Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 1

Singaporeans are quick to protest that they do not believe in civil disobedience. What does that reveal about the state of play among opposition parties, and in  Singapore politics generally? With general elections approaching, it’s time to clear up our picture of the issues exercising Singaporeans and take a look at how opposition parties are likely to respond to them. Full essay.

11 Responses to “Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 1”


  1. 1 chris 26 December 2009 at 21:53

    I liked that diagram representing the PAP’s credo. But, if being efficient and effective is important why bother having general elections? It is a waste of money holding elections where the ruling party always gets returned with a majority.

    Or, is the true efficiency and effectiveness in having elections that give the appearance of democracy without all the attendant troubles of a genuine democracy. That way you can claim to be better than pariah states in South East Asia with military dictatorships without being as extreme as democracies like Japan or Taiwan.

    I reckon a bit of civil disobedience could be good. The PAP has a winning formula which requires the resources and power of incumbency. You can’t hope to emulate that from opposition.

  2. 2 dyno 27 December 2009 at 01:17

    what was the opposition doing when siew kum hong was fighting to have 377A repealed?

    • 3 Robox 28 December 2009 at 02:59

      To dyno:

      Re: “…what was the opposition doing when siew kum hong was fighting to have 377A repealed?”

      If by “the opposition” you mean “the opposition with Parliamentary seats”, I have come to the conclusion that depending on the WP and the SPP to be cutting edge on any issue is an exercise in futility, and it has everything to do with the internalized (political) oppression that I referred to.

      Those two parties, perhaps along with the RP, have a paristic relationship with the SDP whom they depend on to do all the grunge work and take all the initial flak for it including from themselves; they however, never hesitate to jump onto the bandwagon after an issue gains more widespread acceptance such as was the case with the death penalty and the (false) declaration that the RP was the only party that had a stand against the death penalty.

      (Note: The SDP has had longstanding policy positions on both the abolishment of the death penalty as well as on gay rights)

      Looking to the three parties I have named is like gays looking to Shawn Tay’s circle of ex-gays at COOS to lead the charge for gay rights.

      It’s interesting that Alex referred to the “two oppositions” in his article. To continue with the gay rights analogy, maybe those opposition parties should be called ex-opposition parties instead.

  3. 4 Robox 27 December 2009 at 07:40

    As LGBTs, we are only too familiar with a specific type of internalized oppression that we are all invariably impacted by, namely internalized homophobia or internalized transphobia.

    For the benefit of your readers who may be unfamiliar with what the term means, internalized homophobia or internalized transphobia, say, occurs when LGBT’s *believe* the false messages we hear about ourselves from being inundated by those messages, and frequently go on to *act* out those false messages. (This is to be distinguished from what is actually true about ourselves, which varies from individual LGBT to individual.)

    Similarly, as Singaporeans, we are all impacted by another type of internalized oppression resulting from our political oppression by the PAP government. For want of any yet-to-be-coined term to describe this type of internalized oppression, I shall just call it internalized oppression.

    I believe that as far as olitical parties go, parties like the WP and the SPP – and I’m beginning to suspect, the RP as well – suffer from a bad case of internalized oppression.

    Indeed you might have provided the very evidence when you mused:

    Re: “The more important point…is why we’re so obsessed with this question [of civil disobedience]. It shows up the fear, and perhaps cravenness, that infect much dissent in Singapore. The constant need by some opposition politicians, not restricted to the Workers’ Party, to abjure it, seems almost pathological.”

    I would concur that unchecked internalized oppression can indeed become a pathology.

    On your other point about ‘credibility’, I have found from probing users of the charge – *not credible* is frequently issued as a charge – that it rarely, if ever, means ‘believability’. For example, when I once engaged a netizen once when he charged that the SDP is not credible by asking which of the SDP’s statements, policy directions, actions affected was not believable, I was – needless to say – met with stony silence.

    ‘Credible’ is frequently used in place of “I don’t *LIKE*”. Interestingly, when it comes to discussions centering on the SDP, what is usually profferred as making the party not ‘credible’ (ie. what many don’t *LIKE* in them, bearing in mind that it is driven by internalized oppression) is – you guessed it – civil disobedience.

    Good. Now that you have created an opportunity for this aspect of the larger political debate taking place in Singapore, I hope that the online political community can move to a higher plane.

  4. 5 Robox 27 December 2009 at 07:44

    Oh, BTW, I think it was also internalized oppression – the fear of rocking the boat – and likely some homophobia on the part of the WP that resulted in them shying away from taking a stand during the 377a debates.

  5. 6 cy 27 December 2009 at 11:45

    brilliant article! but when the cat king dies, the mice will come out to play

  6. 7 anony 27 December 2009 at 18:22

    I could not understand why LTK of WP sent a team to contest AMK GRC, which is the PM’s ward, way back in GE2006. Everyone called it the suicide mission & Lim Boon Heng even chipped in that the PM would easily garner 80% of the popular vote. The result was only 66% in favor of PAP at AMK GRC. Sembawang GRC Khaw Boon Haw’s ward achieved the highest popularity with 70% beating the PM’s.

    Was this strategy LTK’s way of showing veiled civil disobedience by disrupting the psychological power grip the PAP have in PM’s ward. That even the mighty Lee can be dented against all odds despite its first attempt?

    Of course, WP paid the price for it ultimately when Wong Kan Seng got Gomez detained the day after Polling Day. The flimsy form filling episode did not hold water & Gomez was let off with a stern warning but the ultimate motive was to “teach” WP a good lesson for humiliating the all & mighty PAP at AMK GRC.

  7. 8 Anonymous 27 December 2009 at 18:24

    “…but it [civil disobedience] is a tactic that needs wide support before it can be used effectively, and currently there isn’t wide support in Singapore.”

    In that case, politicians who are waiting at the sideline and only emerge to lead a civil disobedience act when all conditions are favourable, with human shields marching around them, are plain opportunists.

  8. 9 Amused 27 December 2009 at 19:59

    mild (moderate) = “my lord, we will always play by your rules, no way civil disobedience” = pledged a fealty to the crown = credibility (according to the PAP)

    Haha…Alex Au, you are really confrontational (not diplomatic at all)!

  9. 10 Robox 28 December 2009 at 08:14

    Still on the topic of the SDP, civil disobedience and the LGBT community, I think it is appropriate here to remind the LGBT community that Pink Dot – which we hope to be the precursor to future Pride Parades – was only made possible becuaes of the SDP’s civil disobedience campaign.

    Hong Lim Park would have remained a Speakers Corner with neither speakers nor listeners if the government had not conceded and enlarged the realm of possibilities at the Park because of the SDP’s persistence.

  10. 11 Ravi Philemon 28 December 2009 at 20:53

    One error – TOC is NOT a political group. TOC may have a bias towards the opposition – but it is NOT a political group.


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