Politically APathetic (PAP)? A youth speaks out.

Colonial Past

1st May 2011. Written by Mu Yao and Xin Li.
Labour Day.

With the General Elections nearing, it is not surprisingly that everyone seemed to be interested in politics even my mum attended a political rally yesterday. Here is a note posted by Mu Yao. Some food for thought before the elections?

Elections Department

Politically APathetic (PAP)? A youth speaks out.
By Chris Lim Mu Yao:

I was having coffee and lunch with a friend the other day. She asked me, "What do you think of the opposition in Singapore?" I always felt alot of things, but I guess I never had the chance to properly articulate it out in a proper fashion.


My generation of youth is Politically APathetic (PAP?). Growing up with a generation of economic progress and being generally well educated, we see changes in our everyday urban landscape, for the better.

Most times, we get things as they are, accept the status quo and generally think that this was all done by the PAP. We don't contribute to CPF, don't work, don't pay tax, but still serve NS. But do most of us feel for Singapore? Yes we do.

In all in cheesy government campaigns, tacky ACES day exercises and heartwarming NDPs, we love Singapore. And so our primary interests for the country are issue-based, not along party lines. Perhaps that's the issue - we don't know what does each party stand for specifically, and cannot see the multi-faceted nature of each policy made. Each government policy and bill, we think, pushed through the PAP-dominant parliament was always sanctioned and thought of to be the best.

And the opposition? They stand for all things different from the PAP - that has governed what it has been, and perhaps what it still is. There are no stances on issues for each party, resulting in an inadequate and fuzzy understanding of what each party stands for.

And since PAP does EVERYTHING from promoting babies to putting more rubbish bins on streets, there is no opposition involvement in them for the people to compare who's track record is better.

National Service

The Problem with the PAP.

I'm just here to say firstly, this is not meant to be a PAP-bashing post. Same for the opposition. Every general election, all the PAP says "Vote for credible leadership. Just look at our track record." I mean yeah, that's easy for you to say, you've been in power all these years and when you tell voters to compare "track records" with the opposition when there is none? Get real.

They weren't empowered to do much in the first place. Just another example. Just yesterday, MM Lee said "If Aljunied decides to go that way (and vote for the opposition), well Aljunied has five years to live and repent." That's just awfully haughty, cocky and off-putting. I quote how some netizens feel towards this: "Quite disgused by MM Lee's comments on WP. No matter how great PAP is, I don't see a need for them to put others down. (SamanthaDelina on twitter)" No wonder Singaporeans are angry. And this is the first problem. Tone.

Tanjong Pagar

The second problem lies more in the fact that you PAP guys like to dangle carrots. Every GE. To us, that's vote-buying. Vote PAP to get my HDB block upgraded first? An election is really, ultimately, more than that. You have to consider voices. The people want to feel - have you heard my voice? If you run your rallies and pack them with candidates promising to "build x and build y" for their estates, are you sure you've heard their voices?

I mean, not all 25 year olds use foot reflexology paths you know. Or children's playgrounds for that matter. We are not stupid. Show us that you are genuine and sincere in hearing our voices instead of consistently dangling carrots and employing hard-sell tactics to win votes.

That's not the point of a GE, the point of it is hearing what the people have to say and acting on it. (And personally, just on a side note, my wet market was upgraded not too long ago, before it got torn down AGAIN to be rebuilt. That's just unnecessarily wasteful! Really too much upgrading at times... especially for Marine Parade. Do those flats need to be repainted every goddamn 6 months!?!)

Urban Development

Be sincere to our voices. That includes acknowledging some of the crap that has happened in the last 5 years. Like the crazy increase of transport fares year on year, in coincidental tandem with the increase of profits of these bus companies, just to name a few. Acknowledge that your government is not perfect, that there are problems, and that you are willing to solve them. Offer solutions. And use those solutions to compare against the opposition. Then you will convince voters and win votes. That's how you win elections.

City Hall (National Art Gallery)

The problem with the Opposition.
I agree with the general consensus (amongst the opposition) that this government needs to have an alternative voice. The PAP, or no one single party in the world for that matter, can have claim to all credible and sensible policy makers (and voices) in its party. That's why you need an opposition, not a parliament of backbenchers that go yay and yes at every policy. The question is, how much?

Old Parliament Lane

Sylvia Lim points out that it'll be ideal to have the opposition control 1/3rd of the entire parliament to ensure that there can be no constitutional amendments undergone from the ruling party. They want to abolish the NCMP scheme. But we succeeded into coming where we are today largely by the political authoritarianism that was first set in stone by dear MM Lee.

Being a history student, I look to other countries in the region and world and say that a powerful alternative voice isn't always that great. One must strike a balance between decisive governance and political representation.

Governance is like cooking - one must have a good enough diversity of ingredients to make a good dish but too many ingredients may mar the dish. Burma is where it is today because of the failure and subsequent discrediting of parliamentary democracy as a suitable system of governance. It was once, the shining beacon of parliamentary democracy amongst the Commonwealth countries and the region. And one of the most well-educated and economically developed countries in the region in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Indonesia flirted with parliamentary democracy too - in fact, 6 governments fell in 5 years. How to run a country like that?


Perhaps you tell me its unfair if I were to compare against countries like that, for each country is different. But fundamentally politicians are motivated by the same premises, and at the end of the day, citizens are not the ones to be held accountable if things go wrong with the country with flawed leadership at helm. And politicians have to stand up for what they stand for in parliament. And if they are too many different things being fought for in government - it gets chaotic, and the lobbying and stuff like that comes in. Its a whole lot messier and introduces alot of bureaucratic brouhaha in parliament (just like the US?). Alot of energy is spent on this lobbying by parliamentarians (in order to get things done), and that takes away time from the people - who are supposedly what politicians are fighting for in the first place.


The second problem is that the opposition, I feel, opposes too much just for the sake of being the opposition. As such, the opposition seems to be defined by what it opposes, and not what it proposes. I feel that for certain issues, however imperfect, do not warrant a totally radical new approach towards it. Housing policy? Its in the right direction, just provide more subsidies that's all! No need for rental flats and nonsense like that. Abolish PA just because of its linkage to the PAP? And lose such a crucial part of the grassroots framework just like that? Abolish the NCMP scheme because it doesn't give opposition voting rights to "check and balance" the incumbents? Alternative voices do the job, just not as well, but it offers one mega upside to the opposition's alternative - the right to decisive and efficient governance, which is a crucial reason for Singapore's success today.

What the opposition needs now is courage - a courage to acknowledge that some of the PAP's policies are in the right direction, but they just need to be fine tuned that's all. That's how you bring out "better policies" with alternative voices, Mr Chen Show Mao. Only then will it be recognised as a real credible voice in government, and have the chops to lead in government. Then you'll be voted in, and win elections. Don't oppose for the sake of opposing.

Towards Telok Blangah

The last problem with the opposition is sort of related to the second one. The PAP's constant refrains of the opposition having unsound policy and being merely "populist rhetoric" does hold some water.

For example, just take a look at NSP's proposal to cut down NS by one year. And how are we going to have ops duty then? How will we be able to have a standby force on the ready to respond to threats and be ready to move out in a few hours? Will we have adequately trained commanders? We are not Taiwan, we don't have that big a population and neither do we have a sizeable force of regulars to run the army alone. They are so many problems this proposed policy raises up, and the opposition thus far has kept silent on how to address them. So, how to say you are credible? I try to speak up for you I also cannot do anything ah.

So both sides have problems. So how, my fellow youth? Be Politically APathetic (PAP) loh.

Trading Port

Here is another post found on Daniel’s Food Diary entitled “Food and the General Elections – I miss my 50c kopi”. If you fancy something light-hearted, you can head to Mr Brown.com.


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