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Bertha Henson: Ironic for PAP to talk about inclusion the way it’s organised

She points out that its own conference is still being organised in this archaic top-down way

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Singapore — Former journalist Bertha Henson weighed in on the recent developments from the biennial conference on Sunday (Nov 8) of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

The journalism professor agreed with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s assertion on the importance of maintaining a cycle of good governance and that “contestation should not lead to paralysis”.

However, she added a warning against the longevity of rule leading to an “entrenchment of power through legislative or electoral means” due to the faulty reasoning that it is the only party that can do the job well.

She added: “I find it ironic that the PAP is talking about including voices and more political participation when its own conference is still being organised in this archaic top-down way with no reasons given for the ‘approved CEC’ slate, no idea of how the cadres voted and a co-option system that really means that you don’t have to get voted in to be a leader.”

Prof Henson’s comments, in a Facebook post on Monday (Nov 9), were related to statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, the party’s First Assistant Secretary-General.

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Mr Heng acknowledged the desire for greater political diversity and more checks and balances, evidenced in July’s General Election. Therefore, he urged the party to recruit new members from a wide swathe of society, saying: “As a broad tent that occupies the middle ground, the PAP can better organise ourselves to champion the concerns of various groups.”

Prof Henson said that she is uncertain whether the process by which PAP cadres elect the Central Executive Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, is “open and transparent even to its own members”.

She added: “Or maybe they like it this way and up to members to decide otherwise.

“But if this is the way the PAP, both leaders and cadres, think the party should be run, then is it any wonder that some aspects are transposed on a national scale? The top down, you don’t need to know everything, don’t rock the boat aspects?”

Prof Henson acknowledged in a postscript that some would say what transpires within the PAP is its own business.

However, she made the point that the PAP’s activities are “reported so big (as if meant for public at large)” and, therefore, she “can’t help noticing stuff”.

The new PAP CEC was announced by many media outlets on Sunday (Nov 8) after more than 2,000 party cadres cast their votes.

Its latest top 12 nominees, who serve a two-year term, are Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Parliamentary Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, joined by first-time members to the group, Education Minister Lawrence Wong and National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who received the 13th and 14th highest number of votes, respectively, have been co-opted into the CEC. /TISG

Read also: Bertha Henson: Professors and those who signed up for webinar deserve an answer

Bertha Henson: Professors and those who signed up for webinar deserve an answer

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