WP chief Low Thia Khiang: Good politics not just good policy and lack of gridlock

Mr Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout on July 26, 2015.
Mr Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout on July 26, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A political system needs to be resilient in the face of adversity, said Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang, giving the opposition's perspective on the debate about what is good politics.

Such a system can "withstand shock and turbulence, including the unexpected collapse or slow corruption of the ruling party", he said on Thursday (Jan 28) in Parliament.

Mr Low also outlined the principles of what he hopes Singapore's political future will be.

One, politics should be "all-inclusive", so that national interest can be agreed upon by consensus instead of being "monopolised by the ruling party".

"The Government should recognise that there are many ongoing and independent national conversations and should allow for differences in opinions to flourish without marking these conversations as disloyal and divisive," he said.

Two, those with "narrow political interests" should be encouraged to engage in dialogue and such discussions should be seen as "an educational process for Singaporeans to learn and to discern what is politics for the collective good of the nation and society".

Three, Singaporeans must be trusted to be "independent, rational and wise social actors" who can build up institutions not affiliated with the Government.

For instance, universities here were "tightly controlled for fear of their political influence", but have achieved "world-class status" after their autonomy was protected.

Academics can criticise the Government and have even joined alternative political parties but "our political system has not been destabilised as a result".

Finally, politics cannot be defined just by good policies and the absence of gridlock.


"Excessive fears of political gridlock" will lead Singapore to depend on just one political party, "waiting for it to rot to the point of no return before any alternative party can be formed to take its place".

"If this Government truly believes in preserving this shiny red dot, then the onus is on it to build a political system conducive to the growth of alternative parties as well as the renewal of the ruling party," he added.

These principles are shared by the SkillsFuture programme, which Mr Low said "contains the DNA for empowering confident Singaporeans".

This is because SkillsFuture gives Singaporeans the freedom to choose their own development path. It also caters to people's interests instead of measuring value in purely economic terms.

Mr Low's speech came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke on the need for Singapore's political system to evolve.

In Mr Lee's 90-minute speech, he cited the example of political gridlock in the United States as an undesirable outcome that Singapore needs to avoid.