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In the first part of this post, we listed out the criteria by which Singaporeans say they measure the credibility of an opposition party, chiefly that the opposition must: One, be able to propose credible alternative ideas; two, speak up on issues that matter to the people; three, ask the hard and necessary questions; four, not become dormant in between elections; and five, foster opposition unity.
As we have spoken at length on the first two criteria (see here and here), we will not dwell on them in this post. Instead, we focus on the latter three measures and examine how we strive to live up to our own expectations as well as those of our fellow Singaporeans.
Asking the hard questions
One of the most important roles of an opposition is to check the government and hold it accountable. A checks and balance system is one of the key strengths of the democratic system.
Without a strong opposition to ask the hard and necessary questions, the government is not compelled to reveal information crucial to the public. Left on its own, no ruling party will volunteer information. Transparency is the casualty.
In this regard the Singapore Democrats have not been found wanting. We have consistently been asking the hard and necessary questions on various issues.
Take for example, the acquisition of Shin Corp to the strategy of promoting Singapore as a tax haven to our ill-advised investments in Western banks where billions of dollars have been lost.
But because the SDP is not represented in Parliament, we are unable to pose such important questions to the Government and hold its feet to the fire. As a result the ruling party has been able to get away with much.
This is why the PAP goes all out, fair means or foul, to ensure that the Singapore Democrats are prevented from getting into Parliament. http://www.singapore-window.org/sw01/011122a1.htm
Not dormant in between elections
The PAP has always accused the opposition of going to sleep in between elections and coming alive only to contest the polls. In other words, the PAP says, the opposition is lazy and incompetent.
Of course, it doesn’t mention the myriad of rules and regulations the Government puts in place to ensure that opposition parties are prevented from actively engaging in the political arena in between elections.
Be that as it may, the Singapore Democrats have not allowed the obstacles to keep us inactive. Despite the PAP’s best efforts, we have been doing everything we can to strengthen ourselves as well as to empower Singaporeans.
In the past, it was easy for the PAP and its media to paint the SDP in such negative light. With the advent of the Internet, however, such an underhanded tactic is harder to carry out successfully.
Our readers can attest to the fact that we have been organising campaigns or forums, visiting students, meeting with residents, doing research, and so on. We have posted these activities on this website to keep you updated.
Nonetheless, it is hard for our news to reach the wider public because the mainstream press continues to censor of much of what we do and say, leading Singaporeans to think negatively of the party. (See here)
In the spirit of the SDP, however, we will not let the adverse conditions defeat us. We have a mountain to climb but we will be resolute in overcoming the adversity and bringing democracy to our shores.
Calling for reform
In a one-party state like Singapore, must not bury its head in the sand and pretend as if we are operating in a democracy. Even though we will get knocked hard by the ruling, we must always sound the call for reform.
Failure does not come when we get knocked down, it comes when we give up trying. We must not give up trying to reform the system and fighting for our political freedoms. We don’t have to this at the expense of bread-and-butter issues.
Surely the opposition can campaign on these two areas in tandem. After all, political rights and economic rights are two sides of the same coin. Talking about the latter while ignoring former is naive at best.
We need to teach the people how to fish instead of constantly asking the government to provide more fish. We need to empower the people and work for change so that the people become the masters, not remain as the PAP’s servants.
Indeed the opposition must work towards bring about a system that encourages citizens to actively participate in the public process and one that allows them to vote freely and fairly.
Of course, championing reform will attract the wrath of the PAP. But if the opposition in an autocracy cannot call tell the emperor that he has no clothes, what good is it to the people.