What if I get fielded in Hougang or Aljunied?
According to one blogger, this is the kind of question that could apparently cause recruitment problems for PAP in 2016. But it’s bigger than that. To me, that is one of the biggest problems in the way Singaporeans think about politics today.
Singaporeans have grown used to the idea that the PAP inducts ‘minister-calibre’ talents into Cabinet every five years, usually bright scholar types, and typically with little or no challenge.
And that is wrong.
No one– no matter how talented, no matter how much he earned in the private sector before joining politics– should have an entitlement mentality. No one should think that he can just walk into Parliament as a minister, as long as he is willing to make a ‘sacrifice’ (ie earn less as a minister than he used to).
No voter should accept such a fait accompli, from any party.
In other democracies, Ministers have to first earn their stripes as MP’s for many years. Usually it is the senior party loyalists who are appointed Ministers. New faces not only have to prove themselves in electoral battles, they also have to earn the trust and respect of their constituents for at least one to two terms before they become ministers.
There’s definitely no parachuting of ‘talents’ from the private sector straight into a plum minister’s job.
While some may say this rewards party loyalty at the expense of ability, it is also a way to make sure that a candidate has his heart set on politics as a career. Because when someone has served at least 10 years as MP, they will not only understand voters and their concerns, they will also understand whether a life in politics is suitable for them.
Frankly the idea that a ‘minister-calibre’ candidate can just waltz into Parliament and the Cabinet by hiding behind another heavyweight minister in safe GRC is disgusting. If there are any ‘minister-calibre’ candidates who worry about being fielded in Aljunied or Hougang, that would show that they don’t want to fight elections, they don’t have it in their hearts to be politicians, they are just technocrats and managers.
A Minister is not someone that you simply appoint to the position after a round of tea interviews. Company boards may do that when they look for the next CEO or CFO. Politics must not be like that.
A Minister must first and foremost be an MP and a politician. He has a duty to represent the people, and to represent his country. If he has never been an MP, never fought for a single vote by himself, never done a single Meet the People session, never seen for himself all the problems that voters face– how can he be a Minister?
How can Ministers have compassion for the people if they have never been an MP for even a day before they are elevated into the Cabinet?
The PAP system is wrong. It is wrong to try to give Ministers an easy path into the Cabinet via GRC’s. It is wrong to make people Ministers without having served a single day as MP. It is wrong to compare Ministers with CEO’s or CFO’s. It is also wrong for the people who accept the PAP’s offer to think that a Ministerial job is like any other corporate job, that once they pass the interviews by the PM, they will get the job.
Singaporeans must remember that every MP is elected to serve them, not to renew the PAP’s cabinet. They must break out from 50 years of conditioning by PAP. And they must make sure that they don’t give so-called ministerial-calibre candidates a free ride into Parliament in 2016.
Because if we don’t reject this PAP philosophy, we will not be led by political leaders, but we’ll be led by a bunch of headhunted managers who have no real interest in politics.
See also: The Death of PAP