“In this 12th Parliament, I hope a wise ruling party can be Tang Taizong while we the WP can be Wei Zheng. Together we can create a prosperous era, one that is not dictated by a single ruler surrounded by ‘yes’ men”. (For those Indians, Malays and Eurasians not versed in Chinese history, there was in emperor Tang Taizong’s reign, a court official, Wei Zheng, who was not afraid of offending the emperor by telling him the truth. The emperor’s reforms has been credited to Wei’s criticisms.)
My criticism is that by equating the PAP to a Tang dynasty emperor and the WP to an official of that emperor (even though he qualified himself by saying, “In this 12th Parliament … “, so setting a time limit), he is (inadvertently):
— helping the PAP to perpetuate the myth (that the PAP is always encouraging) that it has a natural right (or mandate of heaven) to govern S’pore.: the WP, can at best, only counsel, never becoming the government;
— equating the PAP with the government (a Chinese emperor was the government and vice versa), something one LKY liked to do;
— boxing the WP into making “constructive” criticisms (that was what Wei was doing, as I understand it); and
— risking alienating minorities (example of an irritated S’porean Indian, who usually has great difficulty getting upset). This is something WP has to be very careful of, given the wide-spread perception that it is a “Chinese” party. An example.
I am certain he never intended these interpretations or impressions, but they are reasonable inferences from his illustration. One can see the government moving to frame the role of the Opposition in parliament:
— the day after Chen spoke the PM said he wanted: An inclusive society where no Singaporean is left behind, a vibrant economy where growth benefits everyone and constructive politics that puts Singapore first; and
— last Sunday, the Law and Foreign Affairs minister (a local Indian), said, “The Government has put forward its views, and the idea of a debate must be that the Opposition puts forward constructive suggestions on how the Government’s agenda and policies and programmes can be improved.”
So the trap is being laid to use Chen’s words against the WP.
My advice to Chen Show Mao: go easy on using analogies, examples or allusions from Chinese history or culture and read this on “… the difficulty of choosing a unifying symbol in a multiracial, multireligious society”.
Otherwise a good speech. Made better when Dr Teo Ho Pin criticised it*, showing us yet again that
— the PAP seems to have recruited “smart” men with who love putting their foots in their mouths (think Drs VivianB, Lim Wee Kiah and Puthu); and
— there is something wrong in the PAP MP selection process (think Tin and Foo).
*Dr Teo Ho Pin “did not know the difference (Mr Chen) has made” in defining the differences. Mr Chen was making the point that political differences are not akin to divisions that will lend to time-wasting politicking and gridlock.