Thursday, 17 May 2007

The Right Legacy

I had just read a book recently, titled ‘A Mandarin and the making of public policy’ reflections by Ngiam Tong Dow. (

Ngiam, is one of the men behind what Singapore is today. He had served in the Singapore’s administrative service for more than 40 years retiring in 1999. In this book, he mentioned his admiration for both Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Hon Sui Sen. He had learned a great deal from these 2 men. These were great politicians whom students nowadays are not exposed to. They also contributed to the economic stability of the country. However there was little mention of them in any political books found in the library, book stores, etc.

Ngiam was asked, ‘With all this pessimism surrounding Singapore's prospects today, what's your personal prognosis? Will Singapore survive Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew?’

What an honest reply from a civil servant, ‘Unequivocally yes, Singapore will survive SM Lee but provided he leaves the right legacy. What sort of legacy he wants to leave is for him to say, but I, a blooming upstart, dare to suggest to him that we should open up politically and allow talent to be spread throughout our society so that an alternative leadership can emerge………. I think our leaders have to accept that Singapore is larger than the PAP.’

With this, it prompted me to write this article. What exactly does the right legacy means to me?

Our current government, the Peoples’ Action Party, has been ruling for the past few decades. Singapore leaders must have a heart of a lion in order to thrive and survive in the new era. An alternative leadership or even party has to emerge.

In the last GE, there wasn’t any increase in the number of opposition in the Parliament but there wasn’t any decrease too. On top of that, there was a percentage increase in votes for the opposition party. Mr. Low Thia Khiang won 62.74% while Mr. Chiam See Tong won 55.84% as compared to 54.98% in Hougang and 52.43% in Potong Pasir during GE 2001 respectively. This is indeed a very encouraging sign.

From this GE, we also saw certain solid examples why we should not allow our current government the luxury of a strong mandate without putting up a fight. Below are certain changes made during and/ or after the GE:

-Promise of upgrading was used during the GE if PAP wins. Certain blocks in East Coast GRC was promised lift upgrading during the campaigning period. If East Coast GRC was a walk-over constituency, will there be a lift upgrade?
Take a look at the areas that were walk-over, what happen to them? No lift upgrade, no upgrading of flats, etc. Of course I’m not referring to all but those that really needed it did not get it.
Example: Flats along Jurong West Avenue 1 is easily more than 15 years old and Kreta Ayer estate too. However no upgrading of flats or lifts was offered to them. What could the reason be? The residents there are not in need of better living environment? The population of older people there is not as much as what the other estates had that’s why there is not a need to upgrade lifts? Or was it because election after election it was a walk-over ward?

-Senior residents of Hougang were given free sumptuous breakfast. Again if this is a PAP ward, will this happen? Well, even if it does, there wasn’t much mention of it. Most importantly, what happen after the GE? When Mr. Low the Secretary General of The Workers’ Party won Hougang Constituency once again, the breakfast stopped coming so did Mr. Eric Low who temporary ceased his Meet – The – People Session (MPS).

-Thinking that his presence and offer to upgrade the estate will bring PAP to victory, our Senior Minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong went to both Potong Pasir and Hougang during campaigning. Instead of winning the ward, they lose by a bigger margin!

-The same tactics were used for the Aljunied GRC too. Upgrading of those flats was promised. Although The Workers’ Party did not win Aljunied it was enough to threaten and frighten Mdm Cynthia Phua and her helpers!

After the GE, we saw that residents were better aware of when and where is their constituency’s Meet – The – People Sessions (MPS) are. Instead of the existing 1 session, some constituencies have increased it to twice a week. Residents benefited the most from these changes. With competition, people are working and this will make the country better and more competitive.

I, for one was really elated to see that the PAP was not return to power on Nomination day. That is, more than half of the parliament seats were contested.
From the examples that I had cited earlier, it shows that competition is good. Only when there is competition then improvement will come. It’s healthy to have competition, in whatever things that one is doing. Monopolization will only make leaders more complacent. Very soon we will have a bunch of ‘Couch Potatoes’ ruling from their ivory tower, passing their judgment over the citizens as if they are mere digits to be manipulated. There is no doubt about this, it will happen!
This GE saw younger people voting and there were a lot of first-time voters and that includes me. Singaporeans are thinking and looking at what the leaders are doing. They visited blogs, forums, read papers, attended rallies, etc to find out and learn more. I have to say that Singaporeans also show it in their votes that they know what they are doing because in this GE, our government got a 66.6% win. It is a decrease of 8.4% from the last election in 2001. So what does this tells us?

Lastly, I would like to sum up the above. The right legacy that Singapore should have to survive is to be open. Accept new ideas, new people, and new leadership. Open to the idea that the ruler is not always right and that they can also learn from the ruled.

1 comment:

xizor2000 said...

Mr Hon Sui Sen was once a Finance Minister if I am not wrong. If some people still have old Singapore notes they will find his chop on those notes. He died in office as MP of Havelock when I was a kid. I remembered that because my kindergarten years was spent in a PAP kindergarten in Havelock. :)

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