Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his ministers’ refusal to admit errors had caused huge problems to the country, the Chief of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Dr Chee Soon Juan said on Thursday (16 April) as he called the Government’s denial of errors as an “attitude of arrogance”.
Previously on 8 April, Dr Chee in a Facebook video remarked the Government has made three serious missteps that put the lives and health of Singaporeans in danger.
The first misstep was Mr Lee’s call for people not to wear masks if they are well; the second misstep was Mr Lee encouraged people to go out when the advice should have been to stay home; and the third misstep was the Government allowed Malaysian workers to enter the country when Malaysia had imposed Movement Control Order (MCO).
Dr Chee came out with another Facebook video on 16 April, denoting the Government’s denial of errors has led to a huge problem to Singapore amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since I last spoke with you, many things have happened, the most worrisome being the explosion of the number of the new infections a record of 386 cases in one day on 13 April. The number increased to 447 on 15 April,” said Dr Chee.
The number of new cases shows the level of the critical situation in Singapore, as Taiwan and Hong Kong only recorded five new infected cases on 13 April, while New Zealand recorded 15 new cases on that same day.
“But how did we fall from the lofty headlines extolling the success of how we handled the pandemic to a situation where the virus has spread exponentially and popping up unlinked all over the island?” Dr Chee added.
Referring to the first misstep that he highlighted in the previous video, Dr Chee said the Prime Minister could not admit his wrong advice to the Singaporeans and instead came out with a statement “The Government is no longer discouraging you from wearing masks”.
Dr Chee added that when the Government has made it mandatory for everyone leaving the house to wear masks on 14 April, it still insisted that the Government’s strategy in combating the virus is proactive and it has always been in control.
“It is this kind of attitude, the kind of attitude that cannot admit to wrong, the attitude of arrogance that comes with unchecked and unchallenged power – that causes huge problems for this country. And when you cannot admit to your mistakes, you cannot correct them,” he noted.
Dr Chee relayed another situation of the Government’s not admitting to errors, involving the Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, who commented on the spike of COVID-19 cases in the foreign workers’ dormitories. Mr Wong said he would have done things differently if he had known that the infections will deteriorate so quickly, which he then quoted, “Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of the benefit of hindsight.”
But on 6 February, Mr Wong assured that there will be tighter monitoring and enforcement of the Leave of Absence, and it applied to all workers, both Singaporeans and foreign work pass holders.
“If there was really tighter monitoring and enforcement, why did they also not ensure that steps were taken to prevent the situation from deteriorating?” Dr Chee questioned.
He noted that there were clear warnings that the virus could deteriorate in a crowded and confined space. For instance, a Bangladeshi worker was tested positive for the virus as early as on 9 February, Transient Workers Count Too has called out the dismal living conditions in the foreign workers’ dormitories, as well as the cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Dr Chee then asked, “Was this really a case of the lack of the benefit of hindsight or the failure to see what was painfully obvious, that the crammed and communal dorms were an accident waiting to happen?”
Following the spike of COVID-19 cases in foreign workers’ dormitories, Dr Chee said the cases could affect everyone because the cases do not just remain within the confines of the dormitories. Thus, everyone has to retreat to their homes amid the “circuit breaker” measures.
“And that’s not even taking into account the amount of damage the circuit breaker is inflicting on businesses and the economy,” he said. “Again, it is the attitude that comes with these failures, that is the problem, the inability or refusal to say: ‘we failed and we take responsibility, we will do better’. Instead of coming up with the we-did-not-have-the-benefit-of-hindsight excuse.”
Meanwhile, Dr Chee said he decided to voice out as the Government continues its ‘unwelcome attitude’ amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For instance, Mr Shanmugam, Mr Desmond Lee, Mr Ng Eng Hen and Mr Goh Chok Tong were all out on a walkabout right smack during the pandemic and introducing their party’s new candidates in preparation for the GE they were going to call,” he said.
Moreover, women ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) also organised a big event to introduce their new women candidates, while Mr Lee was spotted doing a walkabout in his constituency in a crowded food centre.
“Quite unbelievably, Dr Chia Shi Lu and Minister Amy Khor visited hawker centres for photo ops when Singaporeans are getting fined for flouting the rules,” Dr Chee added.
He implored people not to accuse the opposition parties of pointing out the Government’s mistakes when the Government focuses on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, adding “If the ministers are so focused on the problem, then how do they find the time to go on walkabouts and do photo ops?”
Contrary to the Government, Dr Chee noted that the SDP has cancelled its 40th-anniversary dinner that was purportedly to take place on 8 February and suspended all its ground campaigning.
SDP obtained a permit to conduct a fund-raising event, in which Dr Chee would criss-cross the island from 3 to 5 April to appeal for funds for the General Election campaign, however, it was postponed prior the lockdown was even announced.
He then continued, “So, Mr Lee will not apologise for telling Singaporeans not to wear masks, Lawrence Wong will not admit that it was an oversight regarding the foreign worker infections, and Dr Chia Shi Lu will not concede that he should not have gone to the hawker centre for a walkabout during the lockdown.”
Dr Chee indicated that the ministers presented their most “dangerous lack of leadership” as they were unable to self-reflect and admit errors.
“It is the humility of spirit that teaches a leader to embrace diversity of views, even critical ones, not suppress it,” he said.