Citizens should form their own opinion on what constructive politics should be, while politicians have their own.
We should stay focused on outcomes that would benefit the people and the nation, when playing this important bottom-up role.
To be constructive, we must start with the correct attitude.
Holding a wrong one, such as aiming to discredit a party or tarnish a person's name, or thinking only in terms of self-interest, would lead us to lose our neutrality and objectivity.
There are other good attributes we should have, such as being responsible, conscientious, balanced, truthful, fair and open-minded, among others.
When assessing policies, we should listen to all views, do research or discuss with people knowledgeable in the topics and think through issues thoroughly.
We may not be right the first time, or all the time.
Constant reflection on our attitude, observations and thinking is needed.
There are people who first disagreed with the Population White Paper when it was announced, but later changed their views after knowing its intent and holistic approach better, or seeing how some businesses have suffered as a result of tighter foreign labour control.
Arguments among politicians are part and parcel of politics.
To make our involvement more productive, let us stay focused on issues and policies and not be too distracted by these arguments.
Constructive participation requires more of us to show our stance so that a more accurate feedback can be reflected.
If the majority choose to be fence-sitters or onlookers in this cyber age, they may unintentionally send the wrong signal on a right policy.
Both the silent majority and the vocal minority must respect each other's views and positions, and work together for a larger common good despite their differences.
Getting the policies right is only one of the good outcomes of constructive politics.
More importantly, we need good and capable leaders to emerge and run the country.
If all of us, including political parties, play by the ground rules of constructive politics, it should lead to this outcome.
Letter by Ng Ya Ken
This article was first published on June 12, 2014.
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