The RP’s Response to the PM’s Comments on the Channel 8 ForumPublished: 18th April 2011
Last night on a televised debate Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong proclaimed, “The GRC scheme is here to stay”. It was brave of the incumbents to declare a state of permanence for a scheme which was introduced without consultation or a referendum. That statement leaves no room for debate, for alternatives to be explored, or for the opinion of the people to be sought.
The PM went on to explain that the fundamental rationale behind the scheme is “to ensure that in our Parliament, there will be a minimum number of minority MPs. That’s very important. We are a multi-racial, multi-religious society. Without this system, the multi-racial feature of our Parliament will be under threat,”
As Parliament has (virtually) been the PAP for 50 years the PM would seem to be telling us that without an artificially imposed scheme, our Parliament is not capable of representing the multi-racial feature of our society. Is the PM really telling us that without an artificially imposed scheme, the PAP is not confident of representing the multi racial features of our society? Furthermore in admitting that the scheme is “here to stay”, The PM is admitting that they have no hope of ever being able to represent the nature of the society they rule. After 50 years that would seem to be a sorry state of affairs.
The GRC scheme has been with us for the last 23 years. This is the only scheme the PAP has been able to come up with to address the lack of representation of ethnic minority candidates. The Reform Party believes that a party which has been in power for as long as the PAP should by now have internal policies in place to nurture and encourage ethnic minority candidates within its own ranks. Internal alternatives to externally imposed schemes are short lists, quotas, positive affirmation schemes, empowering of minorities, education, mentoring, shadowing, apprenticeships and many others.
If the GRC scheme had been at all successful over the last 23 years in raising the representation of minority candidates then surely it would no longer be needed. As Parliament is the PAP (virtually) and as the PAP is also “here to stay” they could have ensured minority representation purely by ensuring that they themselves field a proportionate amount of minority candidates. Nearly half the wards at the last GE became seats in parliament for the PAP without a contest. They had a large choice of seats to fill with minority candidates.
There are four nations in the world that use the GRC (or Party Block Vote scheme as it is generally known.) Singapore is one of those nations. The other three are Cameroon, Chad and Djibouti. You may not have heard of them but it is not a compliment to Singapore to find itself in their company. After instigating a PBV scheme in 1997, Djibouti’s ruling Union for the Presidential Majority coalition won every seat from The Opposition. Their two Opposition Parties have been without any representation in the legislature since.
Similarly in Singapore the GRC scheme seems to favour the incumbents. So far no GRC has ever fallen to an Opposition Party and there are further widely expressed criticisms that the fielding of heavy weight ministers in a GRC, allows new candidates to ride in on their coat tails untested by the electorate. The Reform Party believes that the GRC scheme is one of the many unfair obstacles put in the path of the Opposition and that other alternatives for ensuring representation of minorities, if that is indeed the intention, must be explored.
Maybe the PAP is concerned with ensuring minority representation in the Opposition ranks. The Reform Party is an inclusive Party. We welcome all Singaporeans. Because of this we have experienced no problem in recruiting candidates who also happen to be ethnic minorities. In fact other parties have been in talks with us asking to ‘borrow’ our ethnic minority candidates. The GRC scheme by itself clearly does not encourage a culture of diversity in the alternative Parties.
Because Opposition have always performed best statistically in SMC seats they view these as ‘A’ list seats. Ethnic minority candidates are seen as necessary to fulfill the quota and almost without exception they are denied the opportunity of contesting a SMC. The GRC scheme by itself clearly does not encourage a culture of diversity in the alternative Parties Whereas the PAP has an MP who is an ethnic minority in an SMC seat. This proves that the GRC scheme is unnecessary and needs re-evaluating.
Furthermore the PAP’s new NCMP scheme completely contradicts the rationale for the GRC scheme. Under the new scheme 9 top ‘losers’ will get the cheap seats at the back of the house. If a GRC is amongst the top losers, only 2 members out of that GRC team will be allocated NCMP positions. There is no requirement for any of those two positions to be filled from the ethnic minority candidate component of the GRC. Yet the GRC scheme exists to “ensure” minority representation.
If The PAP refuses to explore an alternative to the GRC scheme then there are two options available. Either the Opposition win enough seats to bring pressure on the incumbents in Parliament or they field ethnic minority candidates in SMCs, in such numbers that the GRC system becomes a dinosaur.
The GRC scheme is detrimental to the Opposition; it demeans rather than empowers minority candidates and it maintains a society where racial divisions are kept in the forefront of our minds. Only when no such scheme is needed will we have a Parliament and therefore a Nation that truly represents all facets of our society and each individual’s contribution equally. This GE I will be standing as a Singaporean, irrespective of race or creed.