Singapore — In an online discussion on their latest book, which is about the ruling People’s Action Party, Professors Cherian George and Donald Low addressed the issue that some readers might find their book to be a betrayal by critics of the Government.
The book, PAP v PAP: The Party’s Struggle To Adapt To A Changing Singapore, was published in October and is an anthology of commentaries regarding local politics from the past years, as well as new articles from this year.
The authors, who are both teaching in Hong Kong, noted in the preface of the book that their goal in writing it is not to find fault with the party, but instead to “focus on how the PAP can respond positively to the challenges ahead, reskilling itself to remain relevant to the country”.
However, some readers have felt that writing a book that would help the PAP improve is a betrayal, the authors told Nanyang Technological University’s Walid Jumblatt Abdullah and Teo You Yenn in the online discussion sponsored by Academia SG on Wednesday night (Nov 11).
Prof George said that the online discussion was “an opportune time to make a clarification about where we are coming from regarding our hopes for the PAP.
“Some sceptical readers that we’ve had are not actually from the PAP side but from the anti-PAP side who I suspect almost see it as a betrayal that we, as critics of the Government, are willing to put across this notion that the PAP should change and can change if it wants.
“Behind this feeling that we have somehow betrayed the opposition cause is a misunderstanding that politics is a zero-sum game. That’s not how I look at it.”
Prof George added that the idea that the opposition will only succeed if the PAP fails is untrue.
“As an opposition supporter, that is not the kind of condition that I want opposition parties that I support to grow or to come into power because Singapore will not be better for it.
“I would much rather that the opposition grow against a good, strong PAP, not a bigger or more bullying PAP.”
He also emphasised that the electoral system in Singapore needs to become much fairer, “and it’s not fair by any means right now”.
However, the authors called the notion that opposition supporters should wish the very worst for the PAP “extremely narrow-minded and short-sighted”.
Reaching for comparisons from the world of football, Prof George said: “A Liverpool needs a Manchester City. A Real Madrid needs a Barcelona.” He added that Real Madrid has reached the Champions League because it has a rival team in Barcelona to keep it honest and competitive.
He said that one would never find a top footballer or manager wishing that a league would be more unfair or that its competitors would go away “because they know they are a better team because they have to engage in all-out war”. /TISG
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