Singapore's Prime Minister and PAP Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong (C) and his team celebrate his victory with supporters in Singapore's Toa Payoh Stadium on Sept. 12, 2015. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey)

ST editor to PAP: Beware of mini-tsunamis that could add up to one large-tsunami

On Sunday (13 May), ST Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong wrote a piece entitled ‘Malaysian General Election: 5 takeaways for Singapore’.

In her essay, she attributed the downfall of the Malaysian government to the result of a discontent against the Barisan Nasional (BN). This eventually caused the BN to lose, despite many analysts who earlier predicted that this discontent would not be enough to drive the BN out of power.

“They were proven wrong. A multitude of mini tsunamis cascaded into a large wave that knocked the BN off centre.” She added that there was widespread “unhappiness with the cost of living and the Goods and Services Tax, and the scandal surrounding the 1MDB state fund.”

This has implications for Singapore as “politicians dismiss vocal minority issues at their own peril” She wrote. “[They] would do well to remember the lessons of the mini tsunami each time they dismiss an issue here as concerning just a small segment or ‘vocal minority’ as these could “snowball” and become a “sizeable majority.”

Yet if Miss Chua’s article is anything to go by, Singapore’s share of “mini tsunamis” are more prevalent that one might think.

How many Mini Tsunamis have we seen in Singapore?

Last September, the Halimah Yacob was inaugurated as President without a single vote being cast. This was because the People’s Action Party government decided to amend the constitution to ‘reserve’ this round of elections for a Malay candidate. Despite widespread backlash and 2 Court challenges, Mdm Halimah, a former PAP MP and Speaker of Parliament who resigned just before she declared her intention to contest the Presidency, won with a walkover as two other Malay candidates failed to meet the increased criteria for the private sector to stand for elections.

After controversy and international media attention, PM Lee later responded that this was the “right thing” to do. Nonetheless, damage had been caused with Murdoch University Professor Terence Lee said that “her assumption of office with a weak mandate haunts the PAP leadership going forward and has drawn attention to electoral manipulation and malpractice”.

That June, PM Lee’s two siblings came out and said that they were “disturbed by the character, conduct, motives and leadership” of their brother and had “lost confidence” in his leadership. They alleged that he wanted to engineer a “dynastic succession”. While PM Lee has “cleared” himself in Parliament by declaring him not guilty of any wrong doing, Flinders University Professor Michael Barr said that this episode caused “there is substantial damage to the Lee brand”.

In March this year, 4G Ministers ganged up on Worker’s Party Chairman Sylvia Lim and demanded an apology for her comments that the government was “test[ing] balloons” for a GST hike and threatened to refer her to a Committee of Privileges should she fail to do so. The latter refused to do so, gaining support from her party and by-standers alike. After the disclosure that NTUC had conducted a survey in 2017, the Ministers seemed to have backed down from their once overbearing behaviour.

A month later, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam subjected historian Thum Ping Tjin to a 6-hour grilling over the latter’s allegations that the late Lee Kuan Yew was spreading falsehood early into nationhood. This was later condemned by Amnesty International, who was “deeply concerned by the treatment of human rights defenders and human rights organisations at hearings held by a Select Committee on deliberate ‘online falsehoods’ in Singapore”. Open letters were also sent from Oxford and some 284 academics around the world to the Select Committee, decrying the treatment of Dr Thum and questioned the agenda of the committee.

Did Miss Chua predict that the PAP will lose another GRC?

On the next election, she felt that the PAP “is defending is the 60 per cent mark in vote share; and a seat threshold of perhaps 10 seats to the opposition.” Given that Worker’s Party has a total of 6 elected MPs in Parliament, Miss Chua is effectively implying that there could be the fall of another PAP held GRC.

Given that there are more mini-tsunamis in Singapore’s political scene, do you agree with Miss Chua’s assessment?