A video of an old rally speech Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered years ago, on how he will have to spend time thinking how to “fix” the opposition, has resurfaced on social media and is going viral as Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat prepares to introduce a parliamentary motion that could curtail Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim’s function as elected town councillors.
In the 2006 speech, delivered more than a decade ago when Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Steve Chia were the only opposition politicians in Parliament, PM Lee urged the people to refrain from voting in more opposition lest he is forced to focus on how to “fix them” instead of focusing on the nation’s challenges. He asserted:
“What is the opposition’s job? It’s not to help the PAP do a better job! Their job is to make life miserable for me so that I screw up and they can come in and sit where I am here and take charge.
“Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, we have Chiam, we have Steve Chia. So can deal with them, it’s ok. But supposing you had a Parliament with 10, 15, 20 opposition members out of 80.
“Then, instead of spending my time thinking of what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time – I have to spend all my time – thinking what is the right way to fix them, what is the right way to buy own my supporters over, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”
PM Lee’s promise to “fix” the opposition is re-circulating as his presumptive successor is set to introduce a motion in Parliament tomorrow (5 Nov) calling on Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to require Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to “recuse themselves” from all financial matters related to AHTC.
DPM Heng’s motion comes weeks after High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh said that Mr Low and Ms Lim had breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC and that the MPs are liable for damages, as he released his long-awaited judgment on the year-long AHTC lawsuit. The WP MPs can appeal the High Court’s decision.
The lawsuit arises from civil proceedings – this means that the judgment is unlikely to affect Mr Low and Ms Lim’s parliamentary seats unless they are unable to pay the damages arising from the lawsuit. If they are unable to pay up, they will be made bankrupt and lose their seats in parliament.
Despite this, DPM Heng – who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as head of government following the next election – is seeking AHTC to get Mr Low and Ms Lim to “recuse themselves” from AHTC’s financial matters so as to “affirm the vital importance of MPs maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability.”
Noting that the timing of the motion comes just a few months after the Government announced the first formal step towards the next General Election, netizens have indicated their opinion that this could be an attempt to “fix” the only opposition party currently in Parliament by resurfacing PM Lee’s words.
It must be noted that the “fix the opposition” speech is not the only time PM Lee has expressed his view that the opposition cannot be allowed to grow. In April last year, the head of government said, “It is neither wise nor workable for the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to purposely let the opposition grow bigger when most of the population supports the PAP.”
Likening a political system that makes life easier for opposition politicians to a performer’s safety net, PM Lee had added: “The more you have a safety net for the performer, the more dangerous the stunts the performer will do. Because there is no risk, so you will push further.”
In an interview this year, PM Lee said that it is not important to have numerical balance in Parliament and that the super-majority his People’s Action Party (PAP) enjoys is the “will of the people”. In pointing to how Singaporeans voted for a PAP-dominant Parliament, PM Lee said: “If they were unhappy with me, I would not be sitting here so peacefully, smiling and talking to you. I would have other problems on my mind.”
While PM Lee’s presumptive successor Heng Swee Keat has told PAP members not to go down the road of “divisive politics”, his latest action against the WP MPs may suggest that his views on the opposition may not be so different from PM Lee’s after all. -/TISG