“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This is one of the quotes that I could identify with during the workshop that I attended last week in Pattaya, Thailand.
Entitled “Transformative Leadership and Good Governance”, the conference was organised for young politial activists across Asia. It was jointly organised by the Young Liberals and Democrats of Asia (YLDA) and Democratic Party Youth Action (DPYA) of Thailand, and supported by the Friedich Naumann Foundation.
The trainers spoke on the various topics on leadership including leadership styles, models of leaadesrhip, decision-making, time and stress managemen, listening skills, etc.
Participants were also given practical sessions where we role-played different types of leadership and applied the various theories of leadership. The feedback given gave us good insight on the desirable and undesirable features of leadership.
Meeting the Prime Minister of Thailand
We also had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, at the headquarters of the Democrat Party in Bangkok.
In his address to the participants, he explained the current situation of Thailand and the progress that has been made ever since coming to power.
“We are all in politics as volunteers, so there is nothing to complain about,” he said to the particiants, “We were the ones who went to the people to listen to their problems, we were the ones who offered the solutions.”
I was able to say a few words to him: “Hello Sir, I am Muhammad Shamin from the Singapore Democratic Party. Our leader, Dr Chee Soon Juan sends his regards to you and prays for the peace and prosperity of Thailand under your Prime Ministership.
“We hope that Thailand as one of the functioning democracies in the region and ruled by a democratic party is able to play a leading role to promote democracy. It is hoped that the democratic countries in ASEAN are able to influence the autocratic governments to abide by the ASEAN Human Rights Charter.”
He acknowledged that when Thailand chaired ASEAN, they faced difficulty with “some countries” in inviting independent observers and also civil society to participate in the ASEAN Summit. He assured that Thailand would choose the path of promoting the ASEAN Human Rights Charter.
But at the end of the day, he noted, it is the will of the people who will determine whether change will take place or not.
The vehicle for development
The program was fruitful for me especially listening to presentations on leadership. Such exposure for aspiring politicians and political activists like me are invaluable. Being part of the Young Democrats provides me with the opportunity to attend such forums.
Such events are regularly and frequently held around the world. But because youths in Singapore are shielded from democratic politics, they miss out on much that is going on. The SDP is the only party that is providing us with this opportunity to get out of Singapore to meet and learn from democrats in other countries and develop ourselves.
Also the Young Democrats have to play a more active role in regional and international organisations to raise the profile of the Singapore Democratic Party and also serve as an important information-sharing and idea-generation platform that will be useful in our struggle to democratise Singapore.
One of the most important points that I took away from the workshop is that as a party that is founded on the principles of liberal democratic principles, one of the challenges of our leadership is how the SDP is able to convince people that our policies work and that our party is capable of managing the country well.