Sunday 8 December 2013

Hri Kumar fires new salvo at WP for staying 'silent'

By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2013

THREE weeks after attacking the Workers' Party (WP) for not taking a stand on contentious issues, People's Action Party MP Hri Kumar Nair went on the offensive again yesterday.

In a Facebook post titled "The Sounds of Silence", he questioned why the opposition party had yet to respond to his earlier post.

"The Straits Times on 18 November 2013 reported that it was considering whether to respond. Three weeks have passed, and not a squeak from them," wrote Mr Hri Kumar, an MP in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Many had commented on his initial post, he added, and while there was a diversity of reactions, "nobody, not a single soul, disagreed with the assertion that the WP runs away from difficult issues".

His Nov 16 post had 236 comments at press time.

Yesterday, he said some who responded had highlighted other matters the WP had kept mum on. These included the recent hacking of government websites, and where the State should draw the line on welfare and social assistance programmes.

His earlier post had cited examples, like the issue of whether uniformed public servants should be allowed to don the hijab as one in which the WP was sitting on the fence.

Yesterday, he gave another example of the WP not taking a stand when the opportunity arose. It was a panel discussion scheduled for October titled "Is it safe to say... there is freedom of expression in Singapore". He had been invited by organisers to take part. But two days before the event, he received a call, saying it was cancelled as the WP, though invited, declined to send a representative.

"One would have thought that this was the kind of platform the opposition would jump at to share their views," he wrote.

Mr Hri Kumar also referred to a Straits Times commentary in last Saturday's edition which referred to his Facebook post and said WP's Gerald Giam had spoken in Parliament about health care.

The commentary missed the point, he said, as the crux of the Non-Constituency MP's speech was the Government should spend more on health care.

"That is precisely the kind of safe position the WP takes because it carries little risk of losing votes... There is nothing wrong with asking the Government to do more. But a call to 'do more' does not require any genius. The more difficult questions include 'how much more?', 'where is that more going to come from?', 'will there be better outcomes?' and 'are there any down sides to the Government doing more?'"

These questions are needed to test a proposal's feasibility and rigour, he added.

"Unless you offer your views on these questions as well, you are giving the misleading impression that there are simple solutions to every problem."

Singapore, he added, is at a critical phase and has to confront difficult issues. Singaporeans' interests are not advanced when the opposition's instinct is to say only what they think people want to hear, and then retreat from difficult questions.

"Is this how a 'First World Parliament' operates?" he asked, using a term the WP had campaigned on during the 2011 General Election.

Citizens are best served by politicians who take a stand and not sit on the fence, he concluded, adding: "Because we all know what happened to Humpty Dumpty."


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