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Monday, 11 April 2011

Election Watch Part XI - Has PAP Started to Contradict and Disagree in this Match?

This article was contributed to the Singapore General Election Portal, SGEP.

Has PAP Started to Contradict and Disagree in this Match?

PM Lee said at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum [PM: "A-team" leaders needed to ensure S'pore's future; 5 Apr 2011 – CNA] that the strongest possible A-Team is needed to assure Singapore’s future and this A-Team could only be from the PAP because having a two-party system of politics is not feasible.

On leadership renewal, PM Lee said his party (PAP) is putting together the next A-Team for Singapore as the new PAP candidates in this Election will form “key members of this team”. Among the new slate of candidates, several have been tipped to form the core of PAP’s 4th Generation leadership.

PM Lee’s speech had contradicted the words by his current A-Team Ministers.

PM Lee used “football” as an example to explain his dream A-Team which should have depth and resilience, with competent ministers and people with expertise from different ministries. This does not sound different from Opposition MP Low Tia Kiang’s publicised visionary concepts for team renewal within his WP to provide also depth and resilience.

That PM had used “football” as an analogy is nothing new, as he has inherited his current “football A-Team” from his “old captain” SM Goh, who first started the “football” team analogy when he took over from MM Lee. What are possibly new were contradictions he articulated against his Ministers despite the “depth” of his current A Team.

Firstly, PM Lee sticks to his old argument that the two-party system of politics is not feasible because there is not enough talent to form two 1st-Class teams. He re-visited that “the most effective way to get a two-party system is to split the PAP in two because the talent is there”. This contradicts what Finance Minister Tharman said in “A political form for Singapore’s future” [CNA Political Forum – “Quick thoughts on TV debate between political parties”; 3 Apr 2011 – Yawning Bread], that “a strong opposition is good for the PAP”.

PM Lee also contradicted what his Foreign Minister George Yeo had said after an event at Madrasah Aljunied. - “While having a credible opposition is important, the People's Action Party must stay nimble to deal with changes in Singapore and the world.” [PAP must stay nimble to deal with changes: George Yeo; 5 Apr 2011 – ST Online]

PM Lee does not believe in a two party system of politics and wants to keep spare players in his A-Team which is not “nimble”.

"The A-Team should also include younger members who will be learning the job, so that as the situation changes and the country has needs, we can always find the right person for the right job. And if one person doesn’t work out, I can do a replacement, change my team member and the game goes on. That’s how soccer is played."

We should also not forget the number of old players PM Lee is now keeping in the PMO.

In generic terms, this also contradicts what DPM Wong Kan Seng said during the 2nd introduction of new PAP candidates [Wong Kan Seng fires salvo at Opposition; 23 Mar 2011 – ST Online].

Referring the Hougang MP Low Tia Khiang, etc.; DPM Wong said - “He argued that the opposition was wanting to capture a GRC for the wrong reasons.”

"Some say they are doing it for party renewal, some want to be the first ones to do so, but what is the election about? Is it about the ambitions of a political party or individuals to make history?". He also said this GE is about “evolution” and not “revolution”. Isn’t PM Lee now also talking about party renewal in PAP by forming the new A Team as his own ambition for the coming GE?

The greatest disagreement between PM Lee and SM Goh must be on the number of terms future Ministers would served. SM Goh said future Ministers may only serve 2 terms (about 10 years) [Goh Chok Tong boo boo again, what a clown; 4 Apr 2011 – onesingaprean Blog]. PM Lee disagreed that it should be 4 terms (20 years). That would mean that PAP’s 4G core Minister-designate Heng Swee Keat would have to serve till 70 years old and not 60 years, despite having spent the major part of his “learning curve” at the MAS. To an intelligent Electorate, it could mean just only 1 term for these Ministers to prove because the pace of globalization and competition is so fast that there just isn’t time for them to allow a Minister any “extra time” to try for a 2nd term.

To all these PAP talks, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang's rebuttal is - "I think buying insurance is the right thing to do. If PM thinks we shouldn't buy insurance, then why do we buy MediShield? Should we wait till we fall sick before we buy it?

"Now is the best time to buy insurance. Conditions are now good for us - economic growth is not bad, Government is stable - to slowly build up a healthier political system ... I think everyone knows how to prepare for a rainy day. I think (his) is a logic that doesn't make sense." [Singaporeans will decide political system, not PAP; 7 Apr 2011 – TODAY].

Mr Low added a more optimistic note: "I think our PM shouldn't be so pessimistic about our future. Compared to 20 years ago. Singapore has more talent than before and educational standards are higher ... And I remember we've said before we're a city of possibilities. So, we must work towards different possibilities for the future governance model."

WP chairman Sylvia Lim, added that political competition will "empower citizens to have bargaining power against the ruling party", with all the Opposition parties disagreeing with Mr Lee's argument that a two-party system is not workable here due to a shortage of talent.

The Singapore Democratic Party called on the PAP to stop "belittling and patronising" the public.

Referring to the Prime Minister's revelation that the PAP had "seriously considered" splitting into two, the SDP said: "Singaporeans will decide the political system, not the PAP. There's no need for the PAP to do anything with itself but to ensure a free and fair election system and a free and pluralistic media."

Blogs and forums are now “Revisiting this Topic - Two-party system cannot work in Singapore”. Some were upset and confused by PM Lee. Is this what PM Lee was talking about? [PM Lee at NUS Ministerial Forum; "Dear Comrades" - 7 Apr 2011 – onesingaporean Blog].

As expected there will always be letters printed in the MSM to support and praise PAP’s stand [Single-party state works best for Singapore; 7 Apr 2011 - ST Online Forum Page]. One concludes as follows:-

"But what sets Singapore apart is that it has emerged relatively unscathed from the latest financial crisis. I believe it is because our single-party government steered the country in one direction. Bigger nations with a two-party or multi-party system can afford to falter and recover. For a small country like Singapore, there is no room for second chances."

It looks like a “standard” reply, otherwise to be written by a Minister’s press secretary, if there is not a coming GE. This writer might have forgotten about SARs and the economic crisis that followed. How Singaporeans were badly affected by Govt policies then could have resulted in their present unfavourable status quo today.

As a nation progressed beyond its initial attainment of “developed country” status, the same strategy of having a “single-party government to steer the country in one direction” may not work any more.

The fact that it works well in China as argued by the writer could well be due to the fact that China is still "developing". Although it has almost become the world’s biggest economic power in size but still needs that single “one direction” in making policies by studying our past economic success, certainly not our future stagnation. Hence, for a small developed economy like Singapore, a PAP without Opposition may well be the actual obstacle to our future development. Not forgetting PAP Chairman had said “PAP will fight for Singaporeans’ future”, and that may require giving up a one party system. [Sugar Coating of New PAP Candidates Part 2; 29 Mar 2011 – This Blog]. This is where we need alternative views to see through our policy weaknesses.

"Technocrat” politicians and writers can always find means to argue that a “single-party government” works more effectively during the Election campaign to avoid losing votes but in reality does it work? Hence, an argument supporting that “a single-party state will work best for Singapore forever” at best is just an academic exercise, if not only a thesis statement which has yet to be proven true. The increasingly wide "income divide" and accelerated pace of globalization and competition will testify to this.

Is PM Lee employing “time delaying” tactics before the final whistle is blown for his game of “football”, realizing well that “offside traps” and “obstructions” are now fouls in the eyes of the new media? Is it time for the Opposition to score the “equalizer”, if not the final goal; as the PAP may well be into “extra-time” by now? Anyway, an intelligent Electorate would know that you would need 2 teams to play “football” and compete.

If you want to know what colours the players should wear in their jerseys, you may watch this video.

Visit the SGEP for more interesting links on the GE.

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