21 October 2006

Co-opting, Singapore-style

At every general election, one or more candidates is said to have been "co-opted" by the People's Action Party. What does this practice mean for the maturity of our politics? Full essay.

19 comments:

Wayne said...

Alex,

I think that's a great article, something I have been thinking about for sometime.

Co-opting in itself I think is not a bad thing, it ensures that the PAP remains relevant, open to ideas and forward looking. And my own research reading numerous parliamentary sessions trancripts in Hansard suggests that open debate by different MPs exists strongly on many issues. They will include education bills and money bills primarily. This was especially acute after the 2001 election. However, perhaps because MPs are obliged to vote as their whips decide, the rhetoric does not translate into actions.

However, I think what is more important is whether such co-optation will continue in the future. Currently, co-optation like many other things, depend on the goodwill of the leaders within the party. The debate could be then, "Should we institute these actions in co-optation into a more democratic framework?"

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, the PAP can also co-opt people into the government because it treats the government as an extension of the PAP. For example, an outspoken critic or dissenter can be appointed to chair a statutory board or as an ambassador, or even an NMP.

thor666 said...

imo, Perhaps the reason for not co-opting ideas but people is simply, as the US internet people would call it, partisan hacking. Simply put, one blindly accepts policies and arguments by a party for the sake of holding on to power.

Furthermore, co-opting of ideas and placing them under the party whip ensures that no member under the party can go past the line, or have powers greater than the political party itself.

Anonymous said...

basically PAP can talk, coax, charm, co-opt, incentivize, bride, till the cows come home, it still remains as wayang. PAP only understands one thing and that is might is right. It really doesn't care otherwise, and therefore the talk of opening up etc etc is just lip service.

Jordan said...

Yes I do.
And I am speaking of Alex Au.

The PAP has to have a gay representation amongst their ranks, and they will do so with our very own YB- Alex Au.
Singapore's gay population has to be represented, and I think I have always said, that post will go to Alex Au.
I will cut thru' the rhetoric, and we will eventually see Alex Au at the PAP Algongiun Roundtable.
Hopefully, you will not go too "PAP" for all of us?

Anonymous said...

Co-opting's original meaning is with committees: the elected members choose someone unelected to join the committee; the PAP CEC does that regularly so that someone not popular enough to get elected but still "one of us" can be "one of us" - if you merely increase the no. of elected members, you have less control over who are "us".

BL said...

Alex,

Interesting article.
I often think that PAP took the right strategy in the framework of the mafia, "Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer."

The co-opt gives them the legitimacy to keep the opposition irrelevant. Sometimes, it does make me wonder what is going in the minds of Vivian and Balaji when they decide to join the PAP. Perhaps, they have weighed in the opportunity cost of joining the opposition and decide that it's too much to lose. So, they took the main party which they can borrow the machinery to create the most impact.

In any case, politics is never an arena of morals, rather it's an arena of interests. Let me know if you are co-opted into the house of white.

Anonymous said...

Alex, u do realize that this article is really a silent 'sound byte' of a shoe-in for a gay rep 'co-opted' by PAP?
Yes. let us know if u are co-opted in the House of White?

ColdZero said...

Let me just state my hope that the good Mr. Au never gets offered a place in the PAP. Or even if it should come to be that he is, that he has the good sense to decline the invitation.

You see, the PAP are like the Borg; they are accustomed to assimilating all difference and diversity into their hive mentality. They are, in the other words, the real enemies of the open society.

On Dr. Balakrishnan's exhortation that we be cognizant of the contraints within which policy makers operate and Mr. Au's concluding that in other words we must all come to the same conclusion, it seems a very Kantian idea of enlightenment - you are free to dissent so long as in the end you follow.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

re Anonymous, 23 Oct 01:22, I am amazed that people see in this article anything more than what it says. It's just a brief analysis - I was struggling to keep it under 1,500 words and failed - and nothing more.

I do not want to be co-opted - as if an offer was ever within the realm of possibility! My fundamental belief is that a better Singapore is an open Singapore. I don't believe the crap about "helping the PAP deliver better governance". Getting to an open Singapore, the PAP and their ideas need to be contested, not helped.

Anonymous said...

YB: "My fundamental belief is that a better Singapore is an open Singapore... Getting to an open Singapore, the PAP and their ideas need to be contested, not helped".

Yeah, agree! PAP's words of becoming an "open and inclusive" society remains just that... words without weight of corresponding policy actions. Better way is to advance change from outside ;-)

E.g. Having more hetereos participate in InDignation helps to prove that Singaporeans are no longer the "conservative" society that cannot accept GLBTs (as claimed by the official stand that has yet to be supported by neutral statistical research).

KiWeTO said...

I once stood up in a 'closed door' session of young 'leaders' meeting with PM Lee at the Istana, and asked him what kind of progress would we be seeing on S377 and the general issue of gay equality.

The reply I got, literally straight from the horse's mouth, was:

"Don't rock the boat".

That wasn't the end of it. I distinctly remember one or two young PAP-style youth leaders (clean cut, clean shaven, poster-boy types?) came up to me after the forum to try to convince me that my position was wrong. And i kept getting the impression they were using the same arguments as the PAP's position was on the above issues.

All in all, the general cohort at that forum were tomorrow's leaders. Sadly, too many of them looked like clones in political ideology already (or PAP's legalism approach to political ideology), if not also in sociological beliefs.

This country is doomed if we continue to use the same tools today that got us where we are today, believing that tools that worked in the past should continue to work.

Sigheth. The only certainty in life is uncertainty.

E.o.M.

teck soon said...

I also think the lucrative salaries enjoyed by MP's eases co-opting and makes one who has been co-opted loath to ever want to disagree with and subsequently be forced out of the PAP-controlled parliament and its corresponding extra salary.

Anonymous said...

In no time, we will probably have physically disabled people in the ranks of the PAP But as long as they stick to the mantra of "conservative asian society" whatever that means, i don't think they will coopt YB

KK

Chwee said...

YB: I do not want to be co-opted - as if an offer was ever within the realm of possibility! My fundamental belief is that a better Singapore is an open Singapore. I don't believe the crap about "helping the PAP deliver better governance".

Haha, I wonder if Balakrishnan and Raymond Lim said similar things before they were being co-opted. I don't mean to cast doubt on your integrity Alex, but I just marvel at what a 7-digit pay can do in our world. Hopefully, we will not lose another "voice in the wilderness."

Anonymous said...

The Singapore Govt does not like to be 'associated' with homosexuality, goes against the grain of their thinking.
If they had their wish and ability to get away, we gays would be banned on an island...or even worse!

Anonymous said...

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/offbeat/2006/10/singapore_slings_censorship.html

this blog just came out today-24th Oct 2006.

recruit ong said...

You see, the PAP are like the Borg; they are accustomed to assimilating all difference and diversity into their hive mentality. They are, in the other words, the real enemies of the open society.

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Star Trek is so yesterday hehe.. -_-"
PAP is like Agent Smith, it will assimilate and consume all and everything in its path until there is nothing left. It is a virus, it is evil. It has to be removed. That is the only way.

Anonymous said...

'recruit ong'- you are CORRECT!!!
Once they have 'captured' one gay representative, you watch, the govt knots will tighten around his noose...and ours!