In a nod to the spirit of working together and cooperation towards a common goal for the greater good of all, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Lee) has heralded the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on his Facebook page.
There is no doubt that the signing of RCEP is a significant milestone for Singapore and the region. When in force, the RCEP will be the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement whose members will include the 10 ASEAN nations, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Together, these countries comprise nearly 30% of the global population and global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Not to mention that it took about eight long years to negotiate!
Yet, I wonder if Lee has made any connection between Singapore’s cooperation with neighbouring countries and his own party’s cooperation with the non People’s Action Party (PAP) politicians on the home front? While praising multilateralism for the region, has Lee given any pause for thought to his own Government’s seemingly unilateral approach to things at home?
The non-PAP politician’s path is not easy to navigate. With that in mind, would such non-PAP politicians embark on the path of non-PAP politics if they did not feel a particular calling to serve Singaporeans? So, it is perhaps fair to surmise that such non-PAP politicians mostly want the best for Singapore and Singaporeans.
The PAP and Lee have also consistently said that their goals were to ensure that the country and its people prospered. Doesn’t this then mean that both PAP and non-PAP politicians alike have a common goal of serving Singaporeans?
So, if Lee can see the value of so many diverse countries working together for the common good of all, can he not also see the value of different political parties working in concert for the better good of Singapore?
RCEP took 8 years to negotiate precisely because not everyone agreed on everything. Everything took consensus and compromise to achieve a greater goal. It is the same in Singapore where the political landscape is concerned. The divergent political parties will not agree with everything. But perhaps, that is necessary to ensure the good of all as opposed to just the good of some. Does Lee see the value of this?
The PAP may not see the need to work with parties who do not have a seat in Parliament. That is fair enough. But the Workers’ Party (WP) and the Progress Singapore Party do have seats in Parliament. Yet, does the PAP work with them in a spirit of cooperation for the greater good of all Singaporeans?
Let’s take the recent WP wording of the adjournment motion on the Parti Liyani case as an example. The PAP made unilateral amendments to the motion without any consultation with the WP.
The original motion filed by the WP is as follows:
That this house affirms that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system and calls on the government to recognise and remedy its shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all regardless of means and social status including facilitating a review of the justice system
The amendment, on the other hand, says:
That this house recognises that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system and affirms the government’s continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society and remedy any shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all regardless of race, language, religion, economic means or social status.
*Changes are illustrated in bold*
Not only is this high handed, but the PAP also added insult to injury by justifying their amendments as a way to more accurately reflect the debate in Parliament, establish common ground with the opposition, and obtain bipartisan support.
Yet, how can the PAP decide unilaterally what would find common ground with the opposition without first asking them? After all, you don’t find common ground with arbitrariness?
In so doing, the PAP was denying the public a full and frank discussion of the Parti case and all of the issues that her case has revealed.
Were the amendments made just for the good of one party – the PAP?
Lee said: “This is a major step forward for our region. At a time when multilateralism is losing ground, and global growth is slowing, the RCEP shows Asian countries’ support for open and connected supply chains, freer trade and closer interdependence.”
Will he not lead by example in his own Government on the domestic front?