Govt concedes argument with WP and Singaporeans

The opposition MPs in Hougang and Potong Pasir, who have been serving their residents for 18 years and 25 years respectively, have a far more distinguished track record of “concrete actions” serving their residents than the Johnny-come-lately PAP challengers, who are very good at plastering their faces all over the ward and claiming credit for things they never did.

Since the ill-advised announcement by the so-called PAP “grassroots advisers” of Hougang and Potong Pasir about the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) in the two opposition-held wards, the Minister for National Development has had to answer three letters to the Straits Times to justify their stand on the issue. Two of those letters were in response to Workers’ Party leaders Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, and one was to a public-spirited Singaporean, Muhammad Yusuf Osman.

In his latest letter (copied below), the spokesman of National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan wrote: “We do not expect the Workers’ Party to accept these basic facts, and we will agree to disagree.”

In saying this, the Minister is basically conceding that his argument holds no water, and he has no more points to add that could better justify the PAP’s politically-motivated stand.

The “basic facts” were that the PAP grassroots adviser is the government’s official representative, and that he is “answerable to the government”.

I can’t see how the PAP advisers, being volunteers (I hope!) and not under the government payroll are “answerable” to the government. If they mess up, how are they held accountable? At most they get removed from their post and lose a bit of face, but suffer no other loss.

The opposition MP, on the other hand, may not be answerable to the government, but is answerable to the electorate in his ward. If he makes a mess of the LUP, voters may throw him out at the next election and he’ll lose his job and a $16,600 a month allowance.

Now tell me, who do you think will work harder to make LUP a success to benefit residents?

The Ministry spokesman ended by saying: “(T)he interests of Hougang residents are best served by concrete actions, not words.”

It is clear to voters that the opposition MPs in Hougang and Potong Pasir, who have been serving their residents for 18 years and 25 years respectively, have a far more distinguished track record of “concrete actions” serving their residents than the Johnny-come-lately PAP challengers, who are very good at plastering their faces all over the ward and claiming credit for things they never did.

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Straits Times, 17 October 2009

Lift upgrading: We will agree to disagree

I REFER to Ms Sylvia Lim’s letter on Thursday, ‘WP rebuts ministry’s reply on lift upgrading’, in response to the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) earlier explanations on the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) in Hougang.

As we have pointed out, the LUP is carried out and funded by the Government, not the local Member of Parliament. The Government tasks the local adviser to grassroots organisations to work with all interested parties, including the MP, to implement the LUP. This is not a matter of protocol, but because of the need to implement government programmes through persons and agencies answerable to the Government. Opposition MPs do not answer to the Government, and implementing the LUP is not one of their constitutional or legal duties.

We do not expect the Workers’ Party to accept these basic facts, and we will agree to disagree. In the final analysis, the people of Singapore will decide. In the meantime, the interests of Hougang residents are best served by concrete actions, not words.

The MND and HDB will continue to work with the grassroots adviser and other stakeholders in Hougang to implement the LUP in the constituency.

Lim Yuin Chien
Press Secretary to the Minister for National Development

Lift upgrading: We will agree to disagree
I REFER to Ms Sylvia Lim’s letter on Thursday, ‘WP rebuts ministry’s reply on lift upgrading’, in response to the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) earlier explanations on the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) in Hougang.
As we have pointed out, the LUP is carried out and funded by the Government, not the local Member of Parliament. The Government tasks the local adviser to grassroots organisations to work with all interested parties, including the MP, to implement the LUP. This is not a matter of protocol, but because of the need to implement government programmes through persons and agencies answerable to the Government. Opposition MPs do not answer to the Government, and implementing the LUP is not one of their constitutional or legal duties.
We do not expect the Workers’ Party to accept these basic facts, and we will agree to disagree. In the final analysis, the people of Singapore will decide. In the meantime, the interests of Hougang residents are best served by concrete actions, not words.
The MND and HDB will continue to work with the grassroots adviser and other stakeholders in Hougang to implement the LUP in the constituency.
Lim Yuin Chien
Press Secretary to the
Minister for National Development

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.

15 thoughts on “Govt concedes argument with WP and Singaporeans”

  1. “In saying this, the Minister is basically conceding that his argument holds no water, and he has no more points to add that could better justify the PAP’s politically-motivated stand.”

    I don’t understand how you came to this conclusion.When two people are arguing, and there is no progress and someone says: “let’s agree to disagree”, you consider that person to have conceded the fight?

    And do you expect every argument to involve both sides continually adding more points each time they speak. It is not sufficient to state your case and stand by it?

  2. saiber and hongjun – Thanks for your responses. This is not a simple argument between “two people”. It must be seen in the context of the PAP’s style of debating with the opposition. In the past, it has never had to say “we will agree to disagree”. The PAP has always prided itself in being able to demolish the opposition’s flawed arguments. This time it has acknowledged that the opposition is not wrong, and it knows from the reactions of Singaporeans that public opinion is strongly on the side of the opposition in this debate. Hence the Minister concluded that it is best to cut his losses and stop making further jibes at the opposition, which only serve to infuriate voters more.

    It is also important to note that the responses so far have all come from the Minister’s press sec. Although he too is a civil servant, he is speaking on behalf of the Minister, not the government. If he was speaking on behalf of the govt, he would sign off with his other title of Director Corporate Comms. This indicates that the PAP too acknowledges that this is a political debate, not a simple debate about policy.

    As far as I can see, the PAP has lost this debate in the court of public opinion.

  3. agree with hongjun and saiber.

    objectively speaking, the statement “basically conceding that his argument holds no water, and he has no more points to add that could better justify” is flawed from a logical perspective.

    agree to disagree just means an acceptance that both people have different premises. it recognises that hence, this will eventually lead to a different/conflicting perspective.

    personally, i feel that agreeing to disagree is rational, and shows maturity in thinking. more specifically, this shows that the agreeing party understands that everyone’s paradigm is shaped by his past experiences/background. hence, it is sometimes just not meaningful to converge differences in perspectives.

    having said that, i understand this is a personal blog. hence, it is reasonable to see subjective views.

    i feel what could be done better would be to state the objective fact. this is followed by declaring the commentor’s own premises. following, the commentor can then use his premises to interpret the objective fact. these 3 steps would then allow the reader to understand where the commentor is coming from.

  4. hbr –

    “personally, i feel that agreeing to disagree is rational, and shows maturity in thinking.”

    That’s the whole point. The PAP is almost never rational and mature in dealing with the Opposition, especially when they are certain they are right and the opposition is wrong. Have you ever heard them tell JBJ or Chee Soon Juan “we will agree to disagree”?

    So that’s why my conclusion in their “agree to disagree” statement is that they have admitted that they cannot convince Singaporeans (and definitely not WP) that they are right.

    This does not mean that in any argument where one party says “let’s agree to disagree”, that party is effectively conceding defeat. I was commenting on this particular debate over LUP.

  5. “Agreeing to disagree” is a cop-out. It implies that everybody can be right no matter how wrong they are. The debate of responsibilities in my opinion has hardly even began. Now Mah Bow Tan finds himself cornered and want out. Better to end the debate before WP fully demolishes his nonsense.

    So Mah agrees to disagree now. But what does it mean for everyone in the future? Are they going to make similar announcements to PAP grassroot advisors, bypassing elected opposition MPs again? Why are opposition ward MPs not considered part of the government? There are still many questions left unanswered.

  6. Checking out what “agree to disagree” means does not seem too helpful:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agree_to_disagree

    http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/agree-to-disagree.html

    I’m leaning towards Gerald and Somebody though… I’m guessing Lee Kuan Yew never had to break the glass in an emergency and use the phrase “agree to disagree”. Maybe I’m too young to know but I’ve never heard or seen LKY use “agree to disagree” when it comes to the opposition. Not even once in his sterling political career that spans close to six decades.

    LKY either demolishes the argument or sues the bloke into bankruptcy. He does not take prisoners.

    Regards,
    An Old Friend

  7. //LKY either demolishes the argument or sues the bloke into bankruptcy. He does not take prisoners.//

    Of course he does. You’re forgetting the many with whom he
    disagreed to agree who were taken as prisoners under the infamous ISA. Some remained his guests for decades.

    These are my comments in another thread, but they serve the purpose to a T here:
    “First they say “let’s move on”. Now it’s “let’s agree to disagree”.
    Are the two the same? If so my reading is that they both mean
    “I cannot beat you in arguing the case but I refuse to admit
    defeat because I have a very broad multi-$million face. So
    you have to ’shut down and sit up’ if you know what’s good
    for you!”
    I’m not at all surprised as our dear beloved pm has already
    admitted that faced with more opposition mps he would not have
    the time to think of how to fix the opposition.
    In the heat of a debate or argument you don’t just pull the rug
    from under your opponents by saying either of those two things.
    You admit that you are wrong or you have lost the argument.
    Anything less is wimpy!”

  8. agreeing to disagree does not mean that one concedes the argument, whatever the circumstance, even if the pap does not regularly ‘agree to disagree’.

    the whole point is that there are no further arguments they can put forward, and they refuse to accept what has been put to them. when they say “We do not expect the Workers’ Party to accept these basic facts”, it simply implies that they too do not accept the basic facts the Workers Party has put to them.

    arguing any further over the forum will just mean that the same arguments are repeated by both parties again and again, which is why they have chosen to ‘agree to disagree’.

    it’s ridiculous to think that they’ve conceded. the pap never concedes any mistake. after all, temasek’s investments are all long-term, even if they only last six to twelve months.

  9. Gerald is probably correct… it will be a gem if the PAP ever concedes to a mistake… easier to say agree to disagree.. what a joke..

    Wonder whether these people handling this issue is aware of the potential repercussions? or perhaps they thought they could just get away with it time and again.

    The grassroots? of course they are accountable…that is, to the PAP. I understand that these people ar thoroughly SCREENED for background before they can volunteer? as grassroots for the PAP.

    It is also obvious the type of people who will volunteer for such work.

  10. soojenn –

    Wonder whether these people handling this issue is aware of the potential repercussions? or perhaps they thought they could just get away with it time and again.

    I think this is another demonstration of the power of the Internet bringing a seemingly innocuous piece of news to the forefront of a national debate.

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