Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Cracks, The Fault Lines and The “Master of Balance”

Throughout the history of Singapore, cracks and fault lines are always there. If there are no cracks or fault lines, the “Master of Balance” will lose its acting power and basically, has nothing to do or no way to play politics.  Politics is a game and every game needs a master to balance off difference forces.

Since Sir Stamford Raffles landed in Singapura, our lion city, there were cracks all the way until now.  However, to solve the crack lines, a “Master of Balance” will have to appear and harmonise the fault issues.

The “Master of Balance” (MB) of course is the colonial ruler or the ruling party of the time. It may also be a single person, likes Sir Stamford or the founding father of Singapore.  

Sir Stamford Raffles managed to persuade the Sultan of Johor to let the British to set up a trading settlement in Singapore in 1819. From a fishing village to a British possession, besides merchants from Arab, Europe and other countries, the British East India Company also started to import labour from China and India to develop Singapore.  In the course of doing so, they had to balance the rights of Malay and the new immigrants even though all did not have voting rights.

During the Japanese occupation, Japan became the MB. To keep the government running, they needed to employ some locals to maintain laws and orders as well assisting in administration.  The way to maintain the balance during this period is through force and military.
When the PAP gained power in 1959, it became the MB. The PAP also claimed and acknowledged that there were cracks among themselves and that led to the formation of Barisan Sosialis in 1963.

“The leftist Barisan Sosialis was slammed by the PAP as a Communist front and attacked vehemently as being a radical pro-Communist group. ……..
Nevertheless, many Barisan Sosialis members did have (to varying extents) admiration and belief in the leftist ideals of Communism as well as Socialism due to the influence of Communist China. This communist orientation was used by the PAP to damage their reputation and viability in the Singaporean context.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barisan_Sosialis)
Even Barisan Sosialis got it right with the issue of merger with Malaysia (Singapore joined and finally left Malaysia in 1965), the MB still managed to win in 1963 election with the help of Operation Cold Store. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barisan_Sosialis)

Not only the PAP is able to balance the result in election, it has also managed in balancing the Chinese and English educated, the racial tension (Malay and Chinese), housing, employment, and in certain way the rich and poor gap in the early days of independence.

So confident is the MB, it claims to move Singapore from third world to first world country.  In the process, there are cracks and fault lines like the Marxist Conspiracy, the merger of newspaper groups, the closing of Nantah, the GRC, the Elected President, the Court Appeal (to UK), and many others.  

Some of these cracks and fault lines still remain today.  This is why PM Lee describes the new crack as the gap and difference between old and new citizens.  

Cracks are not necessary the bad things for the PAP. It can turn into advantages to the MB if he plays the cards well and balance the different demands from different people. Cracks and fault lines are Wei Ji (危机) for the MB and it contains risks () and opportunities().  The problem is how the current leaders of the PAP handle and balance the situation.

Experience proved that in 1963 (see below),  even with 46.9% of the popular votes, a good MB could still win the election with more than two-third majority.

Partai Rakyat
Pan-Malayan Malaysian Party
United Democratic Party
Invalid/blank votes
Source: Singapore Elections

Not to mention the PAP obtained 60% of the popular votes in 2011, the MB still has many rooms to move and cards to play.  Unless the quality of the PAP leaders drops sharply to the third world standard and the MB has only paper generals to deploy, then the change of government is possible.     

Cracks and fault lines are not new in Singapore.  In the past, the PAP as the MB has managed to balance the different demands from different sectors.  And in most of the cases, the PAP is acting against the minority, like the Chinese educated, the so-called communists or pro communists, the human rights fighters, the ISA protesters, even the poor is the minority in Singapore as claimed by the government and they are well taken off and provided with safety net.

However, the immigration issue is quite difference. It seems the MB is acting against the wishes of the majority - the old citizens.  MB, of course, can use the old tactics of ‘divide and rule’. 

We will see more of these tactics but will it work again?

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