Wow, this Catherine Lim really knows how to write good, man. She should write some books, man. Oh, wait—
Plus a response at Sg_review.
The debate on the ministerial salaries is as good an example as any to elucidate a point I now wish to make, to draw attention to what I feel is the beginning of a serious problem in the government-people relationship, which threatens to negate all the gains we have made so far in the new dispensation of Singapore 21.
What is happening, as demonstrated so vividly in the debate, is the persistence of a government strategy of managing public dissent that had worked well in the past and is clearly assumed to work just as well in the present (and possibly the future).
Through this strategy, the Government ensures that while people are publicly allowed any extent of disagreement, privately and quietly, their views can be disregarded.
The skill of the strategy is apparent in an analysis of its stage-by-stage operation.
First, the Government, having made a major policy decision, throws it open for public discussion, allowing, even encouraging the people to voice their views freely through the permitted channels such as the forum pages of the newspapers and the face-to-face feedback sessions with their Members of Parliament.
The people accordingly respond, often with much spirit and candour.
The Government next waits for the noise to reach a certain level, then steps in to say, with business-like briskness: "Enough. Let's get back to work." Following which, the media duly wrap up the debate, and the people withdraw and return once more to the concerns of their busy lives.