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Understanding The New Political Paradigm In Singapore Politics
During Lee Kuan Yew’s time survival was necessary, the ideals of democracy was secondary. We needed to get things done. It called for a strong practical leadership style with a clear direction. And he dovetailed into this leadership vacuum very nicely. It was a match made in heaven – the love affair between LKY and Singapore (or was it just a tryst?) He was gifted with the necessary wisdom, maturity of thought, political acumen and (most importantly) the passion to serve and the willingness to sacrifice the needs of the self for the higher good of his beloved. And Singapore, she was in dire need – sick, dirty, disabled and no one to take care of, lonely and isolated. LKY stepped in and did what he had to do – and he did it well. But now she has changed and evolved with the times. She is strong enough now to take care of herself and confident enough to demand for her rights.
Its topsy turvy now : we have all our basic needs taken care of such as basic necessities, shelter and amenities are a given. Back then what was needed was a strong leadership with a capable, pragmatic, honest and a decisive executive with full executorial liberty to take the necessary steps to advance Singapore out of 3rd world conditions.
To follow the same leadership style of those days, of an overbearing govt, a nanny state that nurtured its children like a soccer mom - at every level reflects a leadership that is weak, inflexible and rather daft.
Such a mentality, where change is implemented reactively rather than pro-actively and (where change is implemented) it is minimal and employed only as a token and in a piecemeal fashion just to convince the world that the party is changing. Existentially, this will be a dangerous thing for PAP as a ruling party. But they only fool themselves and such an attitude towards changing with the times will only see its demise in due course because change should be real, fundamental, fast, efficient and sincere. The irony of self interest is that the moment it becomes too big it starts to cannibalise itself under the, anaesthesia of ego, without ever realising.
The PAP that moulded Singapore before must change to become a PAP that is willing to be moulded by its people. We have come to an excruciatingly painful point in time where, the creator must allow itself to be recreated by its own creature. It’s the most painful thing in the world. But it has to be done and in PAP’s own words – it should be doing the right thing rather than the popular thing. And this philosophy works both ways. But the blindness and failure of the PAP in recognising this is so glaring and i seriously doubt that they will be able to pick up their fallen pieces any time soon.
The PAP that dictated with an iron fist must now be willing to be dictated to without question. That’s the new paradigm for the new generation of leaders. Can they do it?
Judging by recent events and the direction of the government, I really doubt the PAP can do this in the next 4 years. The son should seek to replicate the success of his father, not the leadership style…it’s downright daft and speaks volumes of the current govt’s ineptitude that still lives in the 90s. That was part of what Sylvia Lim, the opposition member meant when she said that we have “a 1st world country run by a 3rd world government”. Our entire hardware is state of the art but it is being run by a software that is obsolete. So we are not functioning at an optimal level and sooner or later, if we don’t upgrade the software, the management of the troubleshooting will take its toll on systems administration and things will start collapsing.
And then what will the govt do to rectify? They will double up the ram and increase the hardware and bandwidth and make the software backward compatible to cope with the new, radically altered conditions without solving the fundamental problem. No point in bringing new citizens from 3rd world countries to boost their ratings. It will help them in the next couple of elections but soon, it will be payback time and this time it will boomerang without mercy. So it’s a risky proposition to rely on the replacement voters to boost the government’s ratings. In time to come it can only mean one thing – SYSTEMS COLLAPSE.
Has this single big tree that was carefully nurtured our forefathers led by the first leaders to bring Singapore out of poverty and squalid conditions, has become so big and so stiff that it allows nothing to grow beneath it?
Is it wise to assume that one big luscious healthy tree is enough for the entire Singapore when we could have an entire forest? Is it wise to nurture and support a big healthy and very useful tree while the forest floor is barren and dead?
Is it not better for our dear Singapore for this big tree to sacrifice and shed some leaves and some weight, to magnanimously allow for some sunshine to come to the ground and let the ground flourish as well?
Is it not better to sacrifice self interest for that of the larger interest of the nation. (Yes, alot of disillusioned leaders truely and mistakenly believe that the party’s interest is that of the nation)
The new leadership (operating under the successes and shadow of the old) should abandon all desperate attempts to clutch on to their waning powers and popularity and allow for the growth of opposing voices in parliament. They should seek to abandon all requirements of their opponents to perfectly fit into their criteria and should rather, take the initiative to actively engage the opposition in a constructive and productive manner. However what the government does is to look down on them and deal with condescendingly while nicely sitting in their ivory towers. The vulnerable state of yester-years are over and the Authoritative iron fist is now seen as draconian and unnecessary and it is a hated symbol of our previous leaders.
The previous leadership had rightfully led in the right direction – that is to ensure survival – a pragmatic approach because survival was absolutely necessary. Now that that has been achieved it should be no longer a priority. People now want to realise their ideals because the basic needs are a given – yes they WILL be taken for granted whether they like it or not. It is something that must sink into the thick heads of the newly minted leadership. Except for the PM, the skulls of some ministers seem to be too thick to open up and be flexible enough to accommodate for change, progress (with the times) and growth.
The current leadership thus, should allow for the true growth of democracy and allow for room for people to be critical of their actions and words. They should not be purpose centred but people centred; not objective but subjective; not speak but listen; not lead but follow; not be practical but idealistic, not direct but serve. That is the new paradigm for the new leadership
The government, as painful as it may be, must completely abandon with almost careless disregard, the needs of yesteryears and urgently seek fill the ideals of today with religious zeal. And yes, even then, the good that they do will be taken for granted and the mistakes they make will be roundly chastised and unforgivingly punished. Can they take it? Are they up to it? Will they make this sacrifice of service and embrace this new paradigm?
Forget about covered walkways, manicured gardens and a lift at every floor, forget about GST credits, forget about schools and joblessness – some of these are a given and the rest are these are just the cosmetics for the hard work of the early leaders. People are too smart to bite this upgrading carrot any longer.
It’s no longer about hardware, it’s more of the software. What got us here through the older leaders will no longer get us where we want to be. The biggest danger of obsolescence for this government now is not that it doesn’t change; but rather it doesn’t change fast enough. If ability to change was the defining paradigm of success of the new millennium, Nimbleness, flexibility and responsiveness in changing defines the paradigm of this decade.
Its not the fact of changing really, its the intesity and relevance of the change. They can bring in and baptise a very appreciative lot of new citizens from third-world countries to dilute the waning support of the generational Singaporeans here. But this is just political strategy with very little substance to the matter that the original people wanted addressed.
Electoral success is a powerful champion of technical argument against real issues without ever saying a word. Something our LKY routinely used to silence even very powerful arguments. But that argument is being weakened as we go.
Theres only so long you can stick your proverbial Dutch thumb in the dyke to prevent a flood. And there are only so many thumbs left. If the real fix is not coming any sooner, then it only portends an impending wipeout.
If change does not happen pretty quickly the next few elections will be another painful lesson for the PAP.