Singapore – The Progress Singapore held its first e-rally on June 4. Present at the rally was its Tanjong Pagar GRC Team comprising Abas Kasmani, Harish Pillay, Michael Chua, Wendy Low and Terence Soon, as well as stand-alone candidate for Kebun Baru SMC Kumaran Pillai. After introducing themselves individually, the PSP candidates then answered questions from the public.
One question that was posed to the panel, surrounded Dr Tan’s history with the PAP. Specifically, the individual asked which issues Dr Tan Cheng Bock had voted against the party line for, back when he was with the party.
Mr Soon responded that he looked into Dr Tan’s history after he ran during the presidential elections. He shared that one of the things Dr Tan voted against the Party Whip was the Nominated Member of Parliament Scheme. Mr Soon went into detail on this Party Whip System, which essentially involves an individual who will ensure that there are sufficient party members to support a bill. Dr Tan was the only person in history to vote against the Whip, according to Mr Soon.
He added that this is why the Dr Tan has been vocal against the NCMP scheme, which may not be effective in encouraging alternative views because “we are forgetting that the Party Whip system is still in place on the PAP side”. Another reason is that the PAP is free to make any constitutional changes at will because they have more than 2/3 majority in parliament, according to Mr Soon.
Mr Harish Pillay added to this, highlighting how a citizen has told him that “there is nothing that is ever voted out or down in parliament. Everything is agreed to. Even when it is not good, it is agreed to.” He stated that the party whip “is the biggest disservice” to the nation, where MPs are unable to vote for what citizens are asking the MPs to do. He stated his displeasure saying that it does not make sense if the people have voted for an individual to represent them, but the individual ultimately “listens to the party leadership to vote a particular way”.
“It is an outdated concept we are still practicing, which is really detrimental to all forms of democracy”, he said.
Mr Abas agreed, sharing that it is important for party members to serve the people and the residents first, “more than the party itself”.
At the end of it, Mr Kumaran Pillai stated that Singapore has become more “undemocratic”. He stated that one key feature of a democracy is “electoral accountability”, where an individual is voted out of power if he or she does something wrong.
However, he said that this does not happen in Singapore. He shared that when he spoke to citizens who require more economic aid from the government, they fear voting for opposition because they believe that their aid would be ceased if they do so or their HDB flats would not be upgraded. Mr Kumaran Pillai believes that these are moves in which the incumbent side-lines the opposition and do not want the status quo to be disrupted. He urged for members of the public to look beyond the monetary sums offered by the current party, and to think more about strengthening the democratic institutions in Singapore instead. /TISG