It is often said that the PAP is always looking to “fix” the opposition. While it is understandable why some may feel this way, it is an unfortunate and untrue characterisation of our role and duty as the incumbent political party.
The duty of all democratically elected political representatives is, and must always be, to uphold the sanctity and integrity of our Parliament, the institution that sits at the apex of our democracy.
An effective and clean Parliament enables healthy and constructive politics necessary to advance our democracy and to bring about policies and political action that will enable Singaporeans to lead better and fuller lives.
The unfortunate incident involving Ms Raeesah Khan was a setback to our democratic process. It diminished our Parliament and reduced the standing of our political processes.
It is our duty as a political movement to protect the health and vitality of our Parliamentary Democracy. This is the reason why the PAP leaders had to take a non-negotiable and hard view on this matter.
Again, it is understandable why some may suggest that we are politicising this incident, first by convening the COP to investigate this matter, and then by the COP recommending that the case be referred to the public prosecutor.
Would it have been easier and politically expedient for us to take no firm disciplinary action upon the revelations made by Ms Khan? Of course! Can we afford to take this easier approach and to turn a blind eye? We cannot.
We are fully aware of the political cost of our decisions. But this is the price we must pay to ensure our Parliament, and our Democratic system remains clean and strong, and by extension, our government incorruptible and effective.
If no action is taken, our Parliament will be hollowed out with every untruth uncorrected, every mistake not rectified. Democracy is reduced with every breach of integrity. Every party represented in the House thus has a responsibility to uphold the highest standard of integrity.
The Integrity of Leadership
Leadership integrity is imperative for the sanctity of our parliamentary politics and the advancement of our Democracy. It also upholds the Singapore brand which was built up over generations, and which continues to inspire trust and confidence throughout the world.
The Leader of the Opposition not only represents the opposition party, but also plays an important role in our democratic institution.
In its political broadcast during the 2011 General Elections, WP said that a First World Parliament will happen “only if there are credible and elected opposition MPs to insure today against the failure of the ruling party tomorrow”.
We agree that credible opposition MPs should be elected into Parliament. And they must be led by a Leader of the Opposition who is beyond reproach, honest and upright. Otherwise, the “strong desire among Singaporeans for a greater diversity of views in politics”, as noted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2020 swearing-in speech, will never be fully met.
Political leaders set the tone for their parties and ensure collective responsibility; that the party moves in unison, maintaining party discipline. If a mistake was made, as leaders, they are obligated to correct the mistake as soon as possible and not allow it to fester.
At its core, an internal WP matter
This incident involving Ms Khan is, at its core, an internal WP matter. It is something the WP leadership could have (and should have) resolved internally.
Unfortunately, the falsehood was allowed to be brought into Parliament, in plain sight of the WP leaders, with their full knowledge.
Two contradicting accounts were presented. Ms Khan said that Mr Pritam Singh was informed about the circumstances of her lie and had asked her to stay silent. The two WP cadre members Ms Loh Peiying and Mr Yudhishthra Nathan also indicated that the WP leaders knew about this matter. The WP leaders Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Faisal Manap and Ms Sylvia LIm presented a differing account.
Mr Pritam Singh said that Ms Khan, Ms Loh and Mr Yudhishthra lied to the COP, and further suggested that Ms Khan’s mental health should be taken into account when considering her testimony.
Ms Sylvia Lim also voluntarily offered evidence that was surprisingly unhelpful to Mr Singh.
Choosing between what’s easy and what’s right
Our political journey has never been an easy one, since our founding in 1954. At each critical juncture, we have had to make difficult key decisions that would affect the lives of fellow Singaporeans; decisions that would influence and sometimes alter the destiny of Singapore.
And sometimes, the most difficult decisions to make are moral decisions. But if we continue to adhere to the right values, even the most difficult decisions can be made with clarity, confidence and a clear conscience.
Moral decline begins not at the point when a wrong has been committed, moral decline begins when we turn a blind eye to the wrong.
Cover photo credit: Tan Chuan-Jin Facebook page