Member of Parliament, Inderjit Singh, made a heartfelt posting on his Facebook wall yesterday responding to the President’s speech given at the start of the second session of the 12th Parliament. The MP of Ang Mo Kio GRC (Group Representative Constituency), clearly having wrestled with his tortured conscience, expresses the frustrations of the common Singaporean. He criticizes the current government and civil service, which he says are elitist; preoccupied with “fighting fires” due to poor policies or implementation; and out of touch with the society which they serve. He also characterizes the President’s speech as falling short of fixes to the “root cause of the problems”.
He writes, in his posting:
“I am afraid that we may have reached the situation chastised by Dr. Goh [Keng Swee], that today’s policy makers live in a different society from the average Singaporean. During my MPS [Meet the People] sessions I encounter a fair number of residents who question the rationale of government policies. They feel that the government does not understand their needs and concerns but instead craft policy while seated in, what effectively seems like a different world, an ideal clean and sterile policy lab or an ivory tower perched high up.”
Singh laments the government’s growth-at-all-costs philosophy which overlooked the consequential toll on society; calls for wages to be uplifted in lieu of government handouts for the sake of the self-esteem of Singaporeans; acknowledges the serious integration issues caused by the government’s liberal immigration policy; suggests a shift away from the scholar-elite pathway to top positions in the civil service to one which values operational experience; and seeks engagement with the public on its concerns regarding the Central Provident Fund scheme.
Much of what Singh says is true and a sincere acknowledgment of the issues which ail our society. But, it would not be anything new to his party members—who would have ignored these cries at their regular Meet the People Sessions with their constituents—nor the public currently living the hard life caused by the People’s Action Party’s policies. What is conspicuously missing in his post is contrition and admission of personal responsibility for the present situation having been a PAP MP for 18 years during which time his party’s popularity has steadily declined.
Most significant about Singh’s message is the manner in which he communicated it—publicly, not in Parliament which is now in session. Singh’s excuse is that he is out of the country. It is heartening, however, that he managed to find the time on his travels to write his opus of a statement—40-paragraphs and over 4000 words long.
It is not the first time Singh has chosen to state his independent positions away from the company of fellow parliamentarians and the glaring eye of his boss, the Prime Minister.
In 2013, after speaking out in parliament against the Population White Paper (which advocated the increase in Singapore’s population to 6.9m by the year 2030) he famously left the chamber just prior to voting, presumably to avoid casting a ballot against his conscience. His actions spoke louder than words on a day none of the PAP MPs represented their constituents in Parliament.
Last year, he also spoke out in a press interview about the need to lift the party whip when deliberating important policies despite, ironically, having been the Deputy Government Whip in Parliament from 2002-2011.
And, now his Facebook post. Singh’s conviction it seems is most powerfully articulated when not speaking in Parliament.
Singh and Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament, probably stand out among PAP MPs as backbenchers with a conscience and who speak with sincerity about the concerns of their constituents. They probably feel that they need to be part of the PAP in order to influence policies. But their words ring hollow and are, ultimately, of little consequence when the party whip is in place. Singh, though more endearing than his party colleagues, is as much to blame for the failed polices of the PAP which he is critical of. History will show him voting time and again for motions proposed by the PAP, even ones he labels as flawed policies.
Russian despot, Joseph Stalin, made all members of his Politburo sign the voluminous death warrants that led to the assassinations of his political rivals and the Great Purge of tens of millions of peasants in gulags and villages. He did this so that no Politburo member who outlived him could say he was opposed to the atrocities at the time. They would be equally culpable and their destinies were inextricably entwined with Stalin’s.
Citing Stalin, of course, is an extreme example and I am loathe to use it as a parallel in this instance if not for reminders of dark periods in our own history such as Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum which—though not injustices perpetrated on the same scale as Stalin’s—had similarly devastating effects on those affected and their families. We only remember the brave voices of the opposition during these dark events. If there were PAP members who expressed objections, one would have to dig very deep into archives to find them. They may as well have said nothing.
Inderjit Singh is sincere and passionate in wanting serve society. But, if he truly wants to stand up and be counted, he would do well to consider changing parties at the upcoming elections.
This article was first published at maskedcrusader.blogspot.sg
(Photo credit - ST)