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Chan Chun Sing and the language of politics

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By Kumaran Pillai

 

Democracy is a messy process the world over and strangely it can bring less than desirable personalities like President Trump into power. But the power to overthrow an undesirable leader is inherent in the system through an electoral process.

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Authoritarian governments are different. In Singapore for instance, we do have general elections every five years and in theory the president is elected into office. But in practice, you and I know that the President of Singapore is anointed.

Ministers here, on the contrary, speak of “Business Continuity” and no matter who amongst his peers is chosen to lead the country, make no mistake, it will be “business as usual,” said Minister Chan Chun Sing in a dialogue session with the foreign correspondents last week. Oddly, Minister Chan said that we’re facing an “existential crises” when arguing for a hike in water tariff earlier this year.

Writing in the ST Forum Page, one Dr Edmund Lam said that the next PM should be given more time to understudy the job. There you go, it is succession planning at its very best. Everything is planned for and in Chan’s words, there is a “finite number of permutations” when it comes to the next PM.

The other minister in the running for the next PM is Ong Ye Kung and he reckons that Singapore is best served by a one-party system. So, why bother with the messy check and balances of a democracy?

We are being conditioned to think alike, to speak in business lingos – succession planning, track record, matrix organisations and deep seated corporate culture. And civil disobedience CD) is a bad word, it is a no-no in our political lingo.

Even the newly minted Chairman of SDP, Prof Paul Tambyah said that his party boss, Dr Chee Soon Juan has gone through an image makeover, or something to that effect and gave assurance that such tactics are a thing of the past. Tambyah feels that party’s social media channels are good enough to get their message across. His remarks were well received, and someone even asked why it took SDP such a long time to realise that CD doesn’t work in Singapore.

Whether CD works in Singapore is another topic and it probably deserves a separate discussion. But what I see is this great need to conform, an acquiesce of sorts with the larger public. If that’s going to be the case, there is nobody, I mean nobody at all who will be challenging the status quo in Singapore.

Meanwhile in the US, the three tech giants, Google, Facebook and Twitter are reviewing their algorithms to ensure that their platforms are not inadvertently used to influence political outcomes and they have also come under fire for propagating fake news by the Russians. A change in the algorithm design would render social media as a blunt political tool.

This situation, I’m afraid will only lead to, to use Minister Chan’s words, a “finite number of permutations,” I see no political disruption in the near future in Singapore.

In recent times, the only real challenge is coming from Lee Hsien Yang, his son Li Shengwu and Lee Wei Ling. The Oxley Road saga is far from over.

The late Lee Kuan Yew’s son took to Facebook recently and said that the Prime Minister has made no attempt in resolving matters.

Still, our ministers insist that it is going to be “business as usual” in Singapore with train delays and breakdowns and a slow and definite downward slide.

It was announced last week that Broadcom, a $136 Billion-dollar company is moving its HQ to the USA – a sign that corporations find Singapore a less desirable destination for their business.

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