Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh has firmly asserted that Singaporeans have the right to expect a “thorough review and accounting of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, a “comprehensive review” of how the country has handled the COVID-19 situation had been promised by Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong at “the right time”
The big questions therefore are : “When is the “right time?” and “who determines when the right time is?”
With speculation rife that the general elections are likely to be in July, it seems unlikely that such a review will be conducted before the general elections. Is this fair to the voting public?
The purpose of any review should serve two main functions. It should provide learning for the future and it should be a means for the public to ensure accountability from their government. If a review is only undertaken after the general elections are held, it will not serve the purpose of ensuring accountability.
The government has steadfastly refused to postpone the general elections despite the ongoing battle with the coronavirus, even going so far as to cite the constitution as a reason for why the general elections must go on.
This is despite the fact that the constitution has been amended so many times in history. If the government is so insistent on pushing ahead with the general elections, it would seem only right that the public get to audit the government on its handling of the virus before the general election. Yet, the government has remained deafeningly silent in relation to when such a review will be held.
Perhaps the government feels that a review cannot be held as we are still battling the virus. However, if we use that line of logic, then, we should not be holding a general election either. So, which is it? It seems conflicting to insist on elections going ahead despite the virus while refusing to conduct a review because of the virus.,
Despite seemingly not setting a date for a review, the government has suddenly announced that a series of speeches from various ministers will be broadcast by Mediacorp from the 7th to the 20th of June.
These speeches will all deal with the effects of COVID-19 on Singapore. This means that the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led government has given itself the chance to portray pre edited and pre written speeches of what it wants to say about the COVID-19 pandemic without giving members of parliament (MPs) a chance to ask any questions. Nor will they be faced with an objective public inquiry.
In other words, the government will be given a chance to say what it wants to say without worrying about questions before the general elections despite the government previously saying that viewership for government speeches were low. Head scratch anyone?
In light of this, it would seem that this is a perfect opportunity for the PAP to engage with the voters prior to the general elections at a time where campaigning will be suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
After all, if the government really wanted to talk about COVID-19, why not just hold the review that Wong promised before the general elections? Or why not just release video clips on You Tube or CNA like it does with Parliamentary debates? Why the need for it to be broadcast?
Furthermore, as pointed out by former Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Yee Jenn Jong, despite having the series of speeches being touted being meant for talking about the post-COVID Singapore, the Health and Manpower ministers are not being tasked to make their speeches. This is puzzling given how this whole situation is brought about by the approach taken by the Ministry of Health (to regard the pandemic as that of SARs) and Minister of Manpower (the lack of oversight on the dormitories’ hygiene standards and complacency on possible outbreak from the dormitories)
Looking at the potential timing of the general election in July, could this possibly be a televised election campaign disguised as COVID-19 speeches?