By Dr Ang Yong Guan
Dear PM Lee, On the surface, your speech was impressive especially the last stretch when you returned to speak after your “collapse”.
You were candid, spontaneous with a touch of humour; deviating from your prepared speech at times. You reminded Singaporeans what you and your government have done for the nation in the last 15 years; citing examples after examples and showing them on slides of how our physical landscape has changed and how much our economy has grown. You wanted us to take pride in our nation.
However, you have forgotten that a nation is not judged by its landscape or economic development alone. The political space counts too.
In your speech, you too realise the importance of managing this space well. However, you and your government have continued to use the law to tighten an already small political space. In recent months, it has gone even tighter. The passing of the Contempt of Court law is an example. The impending change(s) to the Elected Presidency Scheme is another.
Changing the laws is very convenient given that the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament belong to your party and that Singaporeans, as what your sister Dr Lee Wei Ling had said “have gotten used to an authoritarian government….and so when another new action is taken, they do not even bother to think whether it may be against their welfare.” She even felt that the Contempt of Court bill “gives the government the right to comment whilst denying that to people…is inconsistent with equality before the law and is an attempt to muzzle public opinion.”
Many of us feel that we are being pushed to a corner, our rights further curtailed. We respect the rule of law but the laws must be fair and worthy of our respect. If the laws are easily and conveniently changed or amended and worse still, perceived to be consolidating the power of the ruling party, we cannot help but lament that your government is not interested in engaging its citizens in healthy political debates whether it is over television, radios or other media.
You spoke about building a compassionate and inclusive nation in your speech. Make it happen. Bring the 30% on board not by pushing them to a corner and create an “us” versus “them” mentality. Embrace their diverse views, engage them in robust debates and create an even-playing political field. Win them over. As I have said before: “People are patriotic, keep that patriotic flame going strong by including them and NOT excluding them.”
You concluded your speech by mentioning that what you would like is “that we be blessed with a divine discontent – always dissatisfied with where we are; always driven to do better… yet have the wisdom to count our blessings, so that we know how precious Singapore is, and we know how to enjoy and protect it.” May that divine discontent include the political space too so that Singapore can continue to grow in all spheres to become a greater nation.
Politics aside, please remember to go for your medical check-up as you have promised to do.
This was first published on Dr Ang’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.
Editor’s note – Oppositions need not be members of the opposition parties but also individuals and groups of the population who object certain policies and actions taken by the government in reaction to certain threats or challenges faced by the country.