I started writing for TheIndependent.SG in 2013. The social media news platform, which made its appearance in March of that year, was very active for nearly a year. After a short break, it came back but quickly hit the brakes again. It attempted to make a serious comeback in time for the General Elections in 2015. Unfortunately, I remember that the only article it managed to publish for GE2015 was an article I wrote, which was supposed to be a kicker for our intended coverage of that election. The article was entitled “The Lee Kuan Yew Effect”.
Come the next election – whether very late 2024 or in 2025 – will the LKY Effect still be around and have a part to play? The ruling People’s Action Party sees it as its duty to make sure that Singaporeans, especially the younger ones, do not forget the contributions of the Founding Fathers. I wrote in 2015 that the LKY Effect was a double-edged sword whose “effect” could be unpredictable. There is always a fine line between reinforcing a message and turning off the intended audience. What is too much or too little? Sometimes, you can get caught in the mood, become over-enthusiastic – and miscalculate. When GE2015 was held, Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had just passed away. The post-GE2011 anti-foreigner atmosphere was still strong, and when GE2015 was held, the swing around in favour of the PAP was unexpected. Obviously, many were surprised by the strong results across the island in favour of the PAP, which saw the Workers’ Party clinging on to Aljunied and Hougang. The gratitude for what LKY and his cohort had done for Singapore had to be paid. And it was, handsomely. This was the LKY Effect at work.
And that swingback possibly gave the ruling party the impression that the Opposition was on the defensive. Holding GE2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – no physical rallies, etc. – was supposed to put the Opposition at a disadvantage. The surprising results? The Workers’ Party strengthened its hold in Aljunied GRC and Hougang and even won a new GRC – Sengkang. There is much to analyse from what has taken place in the past. But, whatever the value of history, every generation will have its own way of solving its specific problems.
Today, Singapore is in transition. The whole world is also in transition, with its new sets of challenges.
How will the 4G leaders perform? What interesting new role can PM Lee Hsien Loong play when he passes the baton to Lawrence Wong? What new things would President Tharman Shanmugaratnam bring to the table in the Istana? What is going to happen in Ukraine, Taiwan, Gaza? What will be the long-term impact of the US-China rivalry? What does the future hold for a new world run by Artificial Intelligence? Will AI be a boon or bane for a small country like Singapore since other larger countries can use it to shorten the time taken to learn the processes of practically everything?
These are unusually exciting times in the real post-Lee Kuan Yew era. Sense And Nonsense has been commenting weekly on Singapore developments since March 2016 without a break. It will now take an indefinite hiatus.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.