In Leon Perera’s maiden speech in Parliament, he said:
“I find that casting the election result as a badge of national unity is deeply unhelpful for our nation-building. It suggests that what unites us as Singaporeans is our support for one political party.
I am sure that most Singaporeans believe that what unites us is not that. Madam Speaker, real unity should be built to last, it should be built on a sterner stuff. Real unity recognizes that the different voices and the debate among them is precisely what makes Singapore stronger. Singing with one voice is neither proof of unity nor is it conducive to real unity.
What unites us is our shared heritage, our shared values and our common hopes for the future.
Our bedrock as a nation should lie not only in the trust between government and people. Our bedrock should be the trust we have in one another, our collective sense of self-worth and national purpose. This will outlast any government and any party and is a firmer foundation on which to build our nation.”
I thought that this was a very good point. Because of our differences, we are one. That is a far stronger unity, a more perfect union, than if we were all parroting the same views, supporting the same political party. How do we mature as a nation so that we can have vigorous but healthy debates? And how can we have a system where we arrive at better decisions from these vigorous debates? How do form that bedrock where we have trust in one another, develop a collective sense of self-worth and national purpose? These are very important issues.
However, instead of addressing the substantive issues raised by Leon Perera, PAP MP Cedric Foo decided to take a stupid cheap shot by saying “In fact, the presence of Mr Perera as an NCMP himself was the creation of the PAP government, because we believe in diversity, as he suggested.” That’s like saying just because students in SAP schools celebrate Racial Harmony Day once a year, all the students would understand and fully appreciate the cultures of the other races in Singapore. That’s like saying just because we have one lady who is a full minister heading a ministry, we have achieved gender equality in political and corporate leadership. No. Those are token gestures. Tokenism.
Mr Cedric Foo’s response trivialised the very important issues raised by Mr Leon Perera. It’s evasive. Lazy. That Mr Cedric Foo would even make such a statement shows, at best, an intellectual vacuity, or worse, reflects that that is all that the PAP government is willing to go in terms of ensuring diversity of views.
Thankfully, PM Lee has mooted constitutional changes to allow for more NCMPs and to give NCMPs the same voting rights as other MPs so that they will be “equal in powers, though not in responsibility and scope, to constituency MPs”. That is a rather bold and gracious move by the PAP that shows, in a very concrete way, that it is indeed serious about allowing for a greater diversity of views.
In other words, that Mr Cedric Foo would respond to Leon Perera in the way he did is simply a demonstration of a laziness to come up with a better response yet trying to score quick points with stupid cheap shots. I hope that this is the rock bottom of the quality of comments made in our Parliament. I expect more from our MPs!
[Featured image: from PAP]