Thoughts on PM Lee’s replies.My thoughts on PM Lee's replies.
S'pore will set its own political model: PM
Transparency and openness will be hallmarks, even if Western model is out
By Peh Shing Huei
EVEN as Singapore changes to become a global city in 20 years, one thing is for sure: The Western liberal model will not be the system of government here.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was unequivocal yesterday in explaining why Singapore was not headed down that road.
The reason? Singapore has a system that works, with parliamentary democracy, free elections and an electorate with an overwhelming confidence in the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).
'And for good reason - because it is a party which has delivered, a party which has a strong team and is one which they have confidence in for the future.'
Mr Lee was responding to a question by Reuters journalist Geert De Clercq during a Foreign Correspondents Association luncheon at the Raffles Hotel.
Mr De Clercq had asked if Singapore's bid for a more vibrant city a la London and New York would see a concurrent move to a Western-style of governance.
PM Lee's answer was a 'no'. 'I do not even see a Western model which you described in an idealised form as being the target which we want to aim for,' he said.
So what political system does PM Lee propose then? Is it a system whereby the party, govt and army are fused together? Is it a system whereby there isn’t any independent union? Is it a system whereby the judicial system is allegedly under undue political influences? Tell me PM Lee, what political system do you envision?
Even the Leninist system that I had just described is western. Unless the system I found so familiar in Singapore is actually the traditional Chinese Imperial system. Hey, come to think of it they might just be similar in some ways!
In sketching the journey ahead for Singapore, PM Lee foresees a system shaped by Singaporeans and their values. Not any magic formula or Constitution.
He also expects a system marked by openness and transparency as the people seek solutions to national problems.
'If there's something which we are not happy about or is not right, we will speak up and we will discuss. Nothing is verboten, nothing cannot be discussed and everything can be examined,' he said, using the German word for 'forbidden'.
Oh I see, PM Lee is envisioning a system shape by ‘Singaporean and their values’, which is ‘marked by openness and transparency’ where ‘nothing is verboten’ ehh?
Ok, since PM Lee is so big on ‘openness and transparency’, how about opening the accounts of GIC, Temasek Holdings and our national reserves for a start?
Since ‘nothing is verboten’, how about let start by discussing why so many people in the establishment had the surname ‘Lee’ without it ending up with people getting sued for defamation? Or how about letting Singaporeans (Those foreign IMF protesters do not count!) hold peaceful demonstrations without it being branded as illegal assembly?
By the way is it Singaporean values or PAP values that PM Lee is talking about at the beginning?
Mr Lee spoke on a wide range of issues during the 45-minute question-and-answer session, including economic, population and terrorism issues.Hmmm, how about Hong Kong then? Now Hong Kong isn’t a democracy. The people there can’t even elect all its legislators, not to mention its Chief Executive Officer. Furthermore Hong Kong is part of PRC, which isn't very tolerant of dissent. However in Hong Kong, it is possible to hold peaceful demonstrations, sue the govt and even criticise the Chinese Communist Party. What do you think about that PM Lee?
Earlier, in his speech, he identified several key obstacles confronting Singapore.
They include terrorism from Islamic extremists, the ageing population, nurturing the next generation of Singaporeans to produce a diversity of talents, and developing a broad leadership in all spheres of life.
Singapore, he said, is an improbable nation and therefore cannot be compared to such places as South Korea and Taiwan, which swung from martial law to liberal political systems.
It has 'some basic imperatives which will remain constant'. For example, Singaporeans will always have to earn their own living, racial and religious harmony must always be maintained, and the country must always outperform bigger and better-endowed rivals.
Mr Lee also cited the Japanese system, noting how it had not evolved into a Western liberal model. Even then, it was not without its flaws of corruption and pork-barrel politics with the government spending in exchange for political support.
Like Singapore, it has a dominant political party that has brought stability and long-term growth to the country.
'So how do we maintain our system and not end up like them? There's no magic formula,' he said. 'I think it depends on the team, the ethos of the whole leadership group.'
It seems that PM lee has short memory that he had forgotten about the 1997 General Elections. I still remember that then PM Goh Chok Tong threaten Singaporeans that if they do not vote for PAP, their estate will become 'slums'. Now, if that is not pork-barrel politics, I don’t know what is.
He acknowledged that continued strong support for the PAP hinges on its performance, renewal and ability to continue to deliver results and show 'unambiguously that this is the best team, Team Singapore, work for it, it will work for you.'
In the immediate future, he is more than confident it has the backing of Singaporeans. That will be clear enough in the next General Election, which must be called by June 2007, he said, in reply to another question.
'I have no doubt that when we go, we'll have strong support, including a strong mandate.'
With the LTA fiascos and the shortage of hospital beds during the dengue outbreak, I have reservations on the ability of some of PM Lee’s team members. So it might be better that PM Lee’s himself do something about it, if not Singaporean voters might just help him to alter the makeup of ‘Team Singapore’.