Past performance no guarantee of future results

Straits Times Forum, 26 July 2008:

Opposition yet to show it can deliver, unlike PAP

I REFER to Wednesday’s letter by Mr Alvin Tan, ‘JBJ must be careful if he wishes to espouse Singapore’s cause’.

I admire Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam for his fighting spirit. Even though he is 82, he is still actively engaged in politics. I hope he will retire graciously.

I welcome an opposition, provided it is constructive and helps Singapore make progress.

I have been through six or seven general elections. At each one, the opposition candidates always seem to have the same agenda. They criticise government policies and fight for freedom of speech, but they say nothing about how to help raise national productivity or revenue.

The People’s Action Party Government has given us a well-run system. Because of this, all my siblings have at least 10 years of education, they own Housing Board homes, and their children can have a tertiary education and hold stable jobs.

This is what we want for our future generations.

I would like to recount an incident in the 1960s, when I was a secondary student.

I had the opportunity to meet then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the official opening of Outram Hill Community Centre. He had walked from Outram Road up Outram Hill. The moment he offered me his hand, I did not hesitate to shake it.

I had the feeling then that Singapore was in good hands.

Voting for the opposition now, in the light of what the Government has promised and fulfilled, would amount to dismantling what it has achieved, and moving backwards.

Lee Choon Wah

As investment advisors point out: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

I agree that the Opposition has till now not been able to offer plausible solutions to the problems we face, or will face in the future. However, Singaporeans need to be careful not to simply dismiss the need for an opposition, just like the PAP does.

If anything, the best buffer against Singapore’s future slide is a capable and honest opposition that can take over the reins if the PAP should fail — and it will fail eventually, just like the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians did. (Obviously it is inappropriate for me to compare the PAP with the greatness of the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.)

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

10 thoughts on “Past performance no guarantee of future results”

  1. Hi Gerald,

    Agree. It will be unwise to cling on to the past hopes in the vain belief that ir represents the present or for that matter the future.

    While the opposition may not be as strong or “capable” as the ruling party. We cannot dismiss the important role they play in national politics. If the PAP were to degenerate and rot, are we then to continue to support them?

    I am very fearful of a blind “faith” on the ruling party because of their past performance. If that was the case, china would not have so many dynasty change, britain would not have rise and fall as a world power.


  2. Gerald,

    what about the WP party Manifesto prior to the 2006 GE? I thought it was a good attempt by the WP to come up with some road map. And recently the SDP has opened a forum on policy issues on their website.

  3. All losers again commiserating with one another online. All losers who can’t get published. Haha!

  4. Governments practising Western style democracy need checks and balalnces and opposition parties are there to partly provide these. But opposing merely for opposition-sake without providing constructive criticisms and solution pointers to problems will be an exercise in futility. Opposition is an evolutionary process and opposition parties should behave in such a way that when the time comes they should be
    prepared to take over governing the country through democratic means. It is people’s onerous responsibility to encourage good and responsible opposition and vote for such opposition parties to thrive.

    Having said the above, those who clamour for liberties of all sorts should understand that the greatest danger facing civilised countries currently is by terrorism. In recognition of this a country such as Britain, the land of Magna Carta, and the country which gave to the world the civil and criminal legal framework, particularly the concept of Habeas Corpus has recently enacted a 42-day detention limit (after heavy opposition by opposition parties and even substantial members from the party in power) for those suspected of terrorism the habeas Corpus becomes inoperative within the time span. This is a huge step considering that the limit previously when centuries of Habeus Corpus was in operation was only a few days. There has to be careful balancing act, and the necessity for opposition parties to act very responsibly.

    For those who criticise a strong government, I suggest to them to read history particularly the history of Yugoslavia. Many Western countries in 1950s and 1960s criticised Marshal Tito for his rule with an iron hand, and criticised him for not allowing the opposition to flourish. He kept all ethnic groups and the bits of countries that formed Yugoslavia together. After his death, we all know the fate of Yugoslavia. In cases of countries where multi-ethnicities and languages operate, the reponsibilities of opposition parties is much much greater. Add to this the problem of terrorism.

    I am an European and has no connection with Singapore, but am concerned about the danger posed by terrorism to civilised countries.

  5. Newcastle – perhaps we activists and writers should make a greater effort to provide the ‘social studies’ education which our schools never provided. Meaning more education about politics, govt, democracy so that people don’t have blind faith in men (in white, in blue, whatever).

    ned – I think WP’s 2006 manifesto was a start, but what have they done to promote it since then? Nothing! I wasn’t even aware of the SDP policy issues forum. I think the oppo needs to start generating more light than heat. (In the case of WP, it’s both light AND heat.) Sorry to have to paraphrase a PAP minister.

    Anon @ 8.23 – I’m glad you’ve chosen to take potshots at me and my readers anonymously, like the great courageous soul you are.

    European – I fully agree that an Opposition should not oppose for opposing’s sake. I believe there is a THird Way for Singapore politics — where a responsible opposition can maintain its independence from the govt, oppose when they are going wrong, and encourage when they are doing right. I have yet to see a democracy that practices this.

  6. Just to point out the attitude of Singapore government which has no serious opposition.

    It is reported in Europe that Mr Robert Mugabe the ‘Butcher of Zimbabwe’ is currently in Singapore undergoing medical treatment. I bet that no Western country would welcome him in any capacity.

    It is rumoured that Mr Mugabe has stashed billions of dollars in SE Asian banks-perhaps in Singapore?

    Even China now says that he is not welcome to visit the Olympics.

    The above illustrates a government
    unchecked by serious opposition. The government can say and do what it wants.

  7. Thanks norman. But I don’t think it is true. It would be very out of character of China to do that. Why would they on one hand defend Mugabe to the hilt at the UNSC, then suddenly diss him like that.

  8. Gerald,
    You are forgetting the enormous pressure China is under. I believe what Daily Mail says. They do not lie. China needs African raw material particularly Angola’s oil.
    Angola is opposed to Mugabe’s regime. Mugabe’s hold is slipping as talks with the opposition party leader for power sharing. He is in his mid-80s, and why would China invest
    in Mugabe as he is sure to go silenced by nature if anything.

    Also, do not forget Mugabe has been/was in Singapore on medical treatment.

Comments are closed.