can you see where I'M coming from, Mr Lee?
Friday • April 14, 2006
Lee Ching Wern
WHEN I walked away from the recording of the television forum with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Monday night, I couldn't help thinking that a lot of what he said was true.
As we bombarded him non-stop with questions about an unfair political playing field, the lack of a strong Opposition and the issue of apolitical Singaporeans, he addressed our frustrations one by one with such clarity that you had to wonder for a minute whether your arguments held any water to begin with.
Young Singaporeans rant about a tilted political playing field, he said, but whoever said that politics was fair?
You lament the lack of a strong Opposition, but are you prepared to leave your comfort zone and join one?
Mr Lee's point was, because we are well taken care of, there is no motivation for most people to make such a sacrifice; those with the ability to step up to the political plate would rather make more money.
And should the party whites be tainted one day, the People's Action Party (PAP) will naturally be displaced, said Mr Lee. Because then, competent people will inevitably feel the impetus to come together and fight the PAP for the sake of better lives.
Above all, politics is not about elections or voting. Politics is about life, the Minister Mentor said.
I can see where Mr Lee is coming from.
But even as I try to look at things from his perspective, I wonder if he is doing the same to understand where we are coming from — that what young Singaporeans like me want, does not necessarily clash with what the PAP Government wants.
As a young Singaporean, I want an opposition — not to bring the PAP down, but to provide an alternative. A healthy dose of competition always benefits consumers.
I want checks and balances — not because the PAP is not doing a good job, but because I'd rather not get to the point-of-no-return before a group of people rise up against a rogue Government.
I want to talk about party politics freely without having to join a party — not because I want to slander the PAP, but because I yearn for a lively discourse that can lead to a greater political and social consciousness.
And surely our Government, which has the best candidates available in Singapore and an impeccable track record, can withstand a few biased comments?
I resent the restriction on podcasting — not because we are all avid fans of Dr Chee Soon Juan; most of us probably haven't even listened to his recordings offered on the Singapore Democratic Party website — but because I think we should not be deprived of the right to judge for ourselves what's gibberish or not.
I accept the fact that there is no such thing as a completely level playing field anywhere in the world, but surely there exists varying degrees of fairness?
Politics is about life and bread-and- butter issues, but surely having fewer unnecessary restrictions adds to this quality of life?
I do not think the pursuit of intangible wants such as more political breathing space necessarily has to be at the expense of tangible needs such as my job, my Medisave and my children's future.
Do a good job, and I will vote for you whether I watch Martyn See's Singapore Rebel or not.
What we need is for the PAP to have more confidence in its own merit and record, and to understand that what we young Singaporeans want, really, is not so sinister.
Otherwise, even if we go through another 10 candid forums, we will still be running along parallel lines that will never converge.
The writer is a journalist with Today. She was one of 10 Singaporeans under the age of 30 who participated in the forum, "Why my vote matters — A dialogue with the Minister Mentor", broadcast on Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday. The repeat telecast is at 6.30pm today on MediaCorp Channel 5.