Friday, April 1, 2011

MPs should focus on national issues

Apr 1, 2011

THE parade of candidates for the upcoming general election has begun and they all pledge to serve their constituencies.
What has been left unsaid is their opinion on national issues.
Are we voting for local municipal councillors or parliamentarians?
Local councillors focus on neighbourhood matters while parliamentarians have a duty to address greater matters of state.
Are our candidates satisfied merely with ensuring that their housing estates are clean and the lifts are working, and writing letters on their constituents' behalf?
If that is so, why would we need so many Members of Parliament? Why not a separate slate of local councillors?
Our parliamentary sittings are a bare minimum and done with swift dispensation that suggests more of going through the formalities.
Question time is limited and speeches have been shortened. Given the increased number of MPs, some may not be able to speak or present their views.
Parliament is the country's highest institution. There are many issues of a higher order that challenge Singapore - from population policies to housing and cost of living, and the nature of our society.
Where does each candidate stand on key issues? We should do away with a general election if it is merely aimed at electing a cohort of like-minded MPs.
Parliament should be reserved for politicians who can envision the nation's future, challenge the status quo, influence policies, effect change, and dwell on the larger issues at stake.
Singapore has been blessed with good, honest and capable government, but there is no guarantee that this will always be the case.
Changes made to constituencies and Parliament have over the years been more designed to entrench an existing government than to allow for change.
A good, fair, honest and effective government need not fear losing an election. In fact, any fear of losing its privilege to govern should spur it to remain so.
Michael Seah

[What a load.

This letter writer is simplistic, naive, idealistic, and uninformed.
The MPs are your representatives. The American revolution ran on this slogan: no taxation without representation. The PAP strive to provide a wide range of representatives to represent Singaporeans of all diversity: the young, the old, the various ethnicities, and the different languages, religions and cultures. You want less of them?
From the MPs are drawn the Ministers. These are the ones focusing on the national policies. But lest they end up myopic or cross-eyed, there are also Government Parliamentary Committees which are drawn from the MPs. These GPCs study, examine, scrutinise the policies of the respective ministries for effectiveness, accountability, relevance, and perhaps even value for money.

But the reality is that given the chance, our MPs will become less diverse.
When Chiam See Tong was contesting against Mah Bow Tan, MM Lee (then PM) campaigned for Mah. He compared Mah's brilliant scholastic achievement vs Chiam's "late bloomer" life. Big mistake. Chiam was a grassroot MP, who had worked to build up his support base. Mah only had the branding of the PAP. The people of Potong Pasir voted for Chiam and that was history.

Look at the opposition MPs - Chiam, Low, and in the 1991 election, Cheo (Chai Chen) and Ling (How Doong). These are all grassroots/ heartlanders MP. Low's ace is his ability to connect with the people in Teochew. Ling or Cheo (can't recall which, or maybe both) have "gutter mouth" and used less than polite language in Parliament when they were not campaigning in dialect. Chiam is a man of the people. Even JBJ was respected for championing the common man/heartlanders.

This has forced PAP to ensure that the heartlanders are represented by the likes of Ang Mong Seng, Seng Han Thong, etc. But the PAP also need "brains". Very few MP/Minister can be like Khaw - a man of the people, as well as smart. So the GRC is probably as much to ensure that the "brains" are paired with the "grassroots/heartlander" as well as the minority.
Without the GRC, we would ALL be represented by Chinese, dialect/mandarin-speaking heartlanders MP from PAP as well as the opposition. And our parliament will become like Taiwan.

Kenneth Jeyaratnam will probably not win. He's not his father. Chee also can never win. He has a bloody stupid accent. Probably can't speak dialect or even mandarin. SDP's new recruits, Vincent Cheng and Fernandez are also not heartlander types and old to boot. Sylvia Lim would make a good opposition MP and I hope she looks for a vulnerable SMC and wins the seat. *BUT*, I also don't think she can win because she doesn't have the heartlander appeal. A bit too "atas".

Interestingly, if PAP allows Michael Palmer to stand in an SMC and he *wins*, I will be pleasantly surprised. 

So the suggestion that an honest effective govt need not fear losing is a load of bull. People vote for who they think they can bend, if not corrupt.
They want MPs they can "trust", and by "trust" they mean speak their language, understand and share their fears and help them protect what they have. That is why Mah lost to Chiam. Chaim was someone they could identify with. Mah is a scholar, an elite and may not identify with them.

In other countries, those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't neither do nor teach, become politicians and peddle their influence to whoever can pay them best. In SG, those who can govern, should govern, are deliberately chosen to govern, and are paid well to govern, because if they are not, they would go back to doing what they do best because they can.]

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