“How many of our leaders take the MRT and bus like me? If they do, they will know that the MRT is crowded even at 10pm” - Tan Kin Lian
"The younger set of leaders is, however, undergoing a baptism of fire and not exactly coming out with flying colours" - Seah Chiang Nee
Elitism gone wrong! Once recruited into the system, generous scholarships, good cushy jobs and predefined formulas for success. They don't earn the respect of ordinary Singaporeans who compete and struggle for a living. They have lost touch with the ground.
Recession.......and the approaching hardship
It is pushing more Singaporeans to speak out;
Will they be serious enough to affect the political landscape in next 10 years? By Seah Chiang Nee.Nov 29, 2009
WILL a long, severe recession that seems to be shaping up during Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s advancing years reshape Singapore’s future landscape?
How much hardship will it inflict on a people who are unused to it? If the answer is “a very painful lot” will it then throw up a new set of leaders who can reinvent Singapore’s brilliant past?
In a small way, changes are beginning to show economically – and also in politics.
For one thing, more Singaporeans are shedding their reticence to speak out, and even making a stand. Both the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition are attracting promising recruits.
Take a recent development: A former PAP stalwart and ex-CEO of a government-linked insurance company, Tan Kin Lian has been openly taking on the government and creating waves.
A member of the ruling elite who recently quit after 30 years over policy differences, Tan announced his conditional intention to contest in the next elected presidential or general election as an independentcandidate.
He is creating ripples at a time when Singapore is facing its worst economic crisis in decades.
Tan explained his reason, saying, “When I joined the PAP, it was the party of the people.
“It carried out many remarkable projects, such as building HDB flats, and created a transparent economy,” he said in an interview. “But as the years go by, I think the party has lost touch with the ground.”
Before committing himself, he would like to get 100,000 signatures of support to be collected by online sympathisers – a tough proposition in apathetic Singapore.
“I need to know that people want the change. If not, then there is no point.”
After 10 years serving in a senior constituency position, Tan became inactive and finally quit three months ago because he had disagreed over the years with its value system.
Calling himself an egalitarian, Tan hit out at its elitist rule. He said he found it unfair how a disproportionate number of the academically successful had come from higher-income families.
“How many of our leaders take the MRT and bus like me? If they do, they will know that the MRT is crowded even at 10pm,” he asked.
His emergence has boosted the hopes of Singaporeans who were hoping for an opposition figure to emerge to fill the vacuum left behind by the recent death of Mr. JB Jeyaratnam.
Tan has become the “Man of the Hour” to many youths, especially some 10,000 victims who were allegedly misguided by DBS, a government-controlled bank into buying Lehman structured products and losing S$500mil.
He is fighting on their behalf, speaking at public rallies almost every weekend and sending repeated petitions to the authorities for compensation to the victims.
In fact he has been hitting the news more often than most government leaders.
An adept public speaker, he is also ahead of cabinet ministers in one respect: he operates a busy weblog to connect with Singaporeans, where he answers questions about their investment problems.
The significance lies firstly in the timing. His appearance takes place just as the recession and unpopular policies are souring the ground for the ruling party.
Secondly, the government is preparing for a snap general election to get a fresh mandate to tackle the recession. Elections are not due until 2011.
An election in 2009 could result in Minister Mentor Lee deciding to stand for another five-year term, which will let him stay on, health permitting, to age 93 – instead of 95 or 96.
Even if Tan were to stand and win entry into the presidency or Parliament, it is unlikely to change the political equation.
Only severe hardship and perhaps the PAP’s own mistakes in handling it can. Tan’s challenge will, however, add a little to the PAP’s vulnerability.
Not everyone is cheering him on. A minority accused him of exploiting investors’ troubles to serve his self interests.
Few analysts expect the PAP to lose an election anytime soon. Its record as a stable, capable government remains in many people’s minds despite the crop of unpopular policies it has pushed through.
The younger set of leaders is, however, undergoing a baptism of fire and not exactly coming out with flying colours.
“These scholars are not of the same calibre as the first generation of leaders like Lee, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam” is a general comment on the ground.
To an extent, it is not a fair comparison.
For 40 years, Singapore has changed into a modern, rich country whose citizens have lived stable lives with little exposure to real trouble, let alone a national disaster.
This is not an environment that can normally produce brilliant leaders.
Throughout much of history, men like Abraham Lincoln, Mao Zedong, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill – or Lee Kuan Yew – were thrown up by the chaos or wars in their countries.
On the contrary, nations that lived in stable abundance, like the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Australia, will find it almost impossible to throw up leaders of vision.
So reverting back to my earlier question: Will Singapore’s predicament generate enough chaos to throw up a new set of brilliant leaders like those in the 60’s?
The answer is: Probably not. At any rate no one wants to create leaders in this manner anyway.
With its better skills and work culture, Singapore will likely resume its previous growth path in 10 years’ time – whether under the PAP or outside it.
(This article was published in The Star on Nov 29, 2008)