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2011: PAP loses Aljunied GRC to WP

MRT disruptions spark outrage; nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

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THE People's Action Party's (PAP) worst election performance since Independence forced out a sitting Cabinet minister and marked the rise of the Worker's Party (WP) when the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) voted for the opposition.

It was the first time that the PAP had lost a GRC, and its 60.1 per cent share of the popular vote was the lowest in the history of the country's independent elections.

But the PAP did not simply lose a handful of seats to the WP. Then-foreign minister George Yeo and veteran Minister Lim Hwee Hwa, who led the PAP's Aljunied team, had to vacate their posts. Notions of the PAP's infallibility were also shattered, and the ruling party had to embark on a deep soul-searching exercise to figure out what went wrong.

Some of the major complaints by Singaporeans at the time were related to strained infrastructure, and few issues generated as much outrage as the MRT disruptions of 2011.

One of the most captivating images from those disruptions was that of a man who picked up a fire extinguisher in a stalled train and used it to break a train window to improve air circulation in the car. That story and other tales from the tunnels eventually led to a major rethink of Singapore's public transportation system, as well as major commitments from the government to improve the strained infrastructure. Then-SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa quit as well.

Beyond Singapore's shores, the worst nuclear crisis since 1986's Chernobyl erupted in Fukushima, Japan, when an earthquake and resulting tsunami overcame safety systems at a nuclear power plant. The Fukushima disaster was a cruel blow for Japan, which was already dealing with a terrible loss of lives and massive damages.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at bt.sg/bt_40