In a Parliamentary Democracy, incumbent and opposition must be able to check each other

15/02/2022

In any democratic parliamentary system, political parties must not only compete on ideas and execution, they must also serve as checks on each other.  This is to ensure that the best interests of the country and the people are served, and that political leaders and parties hold themselves accountable to the people, thereby preserving justice and equality for all Singaporeans.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Latin for who will guard the guards themselves?)  Or in recent pop culture, who watches the watchmen?

If the Workers’ Party checks the People’s Action Party, who then shall check the Workers’ Party?   This responsibility falls on us as the incumbent, and we hope that Singaporeans will vest this trust in us to do so.  This is also a trust we must continue to earn every day, with every action (big or small) we take for our people.

While this is an important task that we must discharge with a clear sense of duty, it is also a most difficult task because in doing what is right, we may sometimes be accused of being heavy handed or bullying.  But in fact, numerical dominance in the House should not compromise the conduct of honest, fair and constructive parliamentary politics.  The unfortunate incident with Ms Raseesah Khan shows that we are  some way to go before we can realize the much vaunted first world Parliament.

The People’s Action Party remains steadfastly committed to working towards a vibrant democracy through constructive politics and policies that are designed to help all Singaporeans lead better lives.  And before we get there, it’s imperative to establish the foundation.

Honesty and integrity as the foundation

The PAP’s only and absolute starting point must be honesty and integrity above all. It is the foundation of good democracy. Every party – down to its elected members – represented in the House, has a responsibility to uphold the highest standard of integrity.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Feb 12, as he was commenting on the recommendations put forth by the Committee of Privileges (CoP): “To build up democracy, integrity and honesty precede contestation, not the other way round.”.  Any person who feels strongly about democracy would likely agree with Minister Ong’s view.

Singapore’s Parliament suffered a setback when Ms Khan lied in Parliament on August, again in October, and when the three senior WP leaders did not make her correct her record for three months.

Does this signal a lack of leadership, integrity, or both?  Two contradicting versions of the stories have been told by Ms Raessah Khan and senior leaders of WP. The CoP thinks it is Mr Pritam Singh who lied. The case is now before the Public Prosecutor.

If the WP watches the PAP, then who watches the WP? Perhaps, it shouldn’t be just the PAP, but all Singaporeans.