Time to change ‘us vs them’ mentality in S’pore politics

Published May 10, 2011

Time to change ‘us vs them’ mentality in S’pore politics


NOW that the elections are over, it is time for both the People’s Action Party (PAP) and opposition parties to put aside their differences, and work together for the betterment of Singapore’s future.

After all, like in the aftermath of a debate in the same school, we are all on the same side, even though in the heated debate and contest of the elections, we seemed to be at bitter odds against one another.

The ‘us against them’ mentality prevalent in our political history should stop.

More Singaporeans have played a more active role in these elections – not just as supporters of the various parties, but as ordinary Singaporeans helping to analyse policy issues and making suggestions.

Even the PAP has acknowledged that some of the opposition candidates’ proposals were worth looking into.

This is a good sign and a step forward, which is unprecedented in Singapore’s electoral history. Foreign Minister George Yeo put it succinctly when he said last Thursday that ‘we need a transformed PAP – whatever the outcome, there will be a lot of soul searching’, and then added on Saturday night, after the unprecedented defeat of three ministers in Aljunied GRC, that ‘a new chapter has opened in Singapore’s history’.

The fact that the PAP’s share of valid votes has dropped from the last general election’s 66.6 per cent to 60.1 per cent may also be an indication that the people of Singapore want change too.

For starters, the PAP should lift the party whip so that PAP members can vote against the party line in Parliament.

Whether this moment in our history will be remembered as the beginning of a golden era of democratic and political development may depend on the humility and magnanimity of the victors and the graciousness of the defeated, to work together as one family.

In this connection, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong’s response before the United Nations Human Rights Council to calls for Singapore to sign up to other human rights treaties (such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) – saying that it is something the Singapore government is considering – is yet another step forward for Singapore.

Perhaps we could also take a leaf from the book of the US political system, in which defeated politicians like Hillary Clinton (who was appointed secretary of state), as well as others from both the Democratic and Republican parties were given the opportunity to serve their country. This is in contrast to Singapore’s historical ‘winner takes all’ political culture.

Political reform is perhaps the buzz today, and it is not confined to just Singapore. Even Britain – one of the oldest democracies in the world, from which Singapore inherited the beginnings of its current political system – had a referendum last Thursday on whether to change the voting system from the current first-past-the-post system.

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.