Singapore’s national conversation
Insight from The Star’s Seah Chiang Nee:
The authoritative former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had little use for public opinion when he was in power, preferring to set his own agenda.
Now a year after he quit active politics, his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has indicated that he wants to move away from his non-consultative phase, at least for the moment.
In 2002, PM Goh Chok Tong conducted a comprehensive study to restructure Singapore with public participation – apparently to the dislike of Singapore’s founding leader.
I understand it did not result in significant changes because Kuan Yew had objected to any talk that the Singapore he created was flawed and required remodelling …
Kuan Yew, who is now a passive Member of Parliament, did not reject consultations but often made it clear that he found them a waste of time.
In a comment rejecting the use of public polling to gauge public opinions in 2002, Kuan Yew said: “I ignore polling as a method of government. I think that shows a certain weakness of mind – an inability to chart a course whichever way the wind blows, whichever way the media encourages the people to go, you follow. You are not a leader.”
Singaporeans are glad that Kuan Yew’s successors are choosing to distance themselves further from his hard-line approach.
In the chaotic 60s and 70s, Kuan Yew liberally used the cane or legal punishment to resolve many of the Singapore’s problems ranging from secret societies to spitting.
You broke the law, the cane came out. It largely cleaned up the streets.
Today, his successors can no longer rely on this weapon to tackle contemporary problems.
How can you punish people for marrying late or not having babies? Or enforce filial piety or work ethics?
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Tags: democracy, lee hsien loong, lee kuan yew, national conversation, public opinion, seah chiang nee, singapore