When Singapore’s biggest and most successful Opposition party has to resort to making a public appeal for money to pay for legal battles and “deal with the prospect” of bankruptcy, you know they are in dire straits.
It would be no surprise though if Singaporeans, by and large, still go about their lives thinking what happens to the Opposition is not of their concern, that other people’s problems are not their problems.
There are five questions we need to ask.
The first obvious question: Is this what fixing the Opposition looks like?
Remember these words uttered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2006: “Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Steve Chia. We can deal with them. Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 Opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”
Fast forward 2011, when the WP captured Aljunied GRC – a major coup – and thus beget the saga of the town council woes culminating in the current court case.
But then, can anyone or any party fix the WP such that it ends up committing missteps?
So the follow-up question: Did the WP let its guard down?
Caught in the euphoria of winning a GRC, the WP could have felt it was on a roll and could do no wrong.
If there’s one thing you cannot afford to do when you are up against the might of the People’s Action party, it is to blink and let your guard down. The PAP will bite hard and ensure there are consequences and a price to be paid.
The next question that comes to mind: Could the same fate befall PAP town councillors?
To try and imagine a scenario where a PAP town council ends up suing its own town councillors and Members of Parliament is just unthinkable and unimaginable.
If you think the PAP wouldn’t be so foolish and so reckless as to commit harakiri, you are not alone.
So then, we have to ask: Is this nothing more than the PAP vs the WP?
The plaintiffs suing the WP town councillors are Aljunied-Hougang Town Council and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.
So on paper at least, it’s got nothing to do with the PAP.
But if you take this at face value, then you are the sort who will buy anything from a snake oil salesman.
Let’s not forget too that the man in the front and centre of the trial – Senior Counsel Davinder Singh – is a former PAP MP who has triumphed in numerous legal battles for Lee Kuan Yew and PM Lee, against Opposition politicians like Tang Liang Hong, Chee Soon Juan and Roy Ngerng, and foreign media outlets like The Economist, Bloomberg and New York Times.
Which bring us to the fifth and final question: Isn’t it scary when we start to think who in their right mind would want to be an Opposition politician?
Given that the burden is so heavy and the price so high, to be in the Opposition camp is to live life on a cliff’s edge. The reality is that even WP MPs, known to be moderate and disciplined politicians, have ended up in hot soup.
Unless Singaporeans ditch their apathy and care to exercise their power as citizens, they will find that one day there is no one left to listen and give them voice. And their problems will be theirs alone because no one is left to fight for them.