Subject: Ex-MFA officials joined Workers' Party
truth comment: these are the courageous young heros
of singapore. singaporeans pls give them your full support
and encouragement. the tide has turn. CHANGE is coming
Gerald Giam wrote:
It has been just over a year since I joined the Workers' Party (WP) as an
ordinary member. I must say that the past year has probably been the most
exciting and eventful year of my life, and there is every indication that
the year ahead will top that. Although I declared months ago in the "About
Me" section of my blog that I am a WP member, this will mark my first full
blog post about my involvement with the opposition.
I wasn't always an opposition supporter. I have no history of oppositionists
in my family and most of my friends and teachers from school days knew me as
someone who always followed the rules and did not question authority. Many,
therefore, have expressed surprise that I have taken the plunge into
I first got interested in current affairs during my undergraduate days at
the University of Southern California in the United States in the late
nineties, where I majoring in electrical engineering. Although the level of
political apathy on campus was still high compared to that of previous
generations of students, it was enough to help me to see that what happened
in the political realm had a huge impact on everyone's life, including my
I brought my interest in politics back to Singapore when I returned in 1999
to serve my National Service. Back then, I used to think that being part of
the PAP government machinery was the only way to effect positive change in
Singapore. This was a reason why I made a drastic career switch from my
first job as an IT consultant to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) in 2005. It was also why I had volunteered for more than seven years
as a youth leader in South West Community Development Council, which I have
since resigned from.
Ironically, it was during my time in the civil service that my eyes were
opened to the reality that Singapore needs a stronger opposition in order to
ensure better governance for our future generations.
The civil service is generally a very well-run organisation, with many
intelligent, competent and committed officers at all levels of the
hierarchy. As a political desk officer in MFA, I had the privilege of
interacting with a diverse array of officials-fellow policy officers,
protocol officers, management support officers, permanent secretaries,
ambassadors, ministers, and officers from other ministries like the Ministry
of Trade and Industry and IE Singapore.
I made a number foreign visits during my stint in MFA, usually staffing
ambassadors and ministers in small delegations. This gave me an opportunity
to have lots of personal interaction with them and get a sense of how they
thought about issues away from the glare of the media. I remember
occasionally even getting into debates with them, sometimes over the PAP's
lack of commitment to democratic principles and fair play. During one such
debate, over drinks on evening in a foreign capital, I recall the wife of
the ambassador turning to my director and telling him, half in jest: "Don't
suppress that idealistic spark in him!"
Fortunately my director didn't suppress my idealism, not that I displayed
much of it after that-it is generally not career enhancing to have a
reputation for being too idealistic in the Singapore civil service, where
hard-nosed pragmatism is a prized asset. But I realised that despite its
efficiency and professionalism, the civil service can only help fulfil the
political objectives of the party in power. It cannot change those
objectives, because it has neither the power nor the mandate to do so.
Policy directions are set by politicians in the ruling party. (By policy
directions, I'm referring to issues like whether or not Singapore should
provide a universal social safety net for needy Singaporeans, not whether
the Public Assistance grant should be $360 or $400.)
My friends in the PAP tell me that it is more effective to change Singapore
from within the PAP than from outside. I believe that changes to the finer
details of policies are possible from within, but fundamental changes to the
way the country is governed can only come if the top echelon of leaders in
the party either radically change their mind, or are replaced. Neither is
about to happen anytime soon.
The pace of change from within will be too slow to meet the challenges of
this fast moving world. Our country cannot afford to allow our competitors
to pass us by or for our income divide to reach dangerous levels, while we
wait for some senior gentlemen at the top to pass from the scene.
The need for an effective opposition
The PAP has conditioned Singaporeans to see the political opposition as a
destructive force in society. They routinely accuse the opposition of
"playing politics", engaging in "unconstructive criticism" and "opposing for
the sake of it". These are very untrue and damaging characterisations.
In the United Kingdom, where we inherited the Westminster Parliamentary
system from, the official title of the largest alternative party is "Her
Majesty's Loyal Opposition". This implies that the opposition opposes the
government-"Her Majesty's Government"-and its policies, but not the state,
as represented by the monarch.
Even while the PAP remains in power, there is a useful role for the
opposition to play. The opposition can use its platform in Parliament to
apply pressure on the government to change policies which are not serving
Singaporeans well. As much as the PAP wants to portray itself as impervious
to public pressure, the reality is that when they know that there is a real
threat to their support at the next elections, they will have to bow to
public pressure built up by the opposition.
This is the beauty of genuine political competition. Just like how
commercial competition forces businesses to work harder, become more
efficient and provide better services to woo their customers, political
competition will force the ruling party to focus more on bettering the lives
of all Singaporeans in order to earn their votes.
I joined the WP because I believe Singapore needs an alternative leadership
that is capable of taking over the reins and steering our country to its
next level of development, should the PAP stumble. This will ensure that
Singapore will continue to prosper and thrive even without the PAP in power.
I believe the WP has the potential to be that alternative government in the
future, and I want to play my part to contribute to its growth and
development. I hope to be able to help my party sharpen its policy proposals
and broaden its outreach to Singaporeans who are not usually interested in
I am under no illusions that the road ahead as an opposition activist will
be long and fraught with obstacles, not to mention minefields. Many who have
gone before me have paid a heavy price for their ideals. Some have lost
everything they had, except their dignity. All Singaporeans are heavily
indebted to these heroes, whether or not they realise it.
I hope I will not have to suffer political persecution like these heroes
did, but I know many things are beyond my control. I therefore ask my
friends and readers for their prayers and support, as I take my first of
many steps in this long march towards building a better Singapore for all