I'll alight here, please

Updated: Feb 19

It was nearly 10 pm when the Minister and his team of volunteers finished handing out mandarin oranges and ang paos to needy families in my ward. My classmate and I had been tagging along with our ward’s MP on an assignment to observe how he interacted with his residents.

As the volunteers were splitting up to carpool home, one of them — a tall, beefy man in a tight-fitting shirt — offered to give me a lift.

“The Alfian Sa’at fiasco should never have happened,” he said in the car after finding out I was from Yale-NUS. I agreed, saying that school management should have planned better. I also told him that I think contentious topics like dialogue and dissent in Singapore still deserve critical discussions in an academic setting.

“What, so you guys can debate amongst yourselves in your ivory tower?” he shot back.

I sensed a tinge of aggression in his reply. The academic in me wanted to defend the study of political dissent, but I didn’t feel like engaging in a heated argument with someone I barely knew. I chose to say nothing.

“Forgive me for being blunt, but we are all a little sensitive when students come and talk to us during the election period. Next time you guys come, you’ll have to sign the non-disclosure volunteer form.”

Again I said nothing. I alighted a block ahead and gave him a polite “thank you’’.

Wong Shiying

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