When questioned by a NTU student over the ruling party PAP’s gutter politics of defaming contest opponents during the Bukit Panjang by-election in 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that the country is now “more liberal and less fearful”. However the DPM was comparing today with Singapore’s Independence days 50 years ago in the 1960s:
“The country has really changed. As someone who has lived through some of Singapore’s history”, having grown up in the 1960s and becoming politically active in the 1970. It is a vastly different and more liberal place compared to what it used to be. The sense of fear, the sense of constraint is far less now.”
However nearly all countries has changed in a 50 years period, and in fact more countries like Taiwan have moved away from a single party dictatorship while Singapore is still stuck with the Lee.
Minister Tharman also acknowledged that his ruling party resorted to “gutter politics” but did not specify who and how:
“I do not agree with every tactic by every one of my colleagues… This as a trait that shows up almost all the time that the PAP had, at times, fallen short of the bar it had set itself.”
The Deputy Prime Minister also said that he believes Singaporeans know better than to read the 154th-ranking mainstream media “blindly”:
“When people get news from the mainstream media, they do not read blindly. They know some things are more likely to come up on page four than on page one; the headlines may be a slightly different size, but they read things. With the proliferation of social media, people also talk and exchange views more openly. I also have great faith in Singaporeans. Singaporeans judge. Singaporeans judged us in Bukit Batok, Singaporeans judge at each general election, and they will judge the PAP in the next election. I do not think Singaporeans are fools.”