Ask questions of national interest

Supporters cheering at the People's Action Party rally for Aljunied GRC.
Supporters cheering at the People's Action Party rally for Aljunied GRC.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

In the British general election campaign, the electorate did not ask the question that some Singaporeans are asking, which is "what has the opposition done in this ward over the last four years; they turn up only during elections".

The questions asked by the British electorate were mainly of national interest.

Perhaps, here lies the explanation of why many of the tactics used by the People's Action Party (PAP) in previous elections worked so well.

When an opposition candidate loses in a ward, he has no means of providing services to the residents in the constituency he contested in.

But, when a PAP candidate loses in a ward, he has the machinery of the People's Association and residents' committees at his disposal to continue serving residents in that ward.

I am not begrudging the fact that the party that forms the Government will, of course, use the public service machinery to serve its political purpose, while catering for the welfare of the nation.

Maybe the way forward for our democracy to mature is to ask questions that are more of national interests and on the longer-term development of Singapore.

We must go beyond short-term and selfish issues, such as estate upgrading. I hope the ruling party will also refrain from using the carrot-and-stick approach in the forthcoming election. This will breed a generation of voters who are preoccupied with selfish and short-term wants, always pressuring the Government to pander to their wishes.

No political party, regardless of its resolve to promote integrity, competence and transparency, dares claim impeccable records.

We also shouldn't be thinking that we have been doing so well thus far that we need no credible opposition in Parliament to raise questions and press for accountability.

Part of our well-being and growth as a democratic country is the opening up of our political arena for alternative voices.

Peter Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Ask questions of national interest'. Print Edition | Subscribe