Yearning for “Western-style democracy”?

I am all for adapting democracy to suit our circumstances. However, the PAP’s interpretation of “adapting democracy” is in fact more about justifying their authoritarian ways, than our cultural uniqueness

In his speech to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Students’ Union Ministerial Forum on 22 October, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said that some people—probably referring to young Singaporeans—“may not fully appreciate the purpose and importance of general elections”.

According to the Straits Times, he said that these people “simply yearn for liberal Western-style democracies without considering whether these will produce a good and effective government”.

Mr Goh cited an exchange of letters in the ST Forum last month on the topic of democracy. This led him to ask his audience: “Is a democratic system an end to be pursued in its own right, or is it a means to select a government to look after our lives like a guardian or a trustee?”

I am not sure where Mr Goh got the idea that Singaporeans are yearning for Western-style democracy and that they think democracy is an end in itself. If was because of the “exchange of letters” in the ST Forum, then I’m afraid Mr Goh is mistaken.

I’m familiar with this exchange of letters, because I wrote the second letter, which sparked off a chain of responses, not all of which were published by the paper (like this one, by Ravi Philemon).

In my 22 September letter, What makes a democracy (read here), I pointed out that while there is no need for us to adopt democracy’s negative aspects, we also should not cling blindly to the status quo.

I am all for adapting democracy to suit our circumstances. However, the PAP’s interpretation of “adapting democracy” is in fact more about justifying their authoritarian ways, than our cultural uniqueness.

Liberal democracy may be messy but authoritarian governments have destroyed far more countries and ruined many more lives. There are shades of grey between no-holds barred democracy and authoritarianism (including the brand of authoritarianism practiced in Singapore). The Senior Minister appears to have employed the tired old PAP tactic of citing extreme examples to distract from the main issue.

In my next article related to this one, I will discuss the need for political competition in Singapore.

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6 thoughts on “Yearning for “Western-style democracy”?”

  1. I’m so yearning for a western-style democracy. Never heard GCT explain what’s wrong with that. What is wrong with a free press, free speech, free association, etc. Not “free” subject to libel laws, police permits and govt licences, but truly and absolutely free.

  2. He is right about one thing though: most singaporeans, incl even “opp” politicians, don’t really understand the true purpose of general elections. Hell, they don’t even understand what political parties really are!

  3. In the past, the bulk of singaporeans have never been quite interested to “yearn for western style democracy”.

    Why has this “yearn” increased in intensity?

    Because, in the past, we had a good government which did the right things on average, it served the citizens well (generally) and things moved fast because of one party system and strong leadership;
    Because, in the past, we did not have a government which bungled and bungled in many issues and pretended nothing happened – and worst still blame citizens for their failures;
    Because, in the past, we did not have so many greedy, insecure political leaders holding on to power despite their lack of leadership capabilities.

    We live in the present and the future. The current system inhereted from the Past, will not work anymore once either or both the No 1 and No 2 dies, within the 2011 to 2016 time frame of the next Parliamentary period. The probabaility of this happening is 99.99999999999% by my judgement.

    Many people do not believe in the pap system post-LKY&son, based on the current crop of successors in sight.

    It is better to invest in the future and yearn for a long lasting system, which can only be attained through more enlightened and free views of political happenings in Singapore.

    In the past many people believed that opposition are all dummies. Today with Internet, we begin to realise that there are lots of people with potential all over Singapore. It is just that the environment is not ripe for them to come up because livelihoods are threatened.

    What is past is past. Move on. Invest in the future, even if it carries some risks. No opposition leader is perfect, neither are the post-LKY group of leaders.

    VOTE WISELY. For the future. Forget about the past. Mummy, it’s over. (quote from the series Just for Laughs!)

    zero

  4. ….Mr Goh cited an exchange of letters in the ST Forum last month on the topic of democracy. This led him to ask his audience: “Is a democratic system an end to be pursued in its own right, or is it a means to select a government to look after our lives like a guardian or a trustee?”….
    There are more options than the chosen two. Typical way of confining audiences / viewers to the line of thought.
    Logical fallacy.
    Critical thinking skills should be taught in school rathan than Political System / Institution proposed lately.
    AND critical thinking skills help people live more meaningfully.

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