Dear reader,

Every week the excitement about our next general election (GE) grows. Last Friday, when the Jom team was in Siem Reap, I received a message about a walkabout by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) around the West Coast Market the following day. Amid preparations for our Angkor Photo Festival presentation, I didn’t think too much of it.

Later that weekend I found out what had happened: Tan Cheng Bock, PSP’s 83-year-old founder and chairman, announced that he’d be open to contesting in the next GE. For the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), Tan, a medical doctor, must seem like that annoying, cantankerous uncle who just won’t leave them alone. (Just before CNY, no less.)

From 1980 to 2006, “Doc” was the PAP MP for Ayer Rajah (now part of West Coast GRC). As we write in “Singapore This Week”, he then failed in two presidential bids before forming the PSP in 2019. Right before GE2020, the PAP shifted Desmond Lee from Jurong GRC to West Coast GRC so that it would have two full ministers there to head off the threat from Tan. The PAP scraped through with its lowest winning margin in GE2020 (51.68 percent).

The PAP’s other full minister there, of course, was S Iswaran, whose political career has just ended because of a corruption scandal. Perhaps sniffing an opportunity, Tan went on his West Coast Market jaunt soon after the news.

Will Tan actually compete again in West Coast GRC? Desmond Lee is a princeling whose father, Lee Yock Suan, was a PAP minister and colleague of Tan’s. In other words, 83-year-old Tan’s PSP team versus 47-year-old Lee’s PAP team will be a delicious contest that spans decades, allegiances, and local belonging and rootedness. (Unlike Lee, parachuted in, Tan has known residents there since at least 1980.)

In “Singapore This Week”, we also contemplate the risks to the PSP of Tan standing for election again. Elsewhere in our weekly digest, we look at the threat of AI-generated deepfake porn, the 50th anniversary of the Laju incident, the Singapore Repertory Theatre changing its name to the Singapore Theatre Company, and more.

Our essay of the week, “Where do these roads lead? Anthony Chen’s ‘The Breaking Ice’”, is a film review by first-time Jom writer Sim Jiaying. The fourth feature by Chen, one of Singapore’s most internationally recognised filmmakers, is a paean to disaffected Chinese youth, set in the frigid Changbai Mountains that span northern China and North Korea.

But more than that, Jiaying, who runs the Singapore Film Database and has written extensively on Asian cinema, uses the film as a starting point for a much longer exploration of the road movie genre—as reimagined by Singaporean filmmakers. As I read her work, I found myself smiling and nodding along, reminiscing about the road trips I’ve been on, from the fun and whimsical, like family car-rides to Penang, to the more arduous and mentally taxing, like a month-long bicycle trip around Malaysia.

“The road, with its apparent structure and direction, doesn’t necessarily dictate our journeys. It’s in the detours and unexpected turns that new relational maps are drawn. These maps aren’t just about reaching a destination but about the richness of the journey itself—the kinships formed, the challenges overcome, and the personal growth that occurs.”

You’ll be able to watch “The Breaking Ice” on Netflix from February 9th, so Jiaying’s piece is a well-timed appetiser. (If you don’t like spoilers, bookmark it for later.)

Jom melancong,
Sudhir Vadaketh,
Editor-in-chief, Jom

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