Dr Chee Soon Juan talked about the kind of leadership Singapore needs at the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) lunch which took place at the Pan Pacific Hotel yesterday. Below are excerpts:$CUT$
Mr Lee Hsien Loong is in the unique position which few politicians are: As prime minister he inherited a political system that is neither open nor democratic – one, I might add, that is faltering, but he also possesses the power to change it. Depending on what he does, the future of Singapore could grow even stronger or it could meet a dismal fate.
So far, I see little to be of good cheer. Mr Lee continues to prosecute legitimate political activity, sues his critics for defamation, even adds teeth to legislation to further deprive citizens of their constitutional rights – all remnant tactics of his father’s reign.
It seems that there is a genuine lack of appreciation for the real concerns and aspirations of the Singaporean people who are done with being talked down to in a system that is far from transparent and accountable.
Times have changed, society has changed. Leadership must also change, we need to motivate, not instil even more conformity. We need to create a climate of freedom – the freedom to think different (to borrow the phrase from Apple), to question, to debate, to dissent.
In other words, we need to reform the way we conduct politics in this country. The political culture of fear and domination must give way to one of inspiration and inclusiveness.
This is why the SDP has put in so much effort to draw up our policies. We want to elevate the level of political engagement in Singapore. We must dispense with the politics of name-calling and character assassination and contest each other on the logic, soundness and power of our ideas.
If you say that I have flaws, you will not find me objecting to it. But you need to take a number and stand in line because there’s a long queue eagerly waiting to point out my flaws. But do you know who is the first in line? Me. I believe that it is people who are blind to their flaws who make the worst leaders.
But labelling me as a cheat, liar, psychopath – engaging in the personal destruction of your opponents – is not going to take Singapore very far. Singaporeans expect its political leaders to be mature and to debate the issues.
I’m not going to paint the PAP as all bad and the opposition as all good. It might sound a bit strange coming from me, so hold on to your seats: There are some PAP MPs who genuinely want to serve the people.
But, likewise, I want the PAP to admit that those in the opposition also care for Singapore and want the best for it.
We are poised to write a new chapter for Singapore. Let us show the world that politics need not be dominated by petty backbiting and name-calling, it scares away good people who want to contribute and it turns off the masses.
Instead, let us remain civil even as we disagree with each other and recognise that at the end of the day we are all Singaporeans who want to do good for our country. In so doing we truly engage the people and take the country to a different and better place.
If you start from this premise the future will write itself and, of this I am certain, it will be good story.