Singapore—While the whole country, it seems, is in the grip of election fever, Wake Up, Singapore sought to remind Singaporeans that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was, once upon a time, an opposition party, just like every other opposition party in the country.
On Thursday (June 25), Wake Up Singapore, which is made up of young activists who champion diverse voices in the country’s political arena, wrote in a post, “Did you know? The PAP was once an opposition party too? You’d be surprised to find out that the PAP was founded as a democratic socialist party. In the 1950s the PAP gained popularity and was seen as the party of anti-colonialism and champion of the working class.”
The post included a series of photos from the National Archives, National Heritage Board, and Parliament archives that showed the ruling party’s beginnings. The series is captioned, “When PAP was the opposition.”
One of the pictures is of a young Lee Kuan Yew, who went on to become Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, making a speech. At the time of the speech Mr Lee was a leader of the opposition who called out the administration of David Marshall due to the arrests of student activists and union members.
A quote from Mr Lee is included. “All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises.”
The post goes on to explain that the ruling party had been founded as a democratic socialist party which “stood for anti-colonialism, multiracialism, worker’s rights, anti-corruption, and economic justice,” and that when Mr Lee contested in the Legislative Assembly General Election, his platform focused on “workers’ rights, freedom and support for the working class.”
As the country’s primary opposition party, PAP depended on the support of “left-wing labor unions,” with Mr Lee himself giving pro-bono legal advice to these unions. Furthermore, “The PAP’s left=-wing faction was active in instigating strikes for better working conditions and higher pay.”
Interestingly, a comment on the post weighed in with their opinion as to how and why the ruling party seems to have departed from their roots.
Others chimed in as well.
However, some commenters underlined that the ruling party has done much for the “progress and prosperity” of the country.
At least one netizen posted another quote from Mr Lee. In 2011 he said, “I think there will come a time when eventually the public will say, look, let’s try the other side, either because the PAP has declined in quality or the opposition has put up a team which is equal to the PAP and they say, let’s try the other side. It must come.”