Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Open Letter to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

(Reproduced with permission)

An Open Letter to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan Responding to Channel Newsasia Report "Govt needs to improve communication with citizens: Dr Balakrishnan"

Dear, Dr Balakrishnan.

I wish you well. I am Richard Chua, an arts and culture worker in the Singapore arts scene. I am also a constituent in the Aljunied GRC. I read the online news report by Channel Newsasia (1) with interest. I find your medical analogy highlighting the importance of open discussion between a doctor and the patient fitting rather oddly with how conversation should take place between the state and its constituents, for the latter is carried out on levelled grounds as compared to the former: where the patient obviously is unable to treating him/herself out of an illness. His/her only choice is to either accept the doctor's treatment, or to reject it. More so than not, the patient -- in lieu of his/her survival -- is not given a choice. He/She has to rely on a doctor's opinion. If not, his/her life might be in danger. If a patient dies, the doctor assumes no responsibility, if proper treatment is given to him/her. Patients will not be able to make good judgement, for the discussion has high personal stakes. At the end of the day, the doctor has practically no risks.

However engagement between the government and its constituents is akin to parents deciding on whether their son/daughter should undergo a heart bypass, for stakes between the parents are equally high: the risk of losing their child. The quality of the conversation between the parents will be well-considered, informed, with consensus. Both parents assume equal responsibility for the child's well-being. Singapore is the government and Singaporeans' only child. Hence the government and Singaporeans are collectively responsible in the country's well-being.

A constituent's responsibility is to cast his/her vote wisely, to the right party, to the right government. Singaporeans have made their choice last weekend. Dr Balakrishnan, your constituents have exercised responsibility in casting their votes, electing you and your GRC team into parliament. There was only one vote per constituent, for a team of candidates running for places in parliament for the GRC. By having one vote per constituent electing a team of 5 or 6 people into the parliament is totally unfair. For they do not have the option to openly reject the team of candidates contesting in their constituencies during nomination day. Hence requesting constituents to exercise their vote to a group of candidates of whom they have had no say in individual candidates' nomination is fundamentally unfair.

Hence your opinion that George Yeo has lost his seat to Aljunied constituent's will is not well-grounded. For the voice of Aljunied constituents you referred to was a weak one. Aljunied constituents only have one vote per person. They can only elect one team of people, either from the People Action Party or the Workers' Party. They can't vote for the candidate of their choice. George Yeo might have won the hearts of many. Lim Hwee Hua might get my blessing, but in my opinion the new candidate Ong Ye Kung seemed to have a long way to go. Given the differences, and with only one vote on hand, as a voter, I had to exercise proportionate voting according to the number of potentially strong candidates in each party.

If the election results in Aljunied GRC happened otherwise, good Singaporean leaders such as Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim would be the country's losses too. Would you mourn for them? I seriously doubt so, and vice-versa, applying to Workers' Party too.

The problem therefore lies with the GRC system. As much as it is a fair system, allowing minority constituents to be well represented in a constituency, this fairness does not apply to Singapore's very own meritocratic system where the best shall be given the mandate to run the country. A constituent's vote can only be used once, for one group of able-people, not able-individuals. In the recent election, an able-individual George Yeo, from People Action Party, lost his chance to contribute to the nation, not to mention others -- Lim Hwee Hua and Cynthia Phua -- who suffered the same fate. One man's meat is another man's poison. People Action Party has been systematically castrated by its own flawed mechanism.

The GRC system is indeed problematic, and -- in my opinion -- it should be abolished. I sincerely hope that you will raise this issue in the new parliament sitting. If not, I will request my new members of parliament to do so.

Thank you for reading this open letter.

Best Regards,

Richard Chua Lian Choon

(1) Cheney, S. (2011) Govt needs to improve communication with citizens: Dr Balakrishnan. channelnewsasia.com. [Singapore] Retrieved from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1127734/1/.html

cc. Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, members of parliament, Aljunied GRC.

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