It’s hard to say sorry

Posted: May 4, 2011 in Politics
Tags: , , ,

It took the People’s Action Party seven days after Nomination Day before it finally acknowledged that it has done poorly in some areas in the years since the PAP won the last general elections.

PAP’s secretary-general and Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised for his party’s missteps during a lunchtime rally on May 4, an apology that should have been said much earlier.

Prior to his apology, other leaders in the PAP had been insisting that the PAP had done a wonderful job governing Singapore in the face of an electorate that is increasingly frustrated with housing, transport, costs of living and immigration policy. The PAP appeared to be up in the clouds, inside a world of their own, and finally, Lee brought his party back down to earth again.

While Lee’s acknowledgement that the PAP had made some serious missteps is certainly much welcomed, the question for voters is, why did it take so long? Why did the leader of the PAP not rein in his party members and allowed them to inflame an already frustrated electorate for a week, giving the other political parties free political ammunition to fire at the PAP? The PAP could have easily taken the wind out of the sail of the other political parties with an apology much earlier.

Lee’s apology coming after one week of political campaigning and less than four days to polling hinted at a strong possibility that the PAP is indirectly acknowledging it might have grossly misread the sentiment on the ground. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong alluded to this point, saying that he is unable to tell how young voters feel about the PAP, and the number of these Gen-Y young voters are significant.

There is no doubt that the other political parties will use Lee’s apology to score political points. Seven days of intensive attacks by the other political parties produced a result that five years of PAP rule since 2006 could not: an acknowledgement of some failure on the part of the PAP to listen to Singaporeans. If seven days of political hustings can wake up the PAP slightly to give an apology, the other political parties may say, imagine what can be done if these parties are voted into parliament for five years? If Singaporeans were to soften their hearts and give the PAP overwhelming support again, the PAP might drift off into slumber again.

The appeal to the electorate for a wake-up call to be given to the PAP has already been issued by Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party, who pointed to the 1991 general elections as evidence of how voting other political parties into parliament can improve the lives of Singaporeans.

Considering how Singaporeans have been chided by a prominent PAP leader and told to “repent” if they do not choose the PAP, this apology from the PAP’s secretary-general is certainly surprising, and it must be have been hard to say sorry and to ask for a second chance. Whether the apology cuts any ice with the electorate depends on the voter’s answer to one question:

Can I trust the party who created the problems in the first place to solve the problem and not create worse problems for the next five years?

  1. Xmen says:

    If he is so sorry, he should defintely remove the MM position if his party happens to win the election. Otherwise, who says he is in charge? who believes in his apology?

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