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Playing an active part as Singaporeans

By Andrew Ong

After casual exchanges with friends over some local socio-political issues, I have to say that generally, majority of us Singaporeans take a very passive if not an apathetic approach when it comes to Singapore socio-political issues.

I think this can be largely due to us Singaporeans ‘taking for granted’ the strong leadership and efficiency of our government.

Personally, I think this is not very healthy for us as a country and has to be addressed as it might pose a grave danger for all of us.

The Reason

Historically, it has been well documented and proven that no man is perfect. Everyday in the papers, we see politicians, religious leaders and top corporate executive officers embroiled in controversial scandals.

These examples depict how higher accountability and governance should be upheld for those especially in authority as these leaders have direct influence over lives. And this is more critically so for a government that governs a nation as every decision made affects the livelihood of many.

The NKF Scandal Lesson
When the NKF scandal unfolded within our shores, it was claimed that the lack of governance and accountability led to this unfortunate occurrence. The remedy was the government’s heightening of governance within the charity sector to ensure credibility and transparency for the beneficiaries and the donating public.

Now the charity sector has the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) as its 'watch dog' to guard against ambiguous charitable organisations. Similarly for consumers, we have the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) to turn to, to alert and protect the consumer community from any unfair or unethical trade practices.

These are but only a couple of cited 'watch dogs', but I believe you would agree with me that it is common to find an institution or body which exists to uphold good practices and benchmarks in the various industry/profession in our marketplace.

Taking No Chances

But surprisingly, there is no such institution or body in Singapore - with regards to ensuring good governance and accountability by our government. Thus it may appear that the government operates above the law.

Over the years, Singapore has prided itself on having an uncorrupted ruling government, but just like the NKF scandal that 'exploded' in our faces, we should never leave anything to chance.

Therefore, we should learn from this as our government can also go down that slippery slope with no proper governance and accountability in check.

Being pro-active

Though I do not foresee how such a body/organisation can take place in Singapore, for a start, Singaporeans should take a more pro-active stance in socio-political issues in our nation.

Why? Simply because it affects you and me.

Practically we can not only read but critique more of our government's policies and initiatives, so that with better understanding of their consequences and effect, we can better provide constructive feedback to our government from the ground. This might give our government options to evaluate their decisions and their impact on us.

The consequences of us not doing so would eventually see every decision made by the government deemed acceptable and in the worst scenario our consent or our opinions would no longer bear any weight in decision-making as it would appear that we have given the government full control to do as they wish or please.

Let’s build our nation

I hope this article would not be misconstrued as one accusing our government for being a corrupt party or be misinterpreted as one written with anti-government sentiments.
The purpose of this article is in fact to encourage us Singaporeans to build our nation in partnership with our government. And as Singaporeans, we should not leave room for complacency to seep in.

Let us not confine our contributions towards nation building with the mere mandatory tax payments. I believe that we Singaporeans are capable enough to do more than is required for our future.

About the author: A true-blue Singapore heartlander, Andrew Ong is presently working in the Research & Corporate Communicatons division of an NGO which represents the manufacturing sector in Singapore. Other than his work, he enjoys serving others through his church and community work. In his free time, he fuels his passion for writing through his personal blog.