Ng Chee Meng lost in the general election but gets to stay on as secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
He and his fellow People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates for Sengkang GRC, Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC were all defeated yet they can be appointed grassroots advisers under the People’s Association (PA).
Meanwhile, elected Workers’ Party Members of Parliament are not allowed to take charge of grassroots organisations. They also cannot make use of publicly-funded PA facilities for meet-the-people sessions and community events while unelected PAP grassroots advisers can do so.
In the aftermath of GE2020, there has been much talk of renewal, reflection and soul-searching for the PAP.
The PAP does not need to look far – just start by levelling the playing field and upholding the tenets of justice and equality.
The PAP has to concede that the assertion by Minister Chan Chun Sing that he would be “the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised” does not hold up under scrutiny.
The PAP must surely realise that Singaporeans do not see the PA and NTUC as independent, apolitical organisations. Neither can the Elections Department, under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, maintain its independence.
As long as the PAP clings on to the status quo, it is choosing to turn a blind eye.
Under the current system, even losing an election can still feel like winning. Winning, on the other hand, comes with penalties – like opposition elected MPs being denied appointment as grassroots advisers, denied the use of PA facilities, and having to go through unelected PAP grassroots advisers for community improvement upgrading projects.
When push comes to shove, PAP losing candidates are let in by the back door.
In 2011, Ong Ye Kung lost as a candidate for Aljunied GRC. He was “parked” at NTUC and Keppel Corporation and returned to contest GE2015– not in Aljunied GRC but in the safe and secure Sembawang GRC. He got in effortlessly and got fast tracked to a ministerial post.
There is every possibility that Ng Chee Meng will take the same route. He will bide his time at NTUC and could return to contest in five years’ time not necessarily in Sengkang GRC but back door via a safe GRC. No fighting spirit, fortitude and perseverance needed.
The message is that an elite can do no wrong. Any setback is temporary. There is always a path forward. The PAP – as benefactor and guardian angel – has full control of the chessboard and can move the pieces at will.
Isn’t that the very antithesis of meritocracy?
Unless the PAP has the appetite for a radical shift to address inequality, injustice, entitlement and elitism, all the reflection and soul-searching post GE2020 would be fruitless.