by Joseph Nathan
Newly minted Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat has been a saving grace for the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s 4G politicians since its announcement, given the fact that he is not a paper-general parachuted into parliament, which has become a pertinent issue that has irked many Singaporeans and divided us as a nation. Having survived a life-threatening medical operation, sympathetic Singaporeans too have been giving him the benefit of the doubts as he ought to have a better sense of conscience after such a life-changing incident. However, his recent series of statements are undermining all these advantages and goodwill, much to his own detriments.
His statements since becoming DPM can easily be categorized as “motherhood” statements – vague in substance and details, filled with many “feel good” platitudes, just to stay politically correct. Politically correct for whom exactly? It is becoming irrelevant and is obviously antagonizing many Singaporeans like me. He needs better script-writers to help him spin his future speeches as the current approaches are definitely not working. I am losing faith in him as a leader.
His recent May Day speech is an example, and just this morning, his interview with Channel NewsAsia (CNA) is another example. By citing that Singapore is becoming diverse and has become divided as such, he clearly tried to put the blame on a divided Singapore (SG) on our diversity. That is not true or accurate.
The reason why SG has become more divided is due largely to the issue of poor political leadership, aggravated by the fact that so many “unworthy” politicians were being parachuted into parliament via the back door of Group Representation Constituency (GRC)s. When poor leadership trivialize key issues and show a blatant lack of accountability and transparency, the outcome is obvious. We are divided as a nation by poor political leadership and their unprecedented series of failures and shortcomings, and not by our diversity per se. This is a Hard Fact that no spin-doctors could gloss over.
As such, by comparing with other more generic divisiveness of other economies, he is causing an unwarranted distraction that even the gullible among us will find it hard to accept. This shows a total lack of commitment from him to be addressing the issue factually and honestly. In the interim, the problem is not solved and things can only get from bad to worse. Is he even remotely concerned about this reality?
The PAP is obviously having its weakest slate of politicians in their current 4G line-up. With so many paper-generals and some very questionable politicians in their line up, it is to be expected that Singaporeans are becoming very concerned. As a First World economy, where we are offering the best remunerations for our political leaders that no other economy could we naturally expected the best of bests. Instead, it is looking like we are having a slate of kids, with wet ears, trying to tell us that they can do the man’s jobs. Goodness gracious us, really?
When Heng tried to deflect the issue of better candidates, he again cited his recent travels to China and the United States (US) and how he hoped that some of those Singaporeans who are working overseas would return to help our country by joining the PAP. On one hand, he knew about PAP’s predicament in recruiting credible and competent leaders that he has to travel overseas just to search and recruit, but on the other hand, he did not want to acknowledge that this is a problem that needs serious addressing. If the PAP keeps refuses to acknowledge that it has a problem in enticing the “best of bests” despite such a lucrative monetary reward, then the problem can only get worse.
Seriously, why would any truly capable and competent leaders want to join the PAP and get whipped by the party-whip, held by Chan, or get groupthink when they disagree on key issues and end up looking stupid in front of the nation? Real leaders have integrity and they know and value their social-obligation to speak truthfully and factually where and when it matters. In short, they have an awakened consciousness to stay dignified. The power of monetary or material influences has a very low impact on them. This is a Hard Fact about real leadership.
PAP’s own failure to entice quality leader currently shows how irrelevant it has become. It is very irresponsible for the current PAP leaders to be imposing their own failures onto Singapore. PAP is not Singapore and Singapore is much more than the current PAP. I agree with Heng that there are indeed many good people who could step up and contribute to help Singapore. I think it is patriotic of them to be stepping up even if they are not aligned with the PAP. This is a Hard Fact that we must distinguish very clearly and must remain supportive of these individuals, and not get misguided by party-politics.
If Heng is truly dedicated in making any transformational changes within the PAP and/or for Singapore, the question lies in whether he has the awakened consciousness and courage to deal with the root cause of the issue. Will he dare fire some of those questionable politicians and a few paper-generals to set the precedent that his leadership is 100% Singaporeans-centric and explicitly demonstrate that he dares to make Hard Decisions, and not just talk about making a hard decision, even if it cause him the brunt of his current PAP leaders?
Until Heng dares to explicitly demonstrate his courage to do what is right, he should stop making those nonsensical motherhood statements as Singaporeans are not that gullible. PAP has lost much trust with the people whom they professed to serve over these couple of past years and the trust-deficit is dividing us as a nation. Can Heng seriously address this Hard Truth? Is there no one within our Mainstream Media (MSM)s who dare to ask him more critical questions than just patronizing him? It is very cruel of our MSMs to be making Heng looks so stupid and I wonder if they are trying to kill his public persona prematurely.
In the upcoming election, the people ought to scrutinize the slate of the PAP’s 4G line-up more closely and must have the awakened consciousness to think critically the importance of our future as a nation. If we accept mediocre politicians like some of those in the PAP’s current 4G line-up, then we risked derailing our economy and our future. Even new citizens among us would be hard-pressed like any other Singaporeans as that means having to uproot again and search for a better future elsewhere. They too must start to think critically and find the courage to stand patriotically with fellow Singaporeans.
As new citizens, they know well the predicament and dangers of questionable politicians, and their bad policies and party-centric agenda that trivialize the needs of the people back in their own countries. This is the root cause of their migrating to Singapore in the first place. In fact, Singaporeans got a lot to be learning from them as they got a lot to be learning from us. Time to unite and act as one as we are all on the same boat. If SG sinks, we all will suffer.
I agree with Heng that we do not get to choose where we are born but we can definitely shape our collective future as a nation by choosing political leaders that are more committed, dedicated and sincere in serving our country and its people. We need real leadership that has the morality and ethicality in walking their talks and not just talking or making nonsensical motherhood statement. Collectively, we should be more patriotic in demanding for the better calibre of political leaders as Singapore deserves better.
This was first published on Joseph Nathan – Hard Truths of SG’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.