Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

Foreign Correspondents Association Talk

I was invited to speak at a Foreign Correspondent’s Association (FCA) talk along with Dr Vincent Wijeysingha of the Singapore Democratic Party. The President of the FCA, Ms Sonia Kolesikov-Jessop of the International Herald Tribune chaired the session.

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What are your views on the running of the elections, and what did you feel about the results?

Insofar as how the running of the elections went, I am only able to speak for the Workers’ Party. We were quite clear from an early point that in view of the political and media environment in Singapore, it was very important to run a disciplined campaign. We were crystal clear about our first world parliament slogan. In spite of repeated attempts by the PAP to torpedo it or cast negative aspersions against it; the slogan was solidly entrenched in the popular imagination. Throughout the hustings, an overwhelming number of Singaporeans we spoke to were able to appreciate that a first world parliament is one where an opposition presence is important and even critical for good governance.

As for the day-to-day activities during the hustings period, a consistency took over which all Workers’ Party candidates became used to. We woke up early during the day and started our outreach activities in morning, visiting hawker centres and public places, meeting residents and handing out party material. We then returned home in the afternoon for a short rest before heading out to the rallies in evening. Unfortunately, not many of us were able to get the rest we so badly needed as almost inevitably the rally speeches needed to be modified and fine-tuned. So quite simply the entire day was alive with activity and there was very little time to do any active strategic campaigning.  Fortunately, the Workers’ Party had a corps of solid and reliable volunteers who gave up their time, effort, energy to serve the party’s cause. Without doubt, we owe a debt of gratitude to them for our success at GE2011 to them.

As for the results, I want to focus on two results that I was very proud of, because they represent a bell-weather of sorts for the party. First, the result in Joo Chiat SMC saw our candidate Yee Jenn Jong narrowly missing out on an elected MP seat to Charles Chong who won the seat by a wafer-thin majority of 51% against 49%. The other result of note was the excellent performance of Lee Lilian in a three-corner contest in the newly drawn out constituency of Punggol East SMC where she won 41% of the vote, despite the relative lack of party level outreach carried out in that constituency prior to the elections. For many of us in the party, both results are indicative of the electorate’s approval of the Workers’ Party philosophy and also, the relative confidence Singaporeans have in the Workers’ Party as an opposition party. I have to state that this level of public trust and confidence was not brought about by chance. The Workers’ Party leadership has systematically worked to establish a disciplined and committed team which does not focus on individuals but recognizes that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I will elaborate this point further as I deal with the next two questions.

What does your party stand for?

The Workers’ Party continues to believe that it is in the national interest for the governing party to be subject to political competition, so as to promote higher standards of performance and guard against complacency. We also believe it is in the national interest to ensure that Singaporeans are not held ransom, by having another political party capable to taking over should the ruling People’s Action Party falter or lose its mandate to govern. The Workers’ Party’s long-term aim is to form the government. While in opposition, we will promote parliamentary democracy so that we can call the government to account at the national level.

Equally we are mindful that in a society that is diverse – accommodation, tolerance and empathy will have to central pillars upon which the party conceives and deliberates policy positions. However, this should not be interpreted as a variant of pragmatic and ‘safe politics’. The Workers’ Party takes principled positions with the well-being of Singapore and Singaporeans in sharp focus. With a view to build a humane society, we regard human dignity, diversity, tolerance, respect and equal opportunity as the principle considerations in policy formulation and implementation.

How do you see the future looking forward?

Well, these elections were historic for many reasons. It is interesting that both the WP and PAP secretary-generals referred to the GE2011 as a ‘watershed’. Beyond the results which saw an unprecedented number of Workers’ Party candidates voted into parliament, I feel the hustings period in particular bore witness to the birth pangs of a substantive democracy in Singapore – with the electorate making its voice heard for greater transparency and accountability. PM Lee’s apology which was prominently carried in the local paper, the Straits Times probably best manifested the prospects in future of a new relationship between the government and the governed.

Is there reason to be optimistic? It is probably too early to tell, after all, one sparrow does not make a summer. But on the other hand, is there any reason to be pessimistic about the prospects of Singapore’s political development? I do not think so.

Singaporeans, especially young Singaporeans I have spoken to are much less fearful than their parents. This is particularly true for those who seek to effect change while working within the confines of the existing legal regime and the laws of Singapore. Along with the internet, civic-minded Singaporeans are able to influence and persuade others, even more so when their intentions and motives are plain for all to see.

It is my hope that the quality of political discourse actually goes up and a key indicator of this, in my opinion at least, will be reflected in how the government accommodates diverse opinions, including those that are diametrically opposed to their own. In addition, I certainly expect more of a two-way communication channel between the government and Singaporeans, with data and statistics being openly shared by the government, so as to secure greater buy-in and to persuade Singaporeans of the righteousness of the government’s intended courses of action.

Should the government choose to behave like a frog in a well that is deaf to all criticism; then I think you can expect more Singaporeans in future to vote like how the residents of Hougang and Aljunied did. But having voted us in, let me clear about this – the Workers’ Party has a lot of work ahead of us and is determined to keep its head down and focus its energies on serving the residents of Aljunied and Hougang, for that is our raison d’etat. Quite simply, the Workers’ Party must not and cannot fail Singaporeans.

Thank you.

Written by singapore 2025

10/06/2011 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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