Singapore—One day after the General Election, a Singaporean lawyer wrote about the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) campaign, and what kind of changes need to be made, in a post that has been shared over 3,000 times.
Quoting a friend, Thio Shen Yi, the joint managing partner of TSMP Law Corporation, wrote that while the PAP runs the country “well,” it runs a campaign “terribly.”
Is this a repudiation of the political culture of bullying? Is it my imagination, or did the WP, of all parties, take…
At the beginning of the post the lawyer asked whether the result of the election, which saw the opposition gaining unprecedented ground, is a “repudiation of the political culture of bullying?”
Mr Thio echoed the sentiments of many that WP had run a clean and honorable campaign, “No smears, no attacks. Grace, humility and ability to apologise and learn, and a listening ear.” He also noted that although some PAP candidates behave well, others “are perceived to not listen, or to be arrogant and mean spirited.”
He then began to offer advice, including: take the high road, stop bullying candidates, be humble, which includes learning to apologise. “You will say something tone deaf or offensive. It is inevitable in the heat of the moment. You will get called out. Walk it back. Don’t double down. Say sorry. Express regret. We respect that, and that humility wins us over.”
He went on to say that the PAP should not insult Singaporeans’ “feelings, our intelligence or our aspirations.”
“Don’t tell us ‘own self check own self’ works,” he wrote. “That would be unacceptable in almost any form of organised public activity or corporate life. Why would we accept that in political life, where the stakes are the highest?”
The lawyer added that while Singaporeans still want the ruling party “to run the show,” they do not need to win all of the seats in Parliament to do it, and that having diversity would be to the country’s advantage.
Mr Thio also reminded the ruling party that fear mongering days are over, “The LKY playbook is antiquated. Strategies for a time when the stakes were existential. It worked then, it is toxic today.” The circumstances that required Lee Kuan Yew-era tactics are long gone, and the PAP needs to trust that they’ve built a strong society in the last half-century.
He then appealed to the ruling party to make sure that the playing field is fair, because to do otherwise would build resentment. “Resentment means a disengagement of the citizen, a division of the soul and a rebellion of the heart against you. Why encourage that?”
Another point he made is to “Fight falsehood with truth,” instead of overly relying on POFMA, the law passed to combat online falsehoods. “Overuse, asymmetrical use, and disproportionate use of POFMA irritates the neutral observer and is a deep condescension to our intelligence.”
One of the themes in Mr Thio’s post is that the ruling party must have more faith in the public. Using the statement last year from Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese head of state, he wrote, “what is the basis for that? Do you have a poll? Or is it anecdotal? It feels that you are impugning our moral sense with a racism that isn’t substantively there.”
At the end of his post he summarized what people want, “Fairness, credibility, loyalty, passion, aspiration, understanding, unity, authenticity, warmth, respect, inclusiveness. Build on that.”
The lawyer sent well wishes to all the elected MPs, writing, “Today, I am strangely optimistic.” —/TISG