Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PAP government is a kingdom of deaf frogs: Lim Swee Say


Lim Swee Say to Low Thia Kiang: We are deaf to all these criticisms

March 4, 2010

After being embarrassed in Parliament by WP MP Low Thia Kiang’s demolition of the labor movement’s ineptitude to help lower wage workers in Singapore, one would expect Minister Lim Swee Say and NTUC Secretary-General to come up with a robust argument to counter him.

Instead, he used an unheard of fable about a “kingdom of frogs” to brush aside Mr Low’s criticisms.

“The story goes that in a kingdom of frogs, the tallest tower in the world is built for an annual competition. And when the event is held, many aim to become the champion by making it to the top, but fail as they are discouraged by the audience, who warn that the climb is too dangerous. All except one frog who did reach the top. And when asked afterwards why he ignored the crowd, the frog said: ‘I’m deaf. I can’t hear them’”, he said.

The gist of Mr Lim’s message: Despite criticisms from Mr Low, the labour movement will continue to address problems faced by low-income Singaporeans.

“We never give up. We are like the little frog. We are deaf to all these criticisms. So instead of telling us that low-wage workers are having problems, why not be part of the solution?,” he was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

As expected, the Straits Times tried to portray Mr Lim as the “victim” and pinning the blame on Mr Low for criticizing without offering solutions.

Being paid almost $2 million dollars a year, Mr Lim ought to realize that it is the duty of MPs to ask questions and criticize if necessary in Parliament as in all modern democracies in the world. If he cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, he should get out of it!

The onus is on Mr Lim to answer the questions posed by Mr Low and not to counter-challenge him to be “part of the solution”. The key role of the opposition is to check on the ruling party and to hold it accountable for its words and actions and not to do offer solutions for it to govern the nation.

If Mr Lim wants Mr Low to offer solutions, then he should be prepared to give Mr Low a job in NTUC or other government committees and pay him a salary commensurate with his services.

Mr Lim also reminded Mr Low that “the government always paid special attention to low-income earners and had introduced programmes like Workfare to supplement their income”, but the fact remains that low wage Singaporeans are still struggling due to direct competition from cheaper foreign workers.

Furthermore, Mr Low did offer a solution to scrap the foreign worker levy and to refine the dependency ratio to moderate the inflow of foreign workers.

Mr Lim’s attitude epitomizes a wider problem pervading the entire PAP – the inability to listen to others and accept feedback and criticisms in good faith.

As the recent parliamentary sessions had shown, the PAP MPs are completely out of touch with the ground. It will be apt to describe them as a “kingdom of frogs” living in their own wells.

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