The true colours of constructive politics

I refer to the 29 May 2014 Straits Times report “The character of constructive politics”.

PM reminded us that politics is not just politics because Singaporeans’ lives and future are at stake. But it was after the politics of the last election in 2011 that Singaporeans’ lives took a turn for the better as the PAP suddenly ramped up housing, transportation and so on. So is the politics of 2011 the constructive politics PM referred to that will better the lives and future of Singaporeans and help us scale new heights?

It was strange that PM should begrudge Mr Low Thia Khiang for focusing on constructive politics when he too focused on getting politics right. PM insisted we don’t want money politics. Yet for so many years, Singaporeans voted in accordance to the PAP’s threat of withholding HDB upgrading which they always emphasized cost a lot of money. He said we do not want politics of envy, yet pay themselves million dollar salaries.

PM explained that constructive politics means developing effective policies, solving problems, creating opportunities, improving lives. Was he referring to the growth at all costs policy that is at the root of the problems today? Was he referring to creating problems so as to solve them later? Was he referring to creating opportunities for the multitude of migrants for whom Singapore belongs to?

What difficult trade-off was PM referring to when approving his multi-million dollar salary? When PM spoke about the good people capable of integrity and character who can represent and serve Singapore with outstanding distinction, was he referring to people like Saw Paik Hwa, Mah Bow Tan, SCDF’s Peter Lim, CNB’s Ng Boon Gay and the CPIB assistant director charged with misappropriating $1.7 million?

What supposed critical importance are ministers and MPs when ministers who mess up in one ministry gets rotated to another and life goes on or MPs sleep in parliament or happily absent themselves every now and then?

When PM spoke of robust and open debate, was he referring Vikram Nair’s rude questioning of Mr Chen Show Mao and subsequent apology during Budget 2012 Debate (Straits Times, Vikram Nair: Show me the money, Chen Show Mao, 1 Mar 2012)? Could PM’s sound bite politics refer to “More Good Years” and “Swiss Standard of Living”?

If anonymous innuendoes or insinuations online or offline can deter people from entering politics, then these people aren’t good enough to begin with.

PM claimed he would get to the bottom of any PAP MP making false and untruthful statements. Has PM gotten to the bottom of these statements?
• Khaw Boon Wan said a four-room flat has remained at 90 square metres since the mid-1990s when there were 310 four-room HDB flat transactions between Sept 11 and Aug 12 with lease dates that are 1995 or more recent having floor sizes between 75 and 89 square metres
Straits Times, HDB hasn’t shrunk flat sizes, says Khaw, 3 May 2012
• Vivian Balakrishnan accused Aljunied contractor ATL Maintenance Ltd of demanding double payment for the same quantity of work yet after all the hullabaloo, the accusation didn’t hold water, paragraph 26
• During the 9 Jan 2012 parliament session, Vivian Balakrishnan claimed that the recent Orchard Road floods were part of a larger, longer rainfall change in Singapore when the evidence gathered then only pointed to a less than 1 mm per year increase in maximum 1 hourly rainfall intensity over the period investigated
9 Jan 2012 parliament session
• Ms Indranee Rajah reportedly said that UK minister remuneration must take into account UK MP allowances but the allowances don’t add to the UK minister’s salary but compensate instead for the UK minister’s actual expenditure incurred at work. Ms Indranee also claimed that the allowances are totally opaque as one has no idea what the amounts add up to when the breakdown of most expense categories are listed MP by MP in a file downloadable from the UK parliament website.
Straits Times, Political pay in UK: Take allowances into account, 19 Jan 2012

PM claimed that constructive politics requires absolute honesty which is the key difference between Singapore politics and politics in other countries. Is PM insulting the politics of Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Norway which scored equal or better than Singapore in the Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index 2013?

Rank Country Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2013
1 Denmark 91
1 New Zealand 91
3 Finland 89
3 Sweden 89
5 Norway 86
5 Singapore 86
7 Switzerland 85
8 Netherlands 83
9 Australia 81
9 Canada 81
11 Luxembourg 80

When PM referred to flawed people who should not be immune from scrutiny, he should at least look himself in the mirror. Who in this world is perfect?

When PM characterized constructive politics as the rallying together of the people for a common cause, was he referring to the bulldozing of acts like the casinos and 6.9 million population white paper resented by the population?

Does PM’s so-called constructive politics being dependent on what political leaders do refer to suing citizens for remarks most Singaporeans can’t care less about?

PM took issue with WP for not acknowledging the good, supposedly inciting division and for silently supporting xenophobia in the name of nationalism. Why does PM want acknowledgement for clearing the housing backlog when people didn’t even expect a backlog to begin with? Why does PM want acknowledgement for vigorously fixing transport woes when Singaporeans didn’t expect transport to fall to such low levels to begin with? Does PM think WP can incite division without there being an actual division to begin with? Does PM think there can be an Independence Day celebration without a national flag? Does PM think that allowing the Philippine flag to be raised in Orchard Road and a march past by Filipinos dressed in military uniform is nationalistic to Singapore or nationalistic to the Philippines? If the flag has no significance, what is the point of our National Emblems Act? What is the point of putting up the Singapore flag on 9 Aug every year? Can a 60.1% PM be the utmost authority figure respected by all Singaporeans on what constitutes xenophobia? Can a 60.1% PM be a good judge of what good politics markers are?

PM claimed they do their best to practice constructive politics. Their so-called best is to employ supposedly politics blind agencies like NEA and MND to tussle with Aljunied Town Council. Their so-called serious policies and debates ended up with the problems that necessitated solutions he is now so proud of.

It is not up to the PM as a political player himself to decide that the PAP has the highest standards of integrity. That judgment lies with the people. If the PAP indeed has the highest standards of integrity, it would not worry about liberalizing the press or standing up to fair criticism.

PM reiterated Ms Indranee’s accusation that the WP flip flopped on foreign workers. But WP did not flip flop on foreign workers. They merely said too much when it was too much and too fast when it was too fast. Too much and too fast are not flip flops of each other.

PM pointed to the US government shutting down for two weeks. Yet the US is still the 5th most competitive economy in the world. PM pointed to turmoils in democratic Thailand. Yet Thailand is still more prosperous than neighbours ex-military junta Myanmar and Communist Vietnam.

PM took the position that WP should not simply stand for what PAP does and a little better as that meant having no stand. Does the PM want WP to stand against PAP instead? Isn’t it ironic that while seeking constructive politics, PM also wants WP to stand against PAP?

I refer too to Straits Times Singapolitics [2].

PM reminded Mr Low that WP had argued for zero population growth during the Population White Paper debate but since Singapore has continued to grow, shouldn’t Mr Low now argue for the excess 70,000 to be sent home? Mr Low explained that while standing by its call for zero population growth, WP also respected the government’s decision. Isn’t that the constructive politics PM Lee has been asking for? Why berate WP for spending a whole speech attacking one point, yet not appreciate WP when it stops attacking?

PM denigrated WP as a substandard opposition for doing the easy thing of telling the PM to massage the workforce in the various sectors but leaving the actual work to the government. Does the PM want WP to take over the government? If not, how can the PM accuse WP of being substandard? On the contrary, if the PAP cannot do the massaging and require WP to step in, wouldn’t it be PAP that is substandard instead?

PM should not have accused Mr Low of not calling a spade a spade when he himself refused to call a spade a spade when he insisted on calling nationalism xenophobia. How could PM insult Mr Low of weaseling away with words when he concurred with Dr Janil Puthucheary about the importance of how one says it? Or perhaps it was important for PM to say it in an insulting way? Is that the true colour of PM’s supposedly constructive politics after all?


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