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Doing the Write Thing: Bertha Henson

Doing the Write Thing: Bertha Henson

Bertha Henson is a current Associate Professor of Practice at the Communications and New Media Department in the Faculty of Arts and Science in the National University of Singapore. Her career as a journalist with Singapore Press Holdings before that was also nothing short of lustrous, having had 26 years of experience contributing to the broadsheet's lifestyle, political and news section, helming its photography and arts departments, and taking on responsibilities as deputy editor of The New Paper, and Associate Editor of The Straits Times. She currently writes on her socio-political commentary blog, Bertha Harian.

She's had her first book, Troublemaker, published in 2014, but she definitely isn't stopping there. With 22 years of political journalism experience at her fingertips, she's recently launched a collection of essays that places Singapore's political playing field under a microscope: GE2020: Fair or Foul?.

Aided by a group of NUS undergraduates, join her as she takes you through the days preceding the general election on 10 July 2020, revealing exactly why our electoral system is in dire need of an overhaul.

Give us a sneak peek into what GE2020: Fair or Foul? is about.
It’s an overview of Singapore’s electoral processes, some of them well-known and some lesser-known - and whether they serve the interests and needs of voters adequately. It starts from the revision of electoral boundaries and through the nine days of campaigning up to Polling Day. In between, I wrote about the impact of campaigning rules, grassroot advisers, political broadcasts and initiatives such as the Non-Constituency MP scheme. But this isn’t a text book or academic journal. It’s anchored on events that happened during GE2020, so there will be chapters on the 4G leadership, voting during the virus outbreak and the Ivan Lim saga.

What made you want to write this book? Why did you think it was time to re-evaluate the political scene?
I have been reporting on Singapore’s elections since 1988 and have covered the inception of new political structures such as town councils, GRCs and the NCMP scheme. I’ve watched the original concepts change over time and didn’t think there was a good enough record of such changes and whether they accord with the changing mindsets of voters. Also, I was hoping that the 4G leadership will consider my recommendations for change when they finally take over the country, and make some breaks with past protocols in keeping with voter aspirations.

Your book features contributions from young Singaporeans. Why do you think it’s important to educate young people on Singapore politics?
They must know – because they live here. They are citizens who have a say in the running of the country and must be well-informed about the choices they have. That information shouldn’t only be culled from social media and the opinions of vested interests. Nor should they take voting as a mechanical exercise that takes place every few years. After all, they will be running the country later.

What do you hope readers can take away from this book?
If people can understand a bit more about what happens during elections and why some things happen the way they do, then we can start talking about whether the structure is fair or foul. In my last chapter, I have a list of suggestions for change that would make the system fairer not just for political parties, but for the voter too. But I’m not going to say what they are here - or you won’t buy the book.

Get GE2020: Fair or Foul? here.

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