Singapore—At the launch of the country’s newest political party, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on August 3, headed by former PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, one of the more prominent voices heard was that of Michelle Lee, formerly of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
Ms Lee announced that PSP would push for lowering the voting age, arguing that by the age of 18, Singaporeans should be given a say in determining their own future.
“We propose that the voting age in Singapore be lowered to 18 years old. Young people are the future of this country and should have a say in what they want that future to be. By 18, young people very clear opinions and ideas of what they want to see in Singapore, how they want to get there, and who they feel will be able to lead them in the direction.”
She underlined the fact that in other countries around the globe, the voting age was already lowered quite some time ago.
“In this, we are already behind the times. Most countries around the world lowered their voting age to 18 in the 1970s. Malaysia changed their voting age to 18 this year.
This is the 21st century, but Singapore politics is still stuck in the 20th century, and we must change that.”
She also emphasised that good leadership is not about money, but about passion, integrity, and courage.
“We need to stand together and help our government to see it’s not about the money because you can’t pay for passion. I moved from being an investment banker and a management consultant to being a teacher, a counselor, and I love what I do.
It’s not about the money, as you know, and money cannot buy passion.”
Ms Lee mentioned that the highest-paid minister in the country earns approximately 43 times the average salary of the average Singaporean, and an entry-level minister earns half of that. She warned that “million-dollar paychecks keep ministers in their ivory towers,” and moreover, make them “afraid to take risks, disagree, or lose their jobs.” Many in the audience applauded at this.
She then went on to talk about how Dr Tan Cheng Bock was not afraid to resign in order to hold fast to his principles. She talked about the time when Jurong Hospital was renamed Ng Teng Fong Hospital, due to a sizable donation from the family. Dr Tan objected to this, suggesting instead to name the hospital after the country’s first elected president, to which the ministers disagreed.
“But he felt then,” Ms Lee said, “as he does now, that it should not be about the money, “because you cannot pay for passion, you cannot pay for integrity, and you cannot buy courage. Money does not buy character. In fact, the more you pay, the more you discourage these virtues.”
Ms Lee kept returning back to the well-being of Singapore’s youth.
“Why is this relevant to our young people? Because when we believe that each of them is valuable, and we invest in them, listen to them and give them opportunities, then we empower them and give them hope—the feeling that they matter and the conviction that they can make a difference. And this is what we want each of our young people to grow up with.”
She asked “What are we doing to our children…our only resource?”
She pointed out that many Singaporean students are turned away from pursuing tertiary education, “but the government woos and spends almost S$130 million on scholarships for foreign students,” to the sound of boos from the audience.
Ms Lee also asked them, “Does our government believe that our people are our only resource?
Actions speak louder than words.”
She ended with highlighting PSP’s vision statement. “A united Singapore, progressing with compassion. Ladies and gentlemen, we want to see a united Singapore progressing together…. Let us protect the young and the weak in our society. This is the government’s job—what we trusted them to do.
Mr Heng Swee Keat, our-soon-to-be Prime Minister, says that the PAP has delivered a better life for Singaporeans. He says Singaporeans will know who to place their trust in.
In this, I agree with Mr Heng. Singaporeans know, and it is time to gather the courage, and stand together as one.”
Ms Lee, 43, contested in the 2011 GE under the SDP at the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and worked at the Monetary Authority of Singapore. As mentioned in her speech, Ms Lee has also been a teacher and a counselor.
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