The recent case of the barring of Workers Party member of parliament Chen Show Mao from attending 7th month dinners hosted by Aljunied residents is symptomatic of all that is currently wrong with the politics and policies of Singapore.
That it came to light so soon after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had promised to get the politics and policies right during his National Day Rally speech, must have come as a slap in the face for his government. Ironically, this slap came by way of the PAP's own apparatchik, the People's Association (PA), which, in turn, owes the ignoble honour to the Paya Lebar Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC).
This sad turn of affairs in governance and community management also only serves to further confirm what many people have long known, that the PA and CCC, despite their name, were actually pawns and tools for the furthering of the PAP's agenda, which in this case is the denial of fair opportunities for the elected member of parliament (MP) to serve and honour his constituents, especially if the MP was not from the PAP.
The obvious partisanship of the PA and CCC had been something I had alluded to and warned of in an earlier posting just two days before the May general election (5 May 2011: To whose drum beat does the public sector dance?), although my focus had then been on the civil service and town councils.
Beyond just showing up the unevenness of the playing field, the incident is a clear example of how the two entities have failed to live up to their names. It may be time to call a spade a spade instead of trying to fool the people anymore.
Maybe instead of continuing to present themselves as the People's Association and the Citizens' Consultative Committee, these organizations should substitute the words "People" and "Citizens" with the word "PAP" so that their allegiance is in no doubt.
The decision of the PA and CCC also smacks of utter disrespect and disregard towards the mandate that the people of Aljunied GRC had given to their elected representatives. If you ask me, the decision is no points lost to the Workers Party but will count as a huge body blow to the future ability of the PAP to regain the trust and confidence of the voters in the constituency.
In short, the PAP can thank the PA and CCC for single-handedly further alienating the people of the Paya Lebar division of the GRC. I guess in their, dare I say, naive effort to please their political masters, the CCC with the blessings of PA failed to take heed of PM's post-election promise to reform the party and improve its engagement with the people as well as his commitment to get the politics and policies right.
In an attempt to deflect attention away from the uneven treatment of non-PAP MPs, the mainstream media today ran the story with a clarification on the rules governing the use of open spaces.
Looking closely at the rules governing the use of open spaces, I am also befuddled how an MP's attendance at a religious observance can be construed as a political activity when the organizer's of the event are simply asking their elected representative to grace the event. After all, would the guest-of-honour not be attending in his capacity as a member of parliament for the GRC and not as an office bearer of the party he is with?
To argue that in the past PAP MPs attended such events in their capacity as government-appointed grassroots advisers is an attempt at splitting hairs and being fallacious because more often than not banners for such events would indicate their position as MPs rather than grassroots advisers. If such were the case, has the PAP been guilty of contravening the rules and have PA and the CCCs been complicit in abetting the wrong?
Also, it would seem rather illogical for the powers that be to argue that an elected member of parliament, who has been vested with the authority to represent his constituency by no less than the president, is not a grassroots adviser, simply on the technicality that he was not appointed by the PAP-led government. If you ask me, the role of grassroots adviser should be one that comes automatically with one's election as MP.
That such a policy/rule (government-appointed grassroots adviser) exists in its current form is obviously meant for the benefit of only one party - the PAP, and I have to wonder if the same policy/rule would be extended to non-PAP politicians who wish to continue building bridges in constituencies they had contested in and lost. More pointedly, would the government accede to a request from other political parties to appoint grassroots advisers in PAP-held wards? In short, if the PAP is allowed to have grassroots advisers in wards it lost, the same courtesy should be extended to the other political parties.
I make these point on the basis that grassroots advisers are appointed by the government and not the party, and as such, hope that in the interest of fair play and leveling the playing field, all MPs, irrespective of the party lines, are appointed as grassroots advisers and losing candidates be given the right to be appointed as grassroots advisers. This would immediately have the effect of removing any doubt in the minds of the PA, the CCCs and the organizers of community events requiring the use of public open spaces on whether they are contravening any rules.
This would also help us advance together towards getting the politics and policies right, not for the interest of any one party but for the greater good of Singapore society.