Is Goh Chok Tong serious about wanting a national dialogue?

August 14, 2012
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

In his National Day message, former prime minister Goh Chok Tong called on Singaporeans “who feel passionately about where Singapore is heading” to have a constructive dialogue with Ministers and MPs.$CUT$

This, he said, is part of a national effort to build consensus on the country’s future. Should Singaporeans take him and his party seriously?

He urged the people to “research the issues, find out the facts” and then invite officials for a frank discussion.

How is this possible when the media the Government controls refuses to keep the people informed? How are Singaporeans going to come to know of alternatives available to them, let alone discuss them with Ministers and MPs?

One example is the SDP’s National Healthcare Plan. When was the last time an opposition party came up with a thorough review of our healthcare system and then provide a comprehensive plan to overcome the problems?

And yet there has been precious little discussion about the merits of our Plan? There has been a grand total of 1 (yes, one) report in the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao when our proposal was launched in April this year.

Since then there has been absolute zero mention of our Plan in the newspapers – both online and off. No analyses, no comparison with the PAP’s system, no reviews, no interviews with our healthcare panel, and no discussions.

This despite the fact that Singaporeans are plagued by a healthcare programme that is expensive and unfair to the less well-off. Even the newspapers have talked about the problems repeatedly and yet, there is absolutely – and deliberately – no mention of an alternative provided by the SDP.

And when we try to organise block parties to inform and discuss our healthcare proposal with residents, the Jurong Town Council steps in and says that such events are not allowed. 

There is also our Shadow Budget which we detailed how our nation’s expenditure should be allocated. Again, zero discussion in the press and television.

Then there is Dr Chee Soon Juan’s latest book Democratically Speaking launched last week where he talks about the future direction of our country. Apart from one small report in a Chinese newspaper, there were no reports about the book by the SPH and MediaCorps. (Click here to purchase a copy.)     

Under such a stultifying and barren political landscape how is research and dialogue that Mr Goh professes he wants to see going to take place?

This is what the PAP is really good at, calling for something it has absolutely no intention of wanting to see happen. It is more an effort to manage the growing frustration and anger that is building up among Singaporeans than a genuine attempt to incorporate the wishes of the people into its policies.

It is just another effort to get the people to let off steam without having to make any meaningful change to its authoritarian ways. It wants to exclude the SDP from the “national” conversation so that it can continue to tell the people that it and only it has the ideas for Singapore, that there are no alternatives.   

This is clearly not true as the Singapore Democrats have proven in recent years that we have been able to offer a clear and viable alternative to the PAP.

Until the Government mends its ways and includes the SDP’s constructive proposals in the national conversation, few will believe that Mr Goh is sincere about wanting to build consensus.