IN THE wake of General Election 2006, various senior People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders pledged to respect voters’ choice.
At the Cabinet swearing-in ceremony on May 30, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that his Government would work with all Singaporeans, including those who voted for the opposition.
Singaporeans who hoped that the PAP would therefore remove its votes-for-upgrading strategy got a lightning bolt of reality with the Minister for National Development’s statement over the weekend that, basically, nothing has changed.
Minister Mah Bow Tan’s main argument was that the Government had to be fair to those who had voted for the PAP on its promise to upgrade PAP wards. But the bigger question on voters’ minds is a very simple one – whether such a promise is a legitimate use of taxpayers’ monies. To state the obvious, everybody pays taxes, whether they live in PAP or opposition wards.
Mr Mah had previously said that he could not “look PAP MPs in the eye” if he gave the same priority in upgrading to opposition wards. But how, then, does he look these taxpayers in the eye?
No one living in an opposition ward expects special treatment, that is, to jump ahead of PAP wards with older blocks. But, all things being equal, it should not matter whether a PAP or an opposition MP is the incumbent.
The same objections apply to how the public funds entrusted to his ministry under the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) for estate improvements are disbursed.
Further, to say that disbursing CIPC funds through the citizens’ consultative committees is not political because they are made up of residents, makes as much sense as saying that residents’ committees are politically neutral when they are heavily mobilised to help PAP candidates campaign.
On this vexed question of selective upgrading, the recent conflicting messages from the PAP are telling. For instance, the day after Polling Day, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong praised Potong Pasir and Hougang residents for having loyalty towards their MPs, which was a “better (characteristic) than for them to be chasing after every goodie which we offer them”.
After this dose of honesty from SM Goh, what kind of values is the PAP promoting by continuing with its votes-for-upgrading policy?
The overarching theme of the PAP’s 2006 Election Manifesto is “Staying Together, Moving Ahead”.
As a Singaporean who decided to stand with the Workers’ Party, I look forward to the day when election campaigns will be fought by all parties over long-term national policies which affect Singaporeans’ lives deeply.
Let Singaporeans reflect and decide elections on these questions, which are surely far more important for the nation’s future than the selective use of public funds to ensure that the PAP stays in power.
Sylvia Lim Swee Lian (Ms)
Non-Constituency MP (Elect)
Chairman, Workers’ Party