We need the government to pull us through the COVID-19 crisis, the greatest crisis the country has known since independence.
But the government needs a favour back from us first – they want us to return them to power resoundingly in a general election.
The temptation for the People’s Action Party (PAP) to call a COVID-19 general election is simply too great to resist. The hue and cry from the opposition will fall on deaf ears. An election will be called sooner rather than later.
What a pity.
The government has often spoken of forging trust with the people. So why can’t they trust the people of Singapore to do the right thing at the right time? If they do a good job and are sincere in standing in solidarity with Singaporeans, they will garner immense goodwill. Singaporeans will give credit where credit is due.
Instead, they plan to extract the credit and the dues from more than 2.6 million voters right in the midst of a contagious public health crisis.
The odds are no doubt exceedingly in favour of a strong PAP showing in a COVID-19 election. But at what price?
In his supplementary budget statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: “It is in times of crisis that the true character of a nation can be seen.”
Might we add that it is also in times of crisis that the true character of a government can be seen. If the government’s instinct is to hold an opportunistic general election during the mother of all crisis, what does it say about its character?
The government says it wants a fresh mandate to fight COVID-19. What this means is: Give us your vote first and we will then do everything in our power to steer you through the crisis.
That is akin to holding Singaporeans to ransom during a pandemic.
The opposition faces a colossal task. It would do well to be razor focused in getting enough Singaporeans to respond: No way, ransom will not be paid. take care of my health and emotional and financial well-being first.