In December last year while speaking to his Party comrades at a People’s Action Party (PAP) event PM Lee Hsien Loong commenting on the opposition’s intent to act as checks and balances on the Government said “that for every one more ‘checker’ in parliament there will be one less doer, thinker and leader in the government to serve the nation and the people.”
“Eventually there will be no more PAP to check, there will be no more able team of ministers working and solving problems for Singapore, no progress for Singapore, no future for Singapore, and that will be the last check because that will be check mate for Singapore!”
More recently in speaking to the Time editors he seemed to contradict what he said last year by saying, “Criticism, any amount, we welcome it. Come, let’s have a discussion, in Parliament all the better.”
So which is which? Does the PAP want constructive criticisms, checks and balances in Parliament or not? The leader of the PAP seems to be saying what’s most expedient depending on what the circumstance is.
The Electoral Boundaries Committee Report is out. The next General Elections is expected to be announced soon. There are many issues at stake for the future. Can we expect the PAP to act in the best interest of Singapore and Singaporeans without proper checks on excesses?
If the PAP had their way, they will make us believe that the checks on such excesses will come from satire bloggers and ex-Parliamentarians who not only were selected (not elected), but who also no longer have a presence in the House.
The PAP will also try to assuage the citizens concerns about checks and balances in Parliament by saying that they know the importance of such checks, and that is the reason why they have the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Schemes in place, which ensure that there will always be Opposition in the House.
The voters should not be fooled by such rhetoric. Un-elected Members of Parliament, among other limitations, “cannot vote on a Bill to amend the Constitution“. There are many important challenges for Singapore in the near future.
For one, very recently a member of Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council, a high-level Council headed by the Prime Minister himself said, “Nuclear power is the option if Singapore wants to seriously address climate change and cut carbon emissions.”
The Singapore population is projected to increase to 6.9 million in 2030. One NUS study predicts that the population of Singapore will rise steadily to 8.7 million population by the year 2050. The rapidly rising population will put a great strain on the demand for energy, for which the Government will have to consider the nuclear energy option.
But how would you feel about a nuclear energy plant in or around Singapore?
The natural aristocracy of Singapore has proven that they will push through legislation in Parliament even when there is widespread opposition to it. The casino is one example. Instead of one, we now have 2 casinos in Singapore. The 6.9 million population projection is another more recent example.
They think that they know what is best for Singapore. But the Singapore skyline of the natural aristocrat is different from the skyline of ordinary Singaporeans.
Why, even one of PAP’s very own, MP Inderjit Singh, seems to think so to. He opined in Parliament in May last year that “today’s policy makers live in a different society from the average Singaporean.”
“During my MPS sessions I encounter a fair number of residents who question the rationale of government policies. They feel that the government does not understand their needs and concerns but instead craft policy while seated in, what effectively seems like a different world, an ideal clean and sterile policy lab or an ivory tower perched high up.”
Inderjit Singh was one of a handful of PAP MPs who did not cast their votes on the 6.9 million Population White Paper. The outspoken MP who has been a conscience of Singapore will be stepping down in the coming General Election, raising the risk that the PAP will be filled by more ‘Yes-Men’.
Do we trust such men (and women) to act according to the will and in the best interest of Singapore – the Singapore of the average Singaporeans?
A sizable opposition in Parliament to check on the excesses of the PAP is perhaps the only safeguard for the future of Singapore. A kind of future we will leave for our children and theirs!
Article first appeared on The Online Citizen.