In a move that is the clearest sign yet of a government run amok, Parliament has approved another pay increase for President S R Nathan.
In 2006, Mr Nathan was already drawing $2.6 million a year – a salary that was indecent by any political standard. But even this was not enough because this year, his income was increased to $2.8 million, a hefty jump of $200,000.
This was all tidily approved by Parliament. In light of the falling income levels of the working poor in Singapore, what were they thinking of when they voted yes? Did any MP ask for a justification for the increment? More important did any MP oppose the increment? Why not?
In other words, was there any debate? If there was, it was not very intelligently reported by the Straits Times because all the newspaper had on the topic was a little square on the top right-hand corner under 'Parliament Shorts'.
But then right beside it was a huge report that one could not ignore even if one tried headlined "Are some here homeless by choice?"
The story starts with the government asserting that some Singapore even though they had options to housing chose vagrancy instead.
It ends with the Government "assuring" the House that it would only "try" to help homeless families. Isn't it comforting to know that our ministers who help themselves to $4,000 a day in salaries assure us that they would "try" to help our destitute?
And how does it propose to do this? Apparently by increasing the GST.
In the same session, this Parliament agrees to increase the President's salary by $17,000 a month. (No doubt the ministers' salaries will follow suit. But Singaporeans will never know the amounts because the Government won't announce them.)
Is it just us in the SDP or is there something seriously sick with the way our nation is run?
We need a Government that will help the people first, not the president who's already a multi-millionaire.
We need a Parliament whose vocabulary extends beyond "Aye!" and MPs who will start asking some real questions and hold the cabinet accountable.
But before we can have any of these, we need to demand our right to vote freely and fairly in elections, to a free media, and to free speech and assembly.
Stand up, Singaporeans. Speak up. Refuse to live in such shame and dishonour any longer.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
(26 Jan 2007)