Shanmugam and Sylvia were just being politicians

By Ravi Philemon

I refer to the letter by Alex Chiang (link), where Mr Chiang writes 'we should also expect our parliamentarians to put aside partisan interests and speak for Singapore'.  

The Parliament of Singapore's website describes Parliament as being 'modelled after the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy where Members of Parliament are voted in at regular General Elections. The leader of the political party that secures the majority of seats in Parliament will be asked by the President to become the Prime Minister (PM). The PM will then select his Ministers from elected MPs to form the Cabinet.'

If Parliament is made up of partisan politicians, should we not expect these politicians to inject politics into the issues they raise in Parliament? Elected partisan politicians believe that what's in the interest of the political party is also in the interest of Singapore. If elected representatives are not expected to speak in Parliament in the interest of their political party, which they believe is also in the interest of the country, there will be no need for a Party Whip, whose responsibility among other things, is also to ensure that elected representatives from their party vote on issues along party lines. 
 
When duly elected representatives in Singapore themselves prefer to identify themselves as 'full-time, good, community service volunteer' (Teo Ser Luck) rather than as politicians, it is no surprise that some like Mr Chiang are confused about the role of elected members of parliament.
 
The role of the opposition politician is to raise questions on the integrity of the system, to ensure that the system holds up to scrutiny, which is what Ms Sylvia Lim did. And the role of the ruling Party is to question the motive of the opposition for raising such questions, which is what Mr K Shanmugam has done. 
 
Both did nothing wrong in acting the way they did. They were only doing their jobs – being politicians.