Friday, May 29, 2009

More Tweaks to the Political System....

When you get a gift from the PAP govt, it is usually to stop you from asking for more. What the people want is a motocycle, they got a bicycle instead. Instead of greater democracy, the PAP tries to reduce the demand for greater democracy. It has done it in the past by introducing the NCMP and NMP schemes now they are giving more of the same. Yesterday, PM Lee announced the following changes[Link]:

  • Increase the number of NCMPs from 3 to 9.
  • NMP to become permanent feature.
  • Increase in single constituency wards from 8 to 12.
  • Reduce the average GRC size from the current 5.4 to 5 as a max.

The PAP does not make these changes out of generosity - they are doing this because there is a rising risk of losing more ground without these tweaks. PM Lee himself said these changes were made in response to the changing aspirations of Singaporeans. They are clearly tweaks of the existing system because there are mainly changes in numbers not the system itself. The main message is to tell you that you don't have to vote for the opposition, they will get in anyway as NCMPs. But to understand why the PAP govt feels the need for these changes one has to look at the bigger picture....

40 years ago, Singapore was the most democratic nation in the region. The Thais and Indonesians were under martial law and the Philippines ruled by a corrupt dictator. S. Korea had a succession dictators and generals running the place. Taiwan was under the control of KMT which had the country under martial law. Where are all these countries today relative to Singapore in terms of political progress? As these countries transform to vibrant democracies in the past decade, the Singapore govt took many steps backwards culling the opposition, reducing the freedom of the press and taking away the rights of the people...all the infamous acts (Printing Presses Act, Film Act, Public Order Act) that took away the freedom of people to gather and exchange ideas. In the late 80s, the citizens realised that it was in their own interest to have more opposition members in parliament and there was a clear shift in support for the PAP as seen from the rising % of votes for the opposition. To preserve its hegemony, the PAP govt introduced the GRC and linked votes to estate upgrading. That was the most blatant form of pork barrel politics in the world. Later they introduced the NMP & NCMP schemes to persuade the people that they don't have to vote against the PAP to be heard. The pattern is always the same, whenever there is a shift towards the opposition, the PAP tweaks the system to preserve its own power and the system becomes less democratic with every change. These changes I believe will ultimately hurt not just Singapore but the PAP itself - I will explain this a little later. Whatever change they can invent, the one thing they cannot do is remove the "one man one vote" system.

When the PAP govt created the GRC, the initial size was 3 but the grew it to 6 over time. The GRC tied in very nicely to the PAP internal system of selecting candidates to run for MPs. They selected from a list of elites that consisted mainly ex-civil servants, SAF officers, GLC directors etc. According to PM Lee's own account, many of these people were reluctant politicians who had to be persuaded to run for office. The GRC provided a 'guaranteed' way enter parliament on the coattails of more established politicians usually ministers. In a true democracy, politicians have to spend time campaigning to connect with the people. Using the GRC system, the PAP could bring onboard many part time politicians with busy careers into parliament. The GRC is probably the main reason why we ended up with so many disconnected MPs who show no passion for the job and no compassion for the people. Many of them won't get in without the GRC - why would anyone vote for an MP who hardly speaks in parliament and can barely squeeze in the time for meet the people sessions. These mollycoddled MPs were chosen primarily because they have succeeded within the PAP govt's elitist system and are unlikely to rock the boat ...not for their ability to represent and serve the interests of their constituents.

PM Lee talked about the need robust leadership when he announced these changes to the system but wouldn't we have more robust leadership had they kept our democracy intact and politicians have to compete fairly for votes. I believe the PAP govt has gotten itself and the country into more trouble in the long term continuous tweaking the system in the wrong direction.

For a long time, the PAP received strong support as a result of rapid economic growth. In the 70s, 80s and early 90s, living standards improved every year and every 4-5 years when elections are held, people voted for the PAP simply because they were better off since the previous election. The one-off economic transformation when Singapore became industrialised and many people move from the poverty into the middleclass is now over. We are starting to see a generation of people whose lives are no better or sometimes worse than their parents. The bottom 20-30% see their lives are worsening year after year for more than a decade due to the growing income gap. Many Singaporeans travel or are educated overseas can see for themselves the freedom they are missing in Singapore. The Internet broke the PAP's monopoly on the dissemination of views and information. The PAP runs a system that cannot meet the aspirations of a growing number of Singaporeans, many of whom want a fair, transparent and open system. The latest tweaks does not take us one inch closer to what many Singaporeans want.

Our forefathers fought for Singapore to be freed from the shackles of colonialism and for us to be able to run this country for our own interests instead of those of our colonial masters. Two generations later we find ourselves struggling again to restore democracy and bring about a govt that works for our interests instead of its own.

33 comments:

George said...

For all his long term rhetoric - eg the one about preparing Singapore for increasing sea levels - LKY cannot see beyond Singapore after him, and will be leaving behind a Singapore less robust politically and in a state not unlike that run by pigs in Animal Farm.

Taishan said...

An increasingly arrogant PAP which treats its citizens with disdain. A PAP running low on moral conviction.
An authoritarian PAP out of sync with its electorate.

More of this crap and the most dimwitted would stir.

Anonymous said...

bravo lucky, another well written insightful article!

there are people who still think lky (pap) believes in democracy & power of the people. what a joke.

he already said he will send in the army if pap loses, despise the one man one vote system and would rather not have elections if possible.

more and more have woke up from the dream that pap is for the nation and realise they are only for themselves and the party.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I think the old man did fought for the people during the start of his career.

However, when you think too much of yourself and with affirmative yes men and cronies surrounding you, somehow you loses touch of what is actually happening on the ground.

I have seen a mere Stat board director gets treatmet of a demigod. So imagine if you are a Minister. Then, take that and multiply by 40 years. No wonder we are at our current situation.

Anonymous said...

Lucky wrote:

"These mollycoddled MPs were chosen primarily because they have succeeded within the PAP govt's elitist system and are unlikely to rock the boat ...not for their ability to represent and serve the interests of their constituents."

But, but, but....they are complaining Singaporeans are mollycoddled. So Lucky, why are saying the opposite? You should know that an MP's job is no cakewalk. One has to shake hands and smile with the denigrates and listen to their woes and the hardships they are facing. What more, the possibility of getting physically hurt or threatened with bodily injuries. These precious Elites should have police protection and bodyguards whenever they have to mingle with lesser mortals. I won't call that being mollycoddled, would you?

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 12:20,

Being MP now is becoming dangerous....goodness what is this world coming to? Why so much hatred.

Anyway I said they were mollycoddled into parliament. How hard an MP's job after that depends on how much one puts into it.

Anonymous said...

No government has ever been oust for underestimating the intelligence of the voters.

And MM Lee certainly knows the voters better than Mr Lucky Tan.

The next GE will prove the familee is right and Lucky Tan wrong. AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

What's more appalling is the character of the leader,who trembles at the slightest hint of 'threat'.... and start suing the very person in desperation. So who is a bigger bully?

Aren't leaders suppose to be courageous, compassionate and wise?

This system has successfully breed this kind of leaders, many whom actually are never 'elected' but hide under the umbrella of GRC.

PAP deserves contempt said...

to anonymous @ 12.20pm regarding mollycoddled MPs.

isn't it true a lot of them got into parliament by the backdoor or hitching a ride from some ministar ? mollycoddled MPs to me.

these mollycoddled MPs should ask why so many people detest them. believe me they are very lucky the majority restrict to silent cursing.

please take note, PAP MPs in the 60s to early 80s entered parliament thru' single seat contests, none had been assaulted, bearing in mind S'pore did not have $Bill in reserves, MPs/ministars not paid obscenely.

Anonymous said...

Just scrap GRCs! Back to all single wards. Fight 1 to 1.

By doing just this, my respect for them will shoot up!

WL said...

As always, the PAP policy is to be in power at all costs.

Anonymous said...

The so-called tweaks are just not going to make a difference to the political system.

Right now, my observation is that they have more or less mastered the art of tackling the likes of Low, Chiam and Sylvia, just by silencing them, in numbers, whenever they try to pose sensitive questions in Parliament.

So, a few more opposition MPs in Parliament will likely neutralise the call for more opposition voices, but like Low, Chiam and Sylvia, more voices does not mean Singaporeans can will have more of their views heard.

NCMPs and NMPs are by and large ineffective and if I say so, inhibited. As someone said, there appears to be less rebuttal of views from NCMPs than those thrown at Low, Chiam and Sylvis by the PAP MPs.

If tweaks by the PAP are anything to go by, expect to 'twitch' more often when they tighten the noose after each successive tweak.

Lost Citizen

Anonymous said...

Sorry, fourth paragraph should read:

...As someone said, there appears to be less rebuttal of views from NMPs than those thrown at Low, Chiam and Sylvia by the PAP MPs.

Lost Citizen

Alan Wong said...

Remember it was once mentioned that LKY had previously said that if the opposition ever wins the mandate, there will be a military coup to take over the goverment.

Did he make such a statement ?

If it is true that he did, I just hope that LKY or LHL would dare to repeat it and then let's see how Singaporeans will react in the elections now ?

Anonymous said...

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was quoted by Reuters on 16 September 2006, saying: “Without the Elected President and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it.”

Anonymous said...

Its useless. The papaya know damn well that locals are sick and tired of them. Thus, they go after foreigners. Thinking that foreigners will vote for them. They know damn well that their policies only worked well for one generation.

Anonymous said...

The Army heh? Isn't the reason why we have so many scholars as BGs is just so that we do not end up like Thailand where the government gets replaced everytime they have a policy which the army doesn't agree with.

With textbook generals who have never been in combat, we will not have any shooting in the streets.In fact it will be quite peaceful since:

(i) these guys all tow the line of the PAPaya gahmen.
(ii) we all talk but no action Singaporeans continue to support a government thats all about People's Action.

Life is full of ironies isn't it?

Anonymous said...

So do something already! All you people ever do is talk talk talk. When the rubber hits the road, those of you who have an opportunity to vote (due to no walkover) still continue to allow yourselves to be threatened by water fountains and seesaws. If all of us who do not agree with the policies of the textbook scholars say NO, what is the LEEgime going to do?

There is only so much space at the Whitley Hilton anyway. And considering how tough things are for all of us, at least we are guaranteed a shower and food at such a fine institution anyway.

Considering that things have been going downhill for a while now, what have you already lost?
What more have you to lose?

Anonymous said...

When you get a gift from the PAP govt, it is usually to stop you from asking for more. What the people want is a motocycle, they got a bicycle instead. Instead of greater democracy, the PAP tries to reduce the demand for greater democracy


In USA, this is known as double talk,or bullshit.

Anonymous said...

the current slate of oppositions are basically a mirror image of the incumbent. after all, both are capital driven with a socialist veer or a heart as a mean to an end. not as if they have anything to offer that will drastically change our life or philosophy, we might as well bear with the pap short coming and hope they will evolve with time?

as for the "tweak to the system", it may just signal a maturing process for the ruling elite. could it be that pap realized that it may not be wise for them to shoulder all the responsibility in running the country? relinquishing/losing some of these wards(to worthy opponents of course) may keep everyone(especially party members) on their toes - a win win and also reduce some pressure off them

with more constituencies going to the opposition, the opposition glaring flaws,inexperience and mistakes will become more evident to the people and this may actually accentuate pap leadership. at least, they need not resort to blowing their own horns? so a "tactical loss" maybe a shrew move by the pap to win over their critics

actually, loosening political space reveals the pap growing confidence and dominant more than anything.

you see, as long as they hold "the leash" it doesn't matter you are barking a bit louder lah

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the AP, blame yrself.
U are the one to be blame. !!

Anonymous said...

PAP 41 Sillyporeans 0

Ghost said...

I agree with the Anon that said that we should not blame the PAP. Asking the PAP to release power is like asking the sky to rain oil; it's not going to happen. But PAP is normal in this aspect, every political party in any country in the world is like that. And frankly if the opposition parties in Singapore keep the stupid "by-election" ploy, they don't deserve power.

money-for-nothing said...

The PM is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of S'pore citizens yet again and hoping no one will notice. Fat hope. The NCMP, NMP and GRC fig leaves are abominations of LKY's creation with one purpose and one purpose only: to maintain the stranglehold on real power for his party.

By law, NMPs and NCMPs have zero voting rights and so they can NEVER affect or change in the slightest way the PAP's desired outcome in Parliament. All these worthy individuals can ever hope to do is chin-wag till the cows come home.

Tell me then, of what help is this bighearted 'concession' to growing public unrest? Never mind another 9 NCMPs, you could fill the whole of bleeding Parliament with another 84 twits to go with the existing 84 fricken department store dummies there and it would not make a blind bit of difference.

The Printing Presses Act, Film Act, Public Order Act, the Licence To Fart Act - all, each and every single ball and chain, would still be rammed through on the nod while the cabinet laughs their asses off at S'porean naivete. You'd get just as much joy with the PM's generous gifts as you would pissing into Hurricane Katrina. It's cynical bullshit in spades.

No honest person should ever accept the post of NMP ot NCMP, notwithstanding a salary of$16,000 a month. To do so would be to legitimise this 50-year illegitimate political bastard child. To do so would be to offer tacit approval of the abuse of rule of law, flagrant abuse of the Constitution, civil rights, and yes, gross abuse of political power.

Let the PAP mutter and mumble to itself, by itself, for itself, in Parliament. No one will be listening to a foregone conclusion. At least then the rest of the world will get to enjoy the thrill of true Parliamentary Democracy in action, Lee Kuan Yew style.

Rialce said...

I afraid that this is a gimmick because papa knows he will lose the next election. Because of walkover and disqualification, papa will maybe lose a bit maybe 45-55. Thus with this new rule, maybe they will change the ruling and empower the NMP allowing them authority in parliament, the papa being minority will become majority again. With some tricks, maybe another operation XXX, the papa will regain absoulute power. Let's hope this won't happen

Anonymous said...

Haiya...whatever it is, the familee is already destroyed. Look at all the incapable ppl in it. Not married la, hate the father la, father's heir suicide la...grandson talk back la...a good family doesnt look like that.

It's filled with RESPECT!

Anonymous said...

"Whatever change they can invent, the one thing they cannot do is remove the "one man one vote" system."

Don't be too sure, Lucky. LKY has once thought out aloud after a freak election almost happened, that maybe he should tweak the system so as to allow certain groups of citizens more votes per man, e.g. the older people (who he thinks still support him), the better educated ones (he thinks they are more sensible), and even raise the voting age (because he thinks younger people are willing to gamble, reckless, feckless etc).

Even Referenda could be tweaked to bias in favour of the PAP - to wit, recall Merger and Malalysia in 1963, where the choice was not Yes or No but the exact mix of States in the merged unit. People cast blank votes in protest but ultimately, M&M went through. Then we got kicked out because LKY wanted too much too soon. The rest is history.

The said...

/// Whatever change they can invent, the one thing they cannot do is remove the "one man one vote" system. ///

Wrong, and wrong again.

The NMP is certainly not one man one vote. Hey, I didn't vote for Thio Li Ann, did I?

And the GRC scheming scheme certainly isn't one man one vote.

pugdragon said...

Judging & looking at how PAP attempts to keep Singapore under total political control, I doubt simply voting for the oppositions is enough to dethrone them.

We know who we are gonna vote for, & it's not PAP. But can we cast a vote right now? Can we cast a vote to kick PAP off the throne? I would love to, but I'm afraid it's not that easy to dethrone PAP.

Anonymous said...

One man one vote system? I thought GRC has already taken away the citizens'voting right if it's a walk over. It should be 1 man zero vote system cum 1 man 1 vote system.

Anonymous said...

Now this is a SF fantasy

Given that talented people are afriad to join the opposition, thanks to the man with the hachet. I believe the people will greatly benefit if the main party splits into two. However this does not seem possible as long as the hachet man is still around, for he dictates who gets the leadership positions.

We need to see competition for leadership be it in the business world or political world, only then will we see true leaders who will strive to perform. What we have now is a internal administrative system of rewarded loyalty to the hachet man and his family, so we end up getting people who out performed in the area of bootlicking.

History has shown that the hachet man is master weasal who will destroy by any means both friends and foes who are a threat to his success or the success of his family and loyal servants. I have heard that many old timers claiming that he married his wife because she was smarter ( I believe the top student, ahead of the hachet man)and could one day challenge him for power. So he did the best thing and married her. What he did to his other friends in the early and even later dates is known history.

So I hope for the day when people with the potential to lead will leave the party, discontented with the hand-picked leadership and start a alternative party. For that to happen we need nature to take its course.

BTW, the other joke is that no single opponent in the alley was killed by the hachet. CSI investigation has shown they were were killed by the storm of bullets from the army which was hiding behind the hachet man. The hachet was then used on the dead man so that he can claim that is was fair fight....and that as we know is the hachet man's trademark.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "money-for-nothing"...

the NMP & NCMP post should not be accepted by any of the opposition.. it poisons the well from which ALL our futures will drink from.. if your starting point is unelected parliamentarians.. where will you stop.. .. unelected authoritarian emperor..??..

the emphasis is to hammer out some agreement with ALL the opposition parties.. to organise.. leadership by consensus.. amenable to the majority.. so that, as a whole, it will give the opposition greater advantage in taking the pap head-on in every contested constituency..

just as important, the opposition must make it their mantra to uphold the constitution and ALL the rights enshrined within.. they have to play it up today.. not wait till election comes around.. they have to show or educate the populace that their rights have been trampled for so long that they have all but forgotton about it.. also, to show that the surrender of these rights for the economic progress was a mistake and that it must not be allowed to continue.. the price is way to high..

the pap must be shown in the court of public opinion to have been less than honest with their dealings with the people.. as the judicial courts are incapable of being fair judges..

it is already urgent.. the opposition must mobilise itself .. to become A force .. not splinters of varied personalities..

GLOW said...

to add on to the above..

the media must be shown to be at opposition to the concerns of the people.. it should be neutered by making it clear to the people that its bias is overwhelming pro pap and anti opposition.. that fair and accurate reporting is sacrificed to serve its political master.. and in so doing undermines the electorate and our will..