Pity George Yeo didn’t run for President this year. He’s been sounding very Presidential lately.
Unlike Tan Jee Say (or even Tan Cheng Bock), who just wants to use the office of the President to speak out against the PAP, or Tony Tan, who basically won’t say anything of substance without the advice of the Cabinet, George Yeo has been preaching a message of national unity and reconciliation. That’s the kind of message one expects from a wise monarch or a non-partisan Head of State. For instance, the Thai King does that when he feels the country is too divided.
Last week, George Yeo echoed the same kind of sentiment. Speaking at a dinner to thank him for his many years of grassroots leadership at Aljunied, he said Singapore had been divided since last year’s general election and “that is not a good thing”. Quoting a Chinese saying, he added that “When a country is divided, many problems will arise.”
George Yeo urged politicians from “both ruling and opposition parties” to work together for the interests of the country. He called for all to “link the hearts together, broaden our minds”, and said, “This is an effort everyone must pool together– Government, people, all political parties.”
Because George Yeo cited the example of former Aljunied grassroots leader Dr Ang Yong Guan, who crossed over to SDP last year, some people think he was asking opposition supporters to work together with the Govt.
Actually George Yeo was subtly criticising PAP leaders.
For it is the PAP which has refused to work with the opposition. From mad attack dog Vikram Nair and Constitutional interpreter Hri Kumar to its senior Cabinet ministers like K Shanmugam, Teo Chee Hean and even the PM himself, the PAP has gone on the offensive to try to cut down WP members in Parliament.
Comparing WP’s proposal with Nigerian scams, blaming WP for causing Hougang voters to not be represented in Parliament, trying to pin down Pritam Singh on whether he believes our media is controlled by the Govt, trying to embarrass WP MP’s for not giving credit to bloggers in their Parliamentary speeches, etc.— all these unprovoked attacks have come from PAP MP’s and ministers in Parliament.
WP MP’s, on the other hand, have been very measured in their speeches and responses. In fact, in many ways I can’t see any difference between PAP and WP MP’s— they have not delivered stinging criticisms of the Govt, they are certainly not confrontational like former WP MP JBJ was, their speeches sound no different from regular PAP MP speeches– exactly the kind of “constructive” opposition that PAP wants.
WP MP’s have yet to even attempt to trip up any PAP minister. Indeed, if anything WP MP’s have been too gentlemanly in their responses, as exemplified by Rhodes Scholar Chen Show Mao.
In short, I believe WP MP’s have been trying hard to work with the Govt, to propose alternatives and highlight concerns. It is the PAP which has tried to cut WP MP’s down, and thus George Yeo’s message last week is really directed at the PAP.
The question is: Will the PAP listen? Do they want to work together with WP and other parties to make Singapore better? Or do they want to spend time in Parliament scoring political points, and trying to cut down opposition MP’s?