For a first world Parliament to work, there must be a credible, responsible opposition that scrutinises policies, asks questions and provides alternatives to keep debates anchored by facts.
In fact, the PAP functioned as the Opposition when Singapore was part of the Federation of Malaysia, speaking up against the racialised policies advocated by UMNO.
Those tumultuous times are long gone, but as the political landscape in Singapore matures, there is no doubt that Singaporeans want a more robust and diverse Parliament.
Today, opposition voices have grown, and our Parliament is no longer just a space for political discourse. It is also a battlefield of ideas. And in this battle, there is no agenda against any individuals or political parties. Because ideas, not people, are the target of debates.
Not surprisingly, some ideas are better than others. So it is only fair, and in true meritocratic fashion, that a Government chooses to adopt viable ideas and cast aside the untenable ones.
Unfortunately, rejection is part and parcel of life as a Parliamentarian, something PAP MPs are also not immune from. That is why when their ideas get rejected, the best thing to do is to work harder, finesse the details and try again.
Therefore, it is an unfair assertion by the Opposition to cry foul and say that their policies are not considered because they came from the Opposition.
Rather, it boils down to these: do the ideas really help Singaporeans, do the numbers add up?
Good ideas and bad
Over the years, we have witnessed heated debates between PAP MPs and the Opposition. At times, it can feel like a face-off between David and Goliath.
But is it really?
Because Parliamentary debates in Singapore are never about demonising or silencing political opponents.
It is about the exchange of ideas honestly and openly so that Singaporeans understand the policies and are aware of their choices.
Therefore, ideas that lack pragmatism and farsightedness, that do not have the welfare of Singaporeans at heart and are drenched in demagoguery as a tactic to win votes, they will be called out.
Because not doing so would have serious consequences for Singapore.
As Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong said in his speech during Parliament (April 17), opposition parties should provide concrete alternatives, not just opportunistic or populist ideas that chip away, bit by bit, at trust in Government.
Historically, we have seen countries go downhill after succumbing to populism. That is because populist ideas tend to focus on instant gratification, the now rather than the future, and are seldom sustainable.
For that reason, any opposition serious about forming the next Government must consider the repercussions of their policies and the realities and trade-offs of their ideas.
And if they do not, the PAP will. After all, checks and balances go both ways.
The debate must go on
MPs enjoy Parliamentary privilege so that members can speak freely and raise issues from the public.
But that doesn’t mean MPs can make unsubstantiated statements and baseless aspersions.
As Leader of the House Indranee Rajah has rightly pointed out in Parliament, speaking fecklessly is a sure-fire way to erode trust and undermine our democracy.
And in the long run, what will that achieve? A fractured society devoid of trust?
Since coming into power, the PAP Government has never shied away from a challenge. Neither are we averse to constructive criticism.
Because as DPM Wong said, “Where the Opposition has good ideas, where they can make a contribution to the ideas for improving our country, we welcome them.”
And if they do not, introspection, rather than allegations, is always a better bet.
Photo Sources: Parliament of Singapore/CNA