Government has achieved much, but trust remains an issue
WITH reference to last Saturday’s report (“Govt refutes author’s claims over public trust”), I wish to make the following comments.
I share Singapore Consul-General in Hong Kong Jacky Foo’s admiring acknowledgment of the many achievements of the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government, especially its skilful handling of global-size problems such as the financial crises of 1997 and 2008 and the Sars epidemic.
But I disagree with Mr Foo’s argument that since the Government has achieved so much, since it has won every election and finally, since it meets the Edelman Trust Barometer benchmark, it surely has the people’s trust.
This depiction of the Singapore political situation fails to take into account its evolving dynamics and omits unflattering facts such as the shocking General Election of 2011. Even though the PAP won, it must have been forced to admit that the people’s trust had been seriously eroded as shown by the startling post-election effusion of apologies from the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and its promise to “listen more”, “communicate better” and use the “light footprint”.
Three years after GE2011, the trust has not been regained. The best proof lies not in the graffiti, the mass demonstrations or the raucous social media, but in the most unlikely place – within the PAP camp itself. Here, there are voices urging the leaders to connect better with the ground, reflecting awareness that the problem has become serious enough to warrant attention at the highest levels.
Hence, I would like to point out that the mistrust is very real, even if it involves only a minority. Its impact can be seen in the Roy Ngerng defamation case. Although, as Mr Foo has rightly pointed out, the Prime Minister has every right to sue, to protect his reputation, the alarming truth is that an angry crowd will choose emotionalism over rationality, and insist that the defamation suit is one more instance of PAP bullying.
Mr Foo commented on my long history as a complainer. I have been writing political commentaries for 20 years now. Their central theme is the need for a robust, trusting relationship between the Government and the people, which, I strongly believe, is the only guarantee for a small country to survive in an increasingly perilous world.