The below is a follow up to our Part 1 Why prevents an equal level playing field with the PAP (Part 1)
1) A more ethical mainstream media
Governmental censorship and control of media have to lighten up, to make it less like a state messenger, but more of a comprehensive media outlet that portray both the oppositions and PAP in a balanced and objective light, also providing equal exposure to both sides. Mainstream media reaches out to the masses, and if it is partisan to a certain cause, it may mislead the readers to form a one-sided view to either parties or issues they cover on. Rather than just ministers (from PAP) appearing often on television talk shows, more publicity can be set aside for the various political parties to show their faces, and share their manifestos.
Non-mainstream media on their part – also have to be more ethical, objective, and provide consistently credible content when they write and frame their articles.
I am thinking of a monthly 3 hour political talk show shown which focuses on a current social or national topic e.g. Poverty – on national television which starts off as a discussion session on the impact of this issue, followed by representatives from each political party to share their party’s concise views or policies they hope to see be improved on in regards to that topic. There are little opportunities for opposition parties to gain exposure on mainstream news, with the exception of the general election period.
As such, this can act as a platform for Singaporeans to hear the diverse opinions and manifestos of the various parties, so that they can reflect and make an informed choice on which party they feel are credible, or are best aligned to their political ideals. Alternative voices can hardly be heard in parliament since opposition candidates elected are rare. Thus, this will give leverage to opposition parties – as a chance to share their beliefs and plans to what they can offer to Singaporeans.
2) Reduce the inculcated landscape of fear in our next generation
Politicization of any organizations or occupations should be discouraged. Regardless of what job you are in, or which company you work on, which political party your social networks support, we should all feel free to openly associate ourselves with, show support, or vote for any part they want without unnecessary or unfounded fear of retribution or consequences e.g. difficult in looking for a governmental job. The notion of “voting is sacred” do not have to be strongly inculcated into the mindsets of our younger generation.
Yes, respecting the right of others in keeping their political ideals or voting decisions to themselves is essential, but, people should not feel fear in sharing their political views if it so happens to not belong to the majority.
The idea of PAP losing majority of seats if there is a national swing is understandable, as Singaporeans do not want to lose their stability. But at the same time, Singaporeans can choose to view it another way – change is stagnant. A one-party rule lacks diversity. Our country may be during well in certain aspects, but there are always areas of improvements in any governing system.
As such, since not many opposition parties have had the chance to show their worth yet for the past decades, give them a chance to be more than just a “check-and-balance”. Let them take action instead of just making verbal statements. Give them a chance to prove your conservative mindset wrong. If they turn out really bad, you can see it from another way – you now clearly know who you should vote for in the future – a party candidate that can walk the talk.
On the opposition’s part, they have to provide candidates with consistent quality, experience, awareness, and presence on both social and national issues, which majority of potential PAP candidates are already at that stage.
Our social studies textbooks can cover on such relevant topics e.g. political culture or mindsets.
3) More access to opposition parties in residential platforms to show their presence and engagement to the community
Opposition parties may require permits or permission when using community platforms to share their political ideals to the residents, or even giving resilience talks in schools.
Red tapes for opposition parties to hold such events or sharing sessions can be lessen in comparison to PAP politicians.
4) Citizen involvement to make up for lack of resources
Manpower and implementation of ideas and programmes e.g. recreational workshops to engage the older generation are difficult due to the lack of funds and volunteers to carry out such activities.
Citizens can play a part, and take action if they really want an alternative party at GE2020. How? If you are rich but do not have time to spare, donate while ensuring how your funds being spent are transparent. If you are not as rich but you have the time, volunteer your time to fill in the respective roles e.g. giving the ideas life, improving on an opposition party’s policy paper, going on community service and walkabouts to increase the presence of opposition parties.
Many opposition party members themselves have their own day job and family commitments which they are already struggling to balance with. This very much makes their supporters and common people even more important. A collective action can pave about a change. A party by itself can only do so much.
5) Fairer political system
The Elections Department of Singapore (ELD) which takes care of election boundaries can be formed by a neutral and non-partisan team. Election boundaries changes should be informed earlier, which will be more fair as the political parties can adapt their plans and directions to these new changes swiftly, instead of having such sudden changes be informed only nearing the election period. Like being unaware in details how our CPF monies are being used or invested, more transparency on voting results can be given to the public in terms of detailed information and access.
Our current NCMP positions may have no restrictions in debates, but the same cannot be stated for what they are allowed to vote on – they are entitled to vote on all matters, except Supply Bills, Money Bills, Constitutional amendments, motions of no confidence in the Government and motions on the removal of the President of office. They also do not have as much access on-the-ground to residents compared to an elected Minister in parliament.
Lee Li Lian (Workers Party)
In 2013, after I was elected. I resigned from my job to become a full time MP. The reason for doing so was to be fair to both my residents and employer with my commitment of time. If I were to take on the NCMP role, the commitment in Parliament is quite similar to a full fledged MP.
However, unlike for an MP, it is not possible to be a full time NCMP. It will not be fair to my future employer to take leave from work every month. During budget debates, for example, you need to be away from work for at least 2 weeks.
The NCMP role commitment is similar to that of a full time MP. However, the basic monthly allowance they gain from this role is not viable for them to fulfill this duty as a full time job. Are there other better alternatives for the current NCMP system? One where opposition politicians can act not only as an alternative voice for the people, but also be given equal voting rights in regards to constitutional laws, and the chance to be part of a constituency, or work on-the-ground in a manner where they have the opportunity to engage and keep track of the problems of the residents.
These additional roles added would be a motivating factor to increase their basic monthly allowance to a practical salary that can allow them to focus on this role solely, instead of taking on another job to support their own family financially. This current NCMP system does not seem to be the best method for increased oppositional presence. We need a system where opposition candidates are not only heard, but one where they are part of the change in major decisions, and also have on-the-ground roles for them to continue staying intune with the people, rather than just speaking in parliament.
Written by: Cass
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Article for reading: 1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore