Forum: Dirty politics is a lose-lose scenario for Singapore

People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Ivan Lim's decision not to contest in the general election has been viewed as a victory for netizens in the alternative camp.

It has had an emboldening effect on the ground, with the erstwhile less powerful taking advantage of social media.

The result is rising vigilantism, with character assassination as the key tool. We are seeing, in quick succession, one PAP candidate after another being targeted for alleged lapses in integrity, humility or compassion. I do not think we have seen the last of it.

The targets of these actions are not limited to politicians. There was a recent article on the PAP website by an MP that questioned poet and playwright Alfian Sa'at's patriotism. It created a divisive stir.

Regardless of who fires the shot, this approach leads us down a slimy road. Nobody wins when leaders and potential leaders, or icons in the arts and sports scenes, are discredited or humiliated.

It creates a tit-for-tat culture that makes society adversarial. As the ruling party, the PAP is particularly vulnerable given the many touch points with the public.

It has been said that politics is inherently dirty. I don't buy it. That is like admitting human beings are inherently evil.

Time and again, we have proven that we can be exceptional.

Singapore can eschew the dirty in politics. Political parties should fight hard but according to rules of engagement based on fairness and decency.

This tone should be set not just during elections, but also in all political and social engagements whether they are in Parliament, the constituency or the sports arena.

Elections cannot just be about winning. How political parties act and how we - as citizens - conduct ourselves have a salutary effect on what we stand for as a people.

We need to set the example and send the right message to younger Singaporeans.

It has to start at the top.

Viswa Sadasivan