At the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) biennial conference on 6 November 2022, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Secretary-General of the PAP, called out the opposition for ‘lying low’ on thorny issues, and that it should take a clear stand for issues especially if it aims to win more seats in Parliament and eventually take over the Government.
Did the Opposition make a stand?
In 2019, Pritam Singh, Secretary-General of WP (appointed as Leader of the Opposition after GE2020) said that WP will not call for repeal of 377A or participate in ‘culture war’. He cited that there was “no consensus” within WP’s leadership.
What Mr Singh said back in 2019, was what the PAP Ministers exactly did – Ministers Masagos, Shanmugam, Edwin Tong, Desmond Lee and more, spent weeks and months meeting contending groups with strong, passionately held views on S377A. Much effort was put into explaining, listening, and bringing people to gradually accept what is to be done.
PM Lee said that the opposition has not critiqued the Government’s approach (be it agreeing or disagreeing, supporting or opposing, or any other alternative proposals).
After National Day Rally 2022, WP was asked to comment on PM Lee’s announcement that S377A will be repealed.
It also said that “Singapore is a pluralistic society that consists of multiple religions, ethnicities, cultures and languages. Mutual accommodation and tolerance are critical considerations for legislation in our context.”
All in all, it’s the status quo for the WP. From their statements from 2019 to now, it seems that they would very much prefer not to touch this ‘can of worms’ on their own initiative. It said that Singapore must balance the S377A issue while addressing issues of high inflation and cost of living. So where does the S377A issue rank for WP?
Plucking the low-hanging fruits
The opposition recorded their dissent against the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amendment bill that was read for the second time on 7 Nov. The key premise of the opposition was that it was “unnecessary” to raise the GST at this period where Singapore confronts high inflation and rising cost of living.
The WP claims that there are alternative revenue options available. The PAP government, at the same time, has gone through WP’s alternative ideas and explained why they would not be viable.
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong said that the WP has ‘painted a very simplistic narrative that the Government has not considered these alternatives’ and that ‘(the Government) was on autopilot and not open to ideas.’
Holding our politicians to the same standard
If the WP is planning to be a force to be reckoned with and form the Government someday, we should scrutinise the WP’s policies with the same standard we scrutinise the PAP’s policies. Soundbites are easy, but it is never easy when it comes to doing it.