Strong mandate or strong alternative voices?
By Yuen Kin Pheng, Francis
There has been recent calls by the ruling party for a strong mandate to tackle the current crisis and the challenges ahead. It is puzzling why a strong mandate is needed when a government’s performance is not directly related to the number of seats it controls in parliament. The disappointing performance in tackling the Covid-19 situation over the recent months clearly shows that a strong mandate does not assure a sterling performance. On the contrary, it promotes complacency, arrogance and groupthink.
The ruling party already has a strong mandate secured at the last election. It commands a more than two-third majority presently. Yet there has not been any obstruction to all the policies passed over these years and even controversial changes to the constitution regarding elected President were made without hiccups.
So why is there a need to clamor for a strong mandate? One can only conclude that the ruling party wants no “interferences ” in the way they govern or push through policies. This predicates on the believe that “interferences” are bad and only they have the talents, ideas and answers to all the issues affecting our country. Perhaps they truly believe that they know what’s best for the people. However, this clearly can’t be the case.
On the contrary, what we need are stronger alternative voices in parliament not only to serve as checks and balances but also to provide constructive ideas and approaches to solving our country’s looming problems. Strong alternative voices put the government on its toes especially in areas that need transparency and accountability.
It has been painted that the country will go down if there are too many dissenting voices in parliament. Nothing can be further from the truth. We are now a developed and mature country. Our people are better educated and there are capable people with their heart in the right place to serve. They want to country to do well and our people to benefit from it. We must change our mindset to accept alternative voices as constructive not destructive. They are for the betterment of the people. They come forward not to rock the boat but help to build a stronger vessel that can weather future storms.
If this is the mentality, the need for a strong mandate is irrelevant. Rather the need is for strong collaboration between the differing voices in parliament should be the new normal. Lackluster discussions dominated by one party will give way to open and robust debates with free contests of ideas so necessary for good policy decisions. This is political maturity that is lacking currently but yet so necessary for the healthy development of our country.
The right environment must be set. An environment that encourages free competition without fear or inhibitions. Only this will bring out the best in us.
We deserve better.