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DPM Tharman: We took incumbency too much for granted and were bit too in-your-face

~ By Kumaran Pillai ~

That’s right, Mr Minister! In fact, I think the words ‘too much’ should be replaced by ‘totally’ and in the past, PAP was annoyingly in-our-face. It seems that the post GE2011 period is a time of reckoning for them; they seem a lot more certain about what works, what doesn’t work, what could have been done better and the best part of it is that they have acknowledged that they have made some mistakes. It must be a very humbling experience for them indeed.

It only took a mere 6% vote swing to bootstrap their minds, to change their attitude towards the electorate and now they are even learning how to placate the people. I see where they are coming from; they certainly need to do this if they ever wish to remain in power. Not a comfortable position to be in though for an authoritarian regime like the PAP to pussyfoot the electorate.

I wholeheartedly agree with the minister that “PAP should engage more.” In fact, they should stop looking at people who are critical of the PAP as enemies, but see them as feedback channels to help make Singapore a better place for all. Actually, these critics are the ones doing the real public service here.

I see the predicament that they are in and I definitely sympathise with them. I mean, it must be really hard for authoritarians to incorporate this new engagement model in their framework. It didn’t exist previously and it is a great departure from the knuckleduster approach, and now that they have a new engagement model, there is no turning back.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Minister for Manpower, also said during the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum held at the National University of Singapore on the 4th of April that “the opposition voices that exist get a good spread, second only to online media, which is even more overly sympathetic towards the alternatives."

The key difference is not that the online media is more sympathetic to the opposition cause, the difference exists because of the way we operate and the writers in the online media are opinion makers/leaders whereas the mainstream media are mostly opinion relays. The MSM became opinion relays because one man (MM Lee) thought that they best serve as factual’ reporting outlets.

Story of GE2011

Tharman said, "Not everything starts and ends with the GE of 2011, and quite frankly, this has been an oversold story."

Of course not, Tharman - if anything started with GE2011, it is still on-going. It certainly didn’t end at the GE and it is likely to continue till 2016 and beyond. Sadly for him, as long as there are buyers, the GE story will continue to be sold. The issues in this GE touched a nerve and it has awakened the electorate and he needs to come to terms with this.

Minister Tharman was also lamenting that he doesn’t get any advantage from the mainstream media. On the contrary, his incumbency is a vantage point and he either doesn’t seem to realise it or he is just being coy about it. The fact that he gets invited to ministerial forums which are exclusive to PAP ministers, grassroots events, parliamentary sessions and local/international forums makes him a newsmaker. It is because he is in a position of power and strength that people form and express opinions about his policies; about what he does and says. His actions affect our lives in one way or another. There has been ample coverage about him in the past and it is very likely that he will continue to be a newsmaker. There is really no need to be modest about it, really.

Perhaps, their new strategy is to downplay their strengths, to be modest or even “demure” (for want of a better word!) with their audience and through this process they are hopeful that they will get some sympathy from the young and impressionable.


Headline photo courtesy of of Reuters (Tim Chong)