By Woon Wui Tek
DO younger voters see Mr JB Jeyaretnam as the Rip Van Winkle of politics – away for too long and too old for the job?
In a random poll by The New Paper, seven out of every 10 young people surveyed said that age does not matter when judging the performance of opposition MPs.
We spoke to 100 Singaporeans, aged between 18 and 30.
“Any age is fine with me, as long as they can fulfil the role of an opposition politician,” said Ng Ying Ying, 23, a student.
But 19-year-old full-time national serviceman Wong Kin Mun felt that “being too old will just hinder their progress”, given the physical demands of politics.
When asked to choose, almost half said that their preferred age band is in the 30 to 40 range.
Julian Chua, 28, an insurance agent, said: “If he’s between 30 and 40, chances are he’ll have had some experience in dealing with politics. He won’t be rash but he’ll still appeal to people my age, and understand the problems we’re going through.”
So where does this leave longtime opposition gadflies like Mr Jeyaretnam?
More than one in three young voters did not know anything about him.
And when we asked which older-generation opposition MP could relate to their generation, his name was not picked from a list of names shown to those interviewed.
Those on the “old list” included Mr Jeyaretnam, Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong and former Singapore Democratic MPs Ling How Doong and Cheo Chai Chen – both of whom were elected for one term in the 1991 elections. (Mr Low Thia Khiang, 50, who heads the Workers Party, is younger.)
More than one out of every four polled picked Mr Chiam, who heads the Singapore Democratic Alliance.
Student Yeo Kesheng, 24, liked it that Mr Chiam “goes around and has direct interaction with people in his own constituency”.
Mr Low Thia Khiang was named by five out of the 100 polled.
“Somehow, he connects with me,” said undergraduate Danielle Zhang,23.
“There’s just something about him – his sincerity maybe.”
So what do the young expect an oppostion MP to do?
Only one in 10 felt that their job was to provide an alternative government. A third said their role is to “keep the PAP on its toes”.