Political participation amongst youths in Singapore has improved but the “silent majority” still needs to step forward and be more politically active, said National Solidarity Party’s Nicole Seah on Thursday evening.
Seah was speaking at the inaugural Young Guns Forum at the National University of Singapore, a new initiative organised by the NUS Political Association to discuss youth involvement in politics.
She was part of the guest panel along with Sembawang MP Vikram Nair from People’s Action Party, Vincent Wijeysingha from Singapore Democratic Party, and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giam from Workers’ Party.
“What can we do to foster stronger political participation until the next General Elections and lower political apathy?” Seah asked the 250-strong audience.
Seah, who contested the Marine Parade GRC during last year’s May elections, recommended that more youth communities should be built bottom-up instead of top-down so that Singapore has a wider pool of potential future leaders who are not bounded by the “sanitized and linear” discourse prevalent in Singapore.
WP’s Giam agreed that an alternative platform is needed to form an “equally strong counterpart” to the current ruling party. “Past performance is no guarantee of future success,” he told the audience of mainly students from NUS and media representatives.
Encouraging youths to be more politically involved, the 35-year-old said that first and foremost, “You must want to change the world and believe that you can do it”.
Meanwhile, PAP’s Vikram Nair emphasized the importance of youths’ political involvement by noting that although Singapore has come a long way from our colonial history, we are still a “small sampan”.
Any ripples from the West will affect the global economy and in turn, Singapore, hence, “[the] best brains and hearts [are needed to] face a more uncertain future,” said Nair.
SDP representative, Wijeysingha also acknowledged that Singapore’s political landscape is in a state of flux.
“We are in a large window of change,” said Wijeysingha. “[We] must hold the PAP [accountable] in terms of what it says and the policy outcomes… [PAP] must also acknowledge that it is insufficient to keep apologising,” he added.
Referring to the ongoing CPIB probe involving the erstwhile chiefs of Singapore’s civil defence force and anti-narcotics unit, the 42-year-old civil activist stressed that structures of accountability and transparency must be present in the civil service as well as the media.
“Accountability contributes to the quality of governance in the country so that we are able, as a community, to improve on what we have been doing,” he added.
For positive change to occur, the freedom of association, assembly, speech and most importantly, the freedom to know must be revised to improve media freedom.
“Information is the oxygen of democracy,” he added.
When asked about her views on the CPIB probe, Seah questioned the timing of the news and how it was likely timed to minimize any backlash from the high-profile ministerial salary debate.
The 25-year-old NSP member also said the PAP may have been “aware of the sentiment on the ground” and was trying to prevent further damage to the credibility of the government.
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