“In the five years since the last election, the governing party has had ‘tea sessions’ with more than 260 prospects, sometimes travelling abroad if these individuals worked overseas, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen, a senior party member, said in a recent forum” (Candidate Selection, Singapore-Style, Mr. Seth Mydans).
The People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate selection process is a tight-lipped affair, as expounded in the commentary “Candidate Selection, Singapore-Style” (April 23, 2011) by Mr. Seth Mydans, and members of the PAP’s central executive committee go to great lengths to interview and shortlist capable Singaporeans to contest as political candidates. The process is lengthy, complicated and tedious, but the intention is quite straightforward: to pragmatically identify potential politicians – and even Cabinet ministers – to run Singapore effectively and efficiently. However, the question more and more individuals are asking is this: what if the PAP is wrong?
Correspondingly, what if the PAP’s policy positions or recommendations are misguided, and might potentially be detrimental for the development of Singapore in the long-run? What if the political representatives are then selected based upon these premises; premises in the socio-economic sphere that are no longer feasible and constructive for Singaporeans? Under such circumstances, when too much reliance and faith is placed upon the shoulders of the ruling administration, are there reliable safeguards to ensure that mechanisms remain functional? Are there sufficient checks and balances outside the PAP framework to ensure functionality beyond the status quo?
Given the evolving global sentiments, and proliferation of local challenges, no one can predict where Singapore would be in five years time; let alone be empowered with the knowledge on how to run the country effectively during the period. That is exactly what some Opposition parties have been cautioning against. In spite of the PAP’s illustrious track record, are we prepared for the ramifications of bad decisions – in this case, in its selection of candidates and future politicians – for our country?
Furthermore, the uproar over Miss Tin Pei Ling’s selection reflects a significant divergence of opinions between the ruling elite and on-the-ground constituents: the former believes in her grassroots experiences and ability to connect with younger Singaporeans, the latter rue her political immaturity and lacklustre performances in front of the camera, when quizzed about socio-economic issues. Transparency emerges as a primary concern, since the PAP has been considerably superficial in its defence of Miss Tin, asserting that she has a good sense of the ground, and the makings of a responsible parliamentarian. It feels as if Singaporeans have to taken the PAP’s words for granted, and have unquestioned confidence in a selection system – a process which is kept tightly under wraps – and the candidates that it produces.
It is not just that familiarity breeds contempt; relishing in the comforts of conservatism and the stability of the status quo breeds unchecked hubris and arrogance. Perhaps some sentiments of dissent would be productive in keeping those in power on their toes.