Today, I was reading an article by Asst Professor Eugene Tan from SMU and it spurred some thoughts in me and I wrote him an email, here it is:
I had been a frequent follower of your articles on politics, especially the ones on election. It is interesting for me to be able to see your perspectives on the political situation in Singapore and I share a lot of similar feelings. Today’s article was quite enlightening. Please allow let me give you some of my take which I feel may be close to yours.
1. No feasible opposition model for success
I feel that a lot of Singaporeans are blaming PAP / Government for the lack of “political freedom” and I feel that a lot of times they may just had made a sweeping statement because the state of political affairs is not just the result of the ruling party but also that of the people. I feel that the opposition had also not been able to strengthen itself into a much more powerful machine. I find that the opposition lack this central concept of vision of how they see Singapore based on their party’s manifesto and how they want to develop and grow the country if they are handed the government. Instead all they do, in my view, is target piecemeal PAP policies, and does not seem to contribute to the overall opposition strategy.
I for one, do not want to see our country becoming another US, UK or Australia where the country is embroiled in political deadlock, faces policy problems for ministries such as Defence which requires very long term plans. eg. in Australia, many defence procurements and development faces lots of problem due to the frequent change of government. So how do we see how Singapore should develop into a balanced democratic country?
There are many reasons why PAP remains in power, for example a large part could be due to the general success of most PAP policies (of course there are quite a number which are not as good, just like any other governments in the world). The other part which always amazes me is that the flow of talents into PAP which the opposition seems to lack. I always wonder why is it that many of these talents in their own career fields continue to flood PAP and not want to build up a strong opposition when so many complaints are heard in alternate media about their “hatred” to PAP and its governnent, so what is the draw of PAP that these intelligent, successful and capable people are not in the oppostion. Money is obviously not the problem, Shanmugan and Ng Eng Hen types make so much more money than they do as a minister. I just feel that the tyranny of minority is sometimes at play as the turnout and the results of voting seems to show that a lot of Singaporeans still support PAP to a certain extent.
2. Ease of using GRCs
Of course the PAP doesnt help to make the situation better by manipulating (intentional or not) GRCs as ways to field in their candidates. For eg, Liew Tuck Yew who rose the faster amongst the new MPs was placed in a strong GRC, where he can be “protected” by our MM. These actions by PAP, and the drastic redrawing of GRCs only further throw up speculations that the PAP was trying to manipulate. I had followed the 3 last great GRC fights at Eunos (Dr Tay Eng Soon vs Francis Seow), then Cheng San and followed by Aljunied in 2006. Everytime I hope that the opposition can be successful such that there can be an opposition GRC for the opposition to build up some credentials and experience. This is similar in a way to how Malaysian politics had changed. I would want to see how DAP can build up Penang and how they can demonstrate the values of a government with a sufficiently strong opposition as a check and balance. But i do not want to see the type of politicking happening in Malaysia, it’s starting to become a joke.
3. Are our politicians becoming bureaucrats?
Lastly, our politicians, could the ease of going into government due to the strength of PAP and the GRC system created a class of PAP politicians which are not strong politically but selected because they are great bureaucrats? Even though Minister George Yeo is a great thinker and good minister, I was wishing deep inside that Aljunied should fall to the opposition so that our politicians can get a real fight, and PAP needs to react and respond to the loss of one in their core team.
Prof, these are just some collection of thoughts I have after reading your article. They are not meant to criticise or anything bad, but rather for me to see if you have feedback based on yr experience on this. I hope if you do not mind, to reply to me with some feedback for my learning.