Sunday, 6 September 2015

Politics is about success through stability, not a popularity contest: K Shanmugam

The Law and Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking at a walkabout, says suggestions GST will be hiked after the General Election are “scaremongering” tactics by the Opposition.
By Kyle Malinda, Channel NewsAsia, 5 Sep 2015

Suggestions made by Opposition politicians – such as the Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang – that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be raised should the People’s Action Party (PAP) be returned to power are “scaremongering” tactics, said Mr K Shanmugam.

“Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been very clear there’s no raise. So this is really a scaremongering tactic, ignoring what the Finance Minister has said,” said the Law and Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking during a walkabout at Northpoint Shopping Centre on Saturday (Sep 5).

On comments made by the Workers’ Party, which is fielding a team to contest his Nee Soon GRC ward, that more Opposition MPs were needed to serve as “checks and balances” to the PAP, Mr Shanmugam said that changes to policies had started “a long time ago” - before 2011, when the WP won a GRC in the General Election.

“If you look at the record, PAP MPs raise a wide range of topics (in Parliament),” said the Minister. He used the example of policies to help people rise in income, regardless of their starting point in terms of their family background.

“This is because of policies that started a long time ago, the active moving up of people and levelling up of society, rather than pulling people down. These policies didn’t start in 2011 - they couldn’t have started in 2011 because there’s no way you can see the results now.”

This happened due to vigorous debate led by Members of Parliament from the PAP, said Mr Shanmugam, pointing to another Nee Soon GRC candidate on his team, Ms Lee Bee Wah.

“Are PAP MPs contributing? They give a lot of intense feedback, and raise issues in Parliament which ministers have to answer in public. (For example,) Ms Lee is known as a person who raises a lot of questions, fights for her residents, gets things done. So the residents benefit, national issues also get debated,” he said.


Mr Shanmugam said that the electoral system - with citizens able to speak with their votes - serves as means for the people to keep the PAP accountable.

“I think the electoral system in Singapore has delivered for Singapore. Whether there is Opposition or not, the PAP always keeps on its toes,” he said.

“First, the sizes of our constituencies are small, and we have a low threshold for people to come and compete in elections. We’ve made it deliberately so – not too expensive – so if ever the people feel we are not performing, they will be able to vote us out.

“Since 1965, 50 years, the PAP has always held elections regularly – the only country in the democratic world of the newly-independent countries that has had elections without corruption. We believe in elections. We believe in having the people as a sovereign voice.

“Policies may be popular or unpopular. We don’t judge policies as a popularity contest. That’s how the Workers’ Party does it. Policies have to be judged on whether they’re good or not good for Singaporeans. Sometimes policies are unpopular, but we take on the task of explaining to Singaporeans – even at a political cost – and saying, this is necessary.”

But to ensure debate is constructive and does not end in gridlock, the party maintains its Whip to ensure there is “political stability”.

“When it comes to voting, there is what is called the Whip, meaning you have to vote in accordance with what the Government decides, otherwise you can’t run a Government if everyone can vote whichever way they want,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“Which is why we have political stability. And political stability is what delivered our success. Likewise, Workers’ Party MPs have a whip too – they all vote according to the direction of the party. This is a practice in many places, it’s not unique to the PAP.”

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