2 major alternative commentary websites in Singapore's blogosphere, TOC and Wayangparty.com, have come out with their guns blazing and heavily criticising the government's proposed changes to Parliament.
Andrew Loh calls it a "A mockery of Parliament" because of the huge number of "loser MPs", "nominated MPs", and "walkover MPs." He says,
"Parliament being filled with a majority of un-elected members is a joke. Pure and simple, no matter what rhetoric the prime minister uses in trying to convince one and all to accept these changes."
Much as I have been a govt critic in the past, I think the changes announced by Lee Hsien Loong are actually a positive step forward for Singapore as a whole, and that TOC and Wayangparty have got it wrong this time. And much as I think I am going to receive major flak for my comments here, I feel it is necessary to make my case public.
1. I think it is absurd to blast the PAP for the massive presence of walkover MPs in parliament. The sad fact of the matter is that Singaporeans are the ones who are failing to stand up and run against the PAP for parliament seats. Singaporeans are the ones who are allowing the walkovers by the PAP. Singaporeans are the ones who are making a mockery of the democratic process by not participating in it.
And then they turn around and blast the PAP for there being no opposition, for not giving them the opportunity to vote? For goodness sake if you want the opportunity to vote, create it. Creating a credible opposition is not the responsibility of the PAP.
2. With regards to the "loser MP" scheme, I think bloggers' criticisms do not stand up this time. Choo Zheng Xi has described the expanded NCMP scheme thus so:
"This makes a mockery of the purpose of Parliament. Constitutionally, legislative power is vested in Parliament, including the power to amend the Constitution. Parliament will now include 18 members with emasculated powers to influence legislative outcomes.
The sad conclusion is that the purpose of the increase in NCMPs is to provide the citizenry with the theatre of political jousting without the substance of actual influence."
Sorry, Zheng Xi. Much as I like the work you've done with TOC, I think you are wrong this time. Much as it seems farcical for there to be loser MPs without legislative powers in parliament - i think this expanded NCMP scheme is actually good for the loser opposition.
It gives them a chance to speak up in parliament and demonstrate that they have the potential to be quality MPs, and gain valuable experience. It allows Singaporeans to evaluate these individuals and possibly give them more votes in future if they perform well. For the NCMPs who did not win the right to vote, the right to make themselves heard is a valuable consolation prize. The opposition should take this any day, compared to being shut out of parliament altogether. As a case in point - I think Singaporeans are much better off with Sylvia Lim in parliament as an NCMP, than without her at all.
The point is - without the NCMP scheme, the losers would not have a voice at all in parliament. They would be totally excluded from the parliamentary process. Indeed, the fact that they were losers means they should not be entitled to any voice at all.
For goodness sake, as much as you don't like the PAP, they are the winners. I don't want losers having the votes in parliament. The solution is not to blast the PAP for creating a "political theatre" - the solution is for the losers to buck up and become winners.
Earn your right to vote, damn it - and be gracious that the winners are giving you a voice at all.
If Singaporeans truly think that
"Prime Minister Lee’s latest move is a mere publicity gimmick to appease rising disgruntlement against the PAP’s monopoly on power from the ground and to win support from young educated voters by singing to their tune."
Then for f*ck's sake - don't take the bait!! The loser MPs can choose to protest and stay out of parliament (which of course they won't). Singaporeans can choose to actually vote real opposition into parliament (if they finally have the guts to do so)
The true absurdity of the recent political reforms is that Singaporeans are the ones who have made a mockery of the political process to the point that the PAP is able to create a "Wayang" and get away with it. Singaporeans have allowed their politics to get to the point where the dominant party has to allow the losers a voice in parliament before there is some semblance of opposition. Singaporeans are blasting the PAP for a "half-attempt to return our democratic rights" - instead of having the guts to claim their democratic rights themselves.
No. The true mockery that is happening here is the mockery that Singaporeans have made of the democratic process through their own behaviour. If Singaporeans want true change, they've got to fight for the changes - instead of blaming the incumbent for behaving like an incumbent.
The real joke is not the PAP's behaviour. Singaporeans, the real joke is on you.