Former Deputy Prime Minister, S Jayakumar, (Jayakumar) has said in a recent interview that he did not think that now was the right time to talk about who would succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“The central point is – that I don’t think this is the time, really, to talk of succession.“
In isolation, this could possibly be dismissed as the private musings of a past Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) man. However, what is markedly observable is the question of who is the arbiter of when the right time is to talk about anything?
Let’s take the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Back in May 2020, then Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong had said that there would be a comprehensive review of the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic at the “right” time. When is this “right” time? Will there ever be a “right” time? Besides, who determines when the “right” time is?
As we are fast reaching Phase 3 in the reopening of the country, will it now finally be the “right” time? We don’t know because we simply have no control over how or when the PAP decides to talk about something.
Another example is the Parti Liyani (Parti) case. When the case first broke, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam (Shanmugam) was scheduled to address matters in the October parliamentary sitting. Unilaterally however, he postponed his speech to ostensibly wait for the findings of internal investigations by the various agencies.
The public had no means to compel him to speak despite the Parti case being one that raised multiple public interest matters. When Shanmugam finally decided to speak in the November parliamentary sitting, he concluded that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) had done nothing wrong in their decision to charge Parti based on the findings of “behind closed doors” investigations that are not publicly verifiable by the public. He also appeared to largely side the police in their handling of the case.
Despite this being a matter that concerns public agencies that are funded by the public, the public had virtually no way to officially hold these agencies to account. We didn’t even have control over when the Minister chose to address matters.
Without a strong opposition in Parliament to challenge the timings, this lack of control on the part of the public is further exacerbated.
While there is indeed a time and place for everything, what is troubling here is that the PAP has a sole monopoly to timing and Jayakumar is reinforcing this monopoly of time.