Citizens’ loyalty to country is called into question from time to time. What is less often talked about is government loyalty to citizens.
First and foremost, the men and women who govern the country must show loyalty to the people who elect them and entrust them to serve with honour and integrity.
This is often taken for granted but in reality, not always practised.
Many call out the United States for having a dysfunctional system. The Republicans and Democrats are hell bent on villifying each other’s party. Theirs is a two-party system which causes gridlock. Politicians’ loyalty is by and large to the party, the donors and the base, not the citizenry as a whole.
In Singapore, we have a one-party system. While this cuts out the gridlock, it does not cut out the tendency to put party before country.
Which political party, if given the opportunity, would not give in to the temptation of doing what it can (fair or foul) to shore up its power and dominance?
When this happens, the party inevitably comes before country, and loyalty to citizens takes a backseat.
One example is the Group Representation Constituency or GRC system. It is surely no coincidence that the system was introduced after the 1984 general election, when the People’s Action Party suffered its biggest-ever decline in its vote share and the first time since 1963 that they had not won every seat.
A case could be made that there are other ways to ensure minority representation in the House and the GRC system undermines the legitimacy of the electoral system. The same goes for the amendments to the Elected Presidency where and racial equality.
Another example is the elected presidency. The government suddenly decided it should be reserved for the Malay community and significantly raised the threshold for private sector candidates. This in effect ruled out Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a potential President they least wanted. Dr Tan mounted an unsuccessful court challenge but to this day, many feel he was robbed of the presidency.
But in a one-party system, the government of the day calls the shots. And this can be manifested in ways and means aimed at putting party first – not country, not citizens.
Loyalty to citizens also extends to helping those who for some reason are unable to help themselves. It is alarming when we hear that our society has become such that it is expected of frail old men and old women to clean tables at food centres and nothing can be done about it.
We also have to be concerned if politicians are only enticed to get out of bed each day to do their job because of million-dollar salaries. If the loyalty is to the pay cheque – and not the citizens they are elected to serve – we have a problem.
So, by all means, let us demand loyalty of citizens – but let us also demand that our government always puts country and citizens first, not party and certainly not paycheque.