By Augustine Low
When the Ministry of National Development expressed concern with the Workers’ Party town council accounts, it created a buzz. But it hardly came as a surprise.
Here are 10 reasons why no one should be surprised at the latest turn of events:
1. You may be in all-white. You may pledge to uphold values and honour. But hands up those who believe that politics is all purity and integrity? No dishing of the dirt on opponents, by fair means or foul means?
2. The PAP’s loss of a GRC in 2011 meant two things. One, it debunked the notion that GRCs are an impregnable PAP fortress. Two, it had to scramble to make residents repent their choice. It can’t do anything about the first, but it can do something about the second.
3. We are inching ever closer to the next general election. When the stakes are high and time is short, expect greater urgency to undermine opponents. Stay tuned for more dishing of the dirt.
4. The WP has been too restrained and reticent for the PAP’s liking. It would not be baited through taunts and snipes. But controversy to bring on the confrontation? Certainly worth a try, as part of the PAP game plan.
5. It’s a question of timing. Announce the Pioneer Generation Package and then immediately bring out the hatchet. What better time to strike your opponents than after sweetening the ground for citizens?
6. The WP has found that running a GRC is a different ball game from running a single ward. It may well have stuttered and stumbled. Any surprise in that? The GRC has become a behemoth, a uniquely Singaporean creation that creates a unique set of challenges, especially in the handover process.
7. Government agencies are expected to be compliant with the government of the day. They can be counted on to do the government’s bidding, even the carpentry – that is turn on the screws, hammer in the nails. For us to expect otherwise would be foolhardly.
8. Likewise, the mainstream media can be counted on for compliance. Last Friday, The Straits Times highlighted MND’s concern with a Page One report, followed by a half-page article inside. That same night, the WP released a lengthy defence of its position, but Saturday’s report focused not on the WP response, BUT on the MND response to WP’s response. Baffling, to say the least. But then – why are we not surprised?
9. So, we are reminded yet again that WP members/supporters provide project management services for the WP-run town council. Is anyone surprised? In the wake of AIM (the PAP-owned computer software company with three former MPs as directors), the real surprise would be that none of the PAP-run town councils have any PAP members/supporters, grassroots leaders and ex-MPs involved as service providers.
10. Finally, let’s revisit this quote from PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2006: “Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”
PM Lee subsequently apologised for his remarks, especially the use of the word “fix.” But did he really, truly, deeply mean it after all?