By most measures, the historic and unprecedented summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong Un is a success.
The outcome has its fair share of skeptics, as former Nominated-Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng argues that the agreement “is in substance very little different from previous agreements made by North Korea”.
Yet at the very least, Trump has agreed to put on hold the US-South Korean military drills in August, which has long been seen by North Korea as a preparation for an invasion. Singapore’s image benefitted greatly too, with some estimates saying that Singapore had $700 million worth of exposure.
As much as it is tempting to translate this national pride into a sense of gratitude towards the ruling party, the intellectual case for such a tendency is thin.
For one, Singapore was chosen as a practical venue and because it maintains diplomatic relationships with both countries. European countries (i.e. Finland, Iceland and Switzerland) had offered to host the event, but this was out of the question given the reliability of Kim’s old jet.
As Vivian Balakrishnan himself has mentioned, Singapore is here merely to be a moderator and “serve tea and coffee”. Now that the role of playing glamourous coffee-boy is over, we should not allow this over-exuberance to distract us from internal problems we face.
Just before the summit, ST editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang had suggested the 4G leadership was out of touch with the common man. While largely agreed, this was met with a harsh response from one Lim Yuin Chien.
Not only does this raised question about the role of civil servants in politics, it ironically shows that the 4G leadership is unwilling to listen. Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh had to draw a conclusion by asking 4G Singaporeans to speak up.
The summit also raised questions about bread-and-butter issues. One elderly man was seen expressing is anger at a police officer outside St. Regis that the government could “raise electricity by 12%, raise water by 30% but still can pay for events like this.”
While one may be quick to dismiss it as a one-off event, let us not forget that there are many as many as 400,000 Singaporeans having less than $5 a day after paying for bills according to BBC.
In yesterday’s news Singapore People’s Party member Jose Raymond posted on his Facebook about a visually handicapped man who had kidney failure, but was unable to obtain any assistance from the government as he was deemed to have a source of income via his monthly CPF pay-outs of $620.
Beneath the glamourous event, this is the reality of everyday life in Singapore. As Mahatma Ghandi’s famously said, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”.
No country is perfect, but the once successful brand of Singapore’s governance is no longer what it used to be.