Unidentified parking ticket inspector works in Arab Street. (Photo by TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com)

Questioning government’s policies

by Teo Soh Lung

I find it sad that people should ask me for a solution when I criticise the policies of our government. I am told to shut up when I don’t have any idea (that’s what they presume) of how our government can rectify its bad policies.

Such behaviour to me is confirmation that we have disempowered people in our midst. They are dependent on our government and believe that whatever it does is good for us.

Are we animals and chickens which though able to think and feel pain, are contented to be fed until they are sent to the slaughter? We cannot even say that we are farm animals and fowl because when we have no money, our government does not owe us a duty to feed us. It is our families that will try to help us.

So why cannot we criticise our government?

Take the case of heavier penalties or fines for drivers reported in the TODAY paper of 26 June 2019.

To this report, I had remarked on my Facebook page:

“PAP government only knows one deterrence i.e. severer sentences being fines, jail terms, number of strokes or death.

In parking offences, it doesn’t take into considerations its own inefficiency or deficiency in providing parking lots or the inequality of treatment such as the privileges of ministers in parking anywhere they wish.”

A Facebook user by the name of “Robert Wee” shot back: “As u are against use financial penalty as a means to engender better civic behaviour what is your proposed prescription? Cheers”

Robert Wee may be a fake account but I will answer his question which is pretty common. Such questions were raised when JB Jeyaretnam was the single opposition in parliament back in the early 1980s. Lots of people unkindly criticised him for failing to provide solutions but merely raising questions in parliament. They even accused him of not doing any research. They forget that he was just one opposition against a pack of People’s Action Party barking dogs.

My answer to this Robert Wee and his likes is simply this.

I am a citizen of Singapore and I am entitled to comment, criticise and protest against a policy which I see is bad for my country. Unfortunately, I am not able to stand in front of parliament house with a placard in my hands without being sent to jail. So I do my best and make use of Facebook to voice my dissent.

Must I have a solution to all the follies of the PAP?

Surely not. I am not a minister in the PAP government. I am not paid a million dollars. I am not entitled to facts and figures. (Even journalists who don’t work for The Straits Times, are not entitled to information.) So why should this Robert Wee expect me to find a “prescription” for the policy to tax drivers even more severely than now?

As a citizen, I am surely entitled to criticise the government for a policy which I see is senseless and selfish. Heavier fines will only enrich the government. It will not prevent drivers who occasionally break rules.

Just look at the ugly gantries that swallow millions of dollars from car owners. Never mind that it uglifies our beautiful city as long as it enriches the government. Did the gantries solve some of the congestion problems in the city? Perhaps. But what happens next?

More gantries are built. Even when you drive from east to west, away from the city, you are caught by at least one gantry. Why? The government just wants more money! The easiest way to make money is to build gantries. The original intention of discouraging people driving into the city is thrown to the winds.

It was the same with Certificate of Entitlement (COE) for vehicles. High COEs will deter car ownership? It did for a while. But there are too many rich people in Singapore who can pay more than one COE. Yes, the government struck gold there. It was an easy way to make a lot of money. Collect 2/3 of the price of vehicles as tax for a ten-year lease of a vehicle. In addition collect petrol tax, parking tax, etc etc. The opportunities seem endless!

Coming back to the issue of heavier penalties for drivers from July 2019. I find it disturbing that instead of understanding why drivers park badly, the government does not look into its own deficiencies. Why would anyone want to park illegally if they can find a proper parking lot? True there are inconsiderate drivers along some roads but that is partly because the government, in order to collect more money have drawn parking lots when it should not have. I am thinking of East Coast Road where congestions are largely due to cars being parked along one lane of the road, whether legally or illegally.

It is said that the minister will also increase the penalties for overparking. He obviously forgets that the parking apps will not refund drivers any money for less than 10 minutes. Try ending parking when you have 10 minutes left. If the government eats up 10 minutes from drivers, what is so bad about giving some drivers an extra 10 minutes? And mind you, the CISCO officer will give you a warning even though you have less than 10 minutes to return to your car. When you write to the department to enquire why the notice was issued, you are pushed from CISCO back to the department and a standard explanation is received which does not answer your objection. And so you give up.

Robert Wee should understand that as citizens we still have some rights, though not much left. We may not have an answer to every issue that we raise but we still have the right to raise it. For this particular issue of increasing penalties, I have lots to say but I can do that another day.

This was first published on Function 8’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission