No credible people in the opposition?

Boxing Ring ComicSingapore Democrats

Of course the PAP has credible people within its ranks. With a former judge, a mathematician, a senior legal officer, top lawyers, medical doctors, economists, academics and senior journalists, who can gainsay that the ruling party is well endowed in the credibility department?

What about the opposition? According to some “poll watchers” Singapore’s opposition has some ways to go before it can match the PAP. And as long as it cannot do this, electoral success will be elusive. (See report below)

Indeed, Mr Lee Kuan Yew avers that all he is trying to do with his hardball politics is to force the opposition to gather candidates whose competence and integrity can compete with that found in such abundance in his party.

Agreeing, Professor Eugene Tan says that the opposition needs to work towards gathering a “brain trust” and build up a “government-in-waiting.”

Even Workers’ Party Chairman Sylvia Lim concurs, saying that the opposition needs to “focus on getting credible people elected into Parliament.”

Of course Mr Lee, Professor Tan and Ms Lim are absolutely right about electing only “credible” people into parliament. Which Singaporean wants to elect a bunch of riff-raff into the legislature?

Unfortunately, the three miss the point (Mr Lee deliberately, of course).

It may surprise readers that the long list of high-calibre professionals mentioned in the opening paragraph does not, in fact, belong to the PAP; it belongs to the opposition.

From Drs Poh Soo Kai, Lee Siew Choh, and Lim Hock Siew (medical professionals) to Mr David Marshall (our first prime minister) to Mr Jeyaretnam (former judge) to Mr Francis Seow (former solicitor-general) to Mr Tang Liang Hong (senior lawyer) to Mr Chia Thye Poh (mathematician) to Mr Said Zahari (journalist), Singapore had men of distinction serving in the opposition, men whose moral and intellectual calibre take no backseat to anyone in the PAP.

Even today, the opposition has no dearth of professionals, lawyers, PhD holders and medical professionals in its camp. Many more than measure up to the Lim Swee Says, Mah Bow Tans, and Wong Kan Sengs.

Admittedly, there is a distinction between the PAP men and those serving in the opposition: the ones in the latter group are not motivated by money.

Another difference is that while the credibility of the PAP folks need Viagra-like boosts from the media they control, oppositionists are persecuted in every manner conceivable. Credible Singaporeans, after joining the opposition and given the Straits-Times treatment, very quickly become not credible.

Not true? Think International Bar Association (IBA). The organisation was good and lauded by Mr Lee Kuan Yew because unlike other Western liberal NGOs, it understood what the PAP was about. That is, until it opined that the Lee system needed reform.

Overnight the IBA was relegated to the ranks of those out to destroy Singapore and therefore no longer credible. Never mind the fact that Mr Lee made absolutely no sense and that he was his usual disingenuous self. What is disconcerting is that no one dared to tell him to his face what he really is, an old autocrat in whose mind intellectual decency matters little.

In the same vein, Mr Lee and those who can’t think differently continue to parrot the untruth that the opposition cannot attract “credible” Singaporeans. How can the opposition attract good people when we measure goodness according to the Book of Lee?

And for goodness’ sake, how do we define it? Are paper qualifications the be-all and end-all of what constitute good national leaders? Do principles, passion and personal beliefs not count at all in the make-up of our ministers and parliamentarians? What is the benefit of having row after row of MPs whose “competence” are measured by whether they graduated with first- or second-class honours, but who care more about what their party boss thinks than about how policies they pass affect the people they say they serve?

Society must not continue to allow the PAP’s conceptions unchallenged. More important, the opposition must have the intellectual capacity to, before accepting the notion that we cannot attract good candidates, examine whether this premise is, in the first place, true.

Remember, our biggest struggle is not against the PAP, it is against what the PAP has done to our minds.

Recruitment biggest challenge for Singapore’s political parties, say analysts
Channel New Asia

Political watchers have said the biggest challenge for all political parties — both ruling and opposition in Singapore — is to recruit credible members.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Friday that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is trying to force the opposition to gather good candidates that will equal the PAP in integrity and competence so that if the PAP fails, there will be an alternative. He added, however, that the opposition has not been able to do so.

The opposition was out and about in the 2006 Singapore General Election. One political watcher said the parties need to keep up this visibility post elections, as well as to do more.

Eugene Tan, Assistant Professor at Singapore Management University’s School of Law, said: “They need to be able to have that brain trust to be able to comment effectively on government policies and offer quality alternative. They need to rise above themselves, go beyond just being an opposition, to be — in a way — government—in—waiting.”

Observers said another challenge for the opposition is to translate the good turnouts at the rallies to actual votes in the ballot boxes.

Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim is clearly aware of this. Her focus is to get enough credible people into Parliament. She admitted her party is far from being able to form a ‘shadow Cabinet’, or offer policy alternatives.

“Parliamentary presence is the first step, so we would still want to focus on getting credible people elected into Parliament,” said Sylvia Lim, who is a Non—Constituency MP (NCMP).

“We may slog, we may work towards winning election, but in the end we may lose. So there has to be that spirit of perseverance to believe in the process — and getting Singaporeans to be involved in the process is just as important, if not as important as the outcome.” She admitted, though, that recruitment is a challenge.

At a community event, MP Indranee Rajah told Channel News Asia that it is in the country’s interest to have a good pool of talent, be it from the PAP or the opposition.

She said: “Just because we are a small country doesn’t mean there is a lack of people to step up to the plate, if need be. As for the opposition, if they want to grow, really I think they need to identify those good candidates, they need to identify how to have a good organisation.”

PAP MP Michael Palmer feels that from the last election, younger Singaporeans seem more willing to associate with opposition parties. For him, the over—riding problem for all political parties is getting capable people with integrity into politics.

For the opposition, this could mean some time before it can be an alternative to the PAP government.

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