So Sorry for Inderjit

Lianhe Zaobao (via AsiaOne) reports that Inderjit Singh is feeling the heat because he didn’t vote against the White Paper in spite of his speech in parliament against it, and he’s not a happy chap that he’s catching flak for the way he didn’t vote.

He was quoted as saying, “A lot of people criticised me for not voting against the motion.

“I feel that this is an unreasonable criticism. Just because I didn’t do so, they say I say one thing but do another.

“Moreover, the party whip wasn’t removed, so everyone should know the outcome of the vote.”

I like Inderjit. He’s got his heart in the right place, methinks, and unlike so many of his colleagues he isn’t afraid to say what he’s thinking and even conveniently absents himself from the White Paper vote. But it seems that this is not enough for Singaporeans – they expect a politician to walk his talk, party whip be damned.

Inderjit is just experiencing the downside of the “change from within” path he has chosen. He’s trapped in the intricacies of the system and I feel for him, but what did he expect? The criticism that is coming his way is reasonable and natural. People want honesty and courage, not some side-shifting political backdoor move like being absent from a vote. It’s not enough, especially after what he said in parliament.

Until he can find a way to implement real change, he is going to find that he has caged himself – a prisoner of his own devising – willingly stuck between a party that will not allow him to act on his conscience and a public that hopes, nay expects, that he will.

What can he do? It seems that Inderjit is hoping that the PAP itself lobbies internally for the whip to be lifted on issues that are of public interest. It has done so a few times in the past, on issues of morality, but sadly these occasions are few and far between. At the very least, the PAP will show the public that it can countenance a little dissent and appreciates the value of maverick thinking. This seems to be what Inderjit wants, but isn’t getting.

Failing that, Inderjit could try to trigger executive change. Even though he is, ironically, the deputy PAP whip, he is powerless under the direction and discipline of the Central Executive Committee (CEC). The only way to change that would be to put people in the CEC who shared his vision and views, and to do that, he would have to rally the 1,000-odd PAP cadres to vote for internal change. Good luck with that.

Finally, Inderjit could find another party more aligned to his views, or become an independent. It’s a whole different world outside the PAP, and perhaps Inderjit isn’t ready, gutsy, or willing enough to quit. But while he chooses to stay with the PAP, it is no “unreasonable criticism” to chide his choosing the party whip over his conscience.

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