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Can Singapore thrive when Mr Lee Kuan Yew is “absent”? This was what one delegate from Bangladesh wanted to know during the World Cities Summit held in Singapore last week.
This delegate probably didn’t have a very high regard for the other 2,999,999 Singaporeans. In any event, it was one of those sweet questions lobbed at just the right height for Mr Lee to, to use a baseball analogy, hit it out of the park.
Appropriately cued, the Minister Mentor let rip: In the unfortunate event that if a bunch of itchy-fingered loonies who didn’t know how to put the cross in the right box even if their lives depended on it voted the opposition – and not just the opposition but a “vociferous” one – into power, Singapore would go to the dogs.
No prizes for guessing who the Vociferous One is. These days Mr Lee just cannot bring himself to utter the three letters S, D, and P. That’s just as well. What would really worry us is when the MM starts praising us for being “constructive.”
The Lee system, according to Lee, will only survive if we are led by able leaders who are willing to make tough decisions when called upon, leaders who, by the way, have not gotten rich over the years.
He was, of course, referring to his Ministers. Yes, the same ones who jacked up their salaries by only 85 percent last year, who were tough enough to fire junior officers following the security meltdown that allowed a terrorist suspect to do a David Copperfield and able enough to pin the blame on citizens for their complacency.
Yep, the same ones who also blamed the people of being negligent over a screw-up at Changi Airport’s immigration that allowed a traveler to travel under someone else’s passport.
Undoubtedly a tough act to follow.
The very ones who tell Singaporeans that their retirement savings are going to be withheld because retirees can’t be trusted with their own money.
The self-same Ministers who came up with the fantastic idea to set up ERPs to extract yet more money from motorists rushing home to be with their families after a long day at work.
The same ones who stumbled upon the brilliant scheme to increase the GST to help the poor and then, to their utter amazement, find homelessness increasing and long queues for free food at temples getting longer.
So tough are these talented ones that they turn the installing of lifts that will stop on every floor so that the elderly will not have to climb stairs into an election issue.
So able are they that they have nurtured a generation of citizens who can’t wait to emigrate and then replace these “quitters” with new citizens from other countries who are waiting to do the same.
A party of the future
The worst part is that these Ministers belong to a political party that continues to depend on an 84-year-old to be their standard bearer. They profess no (much-needed) fresh ideas of their own to take Singapore into the future, a future where creative and bold responses are needed to meet complex challenges.
They have not the wherewithal to tell Mr Lee that he needs to take a backseat because the more he pokes his nose in, the more he is going to prevent the country from moving forward. They have to stop being head-nodders and resist being enthralled by a leader who doesn’t want to retire.
At the end of the day, the PAP is still Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Kuan Yew is still the PAP. His/its modus operandi is to continue to instill fear in the populace and then extract wealth from it. Does all this sound like a party of the future?
Contrast this with another political party whose name the MM will not speak. We, the Singapore Democrats, are ready to take the country forward arm-in-arm with our fellow citizens. We are ready to lead with persuasion, not coercion.
Over the next several months, we intend to work on an alternative set of policies to present to Singaporeans in preparation for the next general elections. We will do this by conducting a series of policy discussions with our fellow Singaporeans to solicit their input.
We believe that all Singaporeans have a stake in the future of this country and that views from the ground up make the best policies. It is only by going back to the people and genuinely consulting them on what is best for our nation’s future will Singapore have a future.
It is a democratic system, one where the government of the day is unafraid to consult and listen to the people while maintaining the ability to act decisively, that will make Singapore a better place for its citizens.
But how will such a system come about when the PAP is hell-bent on maintaining its absolute grip on power? The best and the only way is to build up a caring – and vociferous – opposition.