Open letter to Mr. Lee Hsien Loong
Dear Mr Lee,
On the May 3, 2011, you said "if we didn't get it right, I'm sorry. But we will try better the next time".
Well, "the next time" has arrived.
Next, the citizens of Singapore are aware you are sorry, however, you did not commit many of the mistakes. Are the people who have committed those mistakes sorry too?
And lastly, let me assure you, you didn't get it right.
I speak in my own capacity, but I'm sure somewhere along the way, I speak for many whom most of the PAP candidates, in their acceptance speeches, have said they will listen to. I do not have any political affiliations. I am an ordinary Singaporean. As you will see from my suggestions, I do not have anything personal to gain from this, at least not monetarily, except that it will make Singapore a better place to live. In fact, in all honesty, you have more to gain from this than me, should you be able to achieve and implement my suggestions. I am not a trained writer. I am not a trained politician. So, please excuse any mistakes I may have made in my writing.
I, for one, am going to hold you to your apology and the fact that in the late evening of May 7 and early morning of May 8, everyone from the PAP was suddenly willing to listen to the voters.
I am also aware that not everything is an easy or immediate fix. However, some are and I will start with those.
(1) Eliminate the Senior Minister and Minister Mentor positions
These positions are absolutely redundant. Unless, of course, you are saying that you are incapable of running the country yourself. I personally think you are more than capable of doing this job yourself without the need of 2 other people acting as your advisors. You received, what I would consider to be a strong mandate at the polls. I think others are also confident of your abilities. There is no other developed country in the world who have similar positions and we definitely don't want to continue being the first to require three people to lead the country. I am sure that if you ever needed advice on any difficult issues, these two respected gentlemen would be more than willing to do so on a personal capacity.
(2) Eliminate Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and redraw electoral boundary lines with immediate effect
The fact that BG George Yeo is no longer going to be part of the next cabinet and Tin Pei Ling (more about her later) is going to be a Member of Parliament are good enough reasons.
The reasons for enacting GRCs MAY have been valid 20 years ago. Given the constant reassurance that Singapore is a harmonious multi-racial, multi-religious country, I am sure most people will not vote along racial and religious lines. I am Chinese, if Mr Pritam Singh stood in my ward, I would vote for him any day of the week. My friend in Tampines, who is Malay, tells me that the only reason she voted for the PAP is because of Ms Irene Ng. I believe the citizens are sophisticated enough to vote for the person who can sell and present the best ideas, the most realistic plans and show they do really care. The GRC system has worked to the PAP's favor prior to these elections. On May 7, it took it's first casualty. I'm positive, in 2016, it will take more casualties.
If, as many in the government have claimed, this society is based on meritocracy, then let the person represent himself/herself based on their own merits and not on the merits of others.
If, as the government claims, the elections are fair, then level the playing field and let the members of other parties start campaigning on the Monday after elections. What harm could this possibly to do society? It will only enable more people to work and speak up for the voices that can't be heard, those that "fall through the cracks". It can only improve the country we live in.
(3) Mr Wong Kan Seng
Mr Wong, if he really chooses to SERVE, should not have a cabinet appointment, and definitely not in the capacity of Co-ordinator of National Security. The number of "sorry"s you say will not undo the fact that Mr Wong was the person who should have taken full responsibility for Mas Selamat's escape. The fact that he still holds a cabinet position, the fact that he thinks 57% is a strong mandate only proofs how out of touch the government is with the people. Mr Wong, if he honestly feels he wants to serve his constituents, should continue to do so in the capacity of a Member of Parliament for this electoral term.
(4) Good and Services Tax (GST)
GST should not be imposed on daily necessities, in particular, food (raw food, not cooked food). The business environment has made it hard for small convenience stores to stay in business. There are not as many as there used to be. Most Singaporeans resort to purchasing their food to prepare for meals at the NTUCs, Shop n Save's, etc. This is because heartlands are designed in that manner. I'm aware that purchasing the same food products at a wet market and/or a smaller convenient store will not incur a GST charge, but how many people have the luxury of going to the wet market in the morning or traveling the extra 10 minutes to a nearby convenience store instead of going directly to a supermarket. Many people buy what they need on the way home from work. We are no longer the Singapore of the 70s where our mothers used to go marketing in the mornings or on weekends. GST on daily necessities only serves to take away more from the segment that already cannot afford it.
(5) Labor Laws
(i) Introduce an act whereby companies can only hire a foreigner if no more qualified local candidate can fill that position.
(ii) Impose a quota on the number of work permits handed out each year and put a term limit (like 3, 4 or 5 years) on each work permit.
(iii) Foreigners who are here as tourists (no work visa or any other visa) cannot apply for a job, regardless of whether the position can or cannot be filled by a local. The only exceptions to this may be the spouses of foreigners already here on certain specific visas.
(6) Members of Parliament
This should be a full time job. If one has to represent a minimum of slightly more than 17,000 people (using Potong Pasir as an example), how can we expect the person to do that on a part time basis?
(7) Financial Statements
With all due respect, I believe, we the citizens of Singapore pay your salary. Which means, you, the elected officials, work for us. As someone who contributes to your salary, I would like to see the full financial statements for Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Temasek Holdings. In addition, I would also like to be able to understand why the Youth Olympic Games budget was overshot by almost 300%.
(8) Internal Security Act (ISA)
Abolish the ISA. Singapore is no longer in its growth stage. We have matured. The ISA, may have been necessary in our earlier years. It is no longer necessary. If you are able to detain someone, you should be able to charge him/her with a crime. Otherwise, why detain them? It is extremely subjective to detain someone based on the fact that you think that person is about to do something. Lives of many innocent people have been destroyed due to the ISA and no one, not even these people, have ever heard an apology. This is an extremely subjective act that allows the government to rule by fear. I think the message at these last elections are very clear. Singaporeans are sick and tired of living in a society governed by fear.
(9) Government salaries and bonus compensations
Let me state unequivocally that I do not grudge your salaries. My problem is that with the amount you are compensated, you don't seem to be doing enough to justify that amount. Please remember, we pay you, we are your employers.
With the amount you are compensated, is it really necessary for a bonus, let alone an eight-month bonus?
Is it justified that your bonuses are tied to GDP performance? Like pointed out many times during these elections, GDP growth does not benefit anyone if there is also no income appreciation. But, with both GDP growth and income appreciation comes inflation. Is this really the direction Singapore wants to take?
My proposal is that any salary adjustments and/or bonuses have to be approved by referendum.
Honestly, the government has created its own monster it now doesn't know how to control. With your high salaries, it is inevitable that a lot is expected out of you. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone is in agreement that you are performing to their expectations.
10) Tin Pei Ling
Say you are sorry, it was an honest mistake, get her to resign or otherwise fire her, and let's move on.
During the elections, the PAP kept campaigning on the fact that the opposition has no track record? What track record does Ms Tin have? She appears to be as ordinary as me.
Also, during the elections, the PAP kept asking if the opposition candidates were able to hit the ground running. Is Ms Tin able to hit the ground running? Mr Goh has already suggested a "buddy system" which suggests to me that she is not quite ready.
Ms Tin is supposed to represent Gen Y. If the PAP is truly in touch with the ground, ask Gen Y. I think the Gen Y people are more opposed to her than the rest of the population.
Ms Tin is definitely a poor reflecton (not just an image issue) of the quality of a PAP candidate we have grown to expect. She does not represent herself well. She appears to be too immature to represent her constituents. She was a selection process mistake. I believe we all accept that people make mistakes. The PAP has rarely made mistakes in their selection of new candidates. I am sure the public will accept this gracefully. This is no longer a joke for the PAP. If not fixed immediately, it will turn out to be a PAP credibility issue.
Very sincerely yours,
A hopeful Singaporean