Should the PM Resign?
The particularly offensive lines were, “Singaporeans, new arrivals, people who are on permanent residence here, people who are on employment pass here, all participating in one big Singapore family…So we feel that this is a place which is special, which belongs to all of us and where we all celebrate one another’s festivals and happy events together.”
These lines seemed to imply that Singapore belonged to everyone living here, including expat bankers, tax dodging billionaires, even abused cheap foreign labour, rather than to the citizens whose menfolk have to give up a considerable portion of their lifetime earnings to save the PAP the cost of employing a professional army and police force.
I and the Reform team will be visiting AMK this Saturday so if you were angered by these words we hope you are able to come and join us.
Strangely in this last week I have been astonished to meet two stateless people here in Singapore. By the PM’s definition Singapore belongs to them as they have been living here longer than the state has existed. It is surely special when everyone else can belong but if you are of minority descent, you can be stateless.
While at one level his remarks might appear innocuous and merely aimed at fostering goodwill between Singaporeans and our huge expat population, on another they are a kind of Freudian slip giving a clue to how the PAP really think about ordinary Singaporeans. It seems I have a psychic channel into their heads or at the least the PM’s speech writer because I had warned people about his mindset only last week. As I said in my article of 2 May, “When Immigration Stops Being The Elephant in The Room”,
“To the PAP, Singaporeans have no value in themselves. The only value is in the real estate and then only because of Singapore’s strategic position. The PAP’s ideal is to dispense with citizens altogether and just have a disenfranchised global population who come to Singapore to work and then go home or get deported without ever being a burden on State services.”
There’s a speech writer out there who needs firing. Where has he been living. or is he just another Foreign Talent oblivious to the feeling on the ground.
The petition is aiming for 100,000 signatures or roughly 5% of the electorate calling on the PM to resign and hold fresh elections. Unfortunately even with that number it would have no weight given our Constitution and system of government.
I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that the people should be able to recall elected officials and force them to submit to fresh elections. This should be part of a wider extension of democracy, which is becoming ever easier as nearly everyone is online. As in the US, petitions to repeal or initiate legislation should be possible as well as recalls.
I quote from that release:
The Reform Party therefore calls for a constitutional amendment to mandate the holding of a referendum if, say, 5% of the electorate signed a petition calling for it. This could be similar to the practice in many US states. In California this allows the people to initiate laws or to repeal unpopular ones as well as the right to approve constitutional amendments.
Further debate would be needed. Recalls should probably require a much higher percentage of the electorate to be successful. In California it was 12% . Some US states require there to be allegations of misconduct which can be challenged legally before there can be a recall petition. It is unlikely therefore that they would be successful here where our courts have ruled that the citizens cannot challenge the legality of government actions unless they can prove they have suffered special damage, in the case of my action to have the IMF loan commitment declared unconstitutional.
So without any mechanism the petition is just another flight of fantasy and will have as much effect on the PAP and PM Lee as dogs howling at the moon. How can we have such advanced democratic machinery when we lack even the fundamental building blocks of a functioning democracy? Singaporeans may be rightly angry with the PM but there is a massive disconnect that prevents that anger on the ground from bringing about change.
One of the causes is the mistaken but still potent fear that people have, particularly older voters, that their vote is not secret. MARUAH estimated that about 10% of Singaporeans in the last election feared that their vote was not secret. I firmly believe that the government cannot find out how you voted. However that does not stop the PAP from playing on those fears and threatening the withholding of state resources such as HDB upgrading if the voters in a particular constituency vote against them. The surprising thing is that the PAP continue to use the same threats today as they used to illegally sway the election at Cheng San in 1997 though they have diminishing power to scare the electorate. It is for this reason that I have repeatedly called for Singaporeans to be given the freehold of their HDBs and for government control over the economy to be reduced through the privatization of Temasek and GIC.
Secondly there is the whole system of GRCs that was put in place. I have written on this subject many times before. The deliberate creation of ever larger GRCs together with the raising of election deposits to levels where only the elite could stand for election acted as a significant deterrent to having all seats contested or bringing in new blood and new ideas.
In fact in 2001 the PAP were returned to power on Nomination Day before elections were even held. while in 2006 they gained nearly half the seats unopposed. Even in 2011, where elections took place in all but one the GRC ( thank you Ng Teck Siong), the system magnified the winner-takes-all nature of the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) method of election to such an extent that again the PAP ended up with over 90% of the seats though they got only 60% of the vote.
The major symptom of this disconnect is that people will just put up with so much. Austerity, a lack of universal health care and free education, no true property ownership, a government which year after year makes massive surpluses but refuses to account for its performance or to share them with the people. All this seems to come from being brainwashed by a PAP-controlled media and education system, as well as the pressure to conform during NS, into believing mistakenly that Singaporeans are much better off than citizens of other freer countries. My father told them to wake up from their slumbers and cast off their chains. But even if they were to do that the means to translate that into more representation in Parliament and a change of government have been deliberately weakened.
So the writers of this petition are kidding themselves if they think the PAP will introduce any form of direct democracy. They have gerrymandered and manipulated the electoral process to thwart the peoples’ will. They have disenfranchised us to such an extent that the PM really believes his constituency is some kind of global expatriate rather than the people of Singapore. He prefers the company of CEOs of MNCs and global pundits to Singaporeans even though it appears he finds it difficult to string an intelligent sentence together if he is not being cosseted by his well-paid PR minders.
Forget recalls! I would like to see a petition penned by all the alternative parties in a rare sign of solidarity. That would get some signatures. Lets start with some of the most basic requirements for democracy:
- A free media. This can only be brought about through the repeal of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act and the Broadcasting Act. This would encompass the scrapping of the recent regulations by MDA to bring online news sites under its control.
- The removal of the Elections Department from the PMO and the establishment of an independent Elections Commission
- The reduction in GRC size to no bigger than three with at least half the constituencies being single-member once again.
- An end to persecution and harassment of Opposition parties and individuals through inequitable restrictions on campaigning and fund raising as well as the use of defamation laws to silence dissent
Without pushing for these basic reforms first, a call for the PM to resign and hold fresh elections is just a fruitless and frivolous exercise.
Some have criticised the petition as disrespectful to the PM. But how can we respect him when his mandate has never properly been tested? He got into Parliament on a walkover in 1991. Until 2006 his GRC was not contested. Then the WP sent a team of Young Guns there but did very little campaigning. In 2011 he only had to face a last-minute scratch team of youngsters from the Reform Party. His is the only remaining six-member GRC. If he wants our respect he should abolish the restrictions on free and fair elections. In addition he should come out and contest an election in an SMC.
Unfortunately there is no chance that the PAP will ever willingly abolish the restrictions that tilt the playing field so much in their favour. The PM can and will continue to laugh at us from behind the walls of his GRC while impressing foreign pundits and MNCs that he has found a new economic model to disenfranchise his citizens in favour of a new global elite. Until Singaporeans wake up from their suicidal resignation, the dogs will continue howling at the moon.