Politics is a taboo subject in Singapore and is often seen as a dirty word. The ruling party’s unspoken philosophy is often that the ends justify the means. As one critic put in aptly, the government justifies its “right to rule” on delivering economic progress, not on winning elections fair and square.
The attached article detailing a spat between an opposition MP and the deafeated PAP opponent showed a few unfair practices in Singapore that are disadvantageous to the democracy and the opposition parties in particular, e.g.
- the grassroot community (Peoples’ Association, Residential Commitee) groups are headed by the ruling PAP party candidate instead of the elected MP. As such, an elected MP has to kow-tow (at the mercy) to the person he or she defeated in the election. So the defeated ruling party candidate can still be”active” in the community even if he is defeated in the election.
- The defeated PAP candidates act as the grassroot “consultants” and will be consulted on issues ranging from Lift Upgrading Programs to the privatisation of HUDC by the government, bypassing the opposition party MP in the process.
- Many high visibility community programs such as National Day celebration, the PAP “consultants” are invited instead of the opposition MP.
- [Updated 23May2012] WP’s chairman listed “how attempts by WP to improve the (Hougang) estate have been blocked over the years and it had to use town council funds for the construction of covered walkways in 1992, improvement works to 39 blocks in 1993, construction of tables and stools in 1994, a footpath in 1994 and construction of sitting corners in 1995. (Source)
See the second article appearing in 1 May 2011, in which the Oppostion MPs complaining:
- When WP tried to apply permits to hold dialogues with residents at void decks in PAP wards, its application was rejected by PAP town councils.
- With the Government redrawing the electoral boundaries, “how are we going to appear in previously non-existent ward?”
- It is almost impossible to have a grassroot foothold similar to PCF (PAP Community Foundation) to hold events. The premisesare rented cheaply by HDB to PCF which sublet them cheaply to PAP. [Editors’ note: Question is will HDB rent it out at the similar rate to the opposition parties if they have applied? we can all imagine the difficulty the opposition parties will go true even if the HDB allows it.
- Legitimacy of An Opposition MP? – The PA Saga (Part 2)
- HDB Should Not Be Playing Politics For The PAP
“The HDB should stop letting itself become a political tool of the ruling PAP. This is not the way a taxpayer funded statutory board should operate. Residents of non-PAP wards pay their income taxes and GST, and do their national service just like the rest of us. They should not be discriminated against.” – Sammyboy.com
- Town council management report is politically motivated, says Chiam
- wtf how much more dirty can singapore’s politics get?
- What is the role of grassroots advisers? Do they have authority? (31 Aug 2011)
“Mr Desmond Choo is the defeated People’s Action Party candidate in Hougang and is now in talks with the PA, which is applying to the Housing & Development Board for the transfer of the lease of six plots of land. Mr Choo hopes to finalise the transfer soon. There is an implication that he is acting in his capacity as a defeated PAP candidate and that the grassroots adviser role is not just advisory in nature but carries certain authority.”
Here is an exerpt of another follow up article from TodayOnline.com on the similar issue but this time is regarding the Lift Upgrading Program and the timing of the announcement.
Opposition-held Hougang gets lift upgrading
SINGAPORE – Almost 3,500 households living in 33 blocks in Opposition bastion Hougang will benefit from the Government’s Lift Upgrading Programme in the coming months, said the ward’s People’s Action Party (PAP) grassroots adviser Eric Low.
Speaking to residents at a PAP Community Foundation Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony yesterday, Mr Low said feedback would be sought from residents and dialogues conducted with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) before residents vote on the proposed plans.
Queried by reporters later, Mr Low said yesterday’s announcement was “unrelated” to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement on Saturday that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee has been convened – the clearest indication yet that the elections were nearing.
Mr Low has tasted two electoral defeats at Hougang – during the 2001 and 2006 General Elections. When asked if he would want to contest the ward again at the next GE, Mr Low reiterated it was “something for the Prime Minister to decide”. Still, he added that he has an “emotional attachment to the people and their needs here”.
After some Singaporeans had questioned why it was the PAP candidates and not the elected MPs making the lift upgrading announcements in Opposition wards, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan explained last year that HDB’s practice is to deal with a constituency’s grassroots advisers for its upgrading programmes. In PAP wards, the MPs are the grassroots advisers.
The advisers will then explain the programmes to residents.
(Askmelah’s editor note: Mah Bao Tan was another PAP candidate that was twice defeated by another opposition MP Chiam See Tong and was finally “elected” via the GRC system. I also wonder is it that difficult for an elected MP to explain the programmes to the residents that we need a PAP grassroot leader to do that, how fair is that? If this is not dirty politics, I don’t know what is!)
I AM responding to the reply from the Minister for National Development’s press secretary on Tuesday (’Ministry: MP Low wrong on lift upgrading’), as the Member of Parliament for Hougang, Mr Low Thia Khiang, is currently out of town.
The reply states that the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) letter last Friday (’Why grassroots advisers announce lift upgrading’) ’should be read in conjunction with’ the minister’s earlier explanations to the media.
This acknowledges that the reason given by the HDB in reply to Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman’s letter (’MPs should front initiative’, Oct 7) does not stand up to scrutiny.
Mr Muhammad Yusuf had pointedly asked why protocol seemed to be ignored when the HDB worked with the unelected candidates in opposition wards to announce lift upgrading programme (LUP) plans rather than with the elected MPs.
It is not disputed that the LUP is a government programme. After all, it is to rectify a design flaw in public housing which does not cater for an ageing society. Given this imperative, the public interest should trump politics.
Mr Low’s letter on Saturday (’No basis for MP not to announce lift upgrading: Low’), responding to the HDB’s reply, was not about wanting credit for the programme.
He has stated that he is prepared to work with the Government’s appointees for the benefit of his constituents, and indeed has met the grassroots adviser several times over many months to give input on the LUP plans for Hougang.
It was the HDB’s unjustifiable answer to Mr Muhammad Yusuf – that the grassroots adviser was more appropriate than the MP to announce the LUP plans because he was able to gather residents’ input and marshal support for the plans – which compelled Mr Low’s response.
The HDB should have just given the real reason in its reply and not beat around the bush.
The Ministry of National Development’s (MND) reply on Tuesday further states that the LUP is funded from Budget surpluses, which opposition MPs are not responsible for generating.
However, the Budget surpluses are hardly the effort of the Government alone as they include significant contributions from the public through taxes, levies and stamp fees, which the Government simply reaps.
Finally, the MND reply also appears to interpret the general election as an event where the only outcome which matters is who forms the government.
This shows the respect the Government has for the people’s choice of MP, who is vested with the constitutional mandate to represent the constituency.
Sylvia Lim (Ms)
See Opposition party leader Low Thia Kiang’s GE2011 speech on the unlevel playing field faced by an Opposition MP: