An opposition that does itself no favours

Dear China Times Mail Editor,

I refer to the 6 Nov 2010 commentary by Mr Liang Tung-Ping that was translated and published by Straits Times on 10 Nov 2010 with the title “An opposition that does itself no favours”.

Mr Liang labelled criticisms of the Singapore ruling party as being superficial, blind, self-opinionated and accompanied by ulterior motives. But Mr Liang’s essay is no more penetrating, illuminating or unbiased.

Mr Liang doesn’t even understand that Singapore’s success is not due to the supposedly ‘great work’ of the PAP in governing Singapore. Singapore was already a thriving city port long before the PAP came about. If not for WWII, Singapore would have remained a British Crown Colony and ended up like Hong Kong, different but just as prosperous.

Mr Liang only knows how to criticise the lack of quality in the opposition. But does Mr Liang know how this sorry state of affairs came about? We used to have very good opposition candidates like JB Jeyaratnam. But he was sued until he was bankrupt and remained so nearly until the day he died. Consider this: the Lee family recently sued the IHT for essentially stating the undeniable fact that the Singapore prime ministership spans across generations in the Lee family. While there is nothing factually wrong with the statement, the IHT nevertheless ended up being sued for alleging nepotism. How can the opposition survive such injustice?

Consider too that:

1) All paid newspapers have been amalgamated into one company whose shares are largely owned by government-linked companies and whose chairman has always been important ex-ministers. Under such circumstances, what service would the press render to opposition candidates?

2) Right up to the last election, selection for HDB upgrading has always been based on voting results. Since 80% of Singaporeans live in HDB flats, a sizeable segment of the population has always been under pressure to vote for PAP to enjoy HDB upgrading. This is a very potent form of vote buying that severely disadvantages the opposition.

3) Up to six constituencies can be contested as one. This effectively allows a minister to contest and win six wards by himself. The odds are stacked against new opposition candidates when contesting against an established minister.

It is difficult for the opposition to strengthen itself against such odds. But perhaps the most damaging force acting against the opposition is the notion you expressed right at the beginning – that the PAP has delivered prosperity to Singapore. As long as the people believe this and believe that our continued prosperity depends on the PAP, the opposition will have no chance. Having been entrenched over 45 years, this belief has penetrated deep into the bones of Singaporeans and is almost impossible to shake off now. It is this belief that will continue to deliver overwhelming victory to the PAP over and over again for years to come. Foreign press like yours does no favours to the opposition cause by helping to propagate this myth.

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