Does the "new normal" in politics include the beginning of a display of more affability on the part of PAP ministers and MPs towards the opposition (especially Workers' Party (WP) MPs in Parliament? This does not seem to be incongruous with the aim of the realistic PM Lee Hsien Loong but whether this noble intention has gone down well with his colleagues and MPs is intriguing. If the proceedings of the start of the 12th Parliament are any indication, it shows that there are still a few stragglers among the MPs and at least one minister without portfolio.
Mr Lim Swee Say was described in the Straits Times as the ruling party's most high profile Mandarin-speaking minister. He featured in a heated debate with the WP secretary-general Mr Low Thia Khiang in Parliament. By Lim's disdainful demeanour and aggressive attitude in presenting his arguments, PM Lee's idea of a more tranquil and courteous atmosphere in the 12th Parliament is devoid of meaning. TV footage of his antics in Parliament showed him to be more comical than rational with his clownish demeanour.
The object of his caustic crticisms, Mr Low Thia Khiang, emerged as an indignant cogent opponent who was able to outmanoeuvre the PAP high priest in almost all his arguments. In response to Lim Swee Say's clarification on his "cheaper, better, faster" catchphrase, Low's quick retort was: "On his clarification about cheap, faster and better workers, I would say that perhaps we will start to see better, faster and perhaps cheaper (ones) after the ministerial salary review is completed".
In the longest debate with Mr Low, the Minister in the PMO Lim Swee Say said he was at a loss for words that Mr Low felt ministers served out of self interest. Responding, Mr Low said he was referring to Singaporeans' perception, nicely hitting the nail on the head. In this connection, an article was published on 22-7-11 on this website titled: "Are the 3rd generation PAP leaders not really self-serving?" which attempted to show why there was a perception among Singaporeans that PAP ministers (including the PM) were a self-serving lot. The relevant post is still available and Mr Lim Swee Say is strongly urged to read it to keep abreast of Singaporeans' perception.
There is an acting minister who is given the nickname "Kie Chiu"(meaning raise your hand) . He has the ridiculous habit of asking his puzzled audience to raise their hands to show approbation of what he has said. Then another minister who had become notorious for disappearing from heavy flood scenes in Orchard Road leaving helpless business victims in the lurch. Another minister incurred public displeasure at showing an indifferent attitude to food-poisoning volunteers who helped in the Youth Olympic Games. These are supposed to be the cream of our selfless ministers.
Returning to WP MP Mr Chen Show Mao's maiden speech in Parliament, a large number of Chinese-speaking Singaporeans who were viewing the TV programme on Parliamentary debates were not only disappointed, but were angry at Media Corp for censoring Chen's speech. They could only see Chen saying the words:"Patriotism is not the preserve of the ruling party" and the rest was cut off. The citizens were eagerly waiting to watch the immaculte performance of Chen as a excellent Mandarin orator and ended up with hearing only one sentence of his speech. It was an anti-climax to them to say the least. Is this kind of discrimnation going to endear them to the PAP?
A former woman journalist of the Lianhe Zaobao has written an article in the current affairs column of the Chinese journal on 21-10-11 that it was a grave error for Media Corp to refrain from reporting the epoch-making maiden speech of Mr Chen Show Mao in its TV programme and urges that Parliamentary debates be reported in full in future. She said that Singaporeans were disappointed that they were deprived of the opportunity of watching Chen's wisdom and intelligence in action.