Some have criticised the PAP for being a party living in the shadow of its past, and may even be out of touch with the ground.
Cadre members of the PAP had taken a vote last Sunday to an amendment to Article II of the PAP Constitution. Perhaps to most lay people it is a minor thing, but to a political party, the changing of a constitution is not trivial.
In contrast, the Worker’s Party Constitution is still unchanged about “merdeka” (in Article 2 of their Constitution) ever since the tumultuous days of Singapore. Their Article 4(2) remains unchanged about “To seek the elimination of colonial exploitation of Singapore and its people.” It is high time that the Worker’s Party refresh their Constitution to remind voters what they are voting for, given the strength of their support.
The old article of the PAP constitution states the Party Objectives as:
” (a) To preserve, protect and defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Singapore.
(b) To safeguard the freedom, and advance the well-being, of Singaporeans through representative and democratic government.
(c) To forge a nation of Singaporeans; to build a multiracial society, fair, just, and tolerant to all, whatever their race, language, and religion; to infuse into Singaporeans a sense of national identity and to bind them together by patriotism and commitment to Singapore.
(d) To build a dynamic society which is disciplined and self-reliant, and in which rewards are in accord with each Singaporean’s performance and contribution to society, and which also has compassion for the aged, the sick and handicapped, and the less fortunate.
(e) To achieve the optimum in economic development, and social and cultural fulfilment through harmonious and co-operative social relationships. Within the overiding interests of the good of society, to provide equal opportunities for all Singaporeans to strive to fulfill themselves and to achieve their maximum potential through education and training so that there will be a place and role for every Singaporean whatever his contribution.”
All these point to a very practical and very utilitarian protection of national autonomy. It is boring. It is bland. The country looks after governing the nation and the individual must be responsible for him/herself.
There have not been any changes made to both clauses (a) and (b). Democracy, sovereignty, territorial integrity and well-being of Singaporeans are fundamentals that should never, ever change.
What has changed is this:
(c) To uphold a multi-racial and multi-religious society, where people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs live harmoniously together as fellow citizens, and deepen our national identity and commitment to Singapore.
Previously, the emphasis was on tolerance and creating a multi-cultural society. The focus is now on promotion of unity instead of simply tolerance. It also acknowledges the greater number of factors beyond race and religion that may cause greater divides within our society and hence suggests that “We may well have to respectfully agree to disagree, without pushing to the point of polarisation.”
(d) To sustain a vibrant economy which creates good jobs and better lives for all, and enables every Singaporean to achieve their full potential.
Previously, the goal was centred on economic survival and individual aspirations seemed to take a back seat. However, with this amendment, it seems that the party recognizes the ambitions of the new generation and is now more committed to helping individuals fulfil their aspirations while ensuring a vibrant economy. To be a springboard to fulfil wishes and desires.
(e) To build a fair and just society, which encourages individual effort and family responsibility, while ensuring community and government support for the vulnerable and less fortunate.
There is now greater emphasis on the many helping hands approach, a collective effort of every individual, be it on the family level or community level.
(f) To strengthen an open and compassionate meritocracy, with opportunities for Singaporeans to develop skills in diverse fields, active support for those who start off with less, and ladders to success at every stage of life.
The PAP has realised that the pursuit of economic success may cause a stratified society. Hence, instead of its past objective to achieve optimum economic development, it has now adjusted its objective to an open and compassionate meritocracy. Extreme meritocracy may favour those with means which can undermine social mobility and lead to stratification in society. Hence, the party aspires to give a leg up to those who start off with less to make the starting point more equal for everyone.
(g) To develop a democracy of deeds, where citizenship embodies both rights and duties, and nurtures a sense of collective responsibility and community action.
This clause could be seen as moving away from being a “Nanny state” as Singapore is sometimes called. It calls on Singaporeans to act on things that they are passionate for and to reach out to other Singaporeans so that we may be a “Democracy of deeds”, just as the late Mr Rajaratnam had envisioned many years ago.
(h) “To represent and serve all Singaporeans responsively and responsibly, attentive to immediate concerns, focused on long-term challenges and opportunities, and governing with integrity and honesty.
This amendment reaffirms the party’s position as a national movement dedicated to representing and serving all Singaporeans, with the future in mind. Some political parties may only represent a faction of society and only think ahead for their term in office.
This looks very much to me like a recalibration of the party.
Alongside fierce battle tones of the Lee Hsien Loong, it looks set to be an electrifying battle come the next General Election.
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