Fighting to win a ‘freak’ election?

October 3, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Questions about our political system being democratic enough to allow the opposition to gain power recently surfaced at a forum to which Mr Lee Kuan Yew replied that those who want to see a more “open” and “liberal style” of democracy fail to “see the limits of Singapore’s geography.”

In plain English, “over my dead body.”

According to the MM, an opposition victory at the polls can only happen in a “freak” election, as in freak (frēk) n. – A grotesque aberration of nature.

Would the sane accept a freak in their midst? And what’s worse than a freak election? A freak government that would, in one of Mr Lee’s nightmares, cause Singapore to “collapse”.

Now we all know that it would be terribly irresponsible for Mr Lee and his party to allow the city-state to implode as a result of non-PAP rule.

This is why the MM promises that if such a scenario were to occur the only people to save Singapore from such a fiendish occurrence are those in the PAP and its military wing.

As if this was not enough, Mr Lee raised, again, the threats from our immediate neighbours. Contrary to what he says, our enemies are not the Malaysians and the Indonesians and we certainly don’t need a dictatorship to protect us from our neighbours, thank you very much.

It is the oldest trick in the book: When embarrassed internally, create an enemy externally and spook everyone into thinking that without a strong and autocratic leader whose motives must not be questioned, the threat will engulf the entire country.

With the WB-IMF fiasco and Temasek-Shin Corp debacle happening in quick succession, the creation of the looming spectre of a bellicose Malaysia and Indonesia is chicken-soup for the PAP soul.

Aside: Why does the Kuan Yew continue to insist on magnifying the fact that the Hsien Loong is nothing more than the father’s son by talking as if the PM did not exist? (MM: “My main critics want me to be…”) Yes, Mr Lee, we realise you’re incorrigible. It’s your son we have more hope in. So why don’t you just sit back and let the Head of Government do the talking?

But reality is as reality does and we all know who the boss is. And it is Mr Lee Kuan Yew who says that the Government will not allow the political system to progress beyond what it is today. In other words no opening up, no liberalization, no opposition.

The crucial question is: Which part of this statement does the opposition not understand?

Given the 40 years of pummeling that we have received, being dragged from pillar to post, and having our rights amputated limb by excruciating limb it defies logic that the opposition continues to believe MM Lee when he tells us to work hard and continue to contest in the elections in the hope that maybe one day we’ll win enough seats to form a government – a freak one, that is.

What Singapore needs is not more elections. What we need is a message articulated clearly and consistently that only with a system that respects the democratic freedoms of the citizens will elections have any meaning for Singaporeans.

That message must also be that we are prepared to fight for our rights and to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve our objective.

Singaporeans, if it needs to be said at all, must not fall for Mr Lee’s ruse. It is the height of our folly if we don’t recognize the PAP for what it is, a party that exploits our fear to deprive us of our freedom.

The fear of ‘freak’ elections, the fear of losing everything if the opposition were to win power, and the fear of threats from our neighbours must all be laid to rest in the cemetery of political bogeys.

The Singapore Democrats have said it before and we say it again: If Singapore is going to strike out into the future with confidence, we need to believe in the democratic process and in ourselves.

As for the opposition, we do our supporters a disservice if we keep telling them that the opposition will make headway just by taking part in the nine days of elections once every five years without insisting on changes to the system.

The truth is that the longer we put off working for, and not just talking about, reforming the election system and breaking the PAP’s control of the media the longer we are going put ourselves through the misery of living in a system where the PAP pretends to give us a choice and we pretend to make it.

Army will intervene in freak elections: MM Lee
Reuters
15 Sep 06

Singapore’s former leader Lee Kuan Yew defended his party’s political dominance, saying it was vital for the predominantly ethnic Chinese state to stand up to its bigger, majority-Muslim neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Lee, a founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP) that has ruled Singapore uninterrupted since independence in 1965, also criticised Singapore’s tiny opposition parties on Friday, saying the city-state would eventually collapse if they were elected.

“We need a government that will have the gumption and skill to say ‘no’ to our neighbours in a very quiet and polite way that doesn’t provoke them into doing something silly,” said Lee at a forum on the sidelines of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings in the island republic.

“My main critics want me to be as liberal, open and contentious and adversarial with the opposition as the West,” said Lee, who was independent Singapore’s prime minister from 1965 to 1990.

Lee and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers were the key speakers at the forum.

Those who wanted Singapore to embrace a more liberal style of democracy failed to see the limits of its geography, said Lee, whose son, Lee Hsien Loong, is Singapore’s prime minister.

Lee Kuan Yew, who turns 83 on Saturday, holds the title of Minister Mentor in his son’s cabinet.

Lee said the attitude of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treat their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

“Our neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hardworking and therefore they are systemically marginalised,” he said.

Indonesia and Malaysia “want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese — compliant”, Lee said.

Although Singapore and Malaysia have deep economic ties, relations between the two countries which separated in 1965 after a brief union, have often been prickly.

Relations between Singapore and Indonesia hit a low in 1998 when then-President B.J. Habibie referred to Singapore as a little red dot in a sea of green — a reference to the fact the city-state of 4.4. million people is surrounded by two large, predominantly Muslim countries.

Lee acknowledged that there was growing support for opposition parties among Singapore’s voters, but said the office of the elected presidency had been put in place to prevent a profligate opposition government from touching the island’s vast monetary reserves.

“Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it,” Lee said.