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Written by Ng E-Jay
11 April 2013

There is a crisis of leadership at the People’s Action Party (PAP). For many years now, the PAP has suffered from the lack of ability to recruit candidates of ministerial or MP caliber. The PAP’s self-renewal is under threat, as can be seen by the declining quality of candidates offered at each succeeding general election. There is a crisis of confidence in the PAP, and the matter is not going to be resolved anytime soon.

It is not surprising that things have turned out this way for the PAP, given that the party’s image has taken a severe beating in recent years. It is increasingly recognized that PAP’s policies have resulted in a declining standard of living and quality of life for Singaporeans, for example, overcrowding, structural underemployment faced by PMETs over the age of 40, lost of jobs and wage depression caused by having too much foreign labour, frequent breakdowns in the public transport system, and a property market that has gone haywire.

When so many of PAP’s policies have gone wrong, and the PAP still refuses to change course, then men and women of high caliber start to shun the party and refuse to be recruited into its ranks, no matter how high ministerial or public service salaries are. Good men and women do not want to be associated with a political entity that is increasingly being seen as a creator rather than a solver of problems, a party that is seen as making lives harder for Singaporeans.

The PAP still insists on insulting the intelligence of Singaporeans by speaking in condescending or arrogant tones, and sweeping matters of importance such as the AIMS saga under the carpet. With the rise of the internet as an alternative media platform, these issues can no longer remain hidden from public view. Gradually, the PAP ceases to be regarded as a force of good, and they lose the ability to attract capable men and women into public office. No good person wants to be seen as a mere sycophant or as an ally to bad policies and bad governance.

This recruitment dilemma was clearly seen in GE2011 when the PAP produced a mediocre slate of candidates drawn largely from traditional ranks in the civil service and the military, prompting netizens to observe that the PAP was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Unless something drastic is done, the same will again be seen in GE2016, and by then, the situation will most likely have worsened even further.

In two years alone, from 2011 to 2013, the PAP has lost a Speaker of Parliament (Michael Palmer), lost one GRC as well as an additional SMC (Punggol East), lost two prominent ministers in a general election (at Aljunied GRC), and also lost the chance to recruit a person of ministerial potential (Dr Koh Poh Koon). That’s a lot to lose in two years.

Existing ministers such as Teo Chee Hean and Teo Ser Luck have failed to show their leadership (for example, by bungling up the Punggol East by-election campaign). Newcomers Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin are seen as lackluster, and Heng Swee Keat has performed poorly in marketing the National Conversation as a credible platform.

Ultimately the root cause of this malaise may be poor leadership by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself.

PM Lee’s approach to politics has been book-wormish rather than street-smart and savvy, and he has thus far applied only short-term bandages to existing problems despite claiming to have a long term vision for Singapore.

When the top brass exhibits poor leadership, it is little wonder than the underlings quickly lose their focus.

It is no longer healthy for Singapore to remain under the political domination of a single party, the PAP. Their policies as well as their brand of politics have failed us. It is time to recognize the need to move towards a more plural, multi-party democracy. That is the only way to rejuvenate our political system. Otherwise, the situation will only worsen for ordinary Singaporeans suffering the brunt of over-congestion, sky-high property prices, and unfair competition from foreigners in the job market.


Grassroots organizations ought to have more social manners SDP only interested to make life better for Singaporeans

  1. Thank you, E-Jay, for a well written article. The crisis started when LKY surrounded himself with yes-men who were willing to submit to him. Capable men will not submit to self serving leaders who manipulate policies to better hiself and his cronies.

    Did we ask why did Toh Chin Chye fall out with LKY? Did we ask why didnt a more capable leader take over from LKY? GCT was never a real leader. He was “okayed” by LKY. GCT was a bad compromise, acceptable by LKY and his peers.

    With LKY’s oberbearing leadership, the rest acceptable by LKY were not true leaders.

    We are paying the price of poor leadership transition. And it will get worse as there are no good leaders in the PAP now. All the ministers are more or less like GCT…acceptable by LKY.

    What we need are true and effective leaders who can think and push their their points through because of their superior intellect and leadership.

    PAP is indeed in a crisis.

    And if Singaporeans dont wake up and know that PAP is in crisis and vote in true leaders at the next GE, we will suffer the consequences in future

  2. The failure of PAP is broken promises. LKY, in his prime, called on citizens to make sacrifices when tough policies were implemented. He asked us to think of the future, our children and for Singapore. Now, he is not the No. 1 anymore. His stupid son, LHL, took over and implement policies that make the citizens suffer. People of my age, i.e. in the sixties, felt played out by the PAP. Looked like we make sacrifices for the foreigners instead of for our children. Let me say this for the people of my age, WE LOST TRUST IN THE PAP AND WE HATE LHL!!Taht’s it! We want to help tweo change the government by voting whoever else except PAP in the next election. We will make the sacrifices now to protect our children’s and their children’s future.

  3. @Gone Nuts, Good points. We need more Singaporeans like you. The pap has lost its way and has neglected Singaporeans. Many of the pap policies are bad for Singaporeans. Unless we change the pap soon, Singapore will crumble under pap’s misrule

  4. Whether the PAP can be defeated in 2016 despite its atrocious policies and abysmal leadership is relative to the strength and unity of the oppositions. After all, the oppositions themselves are not significantly better in leadership quality. But unity will make up for a lack thereof.

  5. Whether the pap will be defeated depends primarily on Singaporeans. If good, honest, capable and civic conscious Singaporeans dont step forward to fight the PAP and if Singaporeans continue to be believe what the pap says, then we deserve the atrocities of the pap.

    So the pap is really powerless if Singaporeans deny them that power. The pap can crumble easily once Singaporeans wake up to the truth. To me the pap will be toothless if Singaporeans vote wisely at the next GE

  6. @FeiHK,

    I am an optimist. I believe most Singaporeans are well read and discerning. Unlike the pap, I believe that most Singaporeans know the truth abt the pap, how the pap leaders say one thing but do another thing. I believe that most Singaporeans dont trust the pap anymore. I believe the present pap has lost the support of Singaporeans.

    Because of what I believe, I look forward to the next GE and wish Singaporeans give the PAP a big slap

  7. I am of the opinion that the opposition should adopt the Australian Liberal party model for the next general elections.

    The Liberal party is a coalition of two parties, the Liberal and the National Parties.

    The Workers Party, being the strongest party currently in Singapore, need to form a coalition with the other opposition parties.

    There are benefits for the opposition in this model, such as, but not limited to:

    1. A stronger force whereby the combined votes will act as a leverage.
    2. The coalition, although made up of various parties, will come out with a single, coherent policy instead of many different policies that tend to confuse the electorate.
    3. They will then have to form a “Shadow Cabinet” with portfolios allocated to suitable candidates for the various ministries.
    4. They could even have a running office for each of the Shadow Ministers with staff.
    5. Voters will now easily see that the opposition is strong, organised, speaking with one voice and are ready to take over government.
    6. The voters need to be assured that the opposition is in fact a “Government-in-Waiting”.

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