When I first read about the much-touted parliamentary debate between PM Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Low Thia Khiang, I was intrigued. After so many years of PAP versus PAP Parliamentary debates, I was keen to listen to the topics of state an opposition leader and PM Lee would discuss. After watching the video that has been published online, however, I was left severely underwhelmed.
Was 10 minutes of the parliamentary session really spent on an exchange about what constructive politics means and whether or not the Worker’s Party U turned on their previous stances? Is policy shift versus policy change truly worthy of such a lengthy discourse? The volley of tit for tat arguments was definitely not the mark of a first world parliament.
Between Mr Low and PM Lee, it is immediately obvious to tell who had the stronger command of the English language. That aside though, I was disappointed by the tone of PM Lee’s points. He stated that in any serious government, it was for the opposition to provide alternative solutions and implied that failure to do so would mean that the opposition was substandard.
In a mature democracy, that would be the ideal situation and that should be where Singapore should aspire towards. While we are not yet there, the Workers Party has already done something for our political landscape – something that we have not had for a very long time – checks and balances! Why has PM Lee not acknowledged this very crucial development?
Checks and balances are the most important elements to ensuring accountability and the role of the opposition is first and foremost to safeguard against a “rubber stamp” Parliament. I am not suggesting that Singapore had a “rubber stamp” Parliament. All I am saying is that as a result of the WP’s rise to power, there has been more visible debate on issues such as population growth, COE prices, transportation services, and the list goes on.
The rise of the opposition parties is relatively new in Singapore’s political landscape. PM Lee cannot realistically expect the WP to have the same resources that the PAP has. The PAP has been in power for 50 years. WP is in itself aware of that. For any party to flourish, time will be required. PAP was hardly as sophisticated as it is now when they were first formed, were they?
What I took out of this debate was that perhaps the PAP are also adjusting to having “real” political debates as opposed to the previous tamer variety and are fighting every point in an almost pedantic manner to “score points”.
This is not only counter-productive but also leads to more prominent issues being sidelined.
The role of the opposition is to question when required, provide solutions when possible and move on when futile debate is a waste of time. Low Thia Khiang seems to be trying to do that and it would be an encouraging step for PM Lee to also turn a page. This debate for the sake of a debate was truly a colossal waste of time. Come on PAP, you are better than this.