don't worry, [the incident] didn't leave a sour note with me nor a poor impression of you."
In my opinion, it is Lui's own behavior which would leave a sour note with voters, and a poor impression on them. Singaporeans don't owe you a living, Mr Lui.