The following is a reply by Lim Jialiang to a blog post by Young PAP member Nicholas Lazarus titled, “The ever redundant opposition”, on the Young PAP blog.

Lim Jialiang / Guest Writer

I feel compelled to correct the limited and flawed understanding that you have of Athenian Democracy (misspelled as Athean Democracy); and how you belittle the importance of the opposition in the modern democracy that you speak of. I will also be addressing the point which you claim – that the opposition is rendered redundant on the fact that the citizens’ themselves can ‘check’ the government.

Firstly, your understanding of an Athenian Democracy is flawed. It is impossible to draw a comparison between an Athenian Democracy vis-à-vis the current Singaporean Democracy due to them being different systems of democracy altogether. In an Athenian Democracy, we are looking at the case of a DIRECT Democracy. In contrast, Singapore uses a REPRESENTATIVE Democracy. When you do see 3.65 million Singapore citizens streaming into Parliament to vote on legislation, I’ll concede the point and say that we are moving towards an Athenian Democracy.

Also, mentioning the fact that Singapore is becoming a ‘modern Athean democracy’ is just plain malarkey. That merely serves to be a red herring. In addition, having an Athenian Democracy is really nothing to be proud of, for it was highly selective, with only male Athens citizens being able to vote in it, and the women and slaves not being allowed to vote. You once again show how flawed your understanding of an Athenian Democracy is.

Even if I concede the point that we are moving towards an Athenian Democracy, you fail to substantiate how this has anything to do with the redundancy of the opposition as you have proposed.

Singapore is fast becoming a modern Athean democracy where the citizens are partaking in the democratic process by engaging the Government and pointing out the deficiencies so that the Government may address them. They are doing this in a very rational in calm manner- by emails, discussions, forums, feedback sessions, blogs, letters and face to face interaction.

In all democracies, it is a right, rather than a privilege, for a citizen to address any problems that they have through their representatives, which is the Member of Parliament (MP). The line above suggests to me that there has been a failure of the system for citizens to engage the government the past four decades, and that this primary right has only been re-established recently. This does not seem to show any indication of why the opposition is not needed. Moreover, if the basic right of citizens to partake in the democratic process has been denied to them for the past four decades, then it strengthens and reaffirms the need for an opposition, for the PAP is not able to grant this fundamental right that the opposition promises to give, if it can be given in the first place.

From the line above, I can thus conclude that you see the opposition of the citizens being enough to serve the cogs of democracy. However, you fail to underline a dangerous flaw in such a democracy. The incumbent party will only engage the citizens if and only if it is beneficial or along the party lines. There are many issues left untouched, which our MPs, who are supposed to be representing us in Parliament, have not brought up. The recent GST hikes which have brought undue inflationary pressures at a time where oil and food prices are at an all-time high. The regression of the lower classes’ income levels in the past decade. The situation of our public transport, which still packs us like sardines, or in conditions that even sardines will balk to hear about. All these are issues that have not been explored which you have conveniently left out.

Once again, there are limitations for the common citizen to address these issues adequately, and it is certainly not enough for the citizen to become the sole ‘opposition’ of the government. And if the incumbent does not deal with these issues in parliament, then who will? This thus exposes the dangers of a single-party system without an opposition.

True enough; the government has taken steps to change legislation in regards to the baby bonus.
However, it puzzles me why you’ve brought up the incident of the recent sacking of the table tennis coach by the president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA). You are mistaking the position which Lee Bee Wah is representing – she is merely the President of STTA, and this matter has no relation to the Government. Once again, you show a lack of understanding and discernment in choosing your examples to support your argument.

More importantly, you trivialise the opposition in your post. The opposition is dissolved into a bunch of sprawling bawling babies that make no coherent sense and is unsure of what it is doing.

Their argument is that Singaporeans cannot voice out matters to the PAP and they need an opposition to do the voicing for them.

This is not the argument of the opposition at all. The opposition does not have the arrogance to regard Singaporeans as mutes who are unable to voice their own views. The opposition serves to bring issues to Parliament for debate, issues that the incumbent sidesteps and ignores. That is why we need the opposition.

If the opposition cannot even get involved in the issues of the day that concern the people, are they not redundant?

Indeed, the opposition parties in Singapore cannot get involved in the issues of the day. After all, with an overwhelming majority with only two opposition members in Parliament, their voices are the minority. However, they have spoken time and again on issues that Singaporeans are concerned about. Is that not a form of getting involved with the issues of the day? One only has to read the Workers’ Party Manifesto in 2006 to see that they have clear agendas and issues set out for the governing of Singapore. To discount the opposition and say that they are redundant just because there is no form of physical action is foolish.

The citizen himself does not have enough power to serve as a check and balance on the government. This recent cartoon by the blog My Sketchbook highlights the importance of a political opposition. It isn’t the opposition that is redundant by choice. They are made redundant by the politics that is practised by the PAP.


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