Sunday, August 13, 2006

We Know Best

PM Lee, as reported in TODAY, 21st June 2006
Over the last nine days, Mr Lee met various leaders from the two countries, including Prime Ministers John Howard (Australia) and Helen Clark (New Zealand), as well as their respective opposition leaders, Mr Kim Beazley and Dr Don Brash.

And after having a more intimate look at their political systems, Mr Lee is convinced that while their no-holds barred arguments make for "more exciting" politics and "compulsively-viewable interviews", they do not necessarily result in more sound policies.

The end-product of rigorous parliamentary debates might not necessarily be for the good of the country, as such "endless debates are seldom about achieving a better grasp of the issue but to score political points", he commented.

"You look at their politics in Australia between Howard and Beazley. All the time, Howard says something, Beazley says he got it wrong. Beazley says something, (Howard) says: 'You said something different last week or three years ago'.
.
"So ceaselessly, back and forth, whatever you do, I'll say you've done it wrong. If I can't find some (way) to be different from you, I will look for something else so as to establish my own brand name."

But while the system might work for Australia because it is a diverse country with many different interest groups, Singapore's society is more homogeneous, with the Government also having "made sure that all the constituencies are mixed and integrated".


These comments, if indeed they are spoken by PM, are a good indication of the PAP's mindset on governance. These remarks seem to assume that Singaporeans at large cannot tell between who is right and who is wrong.

As a Singaporean, I am disappointed that this is coming from the ruling party. I had thought that the reputation of Singaporeans being "wuzhi" (naïve) was a Chinese perception of some of us. I had not expected the ruling party to think likewise too.

When Howard and Beazley spar in Parliament, the Australians know that it is all part of a game and so learn to take their comments with a large pinch of salt. Just like Singaporeans would not take words like "fixing the opposition" at face value, I am sure Singaporeans could be trusted to be discerning enough where Parliamentary debates are concerned.

There is a Chinese saying : "gong dao zi zai ren xin" (There is justice in the hearts of people). If a person continuously criticizes for the sake of criticism, he will soon alienate himself from people around him. Conversely, if a person stands up well to mindless criticism, his credibility becomes more well-established with each encounter. Like the proverbial gold which is not afraid of being put to a fire, if the PAP is indeed thorough and considerate in their policy-formulation, there is absolutely nothing to fear from opposition members shooting off their hips. By remonstrating ceaselessly against greater opposition in the Parliament, I fear the PAP is slowly losing its credibility and moral authority.

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