Fear and the Status quo
By Yuen Kin Peng, Francis
Fear is a doubled-edged sword. It can demoralize and undermine confidence. But it can also spur us to take bold actions. The Covid crisis has created a whole atmosphere of uncertainty with prospects of gloom and doom for the future. This is a scary scenario for all.
But if we succumb to such fear and are afraid to make bold steps to change the status quo, it is not going to help us get out of the crisis, let alone being stronger after that. The call to stay united as a people and the exhortation that we are all in this together can only be meaningful if there is a political will to encourage differing views and new ideas. And true to these, we have to accept that tackling the crisis and more importantly the challenges ahead requires pulling all available talents with the right skill, experience and wisdom to work together. The country’s interests must be above all political agendas.
There is a narrative that spins on fear about rocking the boat or destabilizing Singapore if the status quo is upset. Continuity must be preserved and more alternative voices can only disrupt and distract the ruling party from carrying its task of bringing the economy and livelihood of the people back. Nothing can be further from the truth. In the first place it is not a change of government but a change of composition in Parliament that is at stake here. We have a Parliament that has so far been overwhelmingly dominated by one party with the result that policies and constitutional changes were pushed through without rigorous debate.
The current situation does not enable alternative voices to make any meaningful impact on policy formulation as they are just a minority without the clout to push for alternative solutions albeit good ones. We need more and stronger voices. These are neither destructive nor disruptive voices as they are commonly painted to be. They are instead constructive and collaborative voices that can bring out the best in legislation and policy making. Especially for now, there is nothing to lose or fear but a brand new opportunity for the country to benefit from a stronger response to the crisis. As the Chinese interpretation of Crisis (危机) goes, there are always opportunities in a crisis. Keeping status quo will not help us.
There is also the fear that changing the status quo could mean bringing Singapore to a grinding halt. First, let’s make a clear distinction between a country and the party that governs it. The party can come and go but Singapore as a country, remains. Just like a large company which is an on-going concern with a life of its own, changes in the management team or it’s board of directors do not threaten its existence. As citizens, we owe our loyalty to our country. We do not owe our loyalty to the party that governs it. By the same analogy, the civil service, the armed forces and all government institutions are duty bound to serve the country and our people, not the ruling party.
Whether there is a change of ruling party or a weakening of its majority status, the SAF and police force will still be there to protect us and keep law and order, the civil service will still be functioning to keep our public services going, the hospitals will still be operating to care for our sick. So are schools, buses, MRT, utilities and all social institutions that keep our country going. In other words, life goes on. The fear on the country coming apart when more alternative voices are brought into parliament is thus unfounded. In fact, if this is the case, it will be the biggest failure of the ruling party for not having built a system that continues to function independent of who is in power!
There is also the claim that confidence in our country will be shaken if we change the status quo. Hence foreign investment and trade will suffer. Here again it is an unfounded fear. Trade and investment are not based on just a single factor of who is running the country but on many other considerations. Singapore with its established reputation cannot be simply written off as unattractive just because the ruling party loses seats in the parliament. If that is the case, then countries like Japan, Thailand and South Korea would have gone downhill each time there is a change of government. And here we are not even talking about a total change of government but rather more alternative voices to ensure checks and balances, transparency and accountability besides playing the role of offering good alternative options or solutions to decisions. In fact the world would see this as a major step and progress towards a more robust democracy.
The Covid crisis has create a very uncertain future for the world and for us as a small country. Without a doubt, we should stay united but without fear of questioning the status quo and be prepared to take bold steps to make changes for the better. Staying put and keeping things as they are will not put us in good stead to face the future.
You deserve better.
The author of the above article writes in his own capacity with his views and opinion only to himself and are in no way a representation of the Party.