There has been so much publicity about the over-hyped National Conversation, a brainchild of PM Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally, that there is a danger that it is bordering on the ad nauseam. The reason is that the Committee spearheading the National Conversation is so heavily loaded with PAP political office holders, headed by Minister Heng Swee Kiat, that it gives the unmistakable impression that it is just a PAP government show to appease the rising anger of the electorate over a litany of unpopular PAP policies among which unrestrained immigration and import of foreign talents take prominence. The PAP wallahs vowed blindly that the National Conversation must be as inclusive as possible but only that they gave a lie to the word inclusive because no opposition representatives or bloggers were appointed to the Committee. The Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who is on the Committee, gave a far-fetched excuse that the National Conversation was not meant to be "partisan". Only PAP supporters will believe him.
How can it be called a National Conversation when an important and essential segment of the society such as the opposition parties and bloggers is excluded? Would it not be a misnomer? With the Committee heavily planted with PAP political office holders, would it not be reasonable for the non pro-PAP public to view this as a "wayang kulit" (Indonesian puppet show) and that whatever decision taken by the National Conversation is a foregone conclusion of pseudo support of unpopular PAP government policies?
Recently, an ardent activist has written a missive to Minister Heng Swee Kiat giving a long list of PAP misdeeds of a autocratic nature to ensure its dominance in politics. For instance, he wants the GRC to be reduced from the mega five or six-man team to a three-man team to give the opposition a better chance to compete. He wants the removal of former PAP ministers from helming the Singapore Press Holdings to remove political control of the press. The astronimical ministerial salary is another issue. A run-off for presidential election should tbere be no candidate with an absolute majority in the first round. These are just a few examples of the long list of demands and apparently Minister Heng has given a reply to the author which however has not been seen in public.The reply should be of interest to the public because it shows the sincerity or otherwise of the PAP government in looking after the interests of the people. Minister Heng will be doing a service to the public if he publishes his reply on his facebook or other website for the public to consider. The long list of demands of the author is quite intimidating to the PAP which could put the minister in a dilemma and stretch his ingenuity to the liimit to respond adequately.
The National Conversation will at best be an exercise in futility because of exclusion of important segments of the society. Aborting it is out of the question because of the loss of face to the Government, in particular to PM Lee Hsien Loong, so the "wayang" will go on regardless. Minister Heng will have an unenviable task of bringing some semblance of authenticity to the over-hyped National Conversation so as not to let down the sanguine PM Lee.