This article was first published in 'Hammer' issue 09/ 01.
In the article “PM Lee says two-party political model cannot work in Singapore” , published on the Channel NewsAsia website, PM Lee Hsien Loong said, "The country is much better off with one dominant party, as long as the PAP provides clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve."
It is true, the country will be in good and safe hands as long as PAP provides a clean and good government. But having another political party in parliament would provide the much needed checks and balances for the PAP government. This alternative party will keep the government on their toes to make sure that the PAP remains clean and efficient. It is an insurance against failure. Without an opposition party, complacency will set in and it could be too late to turn back the clock.
Having an alternative political party is akin to investing your money for the future – for your retirement, for your kids, and your grand kids. When we plan to grow our money, for instance, we diversify our risks; we invest our money in various areas, such as fixed deposits, equities, and government bonds. This is done because we understand the meaning of, ‘Don’t put all your eggs into one basket’. Likewise when it comes to governing a country, we should not rely on only one political party.
Allow me to illustrate why, by using the same analogy of investing for the future
1) You can’t plan your future in the future; you got to plan it now.
No one plans their future in the future because it’s impossible! Being the government of Singapore, it is the PAP’s duty to ensure that the future of Singapore is taken care of. Should the PAP fail, does PM Lee expect any political party to just spring up and take over the governance of Singapore? There will be NO time for any good alternative party to take over because one such party will need years to build up its credibility.
PM Lee had said: "If the party doesn't work, if something goes wrong with the party, you can be sure new parties will come, new contests will come. People will spring up to take on the government in no time at all."
The truth is, if any party were to spring up from nowhere and start governing, Singapore will be in even great danger. In other words, you have to get it when you don't want it, so that you have it when you need it.
2) You can say “I don't need it”, but can you say “your family won't need it”?
PM Lee can say he doesn’t need a 2-political party system, but can he say the same thing for Singaporeans? During the General Elections in 2006, at least 33.4% of Singaporeans who were eligible and had the chance to vote, expressed in their votes that they NEED an alternative party.
3) No person ever dies at the “right time”
Should the PAP fail, it may happen at the worst time, for example, during a severe recession. Like death, it is almost uncertain to predict when it will happen. Therefore, we need an alternative party that is able to take over anytime. So it is not wise to say, “I want an alternative party in the government, but now is not the right time.” The truth is, there is no such thing as a “right time”, because we will never know when is that right time until it is too late.
4) Don’t leave it to chance
Are we, Singaporeans, going to leave it to chance? The chance of the PAP failing and to have any political party to spring up to take over our country? Shouldn’t we be having the alternative party NOW so that we can choose and decide which is the best one?
5) Doing nothing may be the worst thing to do
Sometimes the biggest price that you pay in the world is doing nothing. And that could be the worst thing that you do. If we want change or expect change for the better, then we have to do something. If there is any alternative party that aspires to bring about positive changes, that party will have to start doing the work now. That party has to start playing an alternative role in parliament now.
In conclusion, the government encourages all Singaporeans to plan for the future, to ensure that one has enough funds to tide us through our retirement until the day we die. In Singapore, the CPF scheme is itself a form of investment in our future; it ensures that we have enough funds on which to live after we retire. The new compulsory CPF Life scheme which will kick in by 2013, is another example.
Our government plans ahead. But when it comes to the need for an alternative party, the government does NOT plan ahead. Regardless of how formidable the PAP might be, it will still need another political party because even the Titanic which was supposed to be unsinkable, has life boats and life buoys on board.
Incidentally, the Titanic sank in 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.