PM Lee must not be afraid to have a conversation

Singapore Democrats

The expose of PM Lee Hsien Loong's televised National Conversation with a group of individuals who are PAP members and affiliates is another blow to his initiative to reach out to Singaporeans.

A group of sharp-eyed bloggers has revealed that a number of those on the panel selected to participate in Channel News Asia's A Conversation with PM Lee were members of the PAP or part of the establishment.

Among them were: a YPAP member, a CCC patron, PAP Petir publishing committee member, a Woodland's PAP branch activist, a PAP member of the Kebun Baru branch and one who was helping with PAP's Hougang by-election campaign.

Singaporeans see through the facade and they are asking: What is the PAP trying to achieve? What good does such a show serve?

Compare this to what the SDP did at the Malay forum. We invited a senior PAP member, Mr Abdul Halim bin Kader (pictured above with Dr Chee Soon Juan), to speak on the panel. He was free to expound on PAP's views and that was what he did.

We welcomed the fact that he held a contrary viewpoint to the SDP's. What followed was a robust but dignified debate about the problems faced by the Malay community in Singapore. While we disagreed sharply with Mr Abdul Halim's views, we never once thought of shutting him up.

More importantly, the debate at the forum signaled the start of the SDP's formulation of a policy platform for Malays in our society. The result is that Malay Singaporeans will have a choice between the SDP and PAP in terms of how the future government will take care of its interests. The beneficiaries are the people.

The big point is that we should not fear open debate, instead we should embrace it. It is good for Singapore.

Unfortunately, this is not what the PAP is aiming for. It excludes the opposition from the National Conversation; its ministers, Mr Gan Kim Yong and Mr Yaacob Ibrahim, decline SDP invitations to discuss healthcare and Malay issues, and its town councils stop the SDP from holding public meetings with residents.

Its media black out information about the SDP, refusing to report on Dr Chee Soon Juan's launch of Democratically Speakingthe Malay forum, and our May Day Rally.

PM Lee clings on to the archaic practice of censoring those views that differ from his when he should be keeping up with evolving aspirations of Singaporeans who want to see civilised debates that allow them to compare and contrast SDP and PAP policies and the quality of our parties' leadership.

We call on Mr Lee to be a big leader by having a conversation especially with those with whom he disagrees.

Let us dispense with meaningless slogans of First World this and First World that. Instead, let us demonstrate how government and opposition can engage each other in a dignified manner befitting a modern and confident country. 

We need a new politics. The times call for it. Singaporeans demand it.  The SDP has demonstrated it.

We call on the PAP Government to stop its churlishness already. Stop talking to your own and include opposition parties in the National Conversation. More important, free the media so that the Singaporean public can come to hear and read alternative views. Let them make up their own minds.

Sunday, 16 September 2012 SDP Print

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