While I understand the need for a strong and stable government, I would have to disagree with former Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong when he disagrees that the role of the opposition should be one of “check and balance” as he feels that means the government is not doing things right. This opinion seems rather contradictory to me.
Firstly, how would we know whether or not the government is “doing things right” to begin with if there is no opposition within Parliament to ensure accountability? In an overwhelmingly single party system, don’t we need checks and balances in place to ensure that government Members of Parliament who are all part of the same party do not close ranks and protect the party over the interests of the state? Without opposition candidates in Parliament to highlight issues that the public may not know about and to ask the questions that we may not otherwise have a chance to ask, how will wrongdoing ever really come to light?
In other democratic countries, one can perhaps raise the argument that the press steps in to ensure that the public is kept aware of any potential wrongdoing or conflicts of interests etc. But in Singapore, where the main stream media has the reputation of being potentially led by state power brokers and where the “fake news” bill has just been passed which could potentially lead to self censorship at best and prosecutions of critics at worst, this safeguard does not work. In the Singaporean context therefore, it is perhaps not unreasonable to come to the conclusion that the only checks and balances available to us is via opposition MPs.
Secondly, Mr Goh’s examples of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and the Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) scheme as stabilisers of the system do not convince me. How does the GRC system stabilise the country? Does it stabilise the People Action Party’s political prowess or does it actually stabilise the needs of the country? The GRC system makes it difficult for opposition parties to field the requisite number of candidates required to contest. How can Mr Goh in the same breath say that he hopes to see “intelligent, constructive, critical opposition” that can challenge the Government when he is praising a system that in fact curtails the ability of opposition parties? Besides, is it not a waste of state resources to see so many MPs administering one constituency?
By the same vein, how does the NMP scheme stabilise anything? NMPs are nominated by those with links or affiliations to the ruling party. Would they really rock the boat too hard in order to fight for what is right for Singapore?
If Mr Goh was hoping to reassure the public of Singapore being in good hands, I am afraid, it doesn’t really seem convincing.