Another civil servant has come to the ruling party’s defense, rebutting an article that they feel is unfair to the People’s Action Party (PAP). High Commissioner for Singapore to the UK, Foo Chi Hsia, took on British publication The Economist and challenged the newspaper’s allegation that the ruling party here wins elections on an unfair playing field.
Foo’s rebuttal of the article comes after the press secretary to the Minister of Finance also came out to defend the PAP through a recent forum letter.
Press Secretary Lim Yuin Chien had been rebutting a Straits Times article that called on Ministers to speak plainly to the people. Fiercely defending the ruling party, Lim claimed that the PAP Government has been speaking plainly to the people for close to 60 years without obscuring the truth.
In this latest case, Foo took The Economist to task for an article published a few weeks ago entitled ‘South-East Asia: lots of elections, not so much democracy’. The paper put forth, “For in the dozen or so countries that make up South-East Asia, liberal democracy has long struggled in the face of authoritarianism, bolstered by monarchism, nationalism and ethnic chauvinism.”
Implying that Singapore wins elections on a skewed playing field, the paper added:
“Singapore leads the regional pack. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has suffered no erosion of power in the 14 parliamentary elections since it came to power in 1959, even if it got a bit of a fright in 2011.
“Voting is clean. But the PAP wins not just by running the country competently, but also by instituting a favourable electoral system, harassing opposition politicians, cowing the media, threatening to cut spending on districts that vote against it and inculcating the absurd notion that its survival and that of Singapore itself are synonymous.”
The paper noted that such electoral tricks may have its limits and pointed to the stunning election upset that occurred across the causeway last month:
“In Malaysia, UMNO’s usual trick of bribing voters did not work this time, since Malaysians saw it as their own money. In Cambodia a political system that exists for no other reason than to distribute profit and privilege may not survive Mr Hun Sen. Even the Western-educated offspring of Cambodia’s elites admit to embarrassment.”
In a rebuttal letter that was published yesterday, Foo asked the paper: “How many former British colonies are there where voting has always been clean and their governments consistently competent?”
Taking the paper to task, Foo wrote: “The PAP won 70% of the popular vote in the last general election. Could a ‘favourable electoral system’ have delivered that? Your correspondents have been stationed in Singapore for decades. Did Singaporeans strike them as a people easily brainwashed into believing that the PAP and Singapore are ‘synonymous’?”
Asserting that Singaporeans are well-travelled and well-informed, Foo asserted:
“They continue to vote for the PAP because it continues to deliver them good government, stability and progress. The PAP has never taken this support for granted. As Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, noted recently, the political system is contestable. We have kept it so. The PAP could well lose power, and would deserve to do so if it ever became incompetent and corrupt.”