Change from Inside and Outside
PM Lee is not totally wrong that change must come to Singapore and that it should be from within the ruling party. The PAP must change fast if they wish to retain their glamour over Singaporeans. Speakers’ Corner turning into a protest corner, the ISA no longer used to contain opposition leaders and the lighter touch in the Internet are modest attempts at change.
However, this change would not have come about if the opposition and the people were not vocal about these demands directly and indirectly. I would think that if there is another strong contender for our votes, the PAP would change even faster and more aggressively. Likewise, the other contender would also react to the PAP’s changes to win our votes. Brinkmanship in politics between parties to court voters sounds excellent for us. There should always be space for another main party in Singapore politics. Give our inherited parliamentary system a chance to flourish, and Singapore to really break out of the spell that only and only the PAP alone is good for Singapore.
Nov 16, 2008
PAP cadres conference – Change must come to PAP
CHANGE must come to Singapore – but within the ruling People’s Action Party rather than in the form of having a two-party system.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday stressed that the PAP must constantly evolve to keep up with the times. This means renewing its membership and leadership ranks, and coming up with fresh ways to engage Singaporeans.
Mr Lee, who is secretary-general of the PAP, said: ‘Change has to take place in Singapore but change must take place not (between parties) but within the PAP.
‘As long as the PAP changes itself, and continues to provide clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve, the country is much better off with one dominant, strong, clean, good party.’
Addressing over 1,000 cadres at the annual PAP Conference at the Toa Payoh sports hub, Mr Lee acknowledged the desire for change among electorates across the world.
‘It has happened in Australia, it’s happened in New Zealand recently,’ he noted. And most notably, in the United States too, where Democratic candidate Barack Obama swept to victory on his campaign platform of change.
Observed Mr Lee: ‘So the country is set on a new direction. And if Obama succeeds, that’s good.
‘If he doesn’t succeed after four years or eight years, the Americans will try again with a new President, change party, the Republicans set a new direction.’
But while the US is a big country with a big pool from which to find political talent, there is no such guarantee in smaller countries, he said.
‘In Asia, it very seldom works because having two or more parties has not guaranteed good governance or progress,’ he added, citing Taiwan as an example.
In the last decade, its unhappy voters had swung from the Kuomintang (KMT), to the Democratic Progressive Party, and back to KMT again.
‘By Western definitions of democracy, Taiwan qualifies because it’s got two changes of government – in, out, in.
‘But it is not a political system which is working properly. And I don’t think you want that kind of political system in Singapore,’ he said.
He added however that this doesn’t mean that the PAP has a blank cheque: It has to account to voters at the polls every five years. New parties will emerge quickly to take it on if ‘something goes wrong with the PAP’, he said.
Neither did it mean it was the job of the PAP to build up the opposition, he added. ‘It’s hard enough to find one team to look after the country. How can you find two? As a small country, we must have a first division team, an outstanding group of people who can make up for our many limitations,’ he said.
The PAP has managed to survive more than 50 years because it kept itself ‘vigorous, lean, relevant, able to win elections’, and adjusting its leadership styles to ‘suit new generations of Singaporeans,’ he noted.
He cited initiatives such as the PAP Policy Forum in which younger party members discuss policy making issues, intra-party elections to district committees, and establishing a presence in the new media.
It is difficult for political parties to stay vigorous, he allowed.
In Japan for instance, the Liberal Democratic Party has been in power for half a century, but ‘has not sustained its vigour’. With no nurturing of younger talent, there is a loss of energy and fresh ideas, observed Mr Lee. ‘So for more than a decade Japan has had a series of weak governments.’
China’s Communist Party, on the other hand, is trying to keep itself strong, vigorous and tied to the ground. This was why it was very interested in Singapore’s political experience, and sent many study teams here.
Mr Lee cautioned however that this did not mean the PAP had found the magic formula to keep itself strong. ‘It is always difficult to carry out self-renewal, to respond creatively to new challenges, to reinvent ourselves. But it is vital for the PAP to make every attempt,’ he said.