Making a case for a tyrannical government

There are some people in Singaporean civil society who advocate to the rest of the world that a tyrannical government is perhaps the best form of governance.

And believe it or not, I’m not talking about PAP supporters. In fact, the people I’m referring to are the members of our Opposition!

Allow me to elaborate: In all my years of keeping abreast of political developments in Singapore, I have read speeches by PAP leaders, and speeches by Opposition leaders. And criticisms on public policies aside, speeches by Opposition leaders have always (and without fail) made some sort of reference to how oppressive and tyrannical the Singapore government is.

Recently, a speech made by Catherine Lim (who fancies herself as a daring crusader with the PAP’s men in black hot on her heels) did just that. She examined the history of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and contrasted the paradox that Mr Lee was. In particular, what really struck me was how this paradox was going to be read by foreign observers.

As Catherine rightly pointed out near the end of her speech, BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are increasingly becoming the world’s model for governance. Western Democracy once stood triumphant amidst the rubble of the Berlin Wall, but today appears far less appealing in light of economic stagflation in Europe, and political deadlock in America.

The World is looking for a new model, and the Singapore model which balances economic growth and socio-political stability is appearing very attractive. BRIC nations have sent many delegations to Singapore to study the way we work and the way we are governed.

When these delegations come to Singapore, there are some things that they perceive, and some other things that our people tell them. In particular, I am concerned about how our Opposition paints a false and greatly exaggerated image of our “tyrannical and oppressive” government!

The Great Paradox

The following are takeaways that a foreign delegation might have. The words in bold are those that they empirically perceive by themselves. The words in  italics are the lies and exaggerations that our Opposition members are so fond of telling.

Singapore has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world. Singaporean Ministers employ legal corruption by paying themselves millions at the expense of others

The Singaporean Government is able to respond quickly and effectively to changing global circumstances. The Government imprisons, sues and silences its critics.

Singaporeans have a high standard of living and a low level of unemployment.Singaporeans do not have civic rights and freedoms.”

Here, you can see how people in other countries see an end objectiveand the supposed process to achieve it!

The Great Promise

Singapore has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world. Singaporean Ministers employ legal corruption by paying themselves millions at the expense of others

India currently grapples with widespread corruption, and this has led to a great deal of anger amongst their people. The Indian people are desperately looking for a solution, and if they turn to the Singapore model, it would appear to them that the solution to corruption is the justification

The Singaporean Government is able to respond quickly and effectively to changing global circumstances. The Government imprisons, sues and silences its critics.

The United States faces political gridlock. It takes backroom deals, under the table negotiations and quid pro quo between both Parties to pass a Bill in Congress. Between April and December of 2011, the US Government was faced with several instances where political brinkmanship nearly forced a Governmental Shutdown (if Congress failed to approve a raise in the deficit ceiling, the US Government would eventually be declared bankrupt). At least once, these threats of Shutdown occurred within a week of each other. Americans are now so divided along political fault lines, they see their fellow Americans who support the other Party as enemies.

Singaporeans have a high standard of living and a low level of unemployment.Singaporeans do not have civic rights and freedoms.”

The Eurozone is deep in debt and recession. The PIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) are characterized by out of control deficits (deficits are several times their GDP) and sky high unemployment (almost one in four adults under 30 are unemployed). To make matters worse, anti-austerity riots and strikes have denied their governments the political mandate to make tough policy decisions. If anything, more and more unemployed and underemployed Europeans will be willing to trade their civic rights for economic prosperity.

The Great Peril

What the Opposition in Singapore does not realize is that what they say can have a negative and false impact on political idealogy elsewhere in the world. And this irresponsible speech and portrayal belies the true reasons for Singapore’s success:-

  • That the real reason for Singapore’s low corruption is a fair wage, not a high wage. Our civil service and political leaders take a real but realistic pay cut in comparison to their contemporaries.
  • That the real reason for Singapore’s ability to act decisively in uncertain times is not oppression, but a true mandate of trust from the people.
  • That our prosperity and economic growth is not about trading away our civil liberties, but the recognition of economic realities. You can only spend within your means, and no one owes you a living.

In his National Day Rally, PM Lee referred to the National Conversation. But the world as we know it today is engaging in an International Conversation, one that will shape the way governments and peoples around the world approach these fundamental issues (corruption, political gridlock, economic prosperity), and the solutions to them.

The Opposition can exaggerate about how the Singapore Government is oppressive in order to find purpose and fulfillment in what they do.

But they should be careful not to make a case for a truly tyrannical government. One that sells a perverted version of the Singaporean Story to its own people.

by Alps Tan

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image source : YoLo

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