Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A place for special interest parties

Representing Special InterestsI mentioned in an earlier post that perhaps there will come a time when political parties in Singapore will need to be formed to represent special interest groups, such as the middle aged, the old, etc. Singapore is missing this political dimension thus far because the incumbent government has always taken an anti-sectarian policy in multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore.

For example, groups that organise themselves along religious or racial lines are not only frowned upon, they are actively discouraged on pain of imprisonment and possible exile. The unfortunate reaction to this policy is the absence of political groups that advocate other legitimate and non-divisive special causes, groups or interests. A Today reader wrote in to express his desire for a pro-elderly MP - not a pro-elderly Party. This is telling because not all people are concerned about the 'bigger' things, the future of the country and all that. In Singapore today, that is a given with the dominance of the PAP.

Not all groups that stand for a political cause championing certain groups of people among the populace is necessarily divisive and bad for the country. Now, all political parties are forced (by the incumbent party?) to come up with a manifesto that spells out its thinking on forming an alternative government. The Workers' Party came out with theirs and was immediately hammered by the ruling PAP. On the other hand, Chiam See Tong, wisely as it turned out, declined to spell out any manifesto.

Is forming the alternative government necessarily the one and only political aim of an opposition party, as the PAP always seems to suggest and mock those that do not? I think not. These special interest causes may be marginal, but they can serve useful purposes in focusing on the needs of certain sections of the population, giving full representation to such needs through a dedicated voice in Parliament. In an increasingly aging population amidst an almost incessant emphasis on the need for renewal, youth and all, this seems to be what is needed from the Singapore political arena in the years to come.

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