by Roy Ngerng
Conversations online have veered towards being more and more xenophobic, and beyond the government’s control.
Suppressing such conversations might cause the simmering anger beneath to become bottled up and explode, and thus assumingly, the government realizes it needs to allow the steam to be let out, which is why these conversations, while becoming more xenophobic, are not curtailed.
But this problem could have been resolved and xenophobia did not have to become as entrenched today.
PAP does not want to tackle the root causes of xenophobia — the stagnant wages and lack of job protection legislation
The fundamental issue was that wages have become stagnant in Singapore for two decades now, while a lack of job protection and genuine fair hiring policy resulted in job losses, which became exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xenophobia therefore developed due to the anger that has festered over the lack of wage and job protection.
While calling out discrimination such as xenophobia is necessary, policies to reverse such effects are possible.
An enlightened government would enact higher wages for the low income, remove the unequal wage guidance resulting in wage differentiation based on educational qualifications pegged to the different foreign work passes, as well as enact job protection policies, as The Workers’ Party’s leader Pritam Singh has called for.
Unfortunately, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has refused to do so.
PAP evades question by pinning blame on PSP
Instead, the PAP has chosen to accuse the Progress Singapore Party of spreading falsehoods.
In effect, the PAP is shooting the messenger—the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) carrying the message for Singaporeans to parliament, about the fears and concerns that Singaporeans have.
Accusing the Progress Singapore Party of falsehoods therefore delegitimizes and reduces the real concerns of Singaporeans.
And this will create even more anger and instability.
Worse still, the PAP refuses to provide the data that the PSPs Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa Koon Koon have requested, while hiding behind a ministerial statement which provides no answers, while again brushing off Singaporeans’ concerns.
Clearly, the PAP is afraid of providing the data to Progress Singapore Party’s questions, for fear that public knowledge would lead to retaliation against the PAP government’s trade agreements and the investments its investment firms GIC and Temasek Holdings have been benefitting from.
However, brushing aside these questions, and accusing the Progress Singapore Party will only further fuel anger among Singaporeans, resulting in even more social divisions, xenophobia and discrimination, which will also have fallout on the local community, in the form of racism and other forms of judgements and discrimination, as I have written.
At the root of these, fair wage and hiring policies would be able to reduce the underlying reasons for the anger and unhappiness, and anti-discrimination legislation as Pritam Singh proposed would mediate the current impacts.
However, the PAP has refused to enact all these solutions. It continues to defend its hole-ridden trade agreements, without adequately addressing the concerns of Singaporeans.
PAP uses divide-and-conquer to turn attention away from itself
Instead, the PAP also plays the divide and conquer strategy, by trying to praise the Workers’ Party and demonizing PSP.
Note that this is the same strategy the PAP played, to try to pitch Chiam See Tong against J. B. Jeyaretnam.
In doing so, the PAP hopes to divert attention from itself, to the two opposition parties in parliament.
The PAP therefore adopts two diversion tactics—by one, using a divide and conquer strategy to create the perception of a split between the two opposition parties, and two, to use a ministerial statement to accuse the PSP of falsehoods, in order to evade answering the questions of Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa.
But note that both opposition parties have raised similar concerns. They actually carry similar concerns for Singaporeans into parliament. Pritam Singh has also in this parliament sitting over the last week requested for timely data on immigration from the government, as well as legislation to protect Singaporeans.
Therefore, do not be tricked by the PAP’s tactic of divide and conquer.
PAP uses its control of parliament to subdue the opposition
Also, remember that the opposition politicians cannot appear confrontational because then, the PAP has historically used its media to spin the narrative that the opposition politicians are out of control and do not deserve to represent Singaporeans.
And we have seen how a segment of Singaporeans are willing to withdraw their support out of fear. Therefore, the opposition has to play the long game.
The opposition in parliament therefore are forced to walk a very fine line. They need to carry the concerns of Singaporeans into parliament, while maintaining their composure so that the PAP does not have an excuse to get rid of them from parliament.
It is the opposition and Singaporeans outside of parliament who have more leeway to speak up, as they are not constrained by the politics the PAP plays inside parliament.
Remember, the PAP is waiting for PSP to make a wrong move in parliament, so that it can use its laws to charge them.
Then, when there is one less opposition party in parliament, the PAP can go back to targeting its persecution against WP.
Therefore, while Singaporeans are angry, they need to understand that our representatives in parliament need to be measured. It is necessary for their survival, and their measured temperament is necessary in order for us to continue to have representation in parliament—in a space that the PAP currently controls.
Things can only change when the PAP does not control parliament.
We need to protect the people who speak up for us.
Last week’s theatrics in parliament was therefore planned by the PAP to divert attention onto the opposition in order to evade the important questions Singaporeans are concerned about.
We need to be aware of these tactics, and realize the PAP is trying to escape attention. It hasn’t worked, and it shouldn’t be allowed to work.
Continued focus needs to be placed in seeking these answers from the PAP, and to demand fair wage and hiring policies are implemented, as well as anti-discrimination policies.
This was first published on Roy Ngerng’s Facebook page, and reproduced with permission.