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PS2249 Revision Document

17/18 Sem 1
1.Is the election of Madam Halimah Yacob in September 2017 as Singapore’s eighth president more about
safeguarding multiracialism than the discretionary powers of an elected president? Support your answer
with appropriate examples and illustrations.
2. In discussing the future of Singapore’s political system, Mr Ong Ye Kung, the Minister of Education
(Higher Education and Skills) and the Second Minister of Defence, argued in January 2017 that "the
formula for success is based on different political processes and ours happens to be a one‐party system".
Do you agree that Singapore’s future lies only with a one‐party dominant state?
3. What role do trade unions play in Singapore’s politics? Has the PAP‐NTUC ‘symbiotic relationship’
increasingly made the trade unions irrelevant as champions of workers’ rights?
17/18 Sem 2
“In Singapore’s political democracy, the election of the Prime Minister and President is fundamentally
different.” Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of
Communications and Information, 20 February 2018, during Dialogue with Students from the Department
of Political Science
1.In light of the above statement, analyse the election of Singapore’s President in 2017 and the validity of
the various criticisms regarding the process of the election.
2.Is the PAP’s control and use of para-political organisations the key reason for its continued hegemony
in the political system since 1959?
3. “Race and religion are not the key determinants of Singapore’s politics but rather the manner they have
been framed by the ruling political party to ensure its hegemony”. Do you agree?
18/19 Sem 1
“These changes [Elected Presidency, drawing on reserves, etc.] are my responsibility. I am doing it now
because it would be irresponsible of me to kick this can down the road and leave the problem to my
successors. They have not had this long experience with the system, and will find it much harder to deal
with." Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Parliamentary Speech, 8 November 2016
1.In the context of the above quote, what are the key duties of the office of the Prime Minister in
Singapore? Are the powers of the Prime Minister too excessive? Or are the powers of the Prime Minister
justified and serve as a check and balance in-and-of-itself? Answer your question with appropriate
examples and illustrations.
2. According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “in Singapore, the concept of asset building is more a
reality than rhetoric.” Assess this statement in the context of challenges of rising income inequality and
efforts made to undertake redistributive justice.
3. According to Minister K. Shanmugam and Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat, the close relations
between the government and key institutions such as the civil service, trade unions, grassroots
organizations and the mass media have benefitted the development of Singapore. In your view, in the
context of a one-party dominant paradigm in Singapore, can what happened in Malaysia on 9th May 2018
be repeated in Singapore?
18/19 Sem 2
1. Does the naming of Mr. Heng Swee Keat as the First Assistant Secretary-General of the PAP in November
2018 signals the rise of a new type of politics in Singapore in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era?
2. In the context of Singapore’s political system in the post-1965 period, what is the possibility of the PAP
being defeated in a general election?
3. To what extent has nation building in Singapore been undermined by the rise of income inequalities
and poverty-related issues?
LKY and PAP’s Future
Who is he, what he said, how the PAP evolved and where is it heading?
o How a man through his sheer personality drove the party. History of LKY is the history of
the party. What he said about the future of the PAP is significant.
o Problems of meritocracy
o Flipside is the future of the opposition
o How to deal with PAP-linked corruption. Eg. Walter Woon’s article, shipyards.
Heng Swee Keat, 4G and Key issues such as poverty
Who is he, How did 4G evolve, What is its specialty and outlook on key issues such as poverty
o Succession is not about politicization of the person but is about HOW the party selects.
The party is in absolute control
o Last Year’s Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament. What they said about the issues
of class
o Poverty – Singapore began out poor, as coolies. Over time the opportunities came,
through education that allowed for social mobility.  General society empowerment and
enrichment and the divides were not that great. High equity.  Growing disparities. Basic
medical care, basic food on the table that the state will provide for. Poverty begins beyond
that. Children from a young age begin to see poverty in their classrooms, comparisons to
their classmates.
o Problem of ministerial salaries
o Minimum wage. Government has started but there will be a slippery slope.
Historical Past and Importance of Key Pillars of PAP such as Labour and the continued importance of ParaStatal Groups such as NTUC
Importance of Key Pillars and why labour and other elements of society important in politics and
how has organs such as the NTUC evolved and made itself relevant and irrelevant.
o Control of civil service, grassroots, media  control strata in society
o PAP is in power today because they won the struggle for labour. Captured the Labour
movement form the left.
o NTUC surfaced from the struggle.
LKY and PAP’s future
To understand what the post-Lee era could be, it is first important to understand what was the
Lee era – political career spanning 60 years until his death
LKY’s legacy – LKY Shaped Singapore  analyze: how effective & impactful, helpful,
o All encompassing influence in all areas, sectors, aspects of Singapore.
o Successes amid a small state devoid of resources.
o Government
 PAP in white – Clean, efficient, capable government & party
o Building an economically rich state
 Minimum debt, high reserves, wealth
 Rise of Singapore from Third World to First World – High per capita income, high
standard of living  world class metropolis city-state
 Regional and global hub for finance, banking, attracting investments, business
 Rode on the waves of globalization
o Building a secure, safe state
 Military: army, navy, air force – National Service
 Foreign policy & diplomacy
 Strict rule of law eg. drug laws
o Quality infrastructure
 Housing – HDB, Transport, Healthcare
o Human resource as foundation of economy  part of Singaporean DNA
 Meritocratic society – disciplined, hardworking, competitive workforce
 Importance of education – bilingual education, NUS (prestigious tertiary
 Racial Harmony, Multiracial, Multireligious
 Siege mentality
Negative legacy: Heavy-handed governance
o Daring/Arrogant and spoke ill of the opposition freely – Was not always ‘politically
 “The PAP is the Government and the Government is the PAP”
 Threatened that if the opposition came into power, they were incompetent and
‘asset values will disappear, apartments will be worth a fraction of what they
were’, security would be at risk, collapse of society
“If we had considered them serious political figures, we would not have kept
them politically alive for so long. We could have bankrupt them earlier.”
 “If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and
o Iron-fisted
 “Anyone who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters”
 “Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him”
o Belief that society had to be restraint
 Government controlled Media – non profit watchdogs classify Singapore poorly
for press freedom
 Crushed dissent: jail, bankrupt, exiled
 Internal Security Act, Operation Coldstore targeted at Communists
which included opposition politicians (Barisan Socialis), union leaders,
Operation Spectrum 1987
 Sued critics for defamation
 unsustainable without someone of LKY’s stature to do it
Post-LKY Singapore Political-Economic-Social
o Unlikely to diverge too much in the short-medium future
 Strong foundations of society, institutionalization and a system that can almost
be on autopilot.
 Legacy of rule of law to regulate society
 Culture of rejecting violence and street demonstrations
o Political: likely continued dominance for a few more decade
 First few years was without much trouble: 2015 GE strong PAP showing
 Uncertainty in the upcoming years: 2020-21 First PM transition without LKY,
previous times overseen by LKY
 Immediate neighbor influence of 2018 Malaysian elections that saw the
collapse of the 61year old Barisan Nasional
 However, LKY and the PAP institutionalized a system of leadership
 Boosted by increased welfare programs eg. Merdeka Generation Package,
Bicentennial bonus, Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS)
o Society: continuity with control over society
 Eg. Alex Yeung, HK resident, repatriated and banned from Singapore after
organizing a public assembly (without permit) for people to share their views on
the HK protests
 Eg. Cancellation on Yale US module on “Dialogue and Dissent”
 Eventually may have to relent on control, as have been for the last few years,
improving academic freedom, not as extreme as LKY period
HOWEVER, challenges lie ahead and uncertainty remains – even LKY himself spoke of the PAP’s
fall: Eventually that the opposition would improve, the PAP would decline and eventually voters
would choose the other way, Shanmugam 70 years
o Expressed uncertainty whether Singapore would be around for its 100th anniversary.
o Increasing resentment of the people
Aljunied WP since 2011
Government lapses
 MRT breakdowns
 Eg. Singapore Accountancy Commission unintentionally disclosed
personal data of 6541 people to more than 40 recipients over four
months this year. Leak includes names, NRIC, DOB, contact details,
education and employment information.
 Eg. 2018 SingHealth data breech with hackers accessing medication
records of nearly 160,000 patients.
 Eg. 2016 MOH HIV registry data downloaded by Mikhy Farrera-Brochez
 Widening income inequality and wealth gap juxtaposed against rich PAP
 No minimum wage, CPF, rising property prices
 Homelessness: first nationwide study found about 1000 people sleeping
on the streets
 Proliferation of foreigners, competition – Population White Paper 2013
 4000 people gathered at Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park protest
against target population of 6.9million people
 High PAP ministerial salary pegged to top corporate income bracket
  disenfranchised, neglected
 Growing civil society – increasing demand for political rights
 Proliferation of the internet
 Influence of HK protests
 Pink Dot
 Education: Elitism in education, unemployed university graduates
 Increasing problems that stem from successes of the government
o Opposition figures in society
 Thum Ping Tjin – Challenged government’s narrative of Coldstore
 Li Hsien Yang, Li Shengwu – family dispute over demolishment of the 38 Oxley
Road, Li Hsien Yang openly showing support for Tan Cheng Bock’s PSP
 Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui, Amos Yee
o Increasing government dissent from within the PAP ranks
 Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former MP, openly contesting the EP against PAP endorsed
candidate Tony Tan. Challenged the change of criteria for EP in court.
 Tommy Koh urged the gay community in SG to mount legal challenges against
377A & criticized the Straits Time for reporting Minister Josephine Teo’s
argument that minimum wage could cause unemployment and illegal
employment but not his rebuttal that this narrative is contradicted by the
experiences of other countries
Questions to consider: Who is the next LKY? Can there ever be another LKY? Do we really need
another LKY?
Historical Past and Importance of Key Pillars of PAP such as Labour and the continued importance of
Para-Statal Groups such as NTUC
Structural-Institutional Control – Useful for…
o Securing mass political support for the PAP
o Co-op different groups in society
o Surveillance and control
o Mouthpiece for government policies & principles
o Feedback channel
o Potential recruitment for political leadership: high-flying members invited to switch over
to government positions & politics, as Members of Parliament and Ministers in
o Opposition’s inability to make lasting gains politically
Historical Importance of Labour & NTUC
o Current state of trade unionism largely a function of its historical past
o Labour formed the support for the MCP.  After the British regained control, there
were problems of corruption, unemployment, inflation, food shortage which left the
people disillusioned. MCP capitalized on this dissent and organized labour movements
which led to labour strikes and demands from worker unions. Close alliance between
MCP and Singapore Federation of Trade Unions (STFU)
o Essentially born out of an internal PAP conflict  NTUC born out of the split of the
Singapore Trades Union Congress when the PAP split into two, with the NTUC under the
control of the moderates (PAP). Initially after the split only 12/94 unions remained at
the NTUC.
o Post-independence, close ties between PAP and NTUC to implement an export
orientated policy and to attract foreign investments to deal with problem of
 Labour legislations that reduced production costs, gave employers greater
independence and discretion
o Implementation of ‘house unionism’ that models Japan’s highly efficient economic
system epitomized by an excellent employer-employee rapport and greater
identification with the enterprise by employees meant to neutralize and socialize
workers to develop work ethics and values that align with industrialization
 Overt opposition to house unionism was firmly dealt with by NTUC secretary
general Ong Teng Cheong.
Trade Unions (National Trade Union Congress) – Close ties between NTUC and PAP
o Although there a few independent trade unions, they are not significant so the role of
coordinating organized labour falls on the NTUC
NTUC Important for the Government
o PAP-NTUC Symbiosis—Institutionalization of formal and informal links between the
PAP administrators, technocrats, PAP MPs recruited and placed in NTUC as
cadres  legitimized indirect PAP role in NTUC policy-making.  PAP MPs
providing top level executive leadership in many NTUC affiliated unions
 eg. In 1988, officials of two unions were required to stand down after they
stood as opposition candidates in the GE
 Past and present NTUC leaders are PAP MPs: Lim Swee Say, Chan Chun Sing, Ng
Chee Meng
 KEY to denying Opposition a chance to leverage on worker grievances/labour
o Tripartite structure between government, employers’ organisations and trade unions in
Singapore’s labour policy decision making improve channels and effectiveness of
consultations between parties  harmonious industrial relations
 Employer bodies and NTUC represented on statutory boards, in joint seminars
and on a host of public sector committees concerned with employment and
 Use of cooperation, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, eradicating strikes as
method to settle labour disputes
o NTUC supporting the PAP’s economic governance/growth  gain support for PAP
 Upgrading of workforce
 Help government attain economic objectives: growth, full employment, equity
 Regulate worker-employer relations to create good working conditions
to facilitate economic development
NTUC important for the Workers
o Collective bargaining on issues of salary, conditions of employment
o Deal with issues of job creation, skills training (skills future)
o NTUC cooperatives to provide reliable, affordable services to consumers in the area of
supermarket stores, insurance (NTUC income), childcare facilities have helped to
improve welfare
 NTUC Club card benefits
 Rebates at NTUC FairPrice
NTUC fine balance between representing worker’s rights and maintenance of harmonious
industrial relations (to attract investments)
o Balance to retain talent with high wages and attract business with low operation cost
Through constant revamps and improvements, remain relevant as an integral part of
Singapore’s economy and society
Civil Service
o Ideal Civil Service meant to be neutral, impartial BUT
o Close ties between Civil Service and PAP
 Early phase: civil servants sent to Political Study Centre and participation in civic
and community activities on weekends
 PAP recruits loyal, dedicated and talented individuals and rewards them.
Improves condition of employment and career advancement, monetary
rewards. Other forms of benefits, retraining, scholarships. Funds for staff
welfare, recreational activities.
 Civil service supportive of Government and effectively carries out its policies
Maintain a clean and efficient civil service  add to PAP’s performance legitimacy
 Public Service Commission held to high standards of excellence and
performance. Recruitment and promotion based on merit.
 Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau under the PMO that ensures Civil Service
free from corruption
Statutory Boards
o Perform specific tasks/solve certain problems to improve governance and performance
legitimacy & implementing government policies
 More efficient without constraints of civil service & reduce workload of civil
 HDB (cheap flats), EDB (attract foreign investment), JTC (develop Jurong
industrial area)
Grassroots Organizations
o Close ties to the PAP
 Formation of new grassroots groups at the initiative of the PAP government
o People’s Association
 Historical Past
 Originally meant to reach the community to counter communist
 Originally founded to help foster racial harmony and social cohesion
that was the bedrock of nation building.
 Today
 Pick up real time social and political trends  Serves as a feedback unit
of public expectations, complaints and views from the masses to the
government for governments
o Government able to assess its level of support
o Citizens made to feel their views are heard
 Today a center for recreational and community activities for residents
or programs that cater to the needs and wants of Singaporeans 
indirectly garnering mass public and political support, approval and
legitimacy for PAP
 Help to inculcate political ideas and values of PAP to the public through
their activities
 Gives PAP permanent presence in constituencies and providing visibility
to PAP MPs and party workers.
 Co-opt local ethnic/religious leaders through initiating ethnic self-help
groups that are respected in their communities
o Check and prevent these leaders from becoming powerful
opposing forces to the PAP
Eg. Community Centers/ Community Clubs, Youth Executive Committees
Mass Media
o Since 1959, PAP has enacted a series of laws and structural changes such as the
requirement of annual permits from the government to the establishment of a
government ministry to oversee the media
o Government controlled Singapore Press Holdings – monopoly over domestic press
o Top management in media often close to ruling party and appointed by government
o Use of legal and financial penalties against errant foreign publications
o Government has control of circulation of foreign publications in Singapore
 Eg. Time published an article by Opposition leader J.B. Jeyaretnam and when
they refused to publish a letter by James Fu, then Press Secretary to PM Lee,
government slashed Time’s circulation in SG