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PM Lee Hsien Loong says that it is not wise for the PAP to “purposely” let the opposition grow. This disingenuous statement must be called out.
To be absolutely clear, the opposition, in the form of the Barisan Sosialis (BS), was strong and had the support of Singaporeans. The PAP, with the cooperation of the British colonial government, had to place BS leaders under mass arrests and detain them without trial in order to remain in power.
Since then, the PAP has undertaken a myriad of anti-democratic measures to ensure that the opposition remains hobbled and unable to challenge it for power.
The withering punishment of news organisations and journalists, and the amendments to the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act through the years reduced a once vibrant mass media to that of officialdom’s cheerleaders. Little wonder that they are ranked 151st in the World Press Freedom Index 2017 – a position sandwiched between Ethiopia and Swaziland.
Trade unions and civil society were similarly destroyed leaving an impotent NTUC controlled by ministers. In their place, the government has politicised the People’s Association, plying it with enormous sums of money to carry water for the party.
Election laws have been repeatedly altered and the constitution amended to ensure the PAP’s continued hegemony. The introduction of the GRC system is but just one instance, allowing the PAP even greater latitude to gerrymander with impunity.
Now the government is arguing that a by-election need not be called if an MP in a GRC resigns, even if she is from the minority race.
The latest example of such shambolic treatment of our constitution is the PAP’s reservation of the Presidency for Malays and then approving its ethnically Indian member as a candidate while disqualifying her potential opponents.
Recently, the government amended the Films Act so that it can further crack down on, among other things, the making of party political films and other material it deems “undesirable”. It also changed the Public Order Act to give police the power to stop citizens from disseminating information relating to public events such as protests.
Any casual observer can see that these are not acts of a confident government. They are, instead, of one that is nervously looking over its shoulders, afraid of the genuine views of the people breaking through.
If Mr Lee is of the view that his party has the support of the people, then why go through such lengths to dismantle democracy and suppress the opposition?
No one is asking the PAP to let the opposition grow. What Singaporeans are saying is that it must stop changing laws to make the system even more undemocratic and prevent the opposition from challenging its hold on power.