Friday, October 21, 2011

Hoping For Adversarial But Objective Politics

Yesterday, on 20 Oct 2011, I read in the Straits Times ('GLCs crowding out small firms', ST, 20 Oct 2011) that Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Ms Sim Ann, in response to Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Mr. Yee Jenn Jong's speech, questioned Mr. Yee if he "thought that schools were an appropriate platform to introduce politics" (note: in his speech, Mr. Yee suggested Singapore "should further broaden learning to include political education so that students can grow up with a wider spectrum of thoughts").

That Ms Sim posed such a question to Mr. Yee seems to imply that she (and perhaps the party and Government that she represents?) does not agree with his suggestion to introduce political education in local schools.

If this is the case, I wonder what Ms Sim think of the proposal by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law Mr. K. Shanmugam two years ago that Singaporean students should be educated about "political systems, philosophies or histories of societies" so that they will be able to "look carefully at the liberal democratic model and help them decide which aspects best suit Singapore. And the PAP’s message, which is based on the serious realities of Singapore, can continue to resonate with the electorate".

Would Ms Sim also question Mr. Shanmugam on whether it is appropriate to introduce politics in local schools? Or would she not pose such a question because Mr. Shanmugam is a Minister from her party? Was it because Mr. Yee is from an opposition party and therefore Ms Sim needs to rebut whatever point he makes?

The larger point I am trying to make here is that while it is perhaps inevitable that politics will be somewhat adversarial in nature, in that it involves the contesting of stances and ideas between different political parties and groups, my hope is that it will remain objective despite this. By this, I am hoping that although parties inevitably have to demonstrate that their stance and policy ideas are correct and superior to that of other parties, they will nonetheless still objectively evaluate the merits of points raised by other parties and acknowledge when a valid point is raised, instead of trying to rebut every point made by other parties regardless of the merits of the point.

Looking at how PAP Ministers and MPs have (making full use of their strength in numbers), over the past few days, vigorously tried to rebut the points put forth by opposition MPs and NCMPs, I think my hope for adversarial but objective politics is far from being realised. But hopefully, it will be realised one day.

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