The Prime Minister will be addressing the nation this Sunday at the National Day Rally. Will he be able to move the nation, address long standing issues and unify us? Tan Bah Bah puts the PM on the spot.
Sunday’s National Day Rally speech will be Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s great opportunity to move a nation that appears like a listless boat in an ocean of uncertainty.
Two rally speeches and a milestone by-election have gone by but the citizens’ angst is still palpable.
The 2011 rally was just three months after General Elections 2011. PM Lee was a contrite leader ready to listen to the people, to find out what they were unhappy about.
The issues were not yet all that properly collated. But a slew of promises were made and action pledged.
Even before that speech, the PM was in action mode announcing the reduction of ministerial pay.
The 2012 event continued to address some of the issues brought up in GE 2011 and it also covered the traditional ones – including education, shortage of babies, work-life balance.
Five months later came the loss of Punggol East to the Workers Party. PE was by no means a WP stronghold and neither was the young Lee Li Lian a heavyweight politician.
The People’s Action Party lost by a significant swing of 13.49 per cent, a harbinger of what might well be the national scenario as many of the Piunggol East residents were young and middle-class.
The ruling party has been in a serious self-assessment and listening mode since then because next came Our Singapore Conversation. About 47,000 people came forward (or were roped in) to talk about the issues egging them. This was a government setting its own pace and agenda.
Now we are at the 2013 Rally. There is suddenly a sense of urgency. It is only three years before the next general elections, expected by many to be a momentous moment.
We are now told the PM will address what emerged from the Conversation as among the most pressing issues troubling the electorate. They are those affecting jobs, housing and healthcare.
“I will also speak about how we can together make Singapore a better home for us all,” said Mr Lee in a Facebook post.
The foreigner issue is still raw despite the government rolling back many perks for PRs and putting the squeeze on the numbers.
Sunday’s speech offers the PM a great opportunity to try and put the matter to rest.
Tell foreigners that they are welcome here, but tell them they have to decide after, say five years, that they have to make up their minds about this country. Apply for citizenship or plan to leave.
As for this country called Singapore, it is at an inflexion point, as Goh Chok Tong said the other day.
And the PM, as captain of the boat, has to move all of us in a way that he has never had to do.
Words can stir, lift hearts, live on in history and collective memory, become immortal. The greatest speeches are passed down the generations because they touch a chord and resonate.
Think of Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech, I Have A Dream, proclaiming his vision of racial equality. That vision has been translated into reality, his soul-stirring words mobilizing powerful forces that helped realise his dream. There is no denying the power of words.
We look forward to a cracker of a speech from our PM.