Mixed public response on potential ripple effect across the Causeway

On 12 July, Executive Chairman and co-founder of Banyan Tree Limited Holdings, Mr Ho Kwon Ping warned that it would be a “foolish mistake” for Singaporeans to heed Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s suggestion that Singaporeans “must be tired of their government”.  

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad prophesised a ripple effect across the Causeway, merely weeks after Pakatan Harapan (PH, or The Alliance of Hope)’s monumental victory in Malaysia’s General Election last 9 May, according to the Financial Times.

Mr Ho noted that the similarities between both nations, including the fact that Singapore’s PAP and Malaysia’s BN are founding parties in their countries, will not necessarily mean that the former would suffer the same fate.

Thus, Singapore and its people, he argued, would be “drawing the wrong lessons” should they conclude “that the fall of the PAP is imminent for whatever reasons that are happening across the Causeway.”

However, Mr Ho did not rule out the possibility that the PAP government might be ousted out of power in the future.

He had also predicted, however, that the end of PAP’s rule might only take place within the next two or three decades.

Local netizens have produced mixed responses in the wake of Mr Ho’s statements.

Gilbert Cheah supported Ho’s warning regarding the possibility of PAP being removed from power in the future:

As usual, Ho Kwon Ping offers insightful analyses. The headline to this article doesn’t do justice to the depth and substance in his speech. People should try reading the article before commenting. His warning of what can happen to arrogant leaders who think they can always remain in power should be well-noted.

Ben Chong suggested that the possibility is not a remote one, citing several possible reasons for a turning in the tide against the PAP:

It’s never a “foolish mistake” to learn from Mahathir’s wise words. […]

It may not be [a] kleptocratic [government], but it could be something else that could make Singaporeans “tired of their government”.

Possibilities are:

1) Foreign talents taking over most managerial positions and lucrative jobs and roles in MNC at the expense of Singaporeans?

2) GST 9%?

3) Expensive flats?

4) High income gaps between bottom 20% and top 10%?

5) MPs responsiveness and arrogance?

6) Elitism policies?

7) China-related problems?

8) Complacency?

Sean Saravanan lamented about what he believes to be a by-product of the PAP’s policies, which is the displacement of Singapore citizens through the import of Foreign Talents, which might contribute to the PAP’s increased unpopularity among citizens:

You see, PAP is capable and experienced but… They don’t seem to care about the citizens and have made serious wrong decisions with grave consequences. Like bringing in oversupply of FT [Foreign Talents] and displacing [their] own citizens. Thousands of [university] graduates are jobless and helpless with the numbers adding on. Senior citizens’ CPF stuck and they are suffering. All these n more… If PAP wins again, costs will continue to escalate beyond measure. The [PAP] Government has not controlled and managed its spending properly, and citizens have to suffer for it. Yet nothing is being done to place the thousands of jobless [citizens] in proper jobs.

However, Gilbert Cheah argued against Sean Saravanan’s comment, saying that the PAP’s measure to import Foreign Talents has contributed not only to Singapore’s success, but even the nation’s survival:

Singapore has a shrinking and ageing population that cannot replace itself. Despite this, the Government has restricted Immigration so much since 2011 that companies cannot even find enough workers and are closing or relocating. The Government knows that restricting immigration is actually bad for the country now and in the long run, but it’s become populist and so frightened of xenophobes.

Several netizens have also mentioned the lack of cohesion and solidarity among the opposition parties in Singapore as a factor that might damper their efforts to turn the tide against the PAP government:

Cheryce Shandy RYain wrote:

Quoted from the article – “However, he warned of the possibility that the PAP might no longer be in power in the future, though this might only happen in the next 20 to 30 years.”

Might…? For goodness’ sake, it is a matter of time and how soon and how much the citizens are willing to “gamble”.

It would be a different scene now if the opposition parties are more united, sensible and aggressive. Sigh.

Johanes Pkmi said:

Singapore is very unique [in comparison to Malaysia] because the opposition [parties] are weak… They are “purposely” left to survive but weakened by controlling the whole complex ecosystem… It will take courage from many Singaporeans to change that… To nourish and give better chance and better ecosystem that will prevent one party from being super dominant.

Jimmy Tay wrote:

The problem is we don’t have a competent opposition that can form a government. Once we have [one], PAP can go fly kite.

Jack Lim appeared to be less optimistic than the previous netizens, implying that the majority of Singaporeans’ loyalty to PAP is deeply entrenched:

[It] will never happen.. even [if the country’s name is] change[d] to “PAPore”, 88% will support.

Chai Min Fook’s comment seems to mirror the “Asian” political philosophy described by Mr Ho earlier on, which, other than “good governance”, prioritises stability and consistency, which he appears to believe that the PAP has been able to provide for decades:

If PAP should ever fall, the citizens have to ensure that it falls into the right hands or the right party. Failing which, would surely mean the decline of Singapore and it’s wealth which would translate into the destruction of Singapore. So, it is very important that every voter put a thought, a consideration and a focus on his or her vital vote, to choose the right candidate from the right party. Do not just vote for a candidate regardless of the quality and suitability, just to displace the PAP, that would be dangerous for the country. This would also spell disaster for the nation if everyone has the same thought process and blinded vengeful foresight. If everyone thinks that his or her vote will not affect the overall count of the election, it may well turn out to be otherwise, as they may be a high chance of a freak result happening. If that does happen, the chance of voting in people who are incompetent or suitable to run the country would be quite great and it could spell disaster for Singapore. So, in a nutshell, do cast your VOTE WISELY, do not let undue personal sentiments and differences overshadow your ability to cast the right vote. Before you cast your vote, place the country above yourself.

Derek Ong replied with a rather grim comparison between Singaporeans and Malaysians:

Don’t worry what you’ve stated won’t happen, because Singaporeans by and large are not gutsy and intelligent enough, unlike our neighbors…

Marcus Tay replied, possibly intending to remind Derek Ong of the alternative to voting PAP:

Derek Ong, this is true, but things will change if your sons and daughters can’t find food to be put on the table, or can’t earn enough to provide basic needs.

Derek Ong responded, possibly wanting to highlight the dark realities looming over Singaporeans under the current PAP rule:

Marcus Tay, it is already happening… Just look at many of our old folks… Instead of being able to retire peacefully… They still have [to] work as cleaners and pickers until their last days… Do you see this happening in our neighbouring countries that are supposedly poorer than us…?

Marcus Tay interjected, saying:

Derek Ong, [it is] sad, but 70% are still barking as if their lives are not affected. I am sure [out of] those 70%, some of their mothers and fathers are struggling. Hahaha… Brainwash to the max.

Patricia Hon left a comment along a similar vein:

For all the haters of our ruling government, Be careful what you wish for

Marcus Tay replied, seemingly unswayed by the netizens who are assumed to be pro-PAP, and echoed Mr Ho’s warning in his speech:

Wishes do come true… and they will, if [the] PAPaya [government] keep up with what they are doing now.