Member of Parliament Janil Puthucheary is the latest to wade into the debate on Singaporeans’ trust in the government, sparked by author Catherine Lim’s open letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong on 7 June.
In her letter, Ms Lim spoke of how there is an “unprecedented crisis of trust” between the People’s Action Party Government and the people of Singapore.
“Dear Mr Prime Minister,” she wrote. “We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.”
Ms Lim charged that the “crisis” has come about because of Mr Lee’s “inability or unwillingness to listen to the people.”
The open letter quickly went viral online, with many agreeing with Ms Lim’s views.
The Government and Mr Lee himself kept silent for a week after Ms Lim’s letter was published, preferring not to respond.
It was only on 13 June that the Singapore government, through its consul general in Hong Kong, spoke up about the matter – but only as a response to a report the day before of Ms Lim’s open letter by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The consul general, Jacky Foo, claimed that “trust in government in Singapore remains high.”
He also cited “international studies” such as the US-based Edelman Trust Barometer which found that in 2012, some 73 per cent of Singaporeans trusted the government as an institution.
However, the 2012 study also found that trust in individual leaders was at a woeful 23 per cent.
A day after Mr Foo’s letter to the SCMP, Ms Lim issued a response of her own.
Ms Lim insisted that “three years after GE 2011, the trust has not been regained.”
“The best proof lies, not in the graffiti, the mass demonstrations or the raucous social media, but in the most unlikely place—within the PAP camp itself,” she said in her letter to the local media.
“Here there are voices urging the leaders to connect better with the ground, reflecting awareness that the problem has become serious enough to warrant attention at the highest levels.”
She added, “Hence I would like to point out that the mistrust is very real, even if it only involves a minority.”
This has now prompted Mr Puthucheary to jump into the debate.
In his letter to the Straits Times on Thursday, 19 June, the MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC pointed to how “Ms Lim now admits the mistrust may involve only ‘a minority’.”
“It appears that Ms Lim cannot be trusted to be consistent in her own statements,” he said.
He said that “maintaining trust between Government and the people is a never-ending process.”
“We must defend ourselves robustly against sweeping attacks on our nation, our government, our people or our leaders,” Mr Puthucheary urged.
He said that “the majority of Singaporeans do not want our nation's reputation tarnished and do not deserve to have their views warped by jaundiced commentators on the sidelines.”
In the meantime, PM Lee himself has not responded personally to Ms Lim’s open letter.