Do NOT Allow the Kiasu PM to Use Covid as an Excuse to Remove the Last Vestiges of Democratic Accountability
Lee Hsien Loong, like his father, has always been absolutely ruthless about manipulating elections and harassing and intimidating any opposition to his rule. Despite the PAP’s claims to be a “robust” democracy and the shameful collusion of much of the Western media and governments in that pretence, Singapore violates the most basic conditions for free and fair elections.
These include a monopoly over print and broadcast media and a battery of repressive legislation to restrict and make economically unviable what little independent online media there is, an Elections Department that is under the personal control of the PM, a battery of repressive laws including defamation, sedition and the recently added but already frequently used (except against PAP MPs) Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, draconian restrictions on political campaigning (except by the Government), and the use of state resources to bribe and intimidate voters. When the Government is your employer (the state owns between 50-70% of the economy) and owns your house as well as controlling your savings, it would not be surprising if you thought twice about voting against them. Even for the 30-40% who are willing to vote against the PAP, their votes are effectively disenfranchised by the GRC system, which magnifies all the unfairness of the First Past The Post election, with the result that the PAP get over 90% of the seats with 60% of the vote.
This election Lee Hsien Loong has already signalled his determination to make full use of the pandemic to try and drive the Opposition off their tiny beachheads and into the sea. He sees an opportunity to take back Aljunied GRC and leave only Hougang still held by the Opposition. Disregarding any pretence at fairness he and his Ministers have already kicked off their GE campaign with a series of speeches, with Lee Hsien Loong being the first on Sunday. If Singapore had even the semblance of an independent Elections Commission, as in genuine democracies, then this would surely have been judged illegal and he would have been forced to allow Opposition parties access to the same media. However as the head of the Elections Department he is in the enviable position of being able to police himself just as he is with corruption allegations as the head of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau reports to him.
In his speech, LHL even shamelessly went as far as to ask Singaporeans to vote for him, cloaking his appeal in the language of patriotism and the need for national unity (where unity is defined as the identification of the PAP’s interests with Singapore’s). Heng, his anointed successor and faithful servant to both LHL and his dad, indulged in further blatant electioneering in the state media where he branded opposition parties which try to fulfill the role expected of them in a democracy, that of holding the Government to account:
“Unfortunately, it is not the case for all parties. There are parties that are looking at ‘well, this thing was not well done, that thing was not well done’ and so on, and ‘this Government has not done well in this’.”
“There is a time and place to look back and see what can be done, but right now, you are in the midst of a major battle on many fronts, and all our people and all our leaders in every segment of our society must first and foremost look forward to what is ahead of us,”
Heng is merely reiterating the PAP line, going back to when LKY seized power in 1963, that the normal checks and balances of a democratic system should not apply to the Government but instead Singaporeans should trust them without question. It is consistent with Lee Hsien Loong’s condolence letter to me and my brother, on the death of J B Jeyaretnam in 2008, when he infamously said, “He used to engage in heated debates in the House. Perhaps it was because he and the PAP never saw eye to eye on any major political issue and he sought by all means to demolish the PAP and our system of government. Unfortunately, this helped neither to build up a constructive opposition nor our Parliamentary tradition.” Trying to fulfill the patriotic duty of holding the Government to account is equated with trying to destroy the country.
Heng took pains to balance his criticism with praise of the Workers Party under Pritam Singh who said in Parliament that “partisan politics should take a backseat”. In other words, do not do what you are supposed to do in Parliament but just go to sleep and not oppose, the actions that led JBJ at the inception of the Reform Party to say that if Singaporeans were happy with the status quo they should go to Low Thia Kiang. After receiving a nasty shock with the judgements in the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council civil suit, Pritam is clearly now being offered a lifeboat if he is a good boy and cooperates with the PAP.
With the need for accountability greater than ever, and the Government failing to provide any transparency over the reserves and doing less for its citizens than those of almost any other rich country while lying about the level of support , it should be obvious to Singaporeans that their own interests reside in electing a real Opposition who will not shy away from asking the tough questions. They must not allow themselves to be fooled by LHL and his Ministers’ calls for everyone to abandon the capacity for independent thought and hand the PAP another blank cheque. They talk about everyone being in the same boat but what they really want is another five years of paying themselves and their spouses and relatives enormous and secret sums out of the public purse. If Singaporeans do hand the PAP another landslide win Lee Hsien Loong will feel secure in setting up his son to succeed the interim seat-warmer, Heng. The next stage might be to abolish Parliament altogether since having to account for their actions is unnecessary and inefficient and the PAP do such a good job of listening to the people through such initiatives as the Singapore Together Movement. If Singaporeans want to stop this from happening then they need to elect real Opposition and deny the PAP a twor-thirds majority.