Letter of the week: Parliament must rise above party politics

Parliament House, as seen on Feb 3, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

All over the world, political parties behave as adversaries. To me, the ugliest example is the bipartisan politics of the United States. Can political parties in Singapore behave differently?

Many would consider our 2011 General Election a watershed election when the ruling party lost a GRC helmed by two ministers. In this election, the Government lost three office-holders.

The Workers' Party (WP) is now the only opposition party in Parliament with a record high of 10 elected members. Its leader will be formally designated the Leader of the Opposition.

WP's strategy of not opposing for the sake of opposing, and being a responsible opposition party that will provide constructive criticism, has worked. The generally adversarial stance of Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock has failed.

WP argued that it was not trying to deny the People's Action Party a strong mandate. Economist Jamus Lim argued succinctly that "what we're trying to deny them is a blank cheque" and that the WP's goal is to provide "checks and balances".

However, there is a need to go beyond that to prevent the opposition being viewed as an irritant to the ruling party. To be constructive, WP needs to play advocacy and advisory roles. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post: "I look forward to them participating in and contributing to the debate in Parliament, and to the national debate, as we deal with the urgent issues before us."

Moving forward, I hope that both PAP and WP MPs will not be adversaries in and out of Parliament. Let's show the world that Singapore's model of democracy can result in a Parliament that is above party politics.

Chia Kee Seng (Dr)

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