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Face to Face: Opposition Supporters Anonymous

The following is a letter from a member of the audience at the Face to Face forum

by Lee Wai Leong

The forum was packed, apparently there were over 350 people. There were registration counters and even sign language translators were present to help the hearing-impaired. Very well organised!

The huge turnout shows a real interest in real politics (as opposed to scripted ministers' "dialogues"). But what did it achieve?

I think it was a waste of time for the audience, although many of them may not realise it.

It was a waste of time because of the themes chosen and the questions that were asked.

So what did we learn?

Economic policy

  • Huge income disparity in Singapore in the last 10 years. Rich grew richer, poor had hardly any income growth.
  • Productivity in Singapore sucks. GDP growrh all fuelled by workforce expansion.
  • Policymakers out of touch with population. Gerald went further-- they're not out of touch, they know but they don't care!
  • The Govt is in a position of conflict of interest as the owner of 80% of the land, builder of flats and lender of mortgage financing.
  • HDB flats are priced too high. We are now slaves to HDB. High flat prices suck up our CPF money, leaving us nothing for retirement. HDB subsidies are paper subsidies only. HDB makes obscene profits.

Civil Liberties

  • All parties present oppose the ISA, and want to replace it with some form of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • All want greater freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Civil liberties are important for creativity and innovation.
  • The media is an important institution, it must be independent and it must serve Singapore.
  • Defamation laws must be changed.
  • Wikileaks is funny.

Some surprises here though: All parties support conscription as a bedrock of a strong national defence, much to the consternation of the guy who posed the question. Another surprise-- GMS still supports a racial quota for HDB flats, although he would increase it to 50%.

Political Issues

  • Opp parties want to avoid three-cornered fights.
  • People should vote opposition so that PAP will wake up.
  • Politicians should be in public service to serve the public, not earn top $$$.
  • People should come forward to join the opposition.

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So did the audience learn anything new to make it worth their while?

For anyone who has followed TOC or "opposition" politics actively, there's certainly nothing new in the above. It's a litany of what they think PAP has done wrong.

Without PAP’s presence, there was no engagement with the party in power, thus the “forum” amounted to no more than a bunch of anti-PAP people gathering to denounce PAP policies, patting each others’ back and cheering whenever some witty or sarcastic anti-PAP remarks were made.

In other words, it was really an “Opposition Supporters Anonymous” session.

Did we really need to spend four hours on that?

What it should have been

The moderator should have asked the tough questions:

  1. How many candidates will you be putting up for the next GE?
  2. Who are they? What are their names? Where will they be standing?
  3. Why can’t you name them now? What’s holding you back?
  4. How do you think you can win the election?
  5. Why should voters vote for your candidates (other than because of their dissatisfaction with PAP policies)?
  6. How will you guys make Singaporeans’ lives better if you only want to go in as opposition?
  7. Why can’t you guys cooperate? Why can’t you guys work together to defeat the PAP? By cooperate, we mean more than just avoiding three-cornered fights.
  8. Why is WP so aloof?
  9. Why is SDP so confrontational? We know you believe civil liberties are important, but this is not India in the 1950’s or America in the 1960’s, the public has no interest in joining your protest marches or holding candlelight vigils for the SDP martyrs who have been fined or jailed.
  10. Why is SF trying to revive Socialism? What does "putting control of essential means of production into the hands of the people" really mean? Nationalisation?

I think the above would have been far more absorbing than hearing what the parties have to say about hdb flat prices or civil liberties.

Don’t you?