Has the PAP reached political nirvana?

Andrew Loh /

“Let me say that a strong opposition is good for the PAP, is good for Singapore as well,” said Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam. He was speaking in the televised debate – “Singapore’s Future” – on Channel NewsAsia on 3 April.

It is quite a departure from previous positions of Mr Tharman’s party, the People’s Action Party (PAP). The secretary general of the opposition Workers’ Party (WP), Mr Low Thia Khiang, said he welcomed Mr Tharman’s remarks. “Someone like the Minister for Finance in the PAP has realised that a strong opposition is good for Singapore,” Mr Low said. “I think that shows quite a shift in the PAP’s mindset, that they now see that a strong opposition is positive and good for the future of Singapore.”

Mr Tharman’s position was reiterated the next day by Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo. “It is important to have a credible opposition so that should the PAP turn corrupt or become flaccid,” he said, “there’s an alternative that Singaporeans can go for.”

If one goes back just a few years, such a position would have been unthinkable. Senior PAP ministers took pains – and at times issued warnings – to explain why an opposition in Parliament would not benefit Singapore but would do Singapore in instead.

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