Singapore—In a piece for new media outfit thehomeground.asia, writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh argues that there are “reasons” for hope in spite of the shock waves the country received last week over the PAP’s leadership succession.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that he’s stepping aside from the People’s Action Party’s fourth generation of leaders (4G), which means he’s no longer in the running to become Prime Minister when Lee Hsien Loong steps down.
Mr Vadaketh argues that the succession issue has always been in question, even after DPM Heng became PAP’s first secretary-general.
He noted that “the one really exceptional and popular leader, Tharman Shanmugaratnam,” having been “ruled out of the race” has caused “ordinary Singaporeans” to grow “increasingly frustrated at the seeming paucity of world-class politicians.”
The writer also gave his own reason why the current crop of 4G leaders have failed to impress the public, “Singapore’s best politicians are no longer all at the PAP.”
The PAP, he added, is no longer the only serious political party in the country. The Workers’ Party pulled off its own “most unlikely” leadership succession well—“from Low Thia Khiang, an older, Teochew-speaking stalwart, to Pritam Singh, a young Sikh.”
In a parenthetical remark, Mr Vadaketh added, “Many Singaporeans seem inspired by a young non-Chinese who did not go to any brand name schools. Is the PAP taking note?”
But for the writer, the biggest problem is not that the ruling party is failing to attract the best candidates, it’s that “many of them – not all – still think that they’re the best. Scholarly hubris and God complexes abound.”
This was evidenced last year by the disregard officials gave to multiple warnings concerning living conditions in workers’ dormitories, which gave rise to the country’s “worst humanitarian crisis since independence,” he added.
The writer also wrote that he felt Mr Heng, far more easygoing and far less authoritarian than past Singaporean leaders, had “qualities (that) are precisely what Singapore needs now”, imagining that the DPM “could help accelerate the flow of information across society by better harnessing the thoughts and skills of all Singaporeans – fostering a proper marketplace of ideas.”
But all is not lost, despite rumours abounding of a possible continuation of the current political dynasty, Mr Vadaketh noted.
He wrote that what gives him hope is that the conversation regarding succession is alive and well, as opposed to even the recent past, when many Singaporeans simply did not seem to care.
The fact that many have weighed in and have chosen to become involved can be a cause for optimism and a sign that times are changing.
“The PAP’s Old-Chinese-father-knows-best paternalism, whatever its merits in our early years, is starting to wear thin. Perhaps we no longer want the brilliant leader who feels the need to relentlessly harry us, but the one with the patience to let us learn and bloom – even if that means waiting one more second for us to speak through the microphone,” wrote Mr Vadaketh.
Follow us on Social Media
Send in your scoops to firstname.lastname@example.org