It pays to pay heed to the silent majority

The People's Action Party (PAP) supporters at Toa Payoh Stadium.
The People's Action Party (PAP) supporters at Toa Payoh Stadium. PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

I am heartened that the silent majority roared with a vengeance on Polling Day ("PAP wins big with 69.9 per cent of vote"; last Saturday).

For too long, general public sentiment and opinion have been drowned out by the strident online minority.

Even political pundits and the opposition appeared to have been obfuscated by the online clamour in their predictions for the results of the recent general election.

Mr Lee Heng Fatt, in his letter yesterday ("Netizens may not represent the majority"), rightly cautioned that we need to be more circumspect when interpreting what is said on social media.

He also urged the Government to maintain a sense of perspective on what the majority of Singaporeans believe in.

Indeed, to discount this broad swathe of the populace is to do so at its peril. After all, the majority represents the real socio-economic concerns on the ground.

Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong, in her commentary ("Silent majority's roar of support for PAP"; last Saturday), astutely analysed the motivations of the silent majority in supporting the People's Action Party.

Many voted for the tried and tested.

The opposition's tactic of urging voters to elect more of them into Parliament to pressure the incumbent backfired.

The pushback was a clear signal that the majority is leery of a seismic shift that will destabilise the country, especially in view of the economic and political headwinds buffeting the region.

Moreover, the opposition has not proven itself to be either a creditable or credible alternative.

Nevertheless, as what Ms Chua has warned, the PAP Government should not regard the resounding mandate from the people as a given.

Humility is a virtue that will stand it in good stead with a citizenry wont to punish the ruling party at the polls if it so much as loses touch with the ground.

To its credit, the PAP Government has realised its missteps and has been indefatigably addressing grievances that bedevilled it in the previous general election.

I believe this was one of the reasons voters were won over this time.

The party should keep this up, but be mindful of caving in to populist pressures.

A forward-looking and prudent government adopting a more inclusive and consultative approach is still what most voters want.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'It pays to pay heed to the silent majority'. Print Edition | Subscribe