Aside from opting for the road less travelled, what have Dr Chee and Roy Ngerng in common?
Well, both of them have repeatedly invited PAP ministers to meet for debates or discussions on national issues. The latest one coming from Dr Chee when replying to Minister Chan Chun Seng’s broadside, ‘There are genuine differences in how the SDP and PAP want to take Singapore forward. On this we can have an honest, even robust debate’.
Why would an elected government (however they have done so via their legal trickery is not the issue here) with a 5-year mandate consider giving Dr Chee and Roy the time of day and the publicity to debate? What is there to gain for them?
Why would they want to set such a precedent for ordinary, disagreeing citizens to seek ‘debates’ with them?
By offering either of the gentlemen the platform to speak up in a formal debate, by standing on the same stage with them and by just even showing up, they would be, like it or not, lending a grain of legitimacy to both gentlemen’s credibility and recognisability. Would you do that to your political opponent when there is no legal compulsion to do so?
Who would the potential, interested audience be for such a debate? Presumably, Singaporeans at large. I refer to Mr/Ms Everyman, not the viral supporters on either side of the political spectrum who would already have their minds made up which way the debate goes.
So, what do Everyman hope to gain therefrom? Not much as far as I can tell. Not when most are so caught up with bringing home the bacon and focused on keeping their jobs under the gaze of their local or foreign bosses all too eager to replace them with foreign workers or talents.
So, it’s fair to say that the invite is an initiative dead in the water. As such, the only imagined gain for Dr Chee and Roy is the satisfaction that the PAP ministers have no guts to face them. And then, what?
I think debates may eventually come to the Singapore scene but not that soon. And, if they do materialize, it’ll likely be only confined to the period prior to a GE.
But the lack of response to the debate invitation is not necessary an obstacle to Dr Chee and Roy. Or, for that matter, to the opposition. See, we now have the internet.
If your intent is not just to be on the same stage or TV screen as the ministers but to convince an audience of your choice, then the logical thing to do is to take your message directly to your audience. Never mind about your sparring partner. Take your message again and again to your intended audience!
Therefore, I urge both gentlemen and the Opposition Parties in general, please make use, make more and better use of the internet to get your message across to the voters. The cost is cheap and the reach is wide where your audience is.
We have to move further away from where your opponent is strong, i.e. in traditional media, and move decisively, deeply and swiftly to exploit further the internet, social media. Obama, Modi and Joko have all shown the power to be harnessed.
Unfortunately, what is still inescapably clear with WP, SDP, NSP, SDA, RP etc is that up to now none have got a Chief Campaign Strategist (especially one IT-savvy) to give direction, firepower, speed and unity of purpose with obviously limited resouces to winning the impending GE.
By being the first to merely announce the appointment of such a person to the role, you would have shaken the confidence of the other players. And make voters sit up to look or to listen.
Why wait and work behind the scene just mostly waiting for the GE date to be announced? Why not think and start a strategy of what Karl Rove did for George Bush, namely, attack PAP’s strengths early in the game in order to neutralize those strengths so that you can focus your limited resources to engage with voters during the short on-the-ground campaigning duration? Is this the best strategy? Maybe, maybe not. But it shows what can be done – systematically and now, not later when the noises get louder for your key message to fight for eardrums and eyeballs.
So, forget about calling for debates. Appoint and set that Campaign Strategist loose…NOW!