BREAKING: The Court of Appeal has heard Yong Vui Kong's appeal. After hearing submissions from Mr M Ravi, representing Yong, and the response from Attorney-General Walter Woon for the prosecution, the Court has reserved judgement for a later date.
A facebook status question on a friend's profile caught my eye today. This lady, who is quite content with her life, asked a profound question which I would never have expected from her - "What makes people think that the opposition party will do better than PAP?" Admittedly, although I felt I could reply quickly, I just was not able to draft a suitable one-line reply.
Well, then what DOES make people think that the opposition party will do better than PAP? The answers are varied and individual as our choice of favourite movie - some are stuck in dead-end jobs that they attribute to the consequence of social engineering, while others feel that Singapore is too money-minded and not really people-oriented. But these are just the reasons why they may hate the government that runs Singapore, but still does not answer the question.
The problem is, I feel, the question itself that is being asked. What is 'better'? For the businesses in Singapore, it is definitely a more PAP-ish government. For the homeless who are 'illegally camping' in East Coast or Sembawang Park, 'better' is a welfare-centred government that is the opposite of a PAP-ish government. But for most of us, the question becomes academic - as long as we have a salary, our wish for 'better' is just that - wishful thinking. We accept the reality that we will be unhappy till the day we die and that this 'better' is simply unachievable.
Redefining the problem
But what if we stopped thinking of it as a matter of 'better'? Do we need a 'better' government or just a different one? Whether the opposition forms a government or a shift of ideology changes the PAP on its head, what we need is actually a different government. A government that stops pursuing wealth-at-all-costs and starts pursuing wealth-for-all-Singaporeans; a government that does not just talk about per capita income in theory or through statistics but one that puts 25% of that value directly into the bank accounts of its people; a government that does not just give lip-service-thanks to the generation that turned Singapore from 'just another developing nation' to a head-turner and a pioneer but one that dares to tell this pioneer generation, "hey, stay at home and relax with this $2,000 a month pension for life, thank you for your service".
But this difference will come at a price, no doubt. Businesses will not enjoy a lot of benefits and privileges that they do today. Perhaps we would not get GST credits, New Singapore Shares, our CPF rates might not be as wonderful and our flat prices would not be out of this world (arguable if this is a good or bad thing). On the flip side, we could very well declare Singapore homeless-free (in reality and not just theoretically), and we might very well be able to see the paradise of financial freedom upon retirement - with reasonable pensions for every one of us.
As much as the PAP government would like to believe, Singapore is a country and no government is bigger than the country it governs (let alone a political party). Not to begrudge the first-generation PAP its dues, the first 20 to 30 years of PAP government truly led to much solid infrastructure being established that has enabled us to enjoy life today. It was indeed a great 'driver' of this 'car' called Singapore and it undeniably built a superb 'car' as well.
But today, the driver has long forgotten that the car is not just for the young and adventurous - it is for the children and for the elderly; for the handicapped and the unlucky too. The driver today is not stopping to let the children play or the elderly to take restroom breaks; it is unwilling to compromise its style in the pursuit of an unreachable destination - money and wealth. And if history has taught us one thing well, it is that you can always have more money but never enough.
The 'car' itself continues to be as solid as they come and our economic infrastructure and civil service is established enough to sustain any 'driver'. What we need therefore is a different driver, someone who cares more about the passngers in his (or her) car rather than that theoretical destination. Yes, the new driver might initially struggle with operating the car - but this is to be expected, and the passengers (i.e. the people of Singapore) need to be patient and be willing to allow time for the new driver to get his bearings right, with the car so well-designed that it would be almost impossible to crash it (ironically, for the PAP).
Suitability versus 'Better'
One thing I know for sure is that the majority of the opposition have their hearts in the right place - they are not in the opposition camp for the money because it is more lucrative (and easier) to climb the PAP ladder, and we know most stand for values and philosophies that the PAP does not consider high priority. And these are what Singapore, the country, needs - a driver who is planning to do more for the people of Singapore instead of just driving the car on and on at breakneck speed.
And therein lies the answer to the question - it is not as much a question of 'better' as it is of suitability. All our reasons for the 'opposition as a better government' argument hinges on the common thread that the current one is no longer suitable for Singapore - and THAT is "what makes people think that the opposition party will do better than PAP".