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Last Friday during a talk he gave at the National University of Singapore Society, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told the audience: “If you get capable people forming the next government, people who know what they have to do to make Singapore work, then I’m not worried. I’m not worried whether it’s PAP or SDP or whatever government.” (see below)
Mr Lee was looking ahead into the future on the topic Singapore and Singaporeans – Quarter Century From Now.
On the surface, such a statesmen-like observation is beyond reproach: A set of capable leaders who have the vision and the drive to make things work for the country. Now who wouldn’t want such leadership?
The question is, how do these leaders rise and come to the fore? This is where one needs to separate Mr Lee’s rhetoric from Mr Lee’s reality.
While he acknowledges that such leaders can come from his own party or from the Singapore Democrats, he continues to ensure that only those in the PAP are presented to the Singaporean public.
The media that he controls repeatedly extol the virtues of his own people and of those he thinks serve his grand design. Of course, the SDP does not fall into those categories which is why our news are censored.
But Mr Lee knows that as much as he tries to marginalise, and even get rid of, the Singapore Democrats we are not going to go quietly into the night and hand Singapore’s future on a plate to people who show utter contempt for public debate and the democratic process.
The incestuous praising of their own kind will yield a political gene pool that will prove to be anaemic and result in dysfunctionality in the long run.
If it needs to be said, capable people don’t always agree. The disagreements are often vehement and sometimes even irreconcilable. But these disagreements need not be destructive for the country. In fact, history shows that great ideas and progress have often come from a clash of minds.
But society can only benefit from the contestation of political thought when the ideas of competing parties are allowed to clash in full public debate.
Mr Lee is right, however, on one score. The SDP is currently attracting capable people who will, in time, form the government.
To be certain, many of these people are presently reluctant to openly declare their support and come forward to work with us because of the oppressive nature of politics in this country. They help out behind the scenes.
But many, despite the threats they face, have openly declared their support for the Singapore Democrats and are courageously standing up to be counted.
They do so because they know where we stand and what we want for this country. We have laid out our vision clearly. We have articulated unambiguously our alternative policies and ideas. We have not been diffident about subjecting our views to public debate. We have taken on board criticisms when we have gone wrong and stoutly defended what we believe to be right.
Because of this we have been able to draw Singaporeans of substance and integrity, guided by their sense of justice and urged on by their conscience – even if it means having to endure whatever political nonsense the Government dishes out.
Money and the lure of the false prestige is not a motivator. Opportunism within the SDP is not the in-thing.
Perhaps it is this knowledge of the Singapore Democrats that prompted Mr Lee, consciously or otherwise, to acknowledge the SDP’s role in Singapore’s future.
MM Lee describes Singapore’s future at NUSS lecture
Asha Popatlal & Cheryl Lim Meiling
In 25 years’ time, Singapore will be a country that reflects the state of the major powers and its Asian neighbours.
While the look and colour of its society might change, its major resource – talent – will remain a predominant issue, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Friday.
He was speaking to an audience of about 500 students, alumni and invited guests at a National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) lecture on the topic of “Singapore and Singaporeans – Quarter Century From Now”.
The evening started with Mr Lee officially opening the Alumni Complex at the university – the largest graduate club in the country.
During the dialogue, he said Singapore’s future might have a different ethnic and demographic composition as many immigrants become new citizens and permanent residents.
But the main ethnic groups would still be the Chinese, Malays and Indians. The population would also be more educated.
Mr Lee said: “We are caught in a bind – we’ve got to decide this is our country, our society and we must remain the majority. Yes, we will take immigrants; yes, we will take talented people, but we must be the majority.
“Otherwise, they will change us if they are the majority. So I think 25 years from now, Singapore will be more cosmopolitan because we’ve got many people from China, India, Malaysia and from the region. We have European children doing National Service.”
The minister mentor also painted “optimistic and pessimistic scenarios” of where the world and ASEAN would be. But he said the more likely outcome would be “somewhere in between”.
On top of that, Mr Lee spoke about where Singapore’s economy could go from here.
“I cannot tell you what’s going to happen. I can say the optimistic scenario is in two or three years, we’re out of this (crisis). At the worst, four, five or six years. As the IMF said, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are going to be hit. Why? Because we are export dependent.
“I’ve got economists saying you’ve got to change your system. Wall Street Journal has said, ‘Oh, this won’t work, consume yourself’. Four million people to consume and keep an industry that supplies the world with top-end goods – it’s rubbish,” he said.
On the political front, when asked what would happen to the country if there was a major shift of power, Mr Lee said he was not concerned as to which political party was in charge.
He said: “If you get capable people forming the next government, people who know what they have to do to make Singapore work, then I’m not worried. I’m not worried whether it’s PAP or SDP or whatever government.
“But I am worried about the quality of people who get into power. Integrity (is) crucial, (and) ability, experience and a willingness to do what is necessary for the people, and not for yourself.”