One year on from the fanfare that marked SG50, it might be time to reflect and recap on the past year to evaluate how our nation has evolved since its milestone birthday.
The glittering celebrations that heralded our fiftieth year were unforgettable. As the fireworks brightened our skies, it was easy to feel optimistic for the future. Despite the passing of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the nation’s attention was drawn to the successes of the past 50 years and Singaporeans were able to feel hopeful for the future in light of the foundations that have been set by the late Mr Lee.
Now that the sheen of a glorious birthday has worn off and Singaporeans are no longer distracted by the rush of celebrations, it is hard to ignore that all may not be as well as thought.
Despite Singapore’s transformation from third world to first world in less than half a century, there is growing concern for the income disparity between the rich and poor. (http://dollarsandsense.sg/income-inequality-in-singapore/) Are the poor getting left behind while the rich get richer? Will that portend social problems that could lead to instability, discontent and disenfranchisement?
On the face of things, Singaporeans are a prosperous lot. You see fancy cars on the roads, beautiful buildings and high-end designers stores in the shopping centres. Do the outward signs of wealth belie a slow down in the economy? Is Singapore headed for a recession? (http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/article/1999505/singapore-heading-recessions)
One assumes that age begets wisdom and enlightenment. Has that been true in the Singaporean context? This was the year where we saw a controversial hanging (https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/16/singapore-grant-clemency-death-row-inmate). It was also the year whereby a youngster tragically took his own life amidst allegations of police unprofessionalism (https://theindependent.sg.sg/case-of-benjamin-lee-schools-should-know-that-not-standing-the-way-of-the-law-is-not-the-same-as-blind-compliance-to-police-requests/). What of the way Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung were treated by the police over alleged violations of the regulations in relation to Cooling off Day? (https://theindependent.sg.sg/eld-has-to-explain-why-it-singled-out-roy-ngerng-and-teo-soh-lung/). Given that we are now a more mature nation, shouldn’t police attitudes reflect more civility?
As we turn 51, are we more progressive? It was recently announced that a new Bill has been tabled in Parliament to clarify the penalties that would be applicable to those who are guilty of contempt of court. Was this Bill necessary or could it be viewed as an attempt to silence errant critics and encourage self-censorship? (https://theindependent.sg.sg/new-contempt-of-court-bill-may-have-cooling-effect-on-bloggers-and-news-sites-which-seek-accountability/)
What of the fact that being gay is still illegal in our nation state with the retention of Section 377a in the 21st century?
Of course all is not doom and gloom given that there is every indication that Singapore is still rapidly moving up the rungs of “international city” status. The latest honour that has been bestowed on us has been the awarding of the coveted Michelin star to our hawkers. As a country that prides itself on a well-honed palette for discerning good food, the Michelin star is a grand tribute that bears testament to the growing stature of our city-state. (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/singapore-street-food-hawker-earns-michelin-star-1-soya-sauce-chicken-1574999)
In earning this award, hawker, Mr Chan has also made history by being the first street food store to be awarded this culinary honour.
There is no doubt that Singapore’s international standing has shot up in recent years. International movies, news channels and television shows now mention Singapore quite frequently.
Perhaps it is also time for how we are governed to be more in line with international standards?