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Low Thia Khiang: What it will take to achieve constructive politics

Political values, political culture and trusted impartial institutions are needed, says the WP chief in Parliament.

SINGAPORE: Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, noting that Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam had made reference to "constructive politics" in his reopening address on May 16, said much effort is needed to nurture constructive politics in mature democracies.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday (May 26), Mr Low said constructive politics does not happen "by the order of the government", nor does it happen through a national conversation or public consultation.

Rather, it comes about through political values, political culture and impartial institutions trusted by the people, he said.

Mr Low said inculcation of political values needs to be instilled from young, and suggested that the national education syllabus in schools enable students to understand their rights and obligations as citizens in a democratic society.

He said this includes helping them know the Constitution, and understand how the political system empowers people to make decisions and to take responsibility for the decisions made.

"Politicians must be aware of what kind of political culture we are building" through the style of political engagement here, said the Workers' Party leader.

He said if people continue to support a political party that uses "high-handed" tactics against its political opponents, a "bullying" political culture is being endorsed.

Mr Low also cautioned against building a self-serving political culture.

On public institutions, citing Thailand as an example of a country that has been gridlocked by political gridlock, he said to avoid political paralysis, it is important to build institutions that the public trusts.

"The younger generation of today are better educated, better connected thanks to the Internet - hence the expectations are very different from the older generation," he said. "They expect better standards, befitting a first-world nation, not only in terms of hardware, in terms of infrastructure, but also software, in terms of politics and government processes."

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