MM on Singapore’s system


Catherine Lim’s point-black question to Lee Kuan Yew at the recent dialogue is raising some waves.  AsiaOne has his answer in full:

Catherine Lim: “Sir, in the event of a serious threat of a freak election, would you do the unthinkable, that is, send in the army?”

Lee Kuan Yew: “You look at our record and the moves we’ve made. Let me put it simply like this. First, we maintain a system which gives any opposition the opportunity to displace us peacefully.

“If you can win an election, so be it. If at some point we are not able to find a team which can equal an opposition team, on that day we deserve to be out. If we become corrupt, inefficient, can’t deliver, we’re out.

“What if we have a freak election, as we may well have? So we’ve set in place a president with blocking powers. Any opposition that comes in will find that he cannot touch the reserves, otherwise you can promise the sky and spend the money.

Second, you cannot change the top officials without the president’s consent. Any raiding of the funds must be approved by the president who has a council of presidential advisers to advise him yes or no.

“Now, why should we do all these if we expect to overturn an election? We expect that if we are voted out, to stay out, and hope that within one term, that new government, incompetent and unable to deliver, will be out. And there’re enough core competencies and the funds to enable a fresh PAP government to revive the system.

“One of the first lessons I learnt in politics was from Harold Laski. He said if you don’t have a system that allows fundamental change by consent, you will have a revolution by violence.

If we block all possibilities, we must expect violence.

In that violence, eventually the army won’t shoot because you are in the wrong.

That’s what happens in Africa, the army goes in and holds up the president and often shoots him.

“If we had not these thoughts at the back of our minds, why do we do these things? Just to bluff the people? Doesn’t make sense.

An army commander, air force or police has to be approved by a committee and the president must agree.

Why? Because we will appoint the commanders?

No, because a stupid government will do the wrong things and when we return, we may find the whole machinery has collapsed, as often is the case. Simple.”

Temasek Review points out that he did not actually answer the question.

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