Current Affairs Editorial

Checks and balances are necessary – is it time for the opposition to step up to the big game just yet?

6 Sep , 2015  

I contemplated the writing of this piece for some time, wondering how to best convey my thoughts and feelings of fear, pain and confliction at the path that we are treading this elections, and what I suspect to be the elections henceforth. Over the past decade, I have seen the waves of change washing over the political field. People gradually moved away from their politically apathetic stances to being more involved in local politics. This was an inevitable washing of tidal wave, as Gen X and the early millennial, two educated generations who have had rather cushy, sheltered lives, which include my peers and I, have now grown into adulthood with voting powers. This is a good thing, because it means that we are vested in how we want our Singapore to be.

But as the famous Spiderman line goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” We, the Citizens of Singapore, have greater power vested in our hands than we realize, so as we come into the elections in 2015, my wish is for all Singaporeans not to be caught up in the emotionally-charged call for “change, for checks and balances, for an alternate government,” without knowing what it is exactly that we seek, or want, by virtue of our votes. Because if we are led by our emotions, we risk being swept by waves of change without knowing where we are headed. Emotions cloud judgment, predisposed bias cloud judgment. They prevent us from making clear, lucid choices.

Do not take me wrongly, I am not saying that voting for the opposition is shittier than voting for the PAP. I am saying, ok, you want to vote the opposition? Which opposition? Why? Do you believe in their manifesto? Do you agree with the policies they propose to bring to the table?

 “I want to vote for opposition because PAP Sucks! Take so much money and *cue complaint*” (Transport is like shit, so crowded! MPs take so much money and what have they done for me? So many FTs I am a second rate citizen in my own country. Houses are so expensive, how to afford, my children how? $1million???”)

Does this mean you don’t actually care who the opposition is, as long as it is an opposition, because PAP sucks? Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the opposition may have way shittier policies that actually sound very pretty? E.g. ““They know that they are suffering and this Government has betrayed them, and has not given them the promises that they want.” (Tan Jee Say, SingFirst Party leader in reference to the Government betraying Singaporeans because Singaporeans are not getting their 5Cs, including cars. I am sure you can see the glaring fallacy behind this statement. If my kid wants something, does it mean I have to give it to him? If I don’t, does it mean I have betrayed him? If we don’t condone and perpetuate this kind of “Me, Myself and I” mentality in our own homes, why do we condone it in our Singapore? SingFirst, as its party name says, sounds very, very pretty, but is a lurking enemy. If we perpetuate the kind of thinking that SingFirst endorses, what kind of standing are we going to have in this world?

Unfortunately, sunshine does not come out of our arse. We are just a speck in the sea, a tiny red dot aiming to be bigger than our geographical size allows. We have to look outwards and seize opportunities, and not carry an entitled mentality that will not serve us well.


“PAP is too cocky. We need checks and balances. WP has done an effective and credible job, and this obviously goes to show that we need more opposition in parliament to speak for the people.”

I don’t disagree with this sentence and its fundamental principle. Everyone needs an element of competition to perform at our best, to be kept on edge, to be kept hungry. PAP’s achievements over the years and years of its leadership has led us to achieve many great things. That gave the government the mandate to put in some unpopular but necessary policies such as the restriction of car ownership and sky-high COE prices. The problem lies in that what Singaporeans want (and let’s face it, we want many things. We are a demanding population) and what is necessary/good for Singapore in the long-term are jarring. Of course, there are other unpopular policies that are at its very core, necessary, but the delivery of it was incongruent with what our society could accept. In other words, PAP did not manage to strike the sweet spot in implementing a necessary but unpopular policy and has been overzealous in doing so.

One example of this is the influx of “Foreign Talents”. We KB the Filipino nurse who misinterprets our requests, and KB the cheena coffeeshop assistant who doesn’t know simi is Teh Si Siewdai. How dare they come here, take our jobs and not know our culture and our language? Balik Kampung you foreigners! We don’t need pseudo Singaporeans in this country. I feel like a second rate citizen in my own country, at the first chance I get, I’m going to migrate the hell outta here.

Hello dailou, a lot of these foreign talents are here because no Singaporeans want these jobs you know? They think, “Oh! The hours are too long, no work-life balance, I can easily find another job, this job no air-con” etc. Did you read the article about this hawker who put out a notice for a hawker assistant drawing $5k a month, and yet, no Singaporean took up that offer? We make a choice in our lives, and yet, we complain that those rejected jobs are getting taken away by these bloody foreigners? Simi logic? Continuing to cut down on cheap foreign labour as WP proposed, will only continue to squeeze our SMEs, the very group that the WP proposes to help and build up to phase out MNCs. And if you see the proposals that WP is suggesting to build up our SMEs, alot of them are already in place – ACE startup grant, innovation grant, SME networking sessions organised by SPRING, Singapore Business Federation, there is a whole host of programmes out there.

And if you are KBing about high level jobs being taken away by smart foreigners, the government has already put in place policies to ensure that Singaporeans are considered fairly for jobs. That said, we would still need to attract the best brains from all over the world to come here. Because we need to be globally competitive in order to be relevant. In order to create jobs. And if you are arguing that the government responded with the “consider Singaporeans fairly” scheme only because of opposition, the fact is that we need certain policies at certain times in order to ride out the uncertainties of global economic turmoil. Lim Swee Say explained it very succinctly in his speech and if you want to be convinced of the alternate opposition policies of workers welfare, then all the more you need to listen to it and compare with what the oppositions have suggested.  And let me just go back to your idea of migrating out of Singapore – if every country considers foreigners the way you think of them, would you really want to live in that country? Feeling slighted and unwelcome? Even if you say YOU do not look down on foreigners, it’s just a subset of foreigners you are unhappy with, but sweeping statements and sweeping sentiments lead to dangerous groupthink and xenophobia, which spreads like an ugly, uncontrollable disease.

Although the FT policy is unpopular, it was necessary for the growth of our country, and necessary for our global standing. We need FTs, but the rate at which they came in was too fast, too soon, such that we Singaporeans felt disconcerted, so the G backpedalled, or rather, they had to change the policies in order to combat the new situation which was the sudden influx of foreigners. They can’t always get things right all the time, nobody can, but they tried. Still, fact of matter is, while trying to fix another booboo (economic uncertainties), they fixed that but inadvertently created this booboo. It could be because of the WP’s presence, as the latter claimed, that the government has tightened up their belts, but given the prevailing sentiment back then and even now, do you think our Government is goondu enough not to see and do something about it?


Moreover, having an ineffective, cui opposition will only be akin to throwing plastic forks at our government, diverting our government’s resources and time from doing what is necessary by fending off accusations left, right, center. Which is already happening RIGHT NOW. Seriously, if you are an employee, and another employee keeps giving you shit without contributing positively to the project that you are handling, then you also wanna secretly hood that colleague right? Because nothing is resolved, just yakkity-yak. Talk only what. I also know.

So, with an effective opposition, we should then vote them into parliament because they provide proper checks and balances, right? Yes, I know you are looking at the WP for answers. I know you think WP or even SDP can solve all our problems that bodoh PAP has caused. It is easy to point out mistakes, because people learn through failure, not success. The PAP, having governed for the last 50 years, has done an admirable job. They will get some things wrong, no doubt, but they will not get many things wrong all at the same time, because they have the benefit of experience. They have the benefit of age-old wisdom and ways passed down from the older, founding generation to the new blood, they have the experience of having led Singapore through the many challenges in her journey to success. But they are going through a transitional period now, both in terms of the leadership renewal, as well as the refreshing of Singapore’s internal state, ideologies, needs and wants, which are vastly different from decades past. There will be hiccups and road bumps.

Voting the opposition into government will seem dandy and nice, but the opposition, even if it is WP, is sorely lacking in experience, and will get many things wrong at the same time. Before you throw eggs at me, I say this not to discredit WP, nor am I blaming them, because it will only be natural to get things wrong when you are thrown into the deep sea, having never swum before. I am blaming us. I am blaming us for giving the opposition faux confidence, for throwing them into the deep sea before they have matured. If you want a better Singapore, don’t blindly vote for the opposition just because you want checks and balances. Please assess and see if they are ready to lead Singapore through the many challenges that lie ahead. Yes, we need checks and balances, I am CONVINCED of that, but to get carried away and go out all for supporting the opposition, it may just end up backfiring on us when the opposition gets voted in as parliament, and PAP becomes the checks and balances. Checks and balances to a government that has not earned the rights. I am all for voting the party that best represents Singapore’s interests, be it PAP or the opposition. BUT the opposition is clearly not ready. Still very much immature. However, given the prevailing atmosphere and trajectory that we are on, it is a very real and very scary possibility, that regardless of the opposition quality, we are all for giving them a straight pass to govern for us.

“Stop talking about what PAP has done. Look at *insert complaint* and you dare say PAP is good? Please lah! That’s past success, you think PAP is good for the Singapore of today and tomorrow?” Ok, let’s get the fact over and dusted with – the PAP has done a fantastic job to steer our teeny red dot from a sleepy colonial outpost to the hulking metropolis it is today, standing shoulder to shoulder with the giants of the world. This is huge for a country so small. BUT you are right, we don’t want to vote any party in in based on past glory alone, because that’d be highly foolish. We want to vote them in only if they continue to deliver good, efficient policies that enable us to hold our heads high and tell others with beaming pride, “I am a Singaporean.” And has the PAP delivered? Today, many Singaporeans are flying the flag of our country high, be it in Singapore or overseas. Today, Singapore continues to top the charts in international circles for our strong economy or our education system or the efficiency with which our country is run. Yes, there are many ways we can still improve, and should improve.

I am not saying PAP is perfect, they never will be. Look, they are still making foolish mistakes like harping on the AHPETC saga like old grannies. For pete’s sake. WP is not foolish enough to misrepresent accounts knowingly or take money from the coffers in its first term governing the Aljunied GRC. They are not idiots. Nobody in the right mind will do that. At most, which is also very likely to be the case, they have not done a good enough job of maintaining clean books. This is not because they are not trying or are utter crap, it is because they are new to governing and they are bound to have teething problems, which they need the benefit of experience and time to ride out. If you argue that we need to give them the mandate to try, and give them the opportunity to show their mettle, yes I agree. Let the best of WP consisting of their Sec-Gen and team continue to govern in their respective strongholds. Let them continue to refine their thoughts, ideologies and proposed policies.

If anything, the AHPTEC saga doesn’t show that WP has lack of integrity, but rather, they aren’t ready to fill the big shoes of governing and leading our country into a new era of growth. The policies  being bandied around are very much insular, socialist and populist, and pretty and seductive as they are, they aren’t good for Singapore in the long term.

We cannot afford to grow the mentality that SINGAPORE OWES US. Bullshit. Singapore owes us nothing. Nobody owes us anything. In fact, we owe it to Singapore that we are this educated, and have had a relatively safe, cushy life. We want unemployment benefits? We want welfare? We want good jobs? Back to that self-centred “Me, myself and I” entitled mentality again. Will you allow your child to talk to you like that?

“Daddy, I want a good job. If I drop out of school, I want you to give me money and support me while I find another school. If I don’t do well in life, I want to have handouts. Please support me, mummy. Give me money to do what I want”


Are you going to indulge your kid or are you going to tell them to wake up, to change their attitudes, to stop blaming the (governing) world at large for all that is not good enough?

Are you going to tell them it’s time to fish, or give them the fish? You decide. 

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