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Asia Sentinel: Singapore Could Get its First Real Election

The Independent logo The Independent 10/8/2019 Anna Maria
Lee Hsien Loong, Tan Cheng Bock are posing for a picture © The Independent Singapore

Singapore — According to independent Asian news publication, Asia Sentinel, Singapore, given Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s re-entry into politics, the country may end up having its first “real” election.

John Berthelsen, the Asia Sentinel’s editor and formerly of the Wall Street Journal and Hong Kong’s The Standard, writes about the threat that Dr Tan and his party present to ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Regarding Dr Tan, Mr Berthelsen writes,  “Although he is a near-octogenarian by any standard, Tan presents the PAP with a challenge. He is the first politician to have joined an opposition that for decades has been clearly lacking any serious gravitas. He had been a member of the PAP since 1980 after having been recruited by Lee Kuan Yew himself, rising to membership in the Central Executive Committee, the party’s highest ruling body and serving in a long string of other posts as well.

In 2011, Tan came within an ace of beating the PAP candidate Tony Tan in the presidential election, winning 34.85 percent of the votes and losing by only 0.35 percent to Tan.”

The author also touches on the current challenges that PAP faces, including a sensing among many that the party is “running on autopilot,” crackdowns on online publications, and the POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, now a Bill), Singapore’s much debated, and much-criticized anti-fake news bill.

Adding to discontent is the economic situation, with Mr Berthelsen noting the June 28 announcement from the Monetary Authority of Singapore that its growth forecast had been lowered by one full percentage point from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

The author also took particular note of the rift within the family of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which has been ongoing for three years now—first, over the family home over which current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his younger siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang are at loggerheads.

The younger siblings have wanted to honour their father’s wish, as stated in his will, to have the home destroyed, but PM Lee has expressed the desire to turn the home into a museum.

Mr Berthelsen goes on at length to describe the different issues within the Lee family, from Lee Hsien Yang’s donation to blogger Leong Sze Hian, who is being sued by the Prime Minister; to Hsien Yang’s meetings with Dr Tan; to the proceedings against Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern over Lee Kuan Yew’s final will.

The author notes that thus far, the opposition in Singapore has not been successful in being able to loosen PAP’s seemingly unbreakable hold on power, but, with Dr Tan in the mix, things could change.

Mr Berthelsen quoted Dr Tan’s speech from the formal launch of Progress Singapore Party on August 3.

“But, he said, ‘Beneath this beautiful façade is an underlying tale of disquiet. A Reuters interview reported recently that as many as 60 percent of Singaporeans fear expressing their political opinions openly, even on the internet because this could get them in trouble with the authorities.’

Fear, he said, ‘is very much present. How has this affected the Singapore lifestyle? When we study the depth and extent of the fear factor, it affects so much of us. We don’t even realize how much of our behavior is altered, people fear for their jobs, their promotions, their grants, their rental premises and getting sued. Singaporeans complain in whispers.’”/TISG

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