Saturday, April 30, 2011

First World Parliament or a ‘first-rate Government’?

Singapore‘s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew waves to supporters upon his arrival at an election nomination centre in Singapore. — Reuters pic
SINGAPORE, April 30 — The People’s Action Party’s big guns have weighed in on the Worker’s Party’s vision of a “First World Parliament” — with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew saying that he does not consider Singapore’s Opposition a “First World Opposition”.  Speaking after a block visit in Tampines, Mr Lee said that, while he does not want to “degrade” them, he asked that Singaporeans look at their track record.
Mr Lee added: “Do you want a First World Government or a First World Opposition, and is this a First World Opposition? Can they produce a First World Government? If you want a Third World Opposition, or even a Second World Opposition to come and create a bit of excitement, well, that’s your choice.”
Other PAP leaders, including Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam and retiring Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng, have demanded that the WP justify its slogan “Towards a First World Parliament” by naming a developed country with such a legislature.
Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also weighed in on the issue yesterday. Speaking to reporters about his observations on the hustings so far, Mr Goh cited the WP’s slogan as “a bit more serious” compared to his other observations that the Opposition was “taking out a shotgun and just (firing) away, hoping that one of the bullets may hit an issue that resonates with the public” and that the Opposition was using a “populist” approach to engage voters — offering popular solutions such as reducing Goods and Services Tax and National Service obligations, among others.
Mr Goh, who was speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by Singapore Polytechnic, Mercy Relief and South East CDC, said he had checked the meaning of a “First World Parliament” on Google and he found that, apart from the references to WP’s election slogan, the others were about Malaysian opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who had proposed the same idea for Malaysia.
Mr Goh said: “What is the definition of a First World Parliament? It is Workers’ Party’s definition, meaning a critical mass of Opposition in Parliament. But, (by) that definition, almost every Parliament in the world is a First World Parliament. That includes Zimbabwe, that includes Myanmar, but that excludes Singapore. I laugh at that.”
He added: “Just having an Opposition is a First World Parliament? I think that’s nonsense.”
Still, the Senior Minister, who is facing a challenge from the National Solidarity Party in his Marine Parade GRC stronghold, said the issue was worth debating.
“People want Opposition in Parliament, which is fair, which we also recognise,” he said.
Mr Goh added that Singaporeans should also consider a First World Parliament versus a “first-rate Government”.
A first-rate Government is one that produces results, has the vision to cope with challenges and can serve the interests of the people, said the Senior Minister.
Said Mr Goh: “If the Parliament consists of nothing but one party, then you can have a first-rate Government, but the Parliament is a bit weaker. We have, over the years, tried to evolve a system which allows the PAP to win elections overwhelmingly and yet you have voices which are against the PAP in Parliament.”
Speaking at a rally at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also touched on Singapore’s political system.
It has delivered results, produced effective governance and “enabled the country to make the right choices to face the future and which has fostered serious debate in Parliament”, he said.
Mr Lee added: “You don’t find people throwing things at each other in Parliament, or fighting or rioting, which you can see on television if you look at some other countries in the region. We have serious debate, and I think good debate, and the result is good policies and good Government.” Additional reporting by Tan Yo-Hinn. — Today