Workers’ Party and PAP in war of
    words over ‘constructive politics'

   Yahoo News
May 26, 2014

By Jeanette Tan

WORKERS' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang and Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah clashed in a heated debate in Parliament on Monday over the meaning of the term “constructive politics”.

Speaking in the course of the ongoing debate on President Tony Tan’s parliamentary address on 16 May, Low, a member of parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC, said he feels the President’s use of the phrase “constructive politics” could have been merely government rhetoric. The term referred to the idea that “only by getting our politics right and keeping it constructive and responsible would Singapore make progress”.

“We must all remember constructive politics does not happen by the order of the government, nor does it happen through a national conversation or public consultation,” said Low.

He added that if Singaporeans continue to support a government party that uses “high-handed” tactics against its political opponents, they would be endorsing a bullying political culture.

“If the people support a governing party that uses governmental resources, including civil servants, to serve its partisan goals, we are condoning the abuse of political power as an acceptable culture,” he added.

Low noted the use of differentiating measures in policies to “punish” opposition voters breeds a culture of “divisive politics”, adding that the idea of the political incumbent having no obligation to “level the playing field”, using all legal means to stay in power, is one that builds a “self-serving political culture”.

After he spoke, People’s Action Party MP Indranee fired back, arguing that constructive politics means not “flip-flopping” in positions taken when convenient  — a reference to WP’s allegedly fluid position on foreign workers in the past.

“Even though it (a previous WP proposal to freeze the growth of foreign workers in Singapore) may sound popular, and even though it may sound good, something like that may sound politically opportunistic, not constructive, but it does not help people on the ground, like our Singapore SMEs,” she said. “There are real tradeoffs and people’s livelihoods and jobs are at stake.”

In his speech, Low went on to stress the importance of building institutions of state that the public can trust — namely one that consistently acts in the interest of the nation, the way the Thai King previously acted to defuse past political crises.

“Building such institutions is the obligation of any responsible government, and entails whole-of-government efforts to protect these institutions from being perceived as political tools of the government,” he said.

“Therefore, the institution must be seen to behave impartially and to be above politics. Such consistent and predictable behaviour over a long period… will gain public trust to enable them to play a stabilising role in a political crisis,” he added.

Raising the WP’s then-Aljunied-Hougang town council troubles in response to this point, Indranee took aim at its failure to call for a tender before awarding managing agent contracts to people whom she referred to as “(the WP’s) own supporters”. “What kind of political culture do you build? How does that engender trust?”

Sharing the video of the exchange on his Facebook page, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in its description his view that constructive politics "is key to realising our dreams".

"The purpose of politics is to make a difference to people’s lives, to build a better Singapore. Politics purely for the sake of power, without any notion of what we want Singapore to become, will lead us to disaster," he wrote.