3 May at Fullerton Square, Lee Hsien Loong apologised to the people on behalf of the govt. It was an ominous gesture for the PAP. The GE saw the defeat of a key minister and the lost of a GRC. George Yeo had seen it coming. He related an incident to Hsien Loong of a voter telling him he was going to vote opposition a couple of days earlier.
The aftermath of the GE saw the stripping of 3 ministers from their posts and the stepping down of LKY and Goh Chok Tong. Since then, the PAP must have taken George Yeo’s advice seriously to reflect on themselves and their policies. And it has been on the defence, retreating all the way from their arrogant and I know best ways.
Many policies were revamped and the kpkbs of the people were taken heed. Yes, the PAP is taking very seriously the noises made by the people. The callous and bullying housing policies were dumped with a new minister in Boon Wan taking charge. He is not dictating to the people to live by his terms like his predecessor, but going all out to build more flats to meet the needs of the people, to restrain the rising property prices, telling the applicants not to screw themselves up by blindly applying for a flat with anyone in a hurry.
Measures were taken to slow the pace of immigrations even after LKY had said that another 900,000 foreign workers were needed. The MOM has come out with new regulations to limit a free flow of foreigners like TGIF. In a way Hsien Loong was arresting the fears of young Singaporeans losing out in the job market to hungrier FTs.
The cries for more university places were also heard and more places will be squeezed out for Singaporeans, with the intake of foreign students frozen at the current level. Yes, he is saying Singaporean First and doing it.
The new media is not giving up with their attacks and demands for a more Singaporean centric govt and policies. The new media was tolerated and permitted to carry on as usual, with bigger space to air their views.
The issuing of 4 COEs to presidential hopefuls is unthinkable and unprecedented. With all the discretion in the hands of the govt, it could easily tighten the screw and push through its endorsed candidate in a walkover by rejecting the other candidates. It was a huge concession, a huge step backwards, to appease the anger of the people.
Shanmugam, the elite and top notched lawyer minister was lambasted and had to beat a retreat from his interpretations of what a EP can or cannot do. Any minister or MP trying to make clever talks were not spared and were hammered relentlessly, including presidential hopeful Tony Tan, once a PM potential. The other once arrogant ministers were no where to been seen, probably trying to live by the new mantra that they are the servants and not the lords of the people.
The retreat by the PAP under Hsien Loong’s leadership is not in disarray. It is a measured retreat, taking a stand here and there not to concede too much ground. All the concessions were in response to the feedbacks from the people, primarily from the new media. The govt may not admit it officially, but there is a big battle going on with the govt taking stock of its positions and responding with changes in its policies.
Hsien Loong is leading the govt with a completely new style from his predecessors. Could he do otherwise if he is going to regain the confidence and trust of the people, and to extend PAP’s rule into the future? Another big concession is waiting to be served, the slashing of ministerial salary, including that of the ceremonial President. How much and how far will Hsien Loong be able to engage the people while on the defensive is still unfolding. The day is young.