On 30 October 2011, MediaCorp reported the PM as saying,” [T]o dare to stand up and say something which is true but may be difficult, spiky, which the population may not wish to hear … that takes courage … as Government, it’s our responsibility to speak the truth to Singaporeans … it’s the Opposition’s responsibility also to acknowledge the truth and to speak it, whether or not it’s politically advantageous to them.”
Fair point but PM, don’t you think that it also takes courage to admit that the government, cabinet, minister, ministry or civil servant has goofed, is sorry, and will take steps to remedy the situation? Whatever Wong Kan Seng may have done, he is the only minister to have taken responsibility for a goof-up by his ministry (the escape of a “terrorist”). Usually tai-chi is practicised.
Think minister Mah, who defended his policy of allowing the prices of public housing to rise in a recession. Or of Raymond Lim for threatening to impose GST on transport fares, while doing nothing to ease congestation on public transport?
Or of VivianB for getting his numbers wrong wrong on the new national stadium and the Kiddie Games, and insisting that he was right to be wrong. Or berating the poor for wanting hawker or restaurant food.
Or the Home ministry allowing a violent and dishonest shop assistant; and hawkers to become PRs. Or the minister failing to apologise for not recapturing a physically handicapped “terrorist” before he swam out of S’pore.
Or Yaacob talking of “once in a century’ flood, when there was a flood a month. Or of the entire cabinet in allowing immigrants in by the truck-load without thinking of the consequences on the public infrastructure and social fabric.
You were also quoted as saying parliament was for “serious discussion, not just criticism”. It is wrong to try to distinguish “serious discussion” from “criticism”. “[C]riticism” is part of “serious discussion”. Go ask any Cambridge academic.
You said that Parliament is not just a place to hold either the government or Opposition to account … both sides should participate in solving problems together, or Singapore would be worse off for it.
What about giving out more information so that the public can know what is happening? If local academics got beaten up by the then Manpower minister, a few years ago, for using data from a government website, surely there is a problem somewhere? And it’s not with the academics. How can publicly available info be misleading? But that minister is now one of your most trusted ministers.
“Academics, economists and sociologists are demanding more than the “pledge to share more information.” They want the raw data, instead of the ad hoc releases from the official propaganda machine,” notes S’pore Notes some time ago.
This brings me back to your “acknowledging the truth” comment. The truth can only be established by evidence, so make more raw data available.
Your comments seem nothing more than your father’s “style of single-party governance: long-term decisions made by an inner circle, without the distractions of a substantial opposition or the time pressures of electoral deadlines. “Public debate can make issues “harder to solve,” you said sometime back, so it’s reasonable to assume that you would rather avoid informed public debate of any kind.
In his book “Golden Fetters”, Barry Eichengreen argued that one reason the gold standard failed to work after the first world war was that most states had become democracies; regular doses of austerity were needed to ensure sound money. But that was politically impossible once the working classes had the vote, especially as politicians were worried about the threat of communist revolution. [Took this from Buttonwood’s Notes, an Economist blog.]