Monday, 14 September 2015

GE2015: Reading the mind of LKY.

After GE2015, I read a few of LKY's books like the Hard Truths and One Man's View of the World to discern the mind of the man who had led Singapore for three decades as her PM.

I wonder what he has to say about PAP's resounding victory. Does it prove that his legacy is right? Is he proud of PAP's victory? What are his thoughts as Singapore advance as one united nation and people? And does he have any advice for Singapore, the ruling party, and even the opposition on the way forward?

Well, with a little imagination, I think his views and advice can be gleaned from the answers he gave in some of the interviews in his books. Here are 5 that I find most indicative of his thoughts and legacy post-GE2015.

1) LKY once said that "he does not care whether PAP exists in perpetuity. What is most important is that Singapore perpetuated itself. He is not interested in seeing the PAP victorious at all costs. He told the interviewers that if the party lost the voters' trust and let another more capable group take over, so be it. To LKY, the PAP would sow the seeds of its own destruction if it deterred the best people from rising to the top or failed to deliver what the electorate needed."

It is clear that meritocracy in the tradition of the sage Confucius is an uncompromising rule in his legacy. The bottom-line for LKY is this: "No, we are not preventing competition. What we are preventing is duds getting into Parliament and government. Any person of quality, we welcome him but we don't want duds."

Well, there is no disagreement there. Duds who have an axe to grind, a chip on their shoulder, a score to settle or a mind that is unsettled will turn the government into a personal vendetta sport, a self-glorifying pageantry home project, or a self-enriching personal ATM machine.

2) Being the stone-cold pragmatist and hardcore realist about PAP's longevity, LKY said this, "No system lasts forever, that's for sure. In the next 10 years to 20 years, I don't think it'll happen. Beyond that, I cannot tell. Will we always be able to get the most dedicated and the most capable, with integrity to devote their lives to this? I hope so, but forever, I don't know...There will come a time when eventually the public will say, let's try the other side, either because the PAP has declined in quality or the opposition has put up a team which is equal to the PAP and they say, let's try the other side. That day will come."

Well, however prophetic the opposition would have wished that statement to be, it has clearly failed to come true in this GE2015. The PAP and her leadership still have the trust of the people and their newly-fielded MPs are seen by the general voters as "most dedicated and most capable" and most importantly, "with integrity to devote their lives" to leading Singapore in these trying times.

And I know one should never say never, but "forever and ever" is a delusional wish-list that would just have to wait for the next election to see how the elected perform. I guess I can always trust the discerning majority to cast the right vote when that time comes.

3) Any advice for the opposition? Mmm, with a little imagination...maybe. LKY once recalled what the former Burmese PM Ne Win told him about meditation. LKY asked him, "Supposing your daughter died, will that trouble you? Will that get you down?" Ne Win replied, "Well, for a short while but I meditate and ask, what is this life? I'm just but a tiny speck. Another tiny speck has been lost."

To LKY, the lesson was that "he mentally puts himself into a more detached position...I find that useful. Look at yourself as if you're a different person looking at yourself, then you suddenly think, well, I have to put things in perspective. I believe we should teach meditation in schools that will save going to the doctors, taking Valium or whatever."

I guess the opposition should take a long hard look at themselves after this election. While no system lasts forever, a flawed one can hide forever, undetected, if one should turn a blind eye to it. Of course, PAP themselves are not immune to self-examination. My point is that while there is graciousness after a defeat, there is also self-introspection before success.

Some of the opposition will have to consider what really went wrong. Are they appealing to disgruntled sentiments or authentic voices? Are they opposing for opposition sake or opposing with truly effective alternatives? Most importantly, are they coming forward as solution to the problem or just problems looking for solutions?

And finally for the opposition who thinks that "all this is a mandate for authoritarianism and brainwashing...and Singaporeans get the government they deserve, so I don't want to hear any more complaints," well, I guess the late LKY has the perfect rejoinder for you: "We don't want duds in Parliament."

4) It is said that if you are looking for the right answer, make sure you ask the right question. And LKY once asked this: The problem for government is, how do you keep a society united when that lower layer can never catch up?

I sincerely believe that apart from the economic challenges facing Singapore now, the government who finds the answer to that question will ensure that they have the trust of the people for a long time to come.

It is said that the "the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Communism, fascism, capitalism, liberalism and even eugenics have failed to answer that question satisfactorily.

Ultimately, what the PAP confronts is not so much the unrest in the external environment as the quiet unrest within the hearts of Singaporeans who are struggling to make ends meet and nevertheless still put their faith and hope on PAP to lead them out of the unintended consequences arising from a fast-growing, market-driven, elitist-risking, 1st world economy.

Let's hope that our government will see beyond all their economic successes to the heart of the issue.

And lastly...

5) On governing the nation, LKY said, "You must have convictions. If you don't have convictions, you are going in for personal glory or honor or publicity or popularity, forget it. Do something else."

There is simply nothing to argue there. These convicting words have to be the daily quiet time of each and every leader of Singapore. LKY gave up his life for Singapore. No leader worth his or her salt would do anything less.

He was once asked, "What is your greatest worry for Singapore?" He answered, "I have no worries. I have done my job...To tell you the truth, I am resigned to what will happen. There is no need to be sad. It depends upon the generation" after me.

Well, I guess nobody has the answer for every soul-breaking challenges that will come our way in the future. But one thing is for sure: if we stand together - one people, one nation and one Singapore - there is nothing that the world can throw at us that we cannot eventually overcome.

That is to me the holy grail of leadership, that is, to inspire the people to unite as one with the government, not through coercion, corruption and violence, but through competency, character and compassion. Cheerz.

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