“When it’s set up, everyone will know”: PM Lee in January


Clean fight, please

Weeks before GE 2011, then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, commenting on the elections, called for “a clean fight – no personal attacks, no rude language.”

He also said that “we are a gracious, generous community”.

With PM Lee keeping silent about the appointment of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) for “two months”, keeping it from not only every opposition party but also every Singaporean, are we seeing signs that this GE will not be “a clean fight”?

It is, as the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said, rather “shocking” that Mr Lee Hsien Loong (and his Cabinet colleagues) would keep mum all these weeks when speculation was rife about an impending elections.

While the prime minister is well within his rights not to disclose the formation of the committee, it is still disappointing that he chose not to provide Singaporeans with more transparency on the matter.

This seems to be a regression from the openness of the last two elections where he announced the convening of the EBRC prior to the hustings.

The last time, prior to Monday’s disclosure in Parliament, which Mr Lee mentioned anything about the EBRC was in January, when he said that “the Government is preoccupied with the SG50 celebrations this year and hence, has had no time to think about when to set up the committee.”

But Mr Lee did say, according to a TODAY report on 16 January:

“When it’s set up, everyone will know.”

TODAY, 16 Jan 2015
TODAY, 16 Jan 2015

Well, everyone didn’t, in fact – not for two months.

If MPs Arthur Fong and Yee Jenn Jong did not file parliamentary questions asking the PM about it, the latter would probably still have kept everyone in the dark, as he has the last two months.

It would seem to some that Mr Lee, who is also the secretary general of the People’s Action Party (PAP), would be guilty of not being fair.

Indeed, reactions from opposition parties and civil society groups have cried foul at the non-disclosure, with some calling on the Government to change such a practice.

Some may even compare this in sharp contrast to the PAP Government’s insistence and demand of transparency from others in recent times.

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, a member of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) and who will probably be its candidate for the Mountbatten SMC, called for reforms in the electoral boundary review process.

“The worrying fact remains that the EBRC had already been convened two months ago without public knowledge,” she said. “That the news of the EBRC’s formation only surfaced today upon questioning characterizes the secrecy and the lack of transparency surrounding the EBRC. The EBRC’s processes are obscure and their considerations are hidden from the public eye. The only insight into EBRC and their work is from the EBRC reports that are presented to Parliament before elections.”

While it is of course within the rights of Mr Lee (and the PAP Government) to ignore such calls, which in all probability it would, it can only breed distrust of not just the PAP or the Government but also of the entire electoral system as a whole.

Singaporeans, celebrating their 50th year as a nation, deserves better than double-talk, opaque promises which are not borne out in actual fact.

When you say, “When it’s set up, everyone will know”, few would expect that they would only know through a parliamentary question being filed, and even then to be told that in fact the EBRC had already been set up “two months ago.”

Further, the exact date of the formation of the committee is left undisclosed.

So too the identity of the members of the committee, besides that of the chairman.

Mr Lee should perhaps play the gentleman, and heed the advice of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in 2011 – and let this next election be “a clean fight”, with full disclosure and transparency on the processes leading up to, during and even after the hustings when the votes have been cast

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