A credible and effective opposition

Singapore Democrats

The PAP, or rather Mr Lee Kuan Yew, has tried — and is still trying — to define what the opposition in Singapore is and how it should function. He wants to see a “constructive” opposition.

By that, Mr Lee means that the opposition should play the game within his rules and accept the PAP’s dominance in Singapore’s politics. Anyone working outside this definition is labeled “destructive”. The late J B Jeyaretnam and Dr Chee Soon Juan are examples.


From reviewing the input of Singaporeans through the years, however, we have crystallised five essential features that Singaporeans feel an opposition must possess in order to function effectively. We then show how the Singapore Democrats have stacked up against these criteria.

1. Proposing alternative ideas

Voters want the opposition to not just criticise the Government but to articulate clearly its own alternative policies.

To this end, the Singapore Democrats have not been found wanting. In 1994, we published Dare To Change which outlined our major policy areas. These alternative ideas were subsequently refined and elaborated in various publications, including our newspaper The New Democrat.

These ideas are also spelt out in this website. The clearest demonstration yet of our commitment to providing credible alternative ideas was during Budget 2009 where we made several policy proposals (see here), some of which were even taken up by PAP MPs.

2. Asking hard and necessary questions

One of the most important roles of an opposition is to check the government and hold it accountable. The SDP does not shy away from this role. We have questioned the PAP on various issues ranging from the acquisition of Shin Corp to the strategy of promoting Singapore as a tax haven to our ill-advised investments in Western banks.

3. Speaking up on important issues

Through the years Singapore Democrats have emphasized heavily on issues that matter to the people such as the cost of living, minimum wage, retirement income, distribution of wealth, and poverty in Singapore.
Readers of this website will agree that we have repeatedly spoken up on these matters. What we have added is that without political rights and freedoms, these economic concerns will not be heeded by the Government.

4. Not dormant in between elections

The opposition is often accused of coming alive only when elections are called. This cannot be said of the Singapore Democrats. Again, readers of this website will see that we have been organising campaigns and forums, visiting students, meeting with residents, doing research, reaching out to Singaporeans through the Internet, and so on.

We have been hard at work in between elections. Unfortunately Singaporeans know little about our work because the media refuses to report our activities. We therefore rely on the Internet and on our supporters and friends to help us spread the word.

5. Calling for reform

In a one-party state like Singapore, it is simply not credible for the opposition to pretend like we are operating in a democracy. The opposition must work towards political reform to bring about a system that is transparent and democratically accountable, one that would encourage citizens to actively participate in the public process and allow them to vote freely and fairly.

We have been able to do these things even without a presence in Parliament. Imagine what we can achieve if we are voted in. Support the Singapore Democrats. If you believe in what we are doing and want to see more of such proactive opposition, please contact us at speakup@yoursdp.org. Don’t wait until the elections are called, by then it will be too late. Contact us now.

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