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Look beyond having just an alternative voice

If the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue was not a key reason for the vote swing in this year's general election, then we ought to ask ourselves why it was not so ("AHPETC issue not the key factor in vote swing against opposition" by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; last Sunday).

If political parties are like cruise ships, then we voters are like tourists fussing over different cruise holidays. We may review the itinerary and destinations, akin to the parties' manifestos, and crew, akin to parties' candidates, on glittery brochures but are unfamiliar with the behind-the-scenes machinery that run the ships.

We assume that the crew of a ship has the competence to ensure its smooth sailing and, of course, keeping it afloat.

The AHPETC saga, notwithstanding its complexities, has exposed the problems the Workers' Party has in running a town council.

In our desire for an alternative voice, we are perhaps more forgiving towards an opposition party on its lapses.

When an opposition party is voted into Parliament, it will no longer be just an alternative voice, it becomes the alternative. It is the alternative that is running a town council, and even the country, if it topples an incumbent government.

Unlike going on a bad cruise holiday, where we regret for just that period, we will regret endorsing unsustainable campaign promises for a long time to come. In the midst of global uncertainties, gusto and slogans mean little if we are trapped on a sinking ship with a crew that cannot lead us out of trouble.

While there is no way to verify fully how critical the AHPETC factor was in the swing of votes from the opposition, I hope Singaporeans did consider the implications of poor governance for our nation.

The opposition parties should grow beyond being just an alternative voice to becoming a credible alternative.

Steve Chiu Shih Tung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Look beyond having just an alternative voice'. Print Edition | Subscribe