It’s surprising how often “karma” is mentioned these days when people talk about politics in this country.
Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. It refers to the universal law of cause and effect, of actions that sooner or later come full circle – as you sow, so shall you reap
There are those who fervently believe that something significant is happening and karma is the unstoppable force at work.
Just when everything seemed to be coming up roses, why did a virus come along and turn everything on its head?
COVID-19 unmasks the truth
It is known as the great equaliser. All governments have to deal with the same enemy, the same threat. That’s why it’s plain to see which governments have done well and which have come up short.
There’s no running away from the truth: COVID-19 has cruelly exposed the weaknesses and shortcomings of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
What this means is that the general election, thought to be a done deal, is now no longer a shoo-in for the PAP. If the GE, most likely to be called this year, becomes a referendum on COVID-19, what will be the outcome?
There’s a great deal of uncertainty and what the PAP dreads most is uncertainty.
The PAP has always been able to time a GE to its advantage. Barely six months after the death of Lee Kuan Yew in 2015, the government called for a GE. It had landslide victory written all over it the moment it was called.
Critics, supporters and detractors alike attributed it to the LKY factor, as there was profound lingering sentiment over his passing. Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admitted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he had “no doubt that founding PM Lee Kuan Yew’s passing earlier that year had an impact on voters.”
Missed opportunity last year, unexpected turning of the tide this year
Many people expected the PAP to call an election last year to ride on the Singapore Bicentennial. But it hesitated because there was an air of uncertainty and it did want want to take a chance — fresh in the minds of Singaporeans were the death of Aloysius Pang, the fourth National Service training fatality in 16 months, SingPost’s postal service lapses, and the leak of confidential information of 14,200 individuals diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
So the PAP passed up the opportunity for a much anticipated 2019 GE. On hindsight, it might have been a mistake.
Then when the pandemic struck early this year, the PAP sensed opportunity. It thought it could quickly resolve the crisis and use it as a springboard for sweeping electoral success.
Alas, praise for its early response soon turned into condemnation for fecklessly letting the pandemic spiral out of control. No amount of excuses could mitigate nor whitewash the mishandling of COVID-19.
So we come to the million dollar question: Is the law of cause and effect finally catching up with the PAP?
How else to explain the turn of events that each and every time serves to topple the well-oiled machinery of the PAP? How else to account for the frequent, sudden episodic undermining of public confidence which the PAP just cannot shake off?
When the wheels of karma are at work, grinding slowly but surely, the best of human machinations and endeavours can be rendered helpless and powerless.
In any case, for those of us who do not believe in karma, we can still make sense of this karma-like African proverb:
“He who shits in the road, meets flies on his return.”