Constructive politics gets a heated airing

Constructive politics gets a heated airing
Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang (left) and Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah.

SINGAPORE - There was as much heat as light when the topic of constructive politics was discussed in Parliament yesterday.

Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang set the ball rolling, but came under fire from several ruling party MPs, including Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah.

In his speech, Mr Low said that Singaporeans have to decide "via the ballot box" what kind of political culture they want as a country. Political culture, he said, is one of the aspects needed to achieve constructive politics in Singapore.

"If the people continue to support the governing party that uses high-handed tactics against its political opponents, we are endorsing a bullying political culture. If the people support a governing party that uses government resources, including civil servants, to serve its partisan goals we are condoning the abuse of political power as an acceptable culture," added Mr Low.

During his Parliament address on May 16, President Tony Tan Keng Yam welcomed robust debate but called for "constructive politics" which puts Singaporeans first.

Constructive politics, said Mr Low, does not happen by the "order of the government" or "through a national conversation or public consultation".

"To achieve the outcome of constructive politics in diverse and open societies like those in mature democracies, and to nurture an environment conducive for it, requires much effort," he added.

Ms Indranee, however, pointed out that Mr Low's speech was "wholly devoted to the topic of politics" and disregarded the rest of the President's Address, which outlined the Government's agenda for the future of Singapore.

"There are various ways to interpret this disregarding of the entire agenda. Perhaps Mr Low feels that our politics is not working or Mr Low has no constructive alternatives to the challenges that we face; perhaps none which he thinks that are constructive," she added.

Ms Indranee also brought up the issue of integrity which she suggested WP had failed to demonstrate.

"Above all, constructive politics must mean upholding the highest standards ... integrity. It means that if you take over a town council worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and then give out contracts to your own supporters worth millions of dollars without a tender, what kind of political values are those?" she added.

Mr Low responded that "award of the contract to the managing agent is through an open tender". "It is not something that we signed under the table," he said.

Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said constructive politics is not about being "populist" to win more support but about coming up with effective solutions.

Vikram Nair, MP for Sembawang GRC, said: "Constructive politics is one way that... people work together as a team to solve problems and not play games either against other people in their own party or against other parties just for the sake of staying in power."

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