PAP can represent everyone’s interest? Thanks, but no thanks

Posted on 06 April 2011

Here’s the scary part about last night’s Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum: For a minute there, I actually bought what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to say. But not for long.

By Belmont Lay

The Prime Minister's wife, Ho Ching, was there to lend her quiet support. Photo: FANG SHIHAN

THE gist of Prime Minister Lee’s argument about leadership renewal is pretty straightforward: There really is only one party in Singapore that is wise and talented enough to attract the best and the brightest to lead this country.

And that party happens to be the PAP.

This is a re-iteration of what his father, Lee Kuan Yew, famously once said: If a jumbo jet carrying 300 of Singapore’s top leaders were to crash, Singapore would be finished.

So you want viable opposition parties to be at the helm? Nope, sorry. They are going to find it even harder to attract the best.

You want a two-party system? Nope, not even remotely possible. Not that the PAP did not think about splitting itself into two.

The younger Lee said: “But the most important reason why a two-party system is not workable is because we don’t have enough talent in Singapore to form two A-teams.”

He added: “We are now pulling together the next A-team of Singapore. And the PAP candidates in this round will form key members of this team and in the next couple of rounds.”

Fair and good, right?

Well, not until you take a look at what is happening on the ground in the opposition camp and you can easily dismiss what Lee had to say about the shortage of talent.

The simple fact is that not everyone who is bright and able wants to be part of the PAP.

The National Solidarity Party has two ex-government scholars: Hazel Poa and Tony Tan, as well as a lawyer, Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss.

The Singapore Democratic Party has Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, who worked as a social worker (with a doctorate in social policy) and absolutely rocked at the Channel NewsAsia debate last week.

And short of introducing God himself to run in a GRC, the Workers’ Party has Chen Show Mao.

So, pray tell, I want none of these but Tin Pei Ling? Just because the PAP says she is good?

Why should I trust the PAP’s ability to screen for potential candidates let alone attract top dogs? There is nothing in their mechanisms that inspire confidence or convinces me that they are not just making up numbers or creating the appearance of looking diversified by fielding Tin Pei Ling.

Therefore, two rebuttal points to the PAP system: It reeks of hubris and it has a tendency to breed bureaucratic apparatchiks.

But what really got my goat was what Lee had to say about PAP wanting to represent every Singaporean: “I think we should try to the maximum extent we can, align all the interest of Singaporeans and make sure one party can represent you, whether you are the CEO or whether you are a taxi driver.”


I just cannot buy the argument that one party can represent the interest of every segment in society.

If you’re gay, or if you’re staunchly single, or if you’re divorced, or if you’re a swinger, or if you’re a single parent, or if you’re homeless, or if you’re liberal-minded, or if you’re a hippie, or if you’re really old, or if you’re really poor, or if you lack next-of-kins, you’re screwed.

Even lesser so, when it is one party trying to be representatives of all the people by manipulating the interests of its citizens.

This is social engineering gone mad.

Let’s not argue about hypotheticals but illustrate using a vivid example: Just look at what happens when you have one Housing Development Board dictating the housing needs of 80% of the population.

The system eventually went tits up late last year when it can no longer make affordable housing to cater to the needs of the masses.

My take on this is pretty simple: If the present Government (a term that was interchangeably used with PAP last night) is indeed as brilliant as it makes itself out to be, it should have been able to create an alternative to the HDB, or made tweaks to refine it.

But it didn’t.

And you ask: Why is there a need for an alternative?

Because public housing, which are built across the island, 1) do not have any quotas reserved solely for local Singaporeans and 2) are subjected to open market competitive pricing, forces prices of housing across the board (private property included) to explode the moment demand goes up.

HDB prices have gone up drastically over the last twenty to thirty years, outgrowing the average Singaporean’s ability to afford them.

And yet the HDB would still insist on providing for the majority, which means it will come back to bite you and me in our asses, because no matter how much richer you can get, you might still end up in a HDB.

Or remain staying with your parents.

I see you have half a million dollars there? I’m sorry, you can probably only afford to buy a three-room flat in Ulu Sungei Goondu, behind Woodlands forested water catchment area, you high-income earner you.

So, here’s the point of today’s missive: If you’re gay, or if you’re staunchly single, or if you’re divorced, or if you’re a swinger, or if you’re a single parent, or if you’re homeless, or if you’re liberal-minded, or if you’re a hippie, or if you’re really old, or if you’re really poor, or if you lack next-of-kins, you’re screwed.

The PAP doesn’t represent your interest at all. It can’t and I won’t even humour myself to say it can.


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  • Princess Road

    Yes, I get the gist of what you are saying. But the fact is that we, as Singaporean voters, collectively vote PAP into power time and again. The PAP style of govt, then, is what the majority of Singaporeans want. We get, and deserve, the party we vote for, right??

    • Belmont

      This reminds of an old joke:

      Masochist says: Hit me!

      Sadist says: Never!

      And that’s the same sadomasochistic relationship Singaporeans have with the PAP. That’s how we collectively get off in a complementary way… Hurts so good, doesn’t it?

  • seriously?

    cute and enjoyable to read.

    not forgetting the serious tone behind it. guys start thinking.

  • Channel

    I saw the forum. To LHL, PAP is the Government. The Government is PAP. Personally, I feel that fielding Tin Pei Ling may bring more harm than help to PAP. So, I think the opposition may use this to their advantage. The election is getting pretty exciting.

  • Julian Roche

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, the PAP can’t represent everyone. Let’s vote for other parties, why not? Let’s have a truly exciting election, reduce the PAP majority – why stop there? A hung Parliament would be fun, wouldn’t it? Maybe the Workers’ Party can reverse the course of history and reduce house prices in Singapore, uniquely amongst countries in the entire world. Or the SDP could do a better job of husbanding Singapore’s financial reserves? Or the NSP could solve all Singapore’s racial tensions at a stroke?
    First they came for the marginal MPs, the new ones, the less able ones. Then they came for the Ministers. Then they came for you, and then Singapore was no longer safe, and prosperous, and a fundamentally decent place to live, but something much worse.

  • Humph

    Singapore is NOT “a fundamentally decent place to live in” for a gay person like me. I can have something resembling a life IF I choose to exist like a hollowed out shell and ignore my sexuality, which is a large part of my identity.

    Can I count on the Worker’s Party to speak up for me in parliament? Obviously not, going by their past performance. They are not as definitely, stridently homophobic as the PAP though, hence my vote for them. I am now marginally more hopeful :(

  • Something to consider

    The issue is not homos, the issue is focus to do what is necessary for the nation. I feel homos distract us from the biggest task on hand: developing our brains, being the best in Maths and Science, to out-think and out-perform the rest of the world. I feel we lost the focus.