I think it would be fair to say that when the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) was alive, those within the ranks of the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP), those who worked within the civil service and people affiliated with the PAP run government presented a united front. They appeared to seamlessly toe the party line with no hint of dissension. Now that LKY is gone, is that veneer of solidarity crumbling?
When LKY was ailing and less “present” in the political scene, we had people affiliated with the PAP becoming more vocal in their disagreements with the PAP. Notably, we had former Member of Parliament (MP), Dr. Tan Cheng Bock (TCB), openly contesting the elected presidency against a PAP endorsed candidate in the form of Tony Tan. TCB even went as far as challenging the change of criteria for the elected presidency in court! Would this have happened under the late LKY’s watch? One cannot help but question if the current PAP leadership is able to project the same level of confidence to unite the PAP itself. Is there dissension in the ranks?
What about former MP Inderjit Singh publicly disagreeing with current PAP policies? Have the younger PAP leadership veered too far right?
Singaporeans would also remember the very public spat between the Lee siblings over LKY’s former residence in Oxley Road. In that dispute, we had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s (LHL) nephew remarking on the pliancy of the Singapore courts, LHL’s sister calling him a “dishonourable son” and LHL’s brother leaving Singapore with his family. When LKY was alive, it is no doubt that the Lee clan were loyal to him and kept their dirty linen to themselves. With his unifying power now gone, it appeared that all hell had broken lose.
Professor Tommy Koh (Koh) has publicly urged the gay community in Singapore to mount legal challenges against the hotly debated Section 377A of the penal code despite the government declaring that it felt that the controversial section should remain in the statute books despite the assurances that it would never use Section 377A to prosecute anyone. Now, Koh has openly challenged the impartiality of The Straits Times by querying the way the paper had covered the minimum wage issue. Rightly or wrongly, The Straits Times has the reputation of being a mouthpiece of the PAP government. This has never however been so openly and publicly stated by someone who is seen as either part of or affiliated with the PAP establishment.
The seeming disintegration of past loyalties have made me think about the importance of a unifying figure. The PAP methodology of government has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the death of its unifying figure. With LKY now gone, will dissension become even more common?