Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

Interview with SMU Student Publication: UNIVANTAGE

 

A 1999 Straits Steamship Prize winner, a 2003 Chevening Scholar, and a Juris Doctor candidate at the Singapore Management University, Member of Parliament Pritam Singh has an impressive list of accomplishments. However, these may well pale in comparison to his achievement in Singapore’s latest General Elections as a member of the Workers’ Party.  Apart from claiming enough votes for his team in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to be voted into Parliament, many Singaporeans praised the fluent and natural delivery of his speeches in WP rallies leading up to election day.  We ask SMU’s very own postgraduate law student 10 questions about everything from school to politics.

What motivated you to enter politics?

The desire to play my part in changing the status quo for the better.

Who is the one person you admire most and take inspiration from? (and why)

That’s a tough one! I have always admired the courage of ordinary individuals to step up and speak out against injustice and tyranny. In the context of the Cold War, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel readily come to mind.

Closer to home, the one person who I really admire and take inspiration from is a relatively unknown man in today’s day and age. He was the second Prime Minister of India – Lal Bahadur Shastri, a man of impeccable integrity, amongst other traits. Quite early on, Lal Bahadur Shastri dropped his surname of Srivastava, as it indicated his caste and he was against the archaic caste system.

He was jailed for a total of 9 nine years over the course of the Indian struggle for Independence against British rule. On one occasion, while he was in prison, his daughter fell seriously ill. He was conditionally released for 15 days during this period, with the stipulation that he desist from taking part in the freedom movement. However, his daughter died before he could reach their home, and after performing funeral rites, he voluntarily returned to prison even before the expiration of his  15-day conditional release.

In 1956, as Minister of Railways he offered his resignation to his Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru after a railway accident that led to the death of more than 100 people. However, his resignation was rejected. A few months later, a second accident took place and this time, he offered his resignation again, accepting moral responsibility for the accident. Nehru accepted his resignation but informed parliament that this was only because Shastri’s resignation set an example for leadership and constitutional propriety, not because Shastri was in anyway personally responsible. When Shastri died unexpectedly on an overseas trip less than two years after he became Prime Minister in 1964, a part of India probably died with him – such was the stature of the man.

While I am sceptical about the long term viability of one-party dominant political systems, I have great admiration for Deng Xiaopeng and the reforms he set China on after 1979. His pragmatic and visionary leadership lifted an entire generation of Chinese out of poverty and set the stage for what is happening in China today.

Describe your typical day.

Hectic! But throughly fulfilling and rewarding. I would not swap it for anything.

What do you do in your free time?

As free time has taken on a new meaning in my life, I do spend whatever little time I have remaining to continually nuture the relationships I have with people that are close to me, my family and friends.

How do you manage your academic life, your role as a Member of Parliament and your personal commitments?

Well, this is not very easy to do, unless you work out a realistic time management plan and leave enough time for exercise too. I try my best to squeeze in a simple exercise routine whenever I can – even though this is proving to be more challenging than I expect!

Separately, a good diet is also critical. I am trying to control my intake of culinary vices – i.e. mutton mysore (slurp!). Keeping an eye out for these little things can really help you achieve a more balanced perspective in whatever endeavour you seek to fulfill. I think I also want to try tai chi or yoga at some point! All said, a clear mind is central to managing mutiple roles and responsibilities. A sense of realism helps too – one should just focus on the mountain he or she is seeking to climb, and worry less about those competing alongside. You can only do your best. Just make sure you are actually doing your best!

What was the last book you read?

Beyond the Blue Gate by Teo Soh Lung.

During the recent general elections, many people praised your eloquence and during public rallies. Did your time at SMU help in any way with your public speaking?

This may sound patronising but in all honesty, I think it helped me in more ways than I can imagine. I am not a natural public speaker. I actually fear speaking in public! What SMU gave me was practice, quite a lot of it, via class presentations. Unbeknowst to me, I think each presentation gave me a little more confidence and after a while, you just get better and better (and sometimes you regress, but that’s life, you have to learn from mistakes too). I am still a work in progress in this regard. I still get the occasional butterflies in my stomach, but I am all for lifelong learning and hope to continue learning how to become a better public speaker.

What is your personal philosophy?

You have one stab at life. Live a full life, an honest life so that on your deathbed, you can tell yourself that you did the best you could, in the circumstances that were presented to you.

Going forward, what are your plans for the next five years?

Well, as far as  political plans are concerned, the priority is singularly focussed on ensuring that the Workers’ Party team runs the Town Council well and serve our residents as they expect us to. Professionally, I see myself cutting my teeth as a lawyer and look forward to establishing a foundation in the legal profession.

Ends.

Written by singapore 2025

29/10/2011 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Workers' Party

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