Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beyond Politics of Labels


Recent happenings in the political arena is rather interesting.

First, it was "Wayang Party" posters pasted around the venue of WP 50th Anniversary Dinner. The PM Lee's comment of "AWOL" which is directed not only on Workers' Party but also me. Then the ultimate one is, in th name of "rejuvenate" Hougang, they are going to tear down 9 blocks of flats which is a stronghold of support for WP's MP Mr. Low Thia Khiang. Prior to this, due to the "bad connotation" of "compulsory annuity", they just change the label to "longevity insurance" to make it sound "nicer and acceptable"!

All these labels are of course, politically motivated. The label "Wayang Party" first appeared in internet forums and subsequently used by PAP Dr. Ng Eng Hen during one of his GE 2006 rally speech. And now, it is used in an organized smearing campaign about WP. No matter who is the master mind behind this smearing campaign, it just demonstrates that they are either envious of WP's success and progress or that there is certain anxiety behind the rising of WP in the political field.

This anxiety of WP's rise is also felt in the recent PAP members meeting whereby PAP's grassroot members have fired off various questions on the WP's close fight in Aljunied GRC in GE 2006. If WP is such a "Wayang Party" as PAP minister has once pronounced, why would PAP grassroot members show such anxiety? I think the heat is great on the PAP side, so much so that PM Lee has to use another label "AWOL TEAM" to describe WP's Aljunied Team in GE 2006 in order to defuse the anxiety of his party comrades in this ward.

When reporter Peh called me with regard to PM Lee's latest label, I could only laugh at it. AWOL means "Absent Without Official Leave". It means that you must be "Officially" elected as MP first before you could talk about "Official Leave". Thus, if anyone who is elected as MP but does not attend parliament sittings or just sleeping during parliament sittings, or he or she does not perform the duty of MP by scrutinizing the policies brought up by the government, or he or she does not conduct regular meet-the-people sessions, or he or she does not attend all those necessary meetings which are related to the running of the town councils, then we could conclude that this person has gone "AWOL": meaning that he or she is not performing the duties expected as a MP. Are the WP candidates (including me) in Aljunied GRC elected as MP but did not perform our duties as expected of us? Obviously not.

From another angle, the perspective behind this comment is rather narrow. Maybe it is due to the fact that this comment is a direct response to "localized" politics in Aljunied GRC, that is why the context is much narrower. On a broader perspective, I think many of us in non-PAP politics have only one aim, that is to push for political democratic development for Singapore. As far as I am concerned, I am still working towards my political beliefs. Did I "AWOL" or give up on my political beliefs? I have to disappoint many people to say that I have NOT given up the fight yet! ;)

The anxiety of PAP grassroot members in Aljunied GRC was heightened after Mr. Low Thia Khiang has spoken about winning one GRC in the next election. They must have sensed the possibility of Mr. Low walking out of the Hougang in the bid to fulfill that promise of winning that one GRC. It is only natural.

But the later development really intrigues me. HDB has just announced the plan of demolishing 9 blocks of flats along with the market and industrial buildings which are located in Hougang ward. This time, they use the label "rejuvenate". But it was not so long ago, during the GE 2006 hustling that PAP has come up with upgrading plans for the estates, especially the market, as an "election carrot" (alas, that's pork barrel politics!). The same label "rejuvenate" was used too. But this time, the idea of "rejuvenating" the place is to tear down everything? Is this a PAP's "retaliation" for losing more votes in Hougang? A "retaliation" for the rejection of PAP's offer of upgrading for the market? Since you do not want upgrading, I will tear it down kind of mentality? Or is this a direct response to Mr. Low's vow of winning at least one GRC in the next elections?

There are two dimensions of the impacts of such moves by PAP government. Politically, it is not the first time that PAP has tried to cut off the support level of opposition parties in "danger zones" by administrative means . The market place at Hougang is a very important battleground for both PAP and WP as it is the focal point of everyday lives of those living in the town. Both PAP as well as WP members have been very active at the market place during as well as off election period. Since PAP has not been able to win the battle on the front, it would be tactically advantage to remove the battle front altogether. Needless to say, the nine blocks of flats are the stronghold of WP.

But why is PAP doing this? The reason is obvious. They do not want Mr. Low to walk out of Hougang to contest in a GRC by reducing the potential support, thus the buffer of winning percentage for WP in Hougang. They hope that by making the battleground in Hougang more tight, WP will think twice about taking the risk of letting Mr. Low to lead a team in other GRC while leaving this Hougang ward to another candidate. Will their wish come true? We will wait and see. ;)

On the other dimension, such moves will affect many people. First, the livelihood of those who depend on the market will be adversely affected. Secondly, those living in the town as well as those across the street at Aljunied GRC will be affected too. One of my friend called me up the other day to lament about this latest announcement. He lives in Aljunied GRC just across the street opposite the Hougang ward. The demolition of the market will grossly affect his family.

From the social perspective, many elderly folks who are used to the living in the neighbourhood will be greatly affected. Elderly folks who live in that neighbourhood are normally lonely folks who depends on the dynamism of the social psychological support of the neighbourhood to keep their lives active. Friends made in the neighbourhood are part of their social psychological support for their daily lives. To ask them to shift and to adapt to new environment will create emotional problems for these elderly folks. Nothing, in terms of infrastructure, could better the "kampong spirit" built up in Hougang now. Has HDB taken this important factor into considerations before they make their decisions? It just shows that HDB lacks the empathy to understand the social needs of these elderly people.

I hope that the self-proclaimed "First World Government" would see beyond the politics of labels and put more substance of the heart in their policy making process. No matter what is the motivation of all these labeling, the ultimate aim of a government is to make policies that take good care of the people. Politicking with labels without taking the people's needs (social, culture and economic needs) into serious consideration is definitely not something that a "First World Government" government would do.

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, November 16, 2007


This is a very good Chinese article published on ZaoBao about the need of democratic politics when strongman politics faded away. Although this article address the needs of China's need of political transformation, but in view of the inevitable dawn of post-LKY era, this view is also very relevant to Singapore's context.


据新华社报道,在中共十七大会议期间,中共中央委员会委员、候补委员和中央纪律检查委员会委员选举差额比例都在8% 以上,是中共十四大以来比例最高的一次。另据透露,习近平、李克强两位“政治新秀”能够进入常委,并非是由谁“钦定”的结果。在十七大召开几个月之前,中 共中央曾在省部级干部中进行的一次接班人预选,他们两人都获得高票,后来在十七大预选中又再次领先。



   通过改革开放政策,邓小平历史性地将中国从极权主义社会转变为权威主义社会。在权威主义政治中,政治权力主要由少数领袖或领导集团所掌握,但却在较为有 限的范围和程度上受到制约。权威主义政府一般不试图控制民众活动的每个方面,国家和社会存在一定程度的分离。社会中存在一些政治权力无意或无力干预的领 域,许多经济、文化、宗教和家族事务都取决于个人。

  但权威主义政权并不提倡个人自由。权威主义把社会视为一个等级森严的组织,其中存在 一个单一统治者或单一统治集团领导的政治支配链。支配、服从和秩序的价值,始终高于自由、同意和参与的价值。权威主义社会即使存在一些民主的因素,其作用 也微乎其微。国家立法机关往往只是个“橡皮图章”,其主要作用是批准统治集团的各种提议。权威政权的主要统治手段在很大程度上仍是命令和强制。







   政治学上的研究表明,权威主义统治带来的经济增长会使人们产生一种不断上升的更高期望,人们改善现状的期望总是超过经济增长所能提供的速度。这种“期望 —收益差距”感以及与收入差距有关的“相对剥夺”感,会在民众之中酝酿一种不断增加的“革命”情绪,并使国家进入一个政治上极度脆弱的时期。



   避免权威主义政治失败的唯一手段,便是及时将权威主义政治转变为民主主义政治。民主政治带来的普遍政治参与,既可以使经济和社会的发展更为均衡,并有效 疏导弥漫于全社会的不安情绪;也可以通过制度运作,不断复制和供应国家治理所必须的政治权威,从而使社会的长治久安成为可能。

  尽快向民 主政治转变,对权威主义社会而言,不仅仅是一种价值上的偏好,更是一种现实上的必需。应当承认,从权威主义政治向民主主义政治的转变,并不必然会取得成 功。失败的政治转型导致的社会后果,与权威主义政治失败的后果并无太大区别。但是,为了避免权威主义政治的必然失败,而面对民主政治的可能失败(也可能成 功),却是中国政治领袖必须承担的历史责任。


Thursday, November 01, 2007

五权分立多党比例制 - 长期政治稳定的保证

Sent to Zaobao on 29 October 2007

五权分立多党比例制 - 长期政治稳定的保证

刘学敏在 "比例代表制行不通"(《联合早报》,10月26日)一文中指出新加坡所已承袭的英国其实具备了“民选的独裁政体”的特质一点也没说错。就是因为这样,孙中山一早就否定了以英国的模式而制定中国民主方向的参考。孙中山是以美国三权分立的基础加以考量,设计出五权分立的亚洲民主概念。