Confrontational model not ideal for S’pore

April 6, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Straits Times Forum
http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_510865.html


I refer to the report, ‘Chiam’s SDP exit: Wife speaks up’ (March 29), and Dr Chee Soon Juan’s response last Friday, ‘No one forced Chiam out: SDP chief’.

I do not know either of them personally, nor have I voted for them. But I regard Mr Chiam highly as an opposition MP – he has contributed in no insignificant way to Singapore politics.

Dr Chee, however, seems more intent on introducing a confrontational Western-style democracy in Singapore. While that model may work in some countries, it does not mean it is the best and only model for us.

In the West, individualism is supreme. But at what price?

In the United States, something as basic and fundamental as health-care reform has taken years to push through because of bipartisan politics.

Teens continue to be shot at in schools because the right to bear arms is more important than the lives and safety of children. Politicians do what is necessary to be elected instead of doing what is right.

Nearer home, look at what is happening in Thailand. Once a peaceful country, it is now torn apart because of the confrontations between two main parties.

Singapore is a young country with a multiracial population. While we have enjoyed peace for many years now, our society remains fragile. Harmony is key to our survival and our future. In this scenario, political contests by rival parties based on a confrontational approach are not the best model.

The West may not view this as democracy. But so what? What is more important is that it works for Singapore and Singaporeans.

There are policies of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government I disagree with. And there are many areas it can improve on. But it has to be admitted that the PAP has transformed itself over the years. More and more, the focus is on bottom-up participation.

Also, under the PAP government over the years, Singapore has continued to achieve progress and prosperity. The little red dot is now the envy of people around the world.

To quote Chinese leader Deng Xiao-ping: ‘It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.’

The criterion should be what works and what does not, to enable Singapore to achieve its best potential.

It does not matter if we have a full Western-style democracy, partial demo-cracy or socialism that works the Singapore way. What is important is that we continue to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress based on justice and equality.

The opposition parties can and do have a role to play. That is, if they are willing to be constructive, as Mr Chiam has been, rather than destructive.

Patrick Tan