30 Jun 2006

Thoughts on the SM views of the GRC

I read this a few days back and was very shocked and mulled about it occasionally over with friends and decided to finally blog about it.

The Straits Times Article:

June 27, 2006

GRCs make it easier to find top talent: SM

Without good chance of winning at polls, they might not be willing to risk careers for politics

By Li Xueying

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday gave a new take on the role of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in Singapore politics.

Their role is not just to ensure minorities are adequately represented in Parliament, he said. They also contribute to Singapore's political stability, by 'helping us to recruit younger and capable candidates with the potential to become ministers'.

'Without some assurance of a good chance of winning at least their first election, many able and successful young Singaporeans may not risk their careers to join politics,' Mr Goh said at an event marking the appointment of members to the South East Community Development Council (CDC).


In other words, the GRC system further allows the PAP to convince their choice of select Singaporeans to join PAP, win and serve the people. The GRC system is equated with the “assurance of a good chance of winning.” It is moot that such will only serve the party that has the ability to assure these select Singaporeans a good chance of winning.

There are four questions that could be raised, and their answers, reflect a situation that ought to be properly debated in Parliament.

The first question is whether this coincides with the nation’s best interest.

When the choice of leadership becomes further removed from the heart of democracy: popular choice, what are the potential effects? The PAP is suggesting implicitly that their choice is the right one, and will hence coincide with the nation’s best interest.

Alex Au asks, “Who gets to define talent?” and how subjective this might be. He also suggests that groupthink is a bad thing and this system creates groupthink.[1]

The fear I had and have is similar: the GRC system has the potential of focusing greater power on the hands in a single party. The PAP governs your life today, and now, it appears to indirectly govern the choice of your leaders in the future. This broken linkage between popular choice and leaders might be bad for the nation.

Who should do future leaders aspire to serve under such a scheme? Should they aspire to serve the people or the PAP? Will they aspire to serve the PAP more because the PAP is the party who shall give them the assurance to win? Legitimacy in a democracy comes from the people’s support, not party politics. Intelligent clear-headed inspired leaders will no doubt recognise that their final masters are the people, and no party. We have already agreed that PAP is not Singapore, and PAP is not the people.

The PAP is the ruling party while the people are your masters. Let no politicians, even those who are assured of winning, fail to recognise that. This system however, does not encourage explicitly, especially during election time, our would-be new leaders to recognize that.

This of course could be salvaged by sufficient party indoctrination and education that the PAP serves the People, and that individual politicians ultimate responsibility is the people. But how does that politician really know unless he gets that mandate directly?

The second question is what types of people are the PAP looking for

The article also suggests that some PAP winners need the assurance of victory before joining politics. “Society before self?” In other words, does it not imply that there are current PAP winners who will not have risked their careers to serve the people? The question whether this is a trait of suitable candidates were not questioned. Instead

SM Goh added,

'Why should they when they are on the way up in the civil service, the SAF, and in the professions or the corporate world?'

In other words, SM Goh feels that this is justified because these people were already so good, they only could lose by joining politics in Singapore and not taking risk is the norm. Are these the type of people Singapore want?

Of course these men and women might be great at their work and will serve Singapore truly well. Yet again, the answer to the second question exposes risks in the recruitment process as such people appear to be willing to put self over society when called to serve. They are not willing to take the plunge and the risk.

This again decreases moral authority. It might be more efficient, might attract “better people” but the GRC system seen in this perceptive places faith in the recruitment process. What if it goes wrong?

The third question is whether there are really risks in joining PAP politics

Let us assume that the first two questions are answered in the affirmative for the PAP; (that this truly serves the best interest of Singaporeans, and that this is the type of people we are looking for) the next question is whether such fears to their careers when they join PAP politics are justified.

I have personally never come across any report since the introduction of the GRC, which shows that ex-PAP candidates have done poorly or terrible relative to their ex careers after retirement from politics (save for those who ran foul of the law.) There are examples that joining the PAP might bring one less monetary incentives but that problem is already supposed to be fixed by the pegging of Ministers pay scale to the private sector.

Being unsure, I have doubts whether this is entirely accurate. In other words, the fears might not be even justified. Should policy decisions be made on fears that are not all that clear yet?

The fourth question is what this does to opposition politics?

By making it easier for the PAP new candidates to enter office, the system might deprive more deserving opposition candidates (deserving defined here by majority ballot votes in an imaginary one on one scenario).

Do Singaporeans want to make it more difficult for opposition members to enter Parliament?


At the end of it all, GRC does not make it easier to find top talent, as the headline suggests. What it does, however, is that it makes it easier for the PAP to pick future leaders for Singapore based on their criteria. A criterion that is explicitly un-required is that these talents do not need to risk their careers – need not risk their careers to serve the people. It creates a system where it is less clear the newly selected's mandate comes from the people. Finally, it makes things harder for the opposition.

Is that what we, Singaporeans, want?


nelly said...

On the question of 'talent' or the lack of it, we'd do well to remember the PAP's own assertion: they look specifically for men and women who are normally corruptible if not for their obscene paychecks.

Anonymous said...

that's an unfair way to put it; "can be motivated by money" is not the same as "can be corrupted by money"

capitalism is based on motivation by money, but through fair competition

the weakness in GCT's argument is: why not make the whole country a single GRC? then every candidate selected by PAP will be elected, and there will be no opposition MPs to waste the PM's time with questions

soci said...

Can however -, is fix the article and remove the html that is appearing in the post please?

Anonymous said...

PAP running out of reasons to justify GRC concept.

What SM Goh gave was a reason. But whether the reason is acceptable, ethical, correct and clean remains debatable.

In my view, after giving some thought, SM Goh's reason is crap.

It goes against the spirit of public service, sincerity to serve and promote the kiasuism mentality of Singaporeans.

100% must win then willing to stand?

Everyone knows in life, there is no such thing as 100% warranty and 100%guarantee.

I thought government always encourage Singaporeans to be more daring,take risk and be entrepeneurial ?

How come this Risk Theory does not apply to PAP MPs ?

Are PAP personnel that risk averse? Then what right do PAP MPs have in asking Singaporeans to take risks and bite the bullet all the time ?

It is time PAP bite the bullet themselves and rise up to the new challenges in the changing business and political climate which PAP themselves always urge Singaporeans.

I would urge PAP to win by the book for once. Show Singaporeans and the world PAP can win by the book and win fairly.

PAP should not always hide behinds cloaks & daggers to win. It makes them weak,complacent and fat.

When negotiating with other countries, will the PAP MPs be allowed to hide behind GRCs and be protected?

PAP must stop this mentality.

Now if I as a normal unthinking Singaporean citizen can think this thoughts, why can't our educated Singaporean journalists think of this point and write in their papers ?

I am disgusted SM Goh can talk like this. If Parliament ratio was PAP 45 : AP 39, would SM Goh dare to spout such nonsense? He is hiding behind PAP's dominant majority in Parliament.

If SM Goh was in the private sector, and he said these kind of words, he would have been laughed at.

He is promoting a bunch of kiasu and greedy guys into Parliament and he actually endorse such mentality and behaviour.

I am frightened at the thought I have such a man for Senior Minister.

I fear for Singapore.

Anonymous said...

What SM Goh actually really mean is to discourage successful professionals from joining alternative parties (AP).

Actually, to break PAP's monopoly and cycle is very simple.

Just gather a fellowship of 84 successful professionals which is not hard to find in Singapore and put them in Worker's Party.

Wallah, we will have a different election from yester years.

But will these successful professionals take the "risk" given the kind of Singaporeans produce year in year out under 40 years of PAP rule are so pragmatic and stoic?

SM Goh is actually refering to these successful professionals and sending them a signal or begging them not to join alternative parties or the "boat will be rocked".

It is very easy for these successful professionals to join alternative parties but PAP keep implanting the "Illusionary Fear" and "Risky" environment into them.

In the end, GRCs are meant to keep these successful professionals from joining alternative parties because GRCs increase the risk of winning any election.

GRCs are also meant to test the strength of the fellowship.

GRCs are usually won not by candidates themselves but by the unity of the candidates in the GRC team.

Imagine a PAP GRC team subject to strict hierarchies and rank VS a loose bunch of professionals teaming up for the first time under an AP banner for a GRC.

Who will win in the end?

No matter how successful the professionals of the AP team in their own fields, without the unity and cohesion required, they will still falter in the last lap.

For this scenario, PAP has the upper hand because of their tradition and history and PAP knows this.

PAP will use all methods and barriers to prevent them from losing even if electorate has no more faith in them.

A win is a win so no matter how ugly the win is, PAP do not care.

If PAP cannot get the man they want, PAP would make sure neither does AP get the man.

This is the ugliness of Singapore poltiics.

For APs to succeed in GRCs, they must get successful professionals like James Gomez, Tan Hui Hua, Brendon Siow, Eric Tan, Slyvia Lim etc who can do the job but willing to follow at the same time.

I hope smart and thinking professionals will not fall for SM Goh's tricks.

Anonymous said...

PAP looks worried and frightened now.

First Lee Kuan Yew say can support opposition but cannot change government

Now, Goh Chok Tong also say the same thing.

Last time, both said THERE IS NO NEED FOR OPPOSITION !!!

Even an Ah Beng or Cha Kway Tiao man in their shoes will say the same thing.

It is all about protecting self-interest and their own iron rice bowl and riches, not protecting Singapore.

They keep using the excuse of foreign investors. Even foreign investors wants a choice too when negotiating with governments, not to mention civil servants, people and unionists.

PAP sound as if Singapore will not be attractive to foreign investments once Worker's Party form the government.

PAP make it sound like Singapore will turn into East Timor overnight and Singaporeans becoming unruly bloodhounds if PAP lose power.

What scare tactics and nonsense is this !?

If the PAP government did its job and introduce the correct economic fundamentals and systems while in power, foreign investors will still invest in Singapore even if PAP lose power.

PAP is not Singapore and vice-versa.

Foreign investors is investing in Singapore as a country and not investing in PAP as a political party.

If PAP's theory is correct, then investment in countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Europe, Australia and US should be very low because they change governments every election year and considered politically unstable.

Countries like China, North Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar should be a heaven for foreign investors because they are the same ruling party for decades,not years and considered very politically stable.


Maybe this argument can work 30 years ago when Singaporeans are uneducated but now Singaporeans can think. Besides we have living examples of successful democracies and successful economies cohabiting side by side. Mind you, we are talking about the richest nations in the world.

Countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Europe, Australia and US have scandals but it never seriously rock the economy or markets because they have a sound system and trust which Singapore do not have.

Singapore have one NKF scandal and it almost cause the charity industry to collapse overnight because of lack of trust, transparency, laws, system and opposition (TT Durai ruled like PAP). It shows how weak the systems in Singapore are.

Singapore had a power loss cause by Conoco Philips for exactly the same reasons as NKF. (because of lack of transparency, laws, system and opposition)

If the same NKF incident happen on PAP and there is not a ready strong Worker's Party to take over, my god, PAP will drag down Singapore as well. Our CPF, Reserves, Assets etc might have been plundered then but it will be too late.

PAP can collapse but please leave Singapore alone.

This is why Worker's Party must grow, grow and grow and be strong enough to form the next government. Singaporeans then can buy some insurance for themselves.

I have worked with foreign investors and most agree they do not care whether PAP remains as government. As long as the civil service, business laws, rules and regulations are in place, they will still invest in Singapore.

In fact, foreign investors prefer Singapore to open up politically so that they have a choice too because they do not want to be held ransom by only PAP. They prefer to negotiate with more than one choice.

Furthermore, foreign investors prefer PAP to start creating safekeeping systems to keep Singapore running even if PAP collapse. In fact many investors did not invest in Singapore because of the one-party system.They do not want an Indonesia consequence.

Indonesia consequence: Indonesia was chaotic for awhile after Suharto collapse because Suharto did not do his duty of preparing Indonesia for life without him while in power. But Suharto did prepare very well life for himself without Indonesia. Indonesia has now stabilised and may grow from here.

Moral of the story: PAP should start preparing Singapore for life without PAP or without the Lees. This is PAP's duty when in power.

It is PAP's moral obligation to Singaporeans so as to lessen the impact of PAP's demise to Singapore. PAP should start separating itself from unions, businesses and grassroots organisations.

Presently, foreign investors have to deal with GLCs all the time and they complain our business climate is not as competitive and liberal as Hong Kong. GLCs stifle thier investment chances in Singapore.It may boost foreign investment instead if PAP no longer remain the government.

If PAP collapse, Singaporeans may see positive changes they never ever thought of they could experience before.

Anonymous said...

Agree, for all those top money we pay for 40 years to those ministers, Singapore must have a more resilient and stronger political system.

Our present system now is too fragile to withstand even a blow of the wind.

Anonymous said...

In Sun Yat Sen's words:

" The constitution is repeatedly rape and rape by the very people that came into power through the constitution to protect the constitution. "

Anonymous said...

How about writing to Straits Times Forum to protest and ridicule this statement by SM Goh and that new PAP MP who is former CEO of IE

( I really dunno his name)

Anonymous said...

Their role is not just to ensure minorities are adequately represented in Parliament, he said. They also contribute to Singapore's political stability, by 'helping us to recruit younger and capable candidates with the potential to become ministers'.

'Without some assurance of a good chance of winning at least their first election, many able and successful young Singaporeans may not risk their careers to join politics,' Mr Goh said at an event marking the appointment of members to the South East Community Development Council (CDC).

'Why should they when they are on the way up in the civil service, the SAF, and in the professions or the corporate world?'

I agree with SM Goh....

Why Should We Give Up Our Life, Studies and Career To Serve National Service when we are on the way up and out ????

Anonymous said...


Matilah_Singapura said...

Once upon a time, on an island far away from the great ganja plantations and reggae music of Jamaica, the charismatic leader of a small nation state suggested that his beloved country adopt a "Swiss Model" for its future.

That sorta killed any hope of the ganja, the reggae, and the deeply soulful and compassionate "love thy brother and all mankind" attitude of the Rastafarians... but never mind that for now...

Anyway, back to the point:

Representative democracy is BULLSHIT. Because the power of the individual voter to CHOOSE is so easily usurped.

Readers who are keen, may if they wish, look up direct or pure democracy as practiced in Switzerland.

Every individual has the RIGHT to VETO the government on any issue, and this right is constitutionally protected.

Check it out, and understand it.

Then perhaps we'll have grounds for a CLASS ACTION SUIT against the PAP for not delivering us the Swiss Model. That's if the people decide to take the civil route.

...and as a good measure, don't be too keen on getting rid of that death penalty just yet. As far as I know treason is stilla capital offence...just in case the criminal route would prove to be more "just".

- said...


i don't know what you mean...by
"Can however -, is fix the article and remove the html that is appearing in the post please?"

please feel free to edit as you like it...