turns his back to critical engagement and on the other, you have another who welcomes a strong opposition. The appointment of the two Deputy Prime Ministers quite sums up the new cabinet of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
This straddling of the conservatives and the progressives is seen in the rest of the cabinet as well. On the one side you have people who are perceived to be conservative hardliners like K Shanmugam and Lui Tuck Yew; and on the other you have those that come across as being moderate progressives like Khaw Boon Wan and Yaacob Ibrahim. Even among the newbie Ministers, you have someone like Chan Chun Sing and then, there is Tan Chuan Jin.
I think the Prime Minister intends to bestride the conservative-progressive divide in the People's Action Party (PAP), with his new cabinet line-up and through this straddling take a more interventionist stance in the nation's political, social and economic scene.
One can also see whose side the Prime Minister would be on if the push comes to shove between the conservatives and the progressives. Although Tharman appears to be holding more portfolios than the other Deputy Prime Minister, he will not be the Acting Prime Minister in the Prime Minister's absence. While Chan Chun Sing is made an Acting Minister, Tan Chuan Jin is only a Minister of State.
The no longer rookie Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng recently said that in the past, he has been discouraged by senior Members of Parliament and/or Ministers from speaking up or pursuing policy issues they disagree with. It will indeed be interesting to note if MPs from the ruling party will be given more leeway to debate issues robustly and vote according to their conscience and according to the desires of the majority of their constituents. Or if they would vote according to the Party Whip.
It seems from the article "Lifting the Party Whip: PAP MPs share their views" that the Party Whip was lifted only twice in the last ten years. The result being (in my opinion) PAP MPs are parlaysed from voting without the Party Whip.
Despite what MPs like Lim Biow Chuan says, one can only debate as robustly as he feels convicted enough to vote. If PAP MPs already know beforehand that they would have to vote a certain way because of the Party Whip, why even debate?
The Prime Minister's 'radical change' is only as radical as the monolith, PAP would allow him. His actions even in the new cabinet line-up, seem to suggest that he will be hesitant to break away from the old. Despite accepting the resignations of Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, the PM still retains Lee Kuan Yew as Senior Advisor to GIC and Goh Goh Chok Tong is appointed as Senior Advisor to MAS with the honorific title of Emeritus Senior Minister. Which make one wonder, why wasn't the title Emeritus Minister Mentor given to Lee Kuan Yew and what kind of advisory roles are in store for Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim?
I suspect that the Prime Minister's reluctance to break away from the old, will be the one main factor which will gnaw away the trust the people of Singapore still have in the PAP.
Anyway, no one who has been in the old, straightaway desires the new. "The old is better", they say.