Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Singapore stands at a crossroads. Mr Lee and his men in white share candidly about what they have done and what they have tried to do for Singaporeans. They’re not perfect but they’re trying their best. They ask the people to entrust the future of Singapore to their leadership. The future is uncertain. Lacking natural resources, this little island is jam-packed with people who struggle to build adequate housing, transportation, economic development, education, and national security. The question on everybody’s minds: how can we improve our quality of life and standard of living? The recent riot demonstrated how easily Singapore could descend into chaos. It doesn't help that we live in a tough neighbourhood. Social unrest in Malaysia threatens to spill across the Causeway while our relationship with Indonesia is obscured, their intentions appear hazy. Terrorism looms. This was what it was like 50 years ago. The Cold War was brewing. The newly independent nations of South East Asia were experimenting with different forms of self-government. In the midst of all this, Singapore exited Malaysia and struggled to survive as a nation of migrants. The race riots happened and we learned to be ever mindful of race, language, and religion. PAP came to power and began a sweeping programme of national development. And the rest is history.
Fast forward to 2015. Have things changed? Yes and no. Our early leaders turned adversity into opportunity, most clearly on the socio-economic front. The threats that bothered us then still bother us now, internally and externally. But we’re better prepared to face them today. We also turned our weakness into strength. People are our greatest asset. The growing population was honed into a disciplined and professional workforce. Ironically, the strength that we’ve built up over the decades seems to have turned into a weakness. Singapore is wealthy now. But what is our vision for the future? We’ve accumulated much but that also means we feel we have much to lose. There is a deficit of ideas. During this campaign period, I was struck by how much voting-rhetoric centred on risk aversion and the fear of losing our edge. I suppose this is natural, looking at the glittering cityscapes that we’ve built, and shuddering to think that it might come crumbling down one day. We fear becoming mediocre. So we tweak. But there is no quicker way to mediocrity than perpetuating the status quo for fear of change. 100 little tweaks do not an idea maketh. Our forebears didn’t have all these fancy lights to distract them. They took what they had and started again on a blank slate. Have we become so paralysed? So afraid to fail? To lose? To risk? To try? We stand at a turning point in history. Regardless of how the election turns out or who forms the next administration, let’s shake off the fear and start again on a blank slate. What is your vision for the future?