In the US, it is common to talk about “forging a bipartisan approach” whenever any contentious issues have to be debated in Congress. Gerard Ee apparently forgot about that, and a result, did the PAP a disfavour. But the PAP is to be blamed as well.
How did that happen?
First, the Ee committee seemed to have carried out its work in secret. Ee gave no public progress updates, no interim findings, he held no public hearings, nobody even knew when he was going to complete his work. It was so bad the press had to query him, whereupon he said he would complete it by 30 Dec but refused to give any details, saying it’s up to the Prime Minister to release whatever recommendations he has made.
Meaning a matter of top public interest is totally confidential, and he doesn’t want to share anything with the public.
One has to wonder– why all this secrecy? Yes, pay is a sensitive matter, but this is a matter of great public interest, and there should be full transparency about the process.
In the US, when the Congress appoints a committee to investigate a matter, there will be full public hearings, and everything is placed on the public record.
Why didn’t Ee do that?
Of course, Ee does not have the power to subpoena witnesses to appear before his committee, unlike US Congressional committees. But don’t you think that, if he had held public hearings, anyone he invited would have come unhesitatingly?
If all feedback and views from the invitees are published in full in the public record, then there would be no grand surprise when the final report is released, no unexpected complaints that the amounts are still too high.
While Ee consulted a variety of “experts”, disappointingly Ee did not specifically solicit feedback from opposition political parties or even their elected MP’s and NCMP’s.
Think about it: this is an election issue, this is one reason why 40% of voters turned against you, this is the very reason you called for a review committee, yet you fail to consult the key constituents and their elected representatives who have been calling for your pay to be cut.
Can there be a greater blunder?
The PAP also has to shoulder its share of the blame for the non-acceptance of the Ee report. Apparently PM Lee briefed his own party’s MP’s— and not the Parliament as a whole– before the report was made public.
In fact, according to the Today report, “PAP MPs said while they were given an update on the recommendations, they did not get the hard copies of the report. One MP confirmed that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and most of the Cabinet Ministers were present at the meeting.
It is understood that Mr Lee and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is Minister in Charge of the Civil Service gave the MPs insights into the recommendations put forth by the committee.”
In the US they would never do this. Whenever the President wants to push something big through the Senate and Congress, the first thing he will do is call in the Senate Minority Leader and Congressional Leaders, as well as the leaders of his own party, to brief them and sound them out.
It is not just because the Opposition in the US is strong.
It is common sense.
It is simply because you are proposing something to satisfy your critics, thus the first thing to do is to see whether your critics can be satisfied by your proposals.
That is the reason why you call them in, why you brief them first.
If they are satisfied, you can safely go ahead with your proposals. If not, at least you know why they are still not satisfied, and you can either modify your proposals accordingly or else think of the points you want to make to counter their key objections.
So the PM wasted his time and energy briefing his own MP’s. They are not the ones who objected to his salary. It’a the opposition who are objecting to his salary.
But instead of presenting his proposals to the Leader of the Opposition, instead of soliciting the Opposition’s views and likely points of dissatisfaction, he chooses to hold a briefing for his own party MP’s, none of whom objected to his salary to begin with.
I don’t think I would pay $1 to such a man who can make such a fundamental political mistake, much less $2.2M.
It is clear that, by only briefing PAP MP’s and not the entire Parliament, the Govt is asking its MP’s to sell the report to their voters, and the Govt wants to rally its MP’s behind the report.
It is clear that this Govt has no intention to forge a “bipartisan” approach to any major issue, that it intends to push forth only on party lines.
Hence any expectations of a “new normal” in Singapore politics is fantasy.
The Minister Pay Series