The Hougang Spirit

Each and every election in the past 30 years has seen the Workers’ Party (WP) romp home on the back of the Hougang Spirit.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) tried and tried but could not break the Hougang Spirit.

After 30 years, the PAP still wonders why the people of Hougang just wouldn’t budge.

What exactly is the Hougang Spirit?

The PAP struggles to get it.

Born and bred in Hougang, I have some inkling – but only barely so because much of it flies in the face of logic.

At first, the PAP tried the carrot and stick approach: no lift upgrading and no estate upgrading if you vote opposition!

The people of Hougang spoke: never mind, we shall not be cowed by threats, our vote is sacred.

What makes this truly remarkable is that the people of Hougang are as heartlandish as they come. The HDB flat is their prized possession yet they are willing to forgo upgrading, which could mean seeing the value of their homes going down.

Threats didn’t work, seduction didn’t work

The PAP then tried sending in the big guns to campaign – from the Prime Minister to cabinet ministers. Teochew candidates were parachuted in to contest.

The people of Hougang spoke: no point coming around at this time with seductive tactics and sweeteners, we will stick with the Teochew MP we already have.

That Teochew Member of Parliament for 20 years was Low Thia Khiang who came onto the national spotlight in 1991 when against all odds, he defeated the incumbent PAP MP Tang Guan Seng.

In 2011, Low moved from Hougang to helm the WP team at Aljunied GRC.

The current Hougang MP, Png Eng Huat, earnestly works the ground. Supporters greet him by affectionately chanting huat-ah! (to prosper).

The bond that WP has forged with the residents is exceptional – Low attended practically every funeral wake in the early years, commiserating with grieving families. The residents in turn would show up at the meet-the-people sessions just to offer him food and boiled tonic drinks because they could see him working his heart out for them.

So if we have to distill the Hougang Spirit, it is is borne out of sacrifice, stubborn resistance and resilience.

Come what may, resist temptation, even if there is the threat of having to pay a price.

Stubborn refusal to switch to the other side

The overtures of the PAP are seen as forbidden fruit – one you succumb to a bite of the apple, you have sold out, you have given up the power in your hands – the voting power.

This is where we have to salute the resilience of the Hougang Spirit – staying the course is never easy when you look around and see fellow Singaporeans enjoying better facilities and infrastructure upgrading ahead of you.

The Hougang Spirit not only stands for something. Just as important, it also stands against something – it is a repudiation of small-minded petty politics.

The idea that the country should be divided into two camps, with the PAP camp getting precedence in tangible benefits over the opposition camp, is abhorrent. It makes a mockery of the much touted one people, one nation, one Singapore.

The Hougang Spirit is also a repudiation of those who put on sheep’s clothing to win hearts and minds at a time of their choosing. Words to placate and appease can be camouflaged. But not sincerity.

The Workers’ Party kopitiam

Only in Hougang does a coffee shop become an unspoken opposition homeground during an election.

Blk 322 Hougang Ave 5 is the place to be on election night. You will hear a roar to match the roar of a football stadium. It means that the people of Hougang have once again thumbed their noses down at the PAP.

The feeling is priceless – it’s a badge of honour to carry on the mantle as Singapore’s opposition stronghold.

As they say in Teochew – pak see boh siang kan – get whacked until die, never mind, never give up.

So the Hougang Spirit lifts the people again and again to carry the torch of democracy.

But the flame is fragile. Hougang cannot do it alone.

The rest cannot simply watch and cheer Hougang on. One day, Hougang will fall from the opposition’s hand and be wiped off the electoral map.

Then what?

 

Augustine Low

 

 

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18 Responses to “The Hougang Spirit”

  • Elcb:

    Hougang are once Anson voter,(and others).I think.

    HDB built on sheeps in future.

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  • Top Money for Top Talents:

    Dear Augustine,
    This year 2020 it shall be PAP Huat Huat Huat ah.

    GE2020 we PAP will wipe out all WP CCP occupied Aljunied territory and resume control of it.

    We PAP will also took back WP CCP HQ Hougang.

    After GE2020, there shall be no more opposition in the parliement.

    GE2020.PAP.Guarantee.Win.All
    $PAP$ Tua Kee; Majullah $PAP$; $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must be Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer.
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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  • The LTK Fall:

    The LTK FALL may signal a WP fall.
    It’s writings on the wall.
    But the 70% are hopeless.

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  • trublu:

    Well,me thinks HOUGANG SPIRIT IS DERIVED FROM OUR LONG LOST KAMPONG SPIRIT.

    HG SPIRIT COMES FROM THE *SOUL* OF THE UPPER SERANGOON SGS!
    Most hail from kampong schools that taught civic-mindedness n public spiritedness.
    But next GE may be different as past few years,alot of *old HG sgs* moved away n NEW PEOPLE MOVE INTO NEW condo$?
    Many moved to SENGKANG N PUNGGOL areas.

    Hg-AJ is different now as newer residents mpve in.

    Oppo needs to work harder n be more united.

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  • Horse Betting:

    Dear Augustine,
    Blk 322 Hougang Ave 5 coffee shop is low class place for low class HDB dwellers to gather.

    All the lesser mortals there had never even been to Paris for cooking course like our talented Tan Yong Soon family.

    What so special about that coffee shop? In fact, the police should raid the coffee shop more often as every Saturday/Sunday you find many dirty old man horse betting there using their smartphone.

    Calling all PAP Supporters, use your SGSecure to take picture of the lesser mortals at coffee shop there horse betting and upload to the police.

    We will start raiding Aljunied and Hougang till it fell to our PAP hands.

    GE2020.PAP.Guarantee.Win.All
    $PAP$ Tua Kee; Majullah $PAP$; $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must be Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer.
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    “The feeling is priceless”! @Augustine; this is feeling I just wish I could have!

    Voters of Hougang, I salute you! After every GE, it seems Hougang voters’ balls getting bigger and sticking a longer middle finger to the PAP. I admire and envy you guys.

    Aljunied GRC’s voters too, you guys are just seem like smarter than the rest of the country.

    ” pak see boh siang kan – get whacked until die, never mind, never give up.” did you guys trained in Shoa Lin temple, with ball of steel.

    Let’s see Ah Lian can take back Punggol and more GRCs.

    Maybe the rest of the country’s voters love it as much to be screwed by the PAP, time and time again.

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  • Fan:

    Beautiful piece….well done Hougang!!! Puts others to shame!

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  • opposition dude:

    Well I hope to see the Aljunied Spirit live on for decades to come.

    And after that, whichever ward is won by the opposition I hope it will remain with them for a long time to come!

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  • True Singaporeans:

    HG voters are indeed true Singaporeans.
    Many sell their votes to Graduate Mother Scheme, Lift Upgrading, and all sorts of carrots and threats.
    The 70% should be ashamed of selling their votes to these nation-dividing schemes.
    Why celebrate NDP when you are only interested in what benefits you.
    Papigs should have been thrown out the day they started conditional vote-tied Lift Upgrading; they thus created the very self-centered 70%—zero moral fibre.

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  • Oh you Chivalrous ones!:

    * A Letter From Abraham Lincoln To His Son’s Teacher *

    My son starts school today. It is all going to be strange and new to him for a while and I wish you would treat him gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents. All adventures that probably include wars, tragedy and sorrow. To live this life will require faith, love and courage.

    So dear Teacher, will you please take him by his hand and teach him things he will have to know, teaching him – but gently, if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader.

    Teach him if you can that 10 cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.

    Teach him to be gentle with people, tough with tough people. Steer him away from envy if you can and teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him if you can – how to laugh when he is sad, teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.

    Teach him if you can the wonders of books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him he is wrong.

    Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to every one, but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

    Teach him to sell his talents and brains to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind, in God.

    This is the order, teacher but see what best you can do. He is such a nice little boy and he is my son.

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  • Huat Ah !!:

    Augustine, thank you to you and all residents of Hougang – Huat ah !!

    You are absolutely right about the threat by PAP to withhold HDB upgrading programmes if PAP loses..

    We are in Year 2020 now, PAP’s 50 yrs of threat using HDB upgrading is gone and will never be used as a bargaining tool anymore.

    Thanks to Lawrence Wong for giving the confirmation that HDB value will become zero after 99 yrs. Even LKY claimed that the HDB value will only go up. BS.

    With this threat gone, what other threats will PAP use now ?

    1. If PAP don’t make the Govt on election day, Singapore will lose its status as global financial centre using the China-US Trade War as backdrop.

    2. The 4G Team of highly educated and well trained Ministers cannot be replaced by Opposition, who are mediocre and no experience in running a Ministry or even a Town Council.

    3. Singapore is not ready for a Coalition Govt and this has failed in many countries

    4. Opposition MPs are out to cause destruction to all the good things PAP has done for last 50 yrs.

    5. Expect much fights in Parliament if more Opposition candidates are elected into Parliament and it will ruin our Parliamentary Democracy.

    6. Character Assassination – PAP is expected to use gutter politics by create a damaging image of Opposition candidates. This was clearly seen in Bukit Batok Bi-Election.

    7. Opposition will fail our country because they don’t have a concrete and sustainable plan to bring Singapore out of a recession.

    PAP has run out of steam and ideas. Having a week 4G team, who are too confident and arrogant. PAP is expect to lose at least 2 GRCs in coming election.

    To all Opposition Parties – Huat ah !!

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  • N Chan:

    I would love for Hougang SMC to stay in the Opposition belt for many years to come. But I have to play devil’s advocate here.

    The ability of the WP to keep Hougang SMC in its belt could be slipping in the next few election cycles.

    The reason is simple – the PAP is changing tactics. No longer will it call Hougang a “slum” or use the upgrading card anymore.

    Instead, it will use the AHTC issue. It will keep harping on how AHTC is run by the WP without good intents towards its residents, how it is fraudulently using their money and how it is destroying the livelihoods of its residents, all in the name of standing up for Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC residents. It will use the mechanisms in the town council system and other forms in the machinery to remove sitting WP MPs, via more subtle technicalities, instead of what happened to JBJ in the 1980s, possibly to the point where the WP will cease to be a threat.

    The message is simple – WP MPs will destroy your lives because they are up to no good, or are only good at leaving a mess and the PAP are the only knight in shining armour that will save you from the ravages of the WP. Or, its pointless to vote for the WP as you will be wasting your vote as we have a system to flush them out.

    This will compound the attrition factor HG residents will face, having to live w/o lifts for decades. And it is beginning to take its effect – the WP’s vote share slipped to below 60% for the first time since 2001 in the last GE.

    The WP needs to change its tactics. The methods that served them well in HG over close to 30 years might not serve its magic in this day and age.

    So I think they might need to switch to focusing on big GRCs as the foci of their campaign – keeping Aljunied, and taking East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang, even possibly Tampines, and the single seat of Punggol West. And turn the AHTC card on the PAP by bringing up the double standards in them not taking their own stat boards and agencies, esp the PA and Oh Thai Nan, to task, for similar lapses, in the manner they treated the WP. On top of the “presidential election” in 2017 and the handling of the coronavirus issue. A strong campaign along these lines will help them hold onto HG for subsequent cycles to come.

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  • Bobo:

    This election will be the final chance for Singaporeans to vote for our future. It is not the future of favouring large groups of FTs turning to PRs and fake citizens who vote for their own interest only.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    There are 3 important events after circuit breaker.

    First, the NDP which will be virtual on TV. This is Ok. Like all previous NDPs, it is just showing some black and white old photos and some one shouting “merdeka”. All PAP’s propaganda and fanfare. This can do without any problem, saving money for sponsors on goodie bags and saving on logistic. This is only a feel-good event.

    The second event is the F1 night race at end September. Organiser already expressed objection to close-door event, without spectators. So no spectators, no F1. Our government needs this event too, to open airport for in-coming flights. Also needs to fill up hotels and F & B businesses. Tourism Board needs to collect levies too. But the tricky part is the lifting of all restrictions for spectators. This cannot be allowed now. It can only be announced after the coming Pandemic General Election.

    Now the third event, the Pandemic General Election (PGE). Minister Chan C S already said, “Not much time left to call for General Election”. When? You ask.

    F1′s organiser needs about at least one and half month to prepare for the event. So it needs to know by mid-August if the restriction can be lifted for spectators. But the current Covid-19 restriction is a disadvantage for the Alternative Parties. It restricts the size of rallies, limits face-to-face interaction and outreach with voters, etc. Lifting the restriction for F1 means lifting the restriction for PGE.

    So PGE has to be before the F1 event. Covid-19 restriction would still be in place for PGE. After the election, the restriction could be lifted for F1.

    So election is best held after NDP, the feel-good period! Best bet will be mid-August.

    After election, JT can throw the Covid-19 ball she is carrying. Foreigner workers facilities could be dismantled and FWs can return to thier dormintories. What ever Covid-19, let someone else take over. JT could become a Minister without portfolio.

    My foresight is 80-90% accurate. Want to bet?

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  • kampong boy:

    I hope opposition sgs can truly unite.
    So far,dont see much alliance.
    I suggest let DR TAN CHENG BOCK take lead based on his EXPERIENCE,STATURE,GOOD KAMPONG RAPPORT,SENIORITY N WISDOM.

    Opposition should not have any qualms.
    Dont delay anymore.
    There is no time like NOW!

    OPPO SGS,UNITE N FIGHT N WIN!

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  • Thinking outside box:

    Alternatively singkies, focus on the ballot box. Election agents. Very important.

    Are the 70% so daft??

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  • oxygen:

    HOUGANG IS AN IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS, impossible for PAPpy to make an inroad for another century.

    Hougangites are the living lamp posts of patriotism – shining the lights not only on the evil lies of PAPpypolitics but also their wisdom on everybody else except themselves.

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  • Top Money for Top Talents:DLLM:

    Dear Augustine,
    This year 2020 it shall be Oppositions Huat Huat Huat ah.

    GE2020 we oppositions will wipe out all PAP CCP occupied majority territory and resume control of it.

    We oppositions will also took back PAP communist CCP HQ.

    After GE2020, there shall be no more PAP Singapore Communist Party in the parliement.

    GE2020.Oppositions.Guarantee.Win.All
    $SDP$ Tua Kee; Majullah $SDP$; $PSP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Malaysian must be Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer.
    Malaysian must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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