As a neutral observer, I found Calvin Cheng’s article Do we really need another Worker’s Party MP to be… disconcerting.
Here is his argument:
1: In 2009, Viswa Sadasivan, an NMP, filed a motion calling for the House to reaffirm its commitment to the principles enshrined in the Singapore National Pledge.
This made LKY speak in Parliament for the first time in years, telling us that Viswa’s argument was “false and flawed”. He also taught us the meaning of ‘highfalutin’. There was some debate, and apparently this is a big deal, this is what Worker’s Party should be doing more of. (Frankly, if you ask me, it smells a lot more like something Kenneth Jeyaratnam or Chee Soon Juan would do. Is that good or bad? I have no idea. It is what it is.)
2: Worker’s Party (then only Low Thia Kiang and Sylvia Lim) did not file any motions in the 21 months he was in Parliament. They had since filed a motion (regarding AIM), but subsequently withdrew it (presumably to focus on the by-election, which I think is completely reasonable. We will surely see more about AIM after the by-election.)
EDIT: The motion was pulled, Sylvia Lim said, because “the goal of protecting the public and residents’ interests would be better served if the government investigation and review were to first proceed. After the completion of the review and publication of its findings, the matter can be raised in Parliament again as the circumstances require.” Also fair.
3: No motions were filed, motions are a big deal, and if WP hasn’t filed any motions then they are not fulfilling their election promise. So we shouldn’t vote for Worker’s Party. Implied: We should instead vote PAP, SDA or RP.
“Thus, contrary to the battle-cry of the opposition, I believe that this by-election is not so much a report-card on the PAP, but rather on the WP.”
This whole report-card analogy is tiresome. The only thing a by-election really tells us is what the current electorate feels about the status quo. It’s a report-card on the electorate more than it is of the respective parties.
“When one draws up a report card for a political party, nothing does better as a guide than their own campaign promises. The most striking thing about the WP’s campaign in GE 2011 was its overarching rhetoric of a “First World Parliament”.”
Actually, I’m not so sure if campaign promises are the best guide for assessing a particular political party. It depends on what the intent and purpose of the assessment is. Are we trying to assess how effective they are in building their own brand? How effectively they serve their constituents? What?
I will accept that WP’s rhetoric might have been overarching, but I don’t think that matters to most of the electorate- it only matters to annoying people like us who sit and discuss these things as though we’re some sort of authority on the matter. Rhetoric is a big deal to rhetoricians. That’s all. I don’t think the auntie in the fish market gives a damn.
What was strange and extremely disturbing to me was that for a party that values debate so highly, in the 21 months that I served as Nominated Member of Parliament, the WP was curiously passive on the debating front.
What’s strange and extremely disturbing to me is how much Calvin focuses on the 21 months he was NMP, and then extrapolates that to speak about WP’s behaviour after GE 2011.
You can’t cite WP’s rhetoric that got them elected in the 2011 General Elections, and then complain about what they didn’t do in 2009.
One has to understand that in Parliament, asking parliamentary questions is de riguer and does little to contribute to ‘debate’.
CITATION NEEDED. No, one doesn’t have to understand that at all. Where is he coming with this stuff from? I would vote for an opposition candidate precisely to ask questions.
I will argue that asking parliamentary questions makes an important and significant contribution. If you’ve read some pop psychology books you may be familiar with the study that revealed how even someone who is established to be visually impaired can, by providing a contrasting wrong answer, free up other people to disagree more freely. (Can anybody link me to the precise study? I can’t find it.) Groupthink is a real problem, and we are kidding ourselves if we think that the PAP or our Parliament is somehow free from it.
You may not see the obvious contributions that WP makes to Parliament because their questions are “de riguer”, because we can’t see the problems that we prevent. Prevention is better than cure, yet we reward cures more than prevention.
Any parliamentarian who has a burning issue to debate must surely know that the best and only way to force such a debate is to file a full motion, which compels the whole of parliament to put aside all other business and really debate the issue, concluding with a vote by all present Parliamentarians.
Because Parliament really got nothing better to do, right? (I don’t know, actually.)
In the first 21 months since GE 2011, the Workers Party has filed ONE adjournment motion, just to withdraw it again. In contrast, my former parliamentary colleague Viswa Sadasivan filed a full motion during his very first parliamentary sitting.
How does this tell us anything whatsoever? All it tells me, frankly, is that Viswa is one bo liao fella. Maybe idealistic. LKY might call him highfalutin. What does this contrast tell us about anything? Should we give Viswa a prize? I don’t understand.
The oft-heard refrain that because the WP has no chance of winning a debate there is no point in starting one, is a massive cop-out. The House in any Westminster Parliament is not only a legislative chamber, but also a debating chamber. Not being able to win a debate, does not mean an issue is not worth debating, especially if one is a politician elected on a promise of more debate.
I agree that “not being able to win a debate does not mean an issue is not worth debating”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that if there are no debates, it’s because the Opposition are scared of losing them. What are the things to be debated, how are they to be debated? I can’t shake the feeling that almost all of us discussing Parliament here don’t take the trouble to actually sit in and listen to (or read) what goes on in Parliament.
Has anybody actually sat down and analysed all the Parliamentary reports between 2011 and now? Could we crowdsource this? Wouldn’t that be something worth doing, instead of these petty squabbles that we have when we have nothing particularly meaningful to say?
Sian. Sian of articles like Calvin’s. As a government official (whom I respect) confided to me once, sometimes you really wonder who are we really serving, and why.