Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh has weighed in on the debate which was started recently by ST Editor-at-Large Han Fook Kwang.
Mr Singh wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday (7 Jun) criticising Lim Yuin Chien – press secretary to Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat – for not showing humility while responding to Mr Han's opinion piece on ST.
"I agree that the responses from the government unfortunately does not reflect humility," Mr Singh wrote.
Press Secretary Lim criticises Han Fook Kwang for daring ministers to make "sweeping promises"
On 3 Jun, Mr Han wrote an article ("Ministers, please speak plainly to the people"), saying that he was unsure if the speeches made by ministers in Parliament last month to discuss the Government’s agenda for the coming years connected well with the average Singaporean.
Mr Han felt that the ministers' speeches were "mostly about abstract stuff", and suggested that leaders "use the language of ordinary people", as Singaporeans "must believe you understand his anxieties before he will listen to what your thinking and plans are to make his life better".
Giving an example, Mr Han suggested that they could tell Singaporeans, "I promise you that if you have had a full working life in Singapore, in any job, whether you are a cleaner, a security guard, a taxi driver or a waiter, when you retire at 65, you will have enough to live a good and decent life."
"We will make sure it happens – don't worry about the details or how we will do it. The only thing we ask is that you must do your part and be serious about your job," Mr Han challenged the 4G ministers.
Then a couple of days later, press secretary Lim Yuin Chien wrote to ST Forum accusing Mr Han of "daring" the ministers to make "sweeping promises".
Singaporean elderly collecting trolleys, card boards, dishes and guarding condos
Mr Lim also disagreed with the retirement example given by Mr Han. Mr Lim said that the CPF scheme is "adequate". He said, "The Central Provident Fund scheme is adequate for most Singaporeans, and Silver Support will help top up for those who did not earn much while working."
"However, as people live longer, their needs in old age will go up. Then, we will have to work longer, save more while working, or have less to spend in retirement."
Finally, Mr Lim scolded Mr Han, "The easiest five words to utter in politics are: 'I promise you free lunches.' But that's not plain speech. That's pandering and populism."
Certainly, hardworking Singaporeans do not expect any "free lunches" as they have already known that this PAP government doesn't give free stuff. So, many are prepared to work.
However, the human body isn't made to last and when one gets old, his mind may be willing but his body will not.
And, indeed, many foreigners who visited Singapore for the first time would inevitably be surprised to see many Singaporean elderly still working in their 70s or even 80s with hands and legs shaking, collecting trolleys at airport, collecting cardboard from roadsides, collecting dishes at hawker centres, guarding condos or driving taxis.
In other words, Singaporeans literally have to work till they drop dead, even when their body is not willing. Elite civil servants like Mr Lim, of course, has no such problems since their salaries run into several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
"So speak up Singaporeans"
In any case, Mr Singh wrote there was a thinking in the Government that views such as those expressed by Mr Han were from a vocal minority, and that "the mindset probably is that a silent majority don’t feel the same".
As such, he called on more Singaporeans to speak up.
"This is why it is useful for more people to speak up sincerely so everyone knows what the real issues Singaporeans are concerned with," he said. "Listening with true humility and sincerity is critical if we want a meaningful Singapore conversation."
"So speak up Singaporeans."
Mr Singh is one of the rare few MPs who dares to speak out against the establishment.
In 2013, at the height of the unpopular 6.9 million Population White Paper (PWP) which was hurriedly pushed through in the PAP-dominated Parliament, Mr Singh supposedly quietly excused himself from the Chamber so that he wouldn't be forced to vote for the unpopular Population White Paper, as the whip was not lifted. In the end, 77 PAP MPs voted for it without Mr Singh. In this way, Mr Singh kept his hands clean without any blood on his hands.
In 2015, he was dropped from contesting in the General Election by PM Lee.