According to reports, Singapore’s consul-general in Hong Kong Foo Teow Lee, has in a letter published in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) taken umbrage with a view expressed by SCMP’s Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh in an earlier article entitled ‘Is electioneering to blame for Singapore’s teetering pandemic response?‘
Foo is of the opinion that the Singapore government has been focused on the COVID-19 response efforts from the beginning while Vadaketh was of the opinion that “political opportunism” distracted the nation’s leaders.
While everyone is entitled to an opinion, it is noteworthy that Foo is a civil servant in a predominantly People’s Action Party (PAP) government. While civil servants are not politicians, this line is possibly more blurred in the Singaporean context where we have had single party rule for over 50 years.
Vadaketh, on the other hand, is a journalist in the employ of the SCMP with no political affiliation. To clarify, opinion is not the same as agenda. A government civil servant could be seen to have a political agenda in the Singaporean context while a journalist is more likely to have an opinion over an agenda.
Having set the context on this issue, let us look logically at the issues up for debate.
The coronavirus is a pandemic that has taken the world by shock and surprise. Organising containment and treatment is a mammoth task of logistics and strategy. It would be fair to say then that any government would have less bandwidth for doing anything else in the wake of such a deadly and contagious disease.
Organising a general election is also considered by most to be a gargantuan effort that requires great logistical support even under normal circumstances. With that in mind, would it not be fair to say that to do both at the same time with finite resources and manpower would end up diluting both efforts?
If so, would it not be imprudent to try and do both at the same time especially when the first may well be a question of life and death? Not to mention the contrasting narrative that the Government has to deliver to the public of the seriousness of the pandemic and how it would be okay to hold an election at the same time.
Given that the Government appeared to continue with both, it is not unreasonable for one to question if the Government had indeed diverted at least some of its focus (which ought to have been solely on containing the COVID-19 outbreak) to electioneering?
Even as circuit breaker measures were being implemented, there were still reports of PAP Members of Parliament (MP) conducting apparent walkabouts.
No one is suggesting that the Government is not working hard at this point in relation to the COVID-19 situation. The question, however, was whether it had been distracted by the process of a looming election on top of dealing with the pandemic.
Looking at how much effort both pandemic containment and elections require plus finite resources and how the Government still resolutely refuses to postpone the election, it is hard to logically conclude that it has not had its attention diluted by the looming elections.