Written by Bertrand Seah

Other than the ones in its head.

Growing calls have been made at recent parliamentary sessions for a greater diversity of views from Singaporeans. This comes after President Halimah’s opening speech to parliament, where she asked for the nation to come forth with bold ideas for the future. PM Lee noted the importance that politics be constructive and contestable, saying that good governance depends on the government winning the trust of the people through the policies it makes. The 4G leaders also had their say – Chan Chun Sing praised the record of former Workers’ Party boss Low Thia Khiang in providing an alternative voice, and Heng Swee Keat outlined plans to launch a series of dialogues with the public to chart Singapore’s future.

A powerful speech was also made by NMP Kuik Shiao-yin, who based her speech on the views of the increasingly dissenting youths, particularly those of the students of Tembusu College who called for a government that trust its people and treat them as equal partners. A big issue at the heart of the speeches has been the growing inequality, which is seen as a having the potential to undermine social cohesion and social mobility among the people.

The government talks the talk, but will they actually listen?

While such rhetoric by the government is encouraging, it is uncertain whether it is followed up with action in light of intolerance shown by the government of dissenting views. This includes the grilling by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods of PJ Thum over his research about Operation Coldstore, the clashes with Sylvia Lim and Leon Perera in parliament, as well as the prosecution of dissident activists and artists. Given the government’s tendency to put down these voices as that of a vocal minority, it might be said that a diversity of voices isn’t only going to come from the top down.

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