[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, November 01, 2008

[Prime Minister's Dialogue]
It's been long since I had back to back events to attend after I have decided to scale back on official functions that I have to attend but when the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister in a dialogue arose, I said yes.

Held at TheatreWorks, off Muhammad Sultan Road, the environment was cosy with just about 150 of us (I suspect that some did not turn up). I saw many familiar faces. The first few questions, on politics, were sharp and like a loaded gun. I asked more about political openness and the gist of Prime Minister's argument was that the government has been doing it gradually such that we ourselves do not even feel it.

I wanted to ask about his personal reactions to the opening up of spaces for the outpour of political unhappiness but I struck on a sensitive topic instead - something related to social graces but in Parliament. I had commented about a particular quote by A/P Ho Peng Kee against opposition MP Low Thia Khiang. If I do not remember wrongly it was about the opposition party organising an outdoor activity. Then, A/P Ho had a dig at Mr Low and asked "if he had his hearing aid on". PM replied that he may not have heard that because he "may not have had his hearing aid on as well".

Photo credit: Youth.SG

Case in point: So much for a nation that preaches about social graces. How can we have MPs that mar the image of a first world nation? Let's watch our actions more so when in Parliament under the scrutiny of the public.

In reply to another question, PM had acknowledged the difficulty of having a two-party system. There are pros and cons to such an argument. IF Singapore has a two-party system and they differ greatly in ideology (PM cited Thailand), then there cannot be compromise. But if the two-parties have almost similar ideologies and preach good governance (I will use the example of the Labour Party and New Labour in the case of Britain) then it is a case of who performs the best.

Another point in a question brought up in support of the two-party idea is that if one day the PAP suddenly disintegrates and fails, there would be one that can take over (suddenly Ken Kwek's Apocalypse Live comes into my mind).

Look at how the US does it - the vote swings from Republican to Democrats and back and forth. Both have equal calibre. But this is not similar to the Singapore model where the other side of the ruling party is not strong.

Then we question why credible people do not join the opposition? Is it the lure of the ruling party?

Until our opposition parties are built up, we can never have an ideal two-party system.

There are also cons of the argument. Development and economic success occurs well in regimes that are stable. With a two-party system there are bounds to be deadlock. Moreover, plans for the country may be disrupted as voters pander from one party to the other. Stability (does it entail having a single-party rule?) would allow ruling parties to have long-term plans for the future and there will be continuity.

Ultimately, what is the end goal that Singaporeans want to have? How can we have a better opposition that can fully debate issues close and relevant to our hearts? That remains to be seen in the near future.


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