SDP: Let there be a fair contest of ideas

Singapore Democrats (link)

We are clear about what we are against. What is less clear is what we are for. This outlook pretty much sums up what opposition politics has been since the 1960s.

Persecuted and hammered in every conceivable manner, opposition parties have been deprived of the expertise and resources to craft an alternative vision for Singapore.

As a result, we have been mired in fighting for democracy (rightly so), a tactic that the PAP has countered by raising the ridiculous spectre of the advent of chaos and turmoil should the incumbent lose control over Singapore.

But times are changing and the opposition cannot remain in that mode. The opposition cannot just bank on the sentiments against the Government and ride on it into Parliament.

We need to talk about a different type of politics, one that appeals to the hopes and aspirations of the people, not feed on their fear of the unknown. For if we are going to build a Singapore that is going to confidently embrace the future, we must do more than just curse at the darkness, we must light the candle and point the way forward.

We must articulate clearly what we are for, not just what we are against.

The opposition does Singaporeans no favour if all we do is to be anti-PAP while neglecting to define what we want for our nation.

In such a scenario, all it requires is for the PAP to frighten the people, as it has done all these decades, that without it at the helm, Singapore will crumble. This scare is made all the more real because the opposition has no alternative, let alone a better one, to offer.

The PAP knows that Singaporeans may not like it but having it as government instead of the unknown is the lesser of two evils.

We need to change our mindset and we can do this if the opposition is able to tell the people what the alternative looks like and how change to such an alternative is for the better.

We can change voting behaviour more effectively if we not only tell our fellow Singaporeans what is wrong with the current system but also what they can expect if they switch to the alternative. We must give them a reason to vote for the opposition, for change.

This is what the SDP has been working towards – to draw up an alternative vision. Not just a feel-good, fuzzy picture of the future but one where concrete policies with detailed solutions are laid out. We are working to lift Singapore to a new level of politics where we debate policies instead of simply calling for the PAP to be kicked out.

This is why the SDP has invested much time and effort in drawing up our alternative policies. But these policies will remain good only for academic discussion without any real purpose if they are never placed before voters to choose.

Singapore’s politics will mature when voters think through their votes, which party they are voting for and, more importantly, why. Let there be a fair and open contest of ideas. For this is the hallmark of a First World political system.

In our participation in this by-election, the SDP will work not just to retain the opposition vote but to attract voters who may have been voting for the PAP because they fear the unknown, because they don’t know what the alternative looks like.

If we succeed, we would break a great psychological barrier and speed up change that our nation so urgently needs.