I know I have already written articles aplenty in relation to the sense of entitlement that our elected government has been displaying. From parking perks to the refrain of “we deserve epic salaries”, this culture of misguided expectation on the part of our ruling party seems to be pervasive. Another example of how government members set themselves apart from the hoi polloi (i.e. us, the people who voted for them and put them there) is the special seating arrangement that our Members of Parliament have at the National Day Parade.
As pictured, one can see that Minister for Foreign Affairs and MP for Holland-Bukit Timah, Vivian Balakrishnan is seated in some sort of cushy black chair with its own mini television by which to view the proceedings with. The rest of us mere mortals, however, do not have the privilege of these extra comforts. Why do the MPs get this seating benefit? While we may have voted for them to represent us at Parliament (in exchange for a good salary), we certainly didn’t vote for them to lord it over us? Even if this is not the intention of the government, this is the impression it is sending out.
National Day is a day for ALL (emphasis intended) Singaporeans. It is a day for unity and togetherness. Why then is there a “VIP” section for those who are supposed to symbolise that unity? Why are they sitting on high with their special “thrones” while the rest of us plebs cheer? Do they think we are cheering for them? Let me remind you – the cheering is for the nation! Not the government nor the ruling party!
I understand that there may be security arrangements which is why members of the government may have to sit in a more secure area. However, secure does not equate to throne like luxury? Besides, isn’t it safer if the MPs were scattered throughout? By congregating on high en mass, aren’t they more of a sitting duck? Is it for security or is it to send the message that they are the chosen ones set apart?
Besides, it is important to note that this was not always the case. In earlier National Day Parades such as in 2002 held at the old Kallang stadium, we all sat in the same type of seats. Not to mention the extra expense of creating these special seats. How much was it? It might not cost a lot for the add-ons given modern technology, but why the difference? Why the sudden change?
I am not suggesting that this is deliberately done for this National Day Parade for the implicit purpose of displaying their power but have we been ingrained to think that this is the way things should be?
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in 2015, “Be humble in victory. As MPs, always remember we are servants of the people, not masters.” but let us also not forget that in that same year, PM Lee when asked the culture of a lack of respect for or challenging authority in countries such as the US, Sweden and Israel which are dominant in innovation, science and technology and how Singapore’s model runs against its economic objectives, he said, “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”