Sunday, 9 August 2015

Singapore GE2015: Did WP make a difference in Parliament?

Let’s call the spade, a spade and not pretend it is a hammer

Gerald Giam is right about Government having done well over the last 4 years. And indeed this is because the 2011 GE was a wake-up call for the PAP that they need to listen to the people. The OSC and the many Government forums for various subjects from transport to housing soliciting public feedback illustrates this change in the behaviour of policy makers.

Gerald Giam is wrong and less than honest when he claim that  the many changes in policies and new initiatives came about because of the WP presence in Parliament.  All he need is a mirror to see how he and his fellow WP MPs have performed in Parliament. Indeed the most educated of the WP MPs is the most silent. The fact is the WP MPs have not contributed to new ideas or to robust debate and create new ideas. They have offered no real solutions to pressing problems. In fact that NMPs have raised more significant ideas and suggestions even if in their narrow spheres of interest.

What has happened between 2011 and today is that Singaporeans have also woken up and that they have been speaking directly to Government. This is a phenomenon larger than what our political parties have done. It is organic and the evolution of political culture in Singapore facilitated by the coincidence of the social media and a more educated, more articulate citizenry – it is a political coming of age. Frankly Singaporeans do not meet a PAP MP or a WP MP to speak for them at periodic Parliamentary sittings. Singaporeans are empowered enough and educated enough to speak for themselves whenever they wish to. The days of the Singaporean lining up at government agencies paying a fee for someone to help fill up their application forms or write a letter of appeal are long gone. Insofar as this function is concerned,  MPs are really the last vestige of the petition writer era.

On the ground, whether it is Pink Dot, Red Dot or Bukit Brown or DBSS flats that are shody, whether it is foreigners unfairly competing in our work place, or primary school registration that needs to privilege Singaporeans first, or a new universal health care system or sectoral minimum wage – all these came about because of public views and concerns being clearly and confidently expressed through forums, mainstream media, social media, focus groups, OSC, Speakers Corner etc .

The presence of the WP in Parliament is useful to avoid complete dominance of Parliament by the PAP. But the WP are not there and have not been there to make the Government perform better. It is an active and vocal citizenry – a healthy civil society Singaporean style (not the variety that tears down everything with political extremism and violence without solutions) - that has done this and must continue to do so.

This is not to say that the MP whether PAP or  WP or any opposition cannot help shape and steer policy changes by offering  new, better ideas and solutions. And when they do, we should acknowledge that and vote more of such Parliamentarians for this purpose.  It is not the number of this or that party MPs in Parliament that enable this – it is the quality and calibre of the individual MP that determines this. But this has not happened and we should be honest with ourselves about this as we vote to decide on the future of our country and the well-being of our fellow Singaporeans.

So why then do we vote a candidate to be our MP?  At the national level, our votes is to decide who form the next Government and at the local level, who to run our TCs. This needs careful thought.

For me, I think that unless we want a different party to run the Government at this point in time, I want to vote to ensure checks and balance but not at the expense of effective, decisive Government being hobbled by constant sniping gridlock fuelled by party political self-interests.  And if the last 4 years has shown what works to make Government responsive and listening, it is really the voice of the people speaking for themselves and not mediated through party interests via MPs of any hue or of any symbol from lightning to hammer to rocket to whatever. Of course, there remains one area the MP directly impacts our lives – it is the running of our TCs. This is something that has become highly politicised and the mud-slinging on both sides over recent months is unhelpful – but I think Singaporeans are intelligent enough to listen and discern the signals amidst the noise to decide for themselves.

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