The reality of voters voting out governments is not as straightforward as what some put it to be

by Simon Lim

In a state media interview with Channel News Asia (CNA), Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam was quoted as attempting to assuage public fears about the abuse of power by claiming that his government is accountable because Singaporeans have the power to vote them out in an election.

He said,

“We’ve always said: ‘OK what works for us, we’ve put it in place and we exercise those powers honestly.’ And we allow ourselves to be judged and, periodically, the people judge us at the elections and they look at the results of what we have done. The pluses, minuses, bottomline, how does it work,”

When I read that, I couldn’t help but smile to myself because despite what he has said were not incorrect, the reality is not as straightforward. There is more than meets the eye. Let me explain.

I will give an example and I believe that fellow netizens will understand better. Indian fortune tellers in Little India very often open their little bird cage doors to let their birds out to pick a playing card and the birds will then automatically go back into the cage when they tell fortune. Naive people often wonder why didn’t the small bird grab the opportunity while being let out and fly away.

In case anybody still doesn’t know why, the simple answer is because one, the wings of those small birds have been clipped and two, the birds have also been regularly fed until they are now, both, can no longer fly and don’t bother to fly away. Those birds’ situation is like saying Singaporeans have the power to vote them out in an election lalala…

The late Lee Kuan Yew told the late Deng Xiao Peng when the latter visited Singapore that Chinese Singaporeans are descendants of inferior Chinese migrant stocks and he was probably correct. That is also true of our Indian citizens. Those wealthier, better connected and better educated forbears didn’t have to leave their homelands to come to Singapore in search of a better lives.

We, Singaporeans have basically inherited inferior genes from our forebears and when such people are also ruled under an authoritarian People’s Action Party government for far too long like in our case, a government that knows too well about playing the game of when to come down hard on its people and when to pacify them, over time, people’s behaviours, awe and fear of the PAP government become ingrained in their psyche. In other words, our people have been conditioned.

Despite repeated assurances given by the PAP government, alternative parties and civil society that your vote is secret, too many ordinary citizens and I believe that a not insignificant numbers of civil servants too harbour genuine fear of voting against the PAP government. We can either choose to continue to ignore or pretend that this is not true because to many of them, maintaining the status-quo and/or ignorance is bliss or we can choose to develop the enlightenment to realise that the best of the PAP government is behind us and courageously vote for a new day and new hopes for ourselves and our children and refuse to continue salivating PAP’s past achievements and glory….

So, to what K. Shanmugam said to CNA, I say yes, he was correct but let us be ever mindful of this one important Uniquely Singapore cavaet. Think!

This was first published on Mr Lim’s Facebook page, and reproduced with permission