A nagging doubt about the Opposition is now laid bare 

As a result of the PAP’s supermajority status in Parliament, there is a long-held perception that members of the opposition have it tough. Maybe that is the case in an autocracy where political opponents are cowed and silenced into submission. But certainly not in Singapore. 

Compared to more mature democracies, the state of our opposition is puzzling – dismissing the idea of being the government-in-waiting and admitting that they have no desire to take over. And what about viable policy alternatives? Beyond the righteous indignation and spiteful hauteur, what exactly do they stand for aside from a propensity to disagree for the sake of doing so? 

Take, for instance, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), whose NMPs are notorious for playing the victim and throwing out ludicrous and impractical proposals during Parliamentary debates without any care about their consequences on Singaporeans. But it cannot be just about theatrics and jestering in governance and political discourse.  

By contrast, figuring out the ideological profile of the Workers Party (WP) remains one of the most tedious questions in Singapore politics. In their National Day Message, an otherwise opportune time for any political party to expand on their vision, WP’s leader Mr Pritam Singh ended up highlighting several new Government policies, keen to claim credit and see their implementation as his tour de force. 

Pushing for change is not the exclusive domain of the opposition in parliament. Neither should we fall for the false dichotomy that PAP MPs are unwilling to question the Government and speak up on issues. In the case of Singapore finally having an anti-discrimination workplace law, it was the result of years of lobbying from many PAP MPs. There is Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer SMC), who has always been vocal about the plight of Singaporeans who are victims of discrimination and MPs Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan–Toa Payoh GRC), who jointly filed an adjournment motion to enhance TAFEP to tackle workplace and job discrimination back in 2019.   

And lest we forget, Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong will deliver his National Day Rally speech this coming Sunday (August 20), addressing hot-button issues such as retirement adequacy, population ageing and housing aspirations of younger Singaporeans. All of which brings us back to the question – what distinguishes opposition MPs from PAP ones? Is it their politics, proposals, or even their perceptive insights that might save us from falling down the rabbit hole of groupthink? Or are our expectations so low that all we expect from them are objections and quibbles? 

These days, opposition Parties are well within their right to canvass for support. But what is worrying is that Singapore is still light years away from having a credible opposition that relies on policies rather than personalities to win hearts. And without good ideas, no amount of charisma can steer a country to greater heights or stop it from floundering altogether in the long run.   

Photo Source: PAP