Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dawn of Post-LKY era

I have spoken about Post-LKY era in several occasions over the last few years and I have just done that on the day Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew died, 9 September 2010. When I heard that news, it immediately struck upon me that we are walking right into Post-LKY without any adequate preparation at all.

The loss of his beloved wife at this ripe old age of 87 would have great impact on his health and well being, especially so when he has just been admitted into hospital for chest infections.

When I watch him speak at his wife's funeral, reading his eulogy painfully with a barely audible voice and head facing down most of the time, I suddenly felt very sorry for him. The once one of the best political orators in this region, has suddenly lost his flare and magical touch. The severely wounded old lion may not roar again. I still hope that he would have a speedy recovery from both his illness and grief.

Someone has a lively discussion with me about Post-LKY era and declare that "LKY doesn't matter at all". I said, "But the fact that we are using LKY as the indication in Post-LKY era discussions truly reflects the fact that his political life is an important part of Singapore's history!"

Although Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is still alive, but death to everyone, including all of us, is certain, just a matter of when. With due respect to MM Lee, for the benefits of Singapore, we will have to examine all the possibilities carefully so that we could prepare ourselves, the Nation, for a smooth transition into Post-LKY era.

There are many questions of uncertainties with regard to Post-LKY era:

1) Will LKY's legacy outlive his passing?
2) Can the present social-economic-political model sustain in the long run?
3) Will there be power struggle within PAP? If so, will political instability occur?
4) Will both foreign and local investors maintain their confidence in our country's stability?
5) Will Singapore's political hegemony continue to strive?

The ultimate question is, will Singapore be better or worse off without Mr Lee Kuan Yew and how could we maintain or develop our political system thereafter?

In human history, particularly Chinese ancient and modern history, the passing of an Emperor or a political Strongman will always trigger off power struggle within the system. eg. The death of Chairman Mao Zhe Tong is the prime example how the power vacuum leads to intense power struggle. Luckily for China, Chairman Mao during his last breaths, has done the right thing of reinstating Deng Xiao Peng so that the Gang of Four could not extend their political atrocities by capturing power.

In Singapore's context, one may think that all is fine since Mr Lee Hsien Loong has become the third generation Prime Minister in Singapore. However, from all observations made so far, the undercurrent of power struggle is quite eminent.

It is only natural for any organizations to have different cliques or factions, especially so for political parties no matter how big or small they are. The most important thing is to find the balance whereby all factions could compromise and work together for the bigger picture. However, when there is a change in the dynamics between the factions due to the diminishing or total absence of a strongman like MM Lee, it will initiate fresh round of struggle to find the new balance of interests and power among them. Whether we like it or not, such realignment of power balance will take place.

In my opinion, for the sake of the country, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew should retire from active politics in either the form of total withdrawal from contest for the coming GE or just become a backbencher. This is to allow the Nation and all social, political and economic sectors to get used to a system without Strongman LKY. We need such gradual transitional period to cushion off the impact of the uncertainties arise from Post-LKY era.

Post-LKY era will pose great challenges as well as opportunities for the country as a whole. Post-LKY era will practically mean the end of strongman politics in Singapore. Many countries in the world have gone through such transition. eg. Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and even China etc.

The common phenomenon of Strongman politics in many countries during last century is basically due to the Post War impact whereby strong leadership is needed for the initial phase of stability, recovery and rebuilding from the devastating effects of World War II and the political uncertainty imposed by Cold War. However, most of the countries have walked out of the need of Strongman politics and many of them are working towards a more open and democratic political system.

Whether Singapore will follow the footsteps of these countries in embarking on the journey of developing a more open and democratic political system suitable for Singapore's context will depend largely on voters, not merely the ruling party alone.

It is a world trend for such political transition to happen because the model of political hegemony is NOT SUSTAINABLE in the long run. We should ensure the transition from Strongman politics to democratic development to be in a controlled and smooth manner.

Concurrently, we should reexamine on the kinds of political models we want for Post-LKY era. This should be done with the interests of our future generations instead of the usual narrowly defined interests of the ruling party.

MM Lee has once said that if the "opposition party" wins the elections twice consecutively, Singapore will be doomed. The basic reason why he comes to that conclusion is that the present political system is designed in such a way that a lot of power has been CENTRALIZED to give the ruling party absolute control. There is practically little SEPARATION of POWER to talk about, least, any meaningful checks and balance system. It is basically a system that is designed to entrenched the system of power hegemony.

However, MM Lee may have forgotten that the main threat of "dooming" Singapore may not come from any opposition party winning the elections but rather a corrupt group of politicians evolving out of PAP itself! The PAP may be seen as relatively clean by world standards but NOBODY can guarantee that this will forever be so and PAP will never be led by corrupt leaders in future!

I really hope that we will not face turbulent time ahead in Post-LKY era. If that happens, it would also mean that Mr Lee Kuan Yew has failed to build a sustainable system that could outlive his own legacy. There is still time, no matter how little it is, for MM Lee to do what is right for Singapore.

MM Lee should initiate and oversee the fundamentals of a better and more democratic political system to be established before he retires from Singapore politics. Nobody else in PAP has such political clout to do it except him.

He should institutionalize the independence of the Elections Department and fair play in our elections.

1) Gerrymandering and pork barrel politics should be outlawed.
2) A form of Proportional Representation should be adopted.
3) Independence of the press and government establishments like People's Association should be established.
4) All political parties should be given equal access to Government resources and funding to enhance healthy competition.
5) Political Donations Act should be amended to allow political parties to solicit funds.
6) Freedom of speech should be further institutionalized so that political parties or politicians could air their views freely in the context of public interests.
7) Freedom of information access to government statistics and data should be made available for enhancing political debates.
8) Intimidation or use of coercion on political opponents through government agencies, institutions or GLCs should be outlawed. No one should be intimidated or persecuted for his political beliefs and involvement.

There may be more things to be done but it would be a good start with the above mentioned. There is an urgency for him to do so else Singapore will fall and become the victim of intense power struggle within his own party after his passing. That would be a sad Post-LKY era the entire Nation will face in time to come.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

Indeed, your article makes a lot of sense and there are many points that are spot.

But will LKY be able to do a Mao by reappointing Deng before he faded away. Who in the wings do we have?
LHL may be likened to Pu Yi, the last emperor of China.

LKY has throughout his 'rein' systematically emasculate the opposition, the public service, his own party's system and the Singaporean citizenry, so that only HE wield the ultimate power. IMO, regrettably even the passing of his wife has been stage managed and manipulated through the use of the MSMs under his absolute control. But, fortunately or unfirtunately, depending on who you are for, his son is not capable of even half of what lky was/is. and lky has only himself to blame for the current state of things. For lky had done things all his life as if there is no tomorrow.

Make no mistake, when he leaves the scene there WILL be a power vacuum within his party, Singapore and our political defence vis a vis other countries. because all his life lky had not bothered to build up the stature of the country, his party's politicians and leaders as significant and strong entities because of his MORBID fear of being challenged. This is perhaps his biggest and fatal failing. The country of Singapore, her people and political leaders will suffer because of this.

Anonymous said...

No, we are not at post LKY era. He will , must live to see his son die, that will be the right punishment from god for what he did to all his innocent oppositions. He must pay for his sins

Valen Minbari said...

Nice article...

Would like to bring attention to a recent example of how without the proper check and balance, officials from a Southern California city increased their own salaries that cause a stir in California recently:

The example strikes me in terms if number of similarities:

1) Officials raise their own salaries via existing laws
2) Justifications made that since city is well run, officials are well within their rights to receive the high salary
3) Unfortunately, city also has many poor residents with a big surplus.

Google it and you can find more analysis...

Anonymous said...

Wow! it sounds like the end of Singapore when LKY is gone for good. Rest assure Singapore will not die even without a government. Each and every Singaporean has being surviving on their own all these years. Who had ever survive by depending on the leadership? Please do not cause any unneccessary alarm.

duoergun said...

This is wht GMS has been waiting for a long time, he knw he cant beat LKY when he ard hence he v happy nw tht he has lost his wife and most probably be leaving the political arena soon. Hence I conclude tht his attendance @ Mrs LKY funeral must be a fake 1, secondly 2 create a public image tht no doubt he & LKY r opponents but he still go n pay respects. solid publicity effort by GMS.

duoergun said...

nxt he talked abt mao zedong & deng xiaoping, under mao china went thru the great leap, cultural revolution. even deng xiao ping son deng pufang was pushed down by red guards, leaving him on a wheelchair and permanently paralysed. Deng was the hero, even LKY respected him a lot, he put china on the path of prosperity, stability & progress

duoergun said...

another strong effort by GMS to drive a wedge, if indeed there was diff factions within the PAP, why couldnt the opp made full use of it and win the GE? sour grapes, he hope by painting this pic more votes wld cme his way.

looks like there's mre of a split in the opp than in PAP, wht happen to desmond lim, kicked out by chiam? hahaha fyi i heard tht he's nt even an odinary member of spp nw

duoergun said...

by comparision i think its more likely for the opp to be corrupt, paying peanuts nad yet expect pple to feed their families, hw can they nt to be corrupt? Prove to me they can find some1 like balaji and expect him to draw 1k per mth

nxt there seems to be more pple with uqestionable character in the opp then in PAP, men like csj, james gomez, tang l h r gd eg

Anonymous said...

wolong123, the voweless wonder, is back in business! guess the elections must be round the corner...

Anonymous said...

He listed out four of his cabinet Minister who have the quality to take over his PM post. Tony Tan, Lim Chee Onn, Dhanabalan and Goh Chok Tong but in the end he have to depend on his son to carry on his legacy.