From ‘WP town council and the sound of silence’, 10 Dec 2014, article by Lawrence Wong, Opinion, ST
…Every year that the Workers’ Party (WP) has run AHPETC, the town council has been consistently flagged “red”, both for its service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears management and its corporate governance.
…MND is naturally concerned. It has queried AHPETC several times. But so far, all we have got from AHPETC are prevarications, non-answers, and sweeping assurances that things will be all right.
…There is a disturbingly familiar pattern in how the WP responds whenever questions are raised about its conduct. It has happened again and again – cleaning hawker centres, running illegal trade fairs and, now, managing S&CC arrears.
First, its leaders say it is not a big deal. Then, when they can no longer pretend it is not a big deal, they blame someone else – the National Environment Agency, the People’s Action Party, even the AGO. Then, when their excuses are exposed one by one, they say “we are looking into the matter”, or that things will be explained – in “due time”. And then, more silence.
Perhaps, the WP hopes that by lying low and keeping its head down, the matter will go away. The public may forget, or even better, not notice. But it will not, and the public will not. Instead, the WP’s credibility and integrity are slowly but surely draining away.
After my colleague Desmond Lee, as well as many residents and commentators in the media, raised questions, I was expecting the WP to issue a prompt and full reply, and end its long and damaging silence. Sadly, nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, there is silence – one that is growing more deafening by the day.
Lawrence Wong and Desmond Lee aren’t the only ones unimpressed by the WP’s ‘sounds of silence’. Hri Kumar compared the WP’s tendency to avoid ‘difficult questions’ and fence-sitting to Humpty Dumpty in a Facebook post similarly inspired by a Simon and Garfunkel classic. Ng Eng Hen had strong words for the opposition party back in 2008, that they were ‘fudging’ on national issues and were guilty of ‘cop-outs’ and ‘double-talk’. Even when one of their own, Yaw Shin Leong, was caught pants down, there was a ‘kind of hush’ within the WP camp. Ironically, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, one of the WP’s fiercest critics, was once no fan of the PAP himself, before he was successfully ‘co-opted’ into the regime.
The PAP considers such dithering an integrity breach, while some observers think this golden silence is a ‘shrewd’ tactic, designed to make their accusers look like quick-tempered, impatient bullies looking to score brownie points while offering no solution of their own, whereas the outnumbered WP are the quiet, stoic ones who don’t need to bark in Parliament all day to get the job done on the ground where it really matters, as the name of their party suggests. Low Thia Khiang once referred to himself as a ‘watchdog’ over the PAP, and later a ‘co-driver’ who would not hesitate to slap the driver if he falls asleep. But it has become obvious by now which ‘driver’ is the one being repeatedly slapped in the face.
3 years on, and the WP doesn’t look like any of these things, spending more time defending their honour against PAP MPs lining up to call their bluff, demand for useful opinions over culturally sensitive issues like hijab as part of uniformed groups, or outright calling them ‘false and untruthful’ because they know they can jolly well get away with it, in the spirit of LKY’s blasting of James Gomez as a liar. Is this our ‘watchdog’s’ idea of a ‘First World Parliament’ or ‘constructive politics’? Will we see the day when Lawrence Wong sends a handwritten Xmas card to Sylvia Lim and gang with the message ‘Keep up the good work’? Instead of collaborating, our politicians find themselves constantly embroiled in a fault-finding circus, PAP members shaking hands only during the National Day Parade in front of camera, after which they go back to the normal high-horse routine of ‘Which WP MP shall I pick on today?’
Maybe it’s time for the PAP to dig deeper rather than pick on the most convenient of targets, because what’s more worrying is the silence of their own members when it comes to their own policies. The last MP I recall providing the slightest semblance to internal feedback was Inderjit Singh’s problem with the White Paper, where he called for plans to ‘delay further population growth for now’. Yet, when it came to the crunch, he ‘was not present during the vote’. It’s not so much a quiet, minority opposition that bothers me, but a group of yes-men blindly following the party line, taking the easy way out without a fight. The silence that’s most deafening is not the disgruntled, sulky WP type, but the slavish, obedient one.