The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) has been in charge of Singapore for over 50 years. It is in fact the only party that has ever formed Government in Singapore. Singaporeans therefore may not have a meaningful comparison by which to make an informed choice. Without suggesting that the PAP has done a bad job (it hasn’t), it remains true that we will never know if another party could have done better. So instead of focusing on the past, shouldn’t we look to the future?
While it is understandable that any party would use its past track record as a justification for why it should remain in power. It is arguable that the PAP goes beyond that. It is not just using the past as an example. It may well still be living in the past- using old methods to rule a new generation of Singaporeans!
Let’s take the ongoing lawsuit against blogger Leong Sze Hian (Leong) as an example. Leong is being brought to court just for sharing an article that was not even written by him! Given that Leong is a known critic of the PAP, it is unsurprising that many have come to the conclusion that this lawsuit was politically motivated. Even though Leong is apparently being used by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his personal capacity, it is difficult to separate Lee Hsien Loong the man from Lee Hsien Loong the prime minister and son of the famous Lee Kuan Yew. It is therefore artificial to argue that this case has no political implications. There is no doubt (no matter what the authorities may say) that most will consider that Leong is being sued for daring to continuously criticise the PAP.
The defamation suit has long since been seen as a weapon authorities utilise to penalise opponents. It strikes fear to would-be critics to take heed. Times may have moved on but tactics perhaps remain the same.
One would have thought that the founding party of the Singapore Government would want to empower its citizens. But instead, it may well thrive on striking fear to remain in power.
An interview given by ex-minister, S Jayakumar emphasises this methodology. Instead of trusting Singaporeans to make the right choices for themselves, he chooses to make them fear. Jayakumar warned in his book that a “revolving door” system, in which one party competes constantly against an opposition party, or a coalition of such parties, would be a weak and populist government, and urged Singaporeans to reflect on what they want for the future.
However, Jayakumar’s warning is without merit. Where is the revolving door? We have the Workers’ Party (WP) with 10 elected seats within a sea of 83 PAP ones. In this context, Jayakumar’s warning is disingenuous and perhaps, even self-serving. Is it Singaporeans that should be worried? Or is it the PAP worried about losing even one seat?
If it is the latter, shouldn’t they focus more on upping their game as opposed to striking fear in the hearts of citizens?
Jayakumar also revealed that a few days after GE 2020, he emailed a cabinet minister to say the following:
‘We should not be beguiled by WP’s stance that they only want to check the Government. This time their line was to prevent a clean sweep of all seats.”
This statement is framed in a way to suggest that the WP have some nefarious intentions – a completely illogical argument.
What is wrong with wanting to win more seats incrementally? Isn’t that the goal of all political parties including the PAP? The PAP itself clearly wants a clean sweep of the seats. So, why is it begrudging another party for eventually wanting the same? If people decide that another party should have more seats, it is the peoples’ decision. It would mean that the PAP were not good enough anymore. This isn’t some great conspiracy. It is the nature of democracy.
Perhaps Jayakumar has confused party ambitions with the greater good. As an older statesman, I would have thought he would want what’s best for Singapore – which is to empower its people. But perhaps, this is all about party above state.