Speaking at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference yesterday (1 Oct), veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh unveiled his wishlist for the ruling party’s fourth generation (4G) leaders and cautioned them that they would not want more Singaporean workers “to join the ranks of the angry voters.”
Dr Koh currently serves as Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore. A distinguished diplomat, he has served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador to the United States of America, High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico.
Calling on the 4G leaders to take care of displaced workers and step in to support those who will be retrenched as the economy restructures, Dr Koh advised:
“We should not abandon the displaced workers because we don’t want more and more Singaporeans to become Grab drivers or, worse, to join the ranks of the angry voters.
“Remember this: It was the angry voters who helped to elect President (Donald) Trump in the United States. It was the angry voters in the United Kingdom who voted to leave the European Union.”
Dr Koh gave this advice as part of an eight-point agenda he had come up with for the consideration of the country’s fourth prime minister and his team. Current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is expected to hand over the government to his successor after the next General Election.
Asserting that the 4G team should prioritise maintaining racial and religious harmony and making Singapore a more equal society, Dr Koh said that to do this, the leaders must work to make Singapore a classless society and root out discriminatory hiring practices where it exists.
He said: “Today, Singapore is not a classless society. We are divided by wealth, by income, by profession, by place of residence, and even by the school we attend.”
Dr Koh also said that he hopes the leaders will keep Singapore safe and work to establish a kinder, more inclusive society. Among his other points, Dr Koh said that ASEAN should be elevated in Singapore’s economic agenda and that Singapore should become a thought leader in the field of the environment and development.
On the qualities that the 4G leader should have, Dr Koh said that “our fourth-generation leader must have fire in his or her belly,” have courage and not be cowed by domestic or external opponents. He added:
“At the same time, a fourth-generation leader must be an independent thinker who is willing to go where no one else has gone before. To survive and prosper, Singapore should be a leader in innovation, not a camp follower.”
Asserting that he has “full confidence” in the ability, commitment and integrity of Singapore’s 4G leadership, Dr Koh said: “They will inherit from their predecessors a Singapore which is a great success. What is already very good can still be improved, and it is in this spirit that I dare to submit some ideas for the consideration of our fourth prime minister.”