Redefining democracy and practices for the future of Singapore

Democracy is not just about having a vote it is more about how we operate between the votes and support a healthy Democratic culture.

There are two distinct flavours of Democracy, the Western approach that is more individually focused and the Asian approach that emphasises collective harmony over individualism. In either case the core most tenets of free and fair elections, the right of free speech and association and the rule of law equally applied to all are the same and respecting these fully goes without saying.

Although, as a modern city state, Singapore has many Western trappings we are still an Asian country and we generally put the good of the community first, or at least we did when the Kampong spirit was more alive (a topic for another post), so alongside the 3 core tenets the Asian flavour of collective harmony should be at the centre of our form of Democracy.

Having been a multiracial, multireligious and multicultural society for most of our history we have a special sensitivity to those issues, and we should keep that in mind as we look to how we can move forward in the best possible way. That said I feel there are several things we can do to improve.

The first is to remove race from our IC’s and stop defining and managing ourselves with race in mind. We are first and foremost Singaporeans and have been in one way or another for nearly 700 years. By its very definition using race as we currently do is racist and should not be part of our modern world. The more we identify by our nationality the less important race will become and the focus will move to the quality of those we elect above all else. I believe this is already happening on the ground as I heard recently of a private survey that showed around 80% would choose ex DPM Tharman as PM if given a choice so it is not the people who are not ready for a change.

This action can be supported with a better Civics education program in schools, so we properly understand and respect each other from a young age with true acceptance and not the often espoused but flawed concept of tolerance. In addition, learning our full history as first various Malay settlements, then a multiracial colony and then a city state should be included to strengthen our self-identity and understand our longevity independent of any governing authority be it Sultan, British Administrator or the PAP. We must place our country and identity above politics.

This will, I hope, also repair the damage I saw very evident at the last National Day where so few flew the flag out of anger at the government over the Presidential Election amongst others. We fly the Singapore flag and not the PAP flag on National Day but have been so conditioned to identify one political party with the nation that we forget that.

To that end we should also not allow political logos and indoctrination in our schools just as we don’t in the PA. The PCF logo is very similar to the PAP one and flown side by side the party logo in the PAP marching contingent (which also should be disbanded or have a political contingent of ALL parties’ flags if that symbology is still relevant). A political party should not be allowed to influence us in this way, and we should be proud of our country whomever is the government of the day.

With the removal of race from the IC in mind I believe we would be better served to go back to all Single seat wards. The concept of GRC’s although created to allow “minority” inclusion has had two major detrimental effects. First it has created a barrier to alternative voices competing for seats and entering parliament and second it has provided a shield where candidates who may not have succeeded individually gain a protected route into the building. Every seat should be important, and we should ensure we have only the best 89 men and women representing us and I don’t feel the current system really does that.

On the note of Single seat wards, we should also properly delineate the country and then endeavour to make minimal changes to the boundaries thereafter. Our housing locations are not so fluid and dramatically changing that boundaries need revising every 5 years. Much of our island is already developed and our population centres are fairly static, so I don’t see the need for the constant adjustment. Uncertainty of boundaries, especially the unusually irregular ones that reach in and out of other wards and whether GRC/SMCs will even exist or not certainly does not help the democratic process.

This then leads to the very anti-democratic practice of sabotaging alternative wards if the incumbent government loses a seat. When services and systems are denied or removed, budgets are cut, upgrades are moved to the back of the line among the various collective punitive actions or threats we have seen over the years we have to say this is ethically and morally wrong. The government of the day is equally responsible for all the citizens regardless of how they voted and alternative politicians should be respected as the duly elected representatives of the people that they are and should not be “fixed” at every turn. To do any less should be made illegal to prevent the current and any future governments engaging further in such underhanded and undemocratic actions.

As far as possible our government should also disengage from the private business world. Surely, they are elected to arbitrate the balance between the socialist and capitalist elements of our society and find that sweet spot where both thrive and not be the capitalists themselves which often pushes the needs of the people to a lower priority. This also limits their direct impact on our livelihoods as a means of influencing our political choices which is also an anti-democratic practice that should stop.

Next, we should look at term limits for political roles to maintain a healthy renewal. The long-term stability should sit with the permanent secretaries in the civil service as it once was so that we have a baseline continuity of experience and domain expertise to support the administration of the day. This also includes removing unnecessary roles such as minister mentor as any “mentoring” can be provided in a private capacity and not paid for by the public who should only support the roles necessary for the proper functioning of the country.

Of course we should also revise the political salary scales to international norms so that only those focused on service and not remuneration step forward and when it comes to candidates (and appointees) members of the same family should be excluded unless a very clear reason of why they are better than all the alternatives can be shown to avoid the appearance of and actual conflicts of interest.

Finally, we should relook at our constitution and laws and pare back all those that impede a properly functioning Democracy. There certainly should be no clauses that the government itself are exempt from and we should have clear checks and balances outside parliament so no rogue administration now or in the future can abuse them and thus the people.

No system is perfect and at the end of the day the quality of any system comes down to the quality of the people involved in it, their ethics, their morality and their commitment to Democratic practices coupled with a willingness to accede to others when the time is right. That said the more robust the system the less room for abuse there is and the harder it is for a flawed government to emerge.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I certainly welcome all your thoughts and inputs on how we can improve and best run our unique Singapore version of Democracy but it is clear the current way has strayed and is failing far too many of us even though we have a vote and a Democracy by name.

We all want what is best for Singapore and the people as a whole above all else. If we can keep that and a spirit of service in mind and we can correct those areas that are not serving us Democratically then who knows, maybe one day we can even become a model for others to follow as well, and look on that with pride?

 

Brad Bowyer

 

 

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24 Responses to “Redefining democracy and practices for the future of Singapore”

  • NotMyProblem:

    @Brad; racism works very well for the PAP.

    Using race, Dr. Tan C B was denied a chance to be voted as President.

    Using race, GRC was formed to allow minority races to be represented in Parliament. But when one minority race MP vacated her place, it was admitted that it was necessary.

    Using race, GRC was supposed to be for minority races but it was used for useless Chinese be voted into Parliament as MPs.

    Using race, PAP divides the population.

    We are all citizens of the Republic of Singapore.

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  • Tiger Ong:

    Removing race from our ICs does not eliminate our different races!
    Unless we also change our names to some neutral race names.
    Are you willing to go that far ??

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  • C’est la vie:

    *****
    SG is five decades overdue, … a reset !!!

    Cut the “cancer” loose !!!
    ***
    *****

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  • taxi uncle:

    The status quo will remain insolong as both voters and oppo sgs refuse to wake up.
    There are more and more oppo parties and reflects disunity,not good at all.
    Voters will be wondering why oppo sgs cant agree among themselves.

    Oppo leaders must come together,this is crucial or we can all forget about CHANGE.

    Can oppo please Stand Together for the greater cause?
    If not, dont blame sgs for not voting you.

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  • HDB flat will be ZERO @ 99:

    Democracy means having basic freedoms and a free press. Singapore has neither so it is not a real democracy. The only way to get the above is by regime change.

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  • HarderTruths:

    Mr Bowyer

    You do not understand $G or $G voters. No hard feelings.

    The reality is that $G is built on greed. Greed translates to people fighting other people for anything and everything. This is our way of life.

    Following and supporting the government is one way for people to get ahead.

    The parasites who vote pappies will never get anywhere in life otherwise. The scholars and civil servants and all the other government workers – they have have to really work to succeed without the pappies and they know it.

    Conversely we have those talented people who try their best and get nowhere. You may not know about JBJ or CST. After trying all his life to represent democracy Chief Justice JBJ had to resort to selling books at MRT stations. He never gave up. Then again the people never gave a sh*t about him either.

    CST spent his time as an MP doing what the government said he could never do. At the end his constituency deserted him because they could get a better deal with the pappies.

    There are many others who tried – and are trying to fight. All used as bait by the electorate and then discarded when they can no longer give them goodies or entertainment.

    Then there are the citizen – FT converts from India China Myanmar and all other third and fourth world countries. Will they vote for democracy or the people who brought them here?

    There are 70% who unconditionally support the pappies. There are 30% who say we need to change. Under our ‘democracy’ therefore $G will always be under the pappies until it collapses from some extreme event.

    There are tribes and clans from all over Asia here in $G. They look out for themselves. This democracy works for them. No matter what the pappies do the majority will go with them.

    It is not about whether we have democracy or not. We do not have to people to make the island work anymore.

    So at the next election understand that democracy is assured. The people have spoken again. The motives do not matter. Just the results.

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  • I prophecise:

    I Prophecise:
    SG eventually will have more laws and changes to the Constitution.
    As long as the people continue to accept everything since independence, there is no reason why election cannot be abolished or scrapped or more and more new laws be passed to control the people so tight that ts equivalent to a China model without elections.

    Just my views. Only time will tell.
    Date of prophecy : today , 18 may 2019

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Race???

    1)…Singapore is NOT ready for a NON-Chinese to be PM Quotes by 2 PM and a PM designate

    2)…Ex DPM won by a whisker to be President NO guts to stand for re-election Malay only PE enacted

    3)…2 Malay Businessman and an INDIAN passing off as a “FAKE” Malay contested for the PE… Asli Malay Businessmen were deemed UN-Qualified and the INDIAN passing off or a “FAKE” Malay was appointed UN-Contested

    Brad, tell me HOW more Racist can a country be with the current pieces of SHIT in office

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  • Ah Seng:

    No Transparency means No Democracy.
    You vote for liars,you are asking to be taken for a ride.

    Be wise,stop the foolish game.

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  • Smelly Crony-capitalis fuiyyoh:

    Lao Fu Xi says:
    Ah so! there is Western, and there is Asian flavor democracy.
    But Sinchiapor flavor oh no!

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  • LTA IS CORRUPT:

    In the past,people join grassroot organisations to help their neighbours.
    Nowadays,people join grassroot organisations to get personal favours and bully their neighbours.

    I dont understand why LTA is so strict on ordinary citizens committing small traffic offences like slight over-parking but openly allows some others to chope public road spaces for use as their own carpark lots?

    And,they use cones that look alike those from PUB or use Sembcorp Waste-bins to BLOCK OUT portions of the road causing obstruction to other road-users.

    Can LTA explain why they allow such illegal practices which are much more serious offences than mere over-parking in proper assigned carpark lots on our PUBLIC ROADSIDES?

    Can MOT tell us the reasons for allowing such practices all over Singapore?

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  • Haigen-Diaz:

    The men who fashioned our democracy were the British and European aristocrats in 1700′s & 1800′s. Many had deep doubts about the concept of democracy and others wanted no part of it. The result was that the founders created a hobbled democracy where British model of democracy went through metamorphosis during many years.

    In India, they collected all maharajas in the freshly constructed parliament building, in New Delhi, and ordered them to behave like the British parliamentarians. One governor, with the help of relatively small army, could then govern the whole sub-continent, in a cost effective way. Economically, from the British point of view, it was a marvel. Morally and ethically, it was the biggest defeat of democracy, since the word ‘democracy’ has been invented by the Greeks.

    Why did British Empire install democracy in the pre-feudal India? Was it an altruistic gesture or an economical practicality? Is the Hyde Park Corner a symbol of democracy for the masses? Do the British have moral authority to lecture the others about democracy?

    My romance with American democracy is continuous. Through love of American music, analysis of American political system and reading American Constitution, I became a committed believer in the American way of life. It would be just fair to mention here the overgrowth of a parasitic lawyers’ elite, as a one of major shortcomings.

    The pursuit of happiness…this phrase makes ones’ eyes occasionally watery… American democracy is direct reason of American prosperity. The Silicon Valley phenomenon could happened only in America because an individual has freedom to utilize his potential in democratic environment, without brutal interference of the state or
    the constrains imposed by the backward tradition.

    Our meritocrats have successfully tapped into voters’ stupidity and ignorance. The problem is, too many of them are lacking in critical thinking ability and are easily fooled and swayed by the abundant and diversionary propaganda on the right dominating the airways. According to Tan Tarn How, a senior research individual at the Institute of Policy Studies and former journalist, Singapore newspapers “have a lingering record of publicly endorsing the PAP-led government’s position”. Thus, passing through the mainstream media’s censorship, news about opposition politic parties can limit up, marginalized or unreported, as compared to updates from the ruling party.

    Opposition partly will have to overcome some huge obstacles during the next two years. It’s not all bad news, however; the PAP’s “performance legitimacy” discussion (the notion that authoritarianism is justified by proven economic success) has met its own challenges in recent years. One crucial energy for liberalization is…

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  • Haigen-Diaz:

    …..for liberalization is Singapore’s growing(prenominal), incremental inequality. Over young decades, Singapore’s Gini coefficient has increased from .43 in 1998 to .48 in 2014, placing Singapore’s income hiatus well above other Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

    Although PAP dominance may be assured whilst Singapore’s “founding legacy” Lee Kuan Yew continues to loom over political developments, new generations of headship will not be able to utilize his commission of succession as a ascent of legitimacy. In their efforts to retain the back of the populace and prevent system collaps, the PAP may find it expedient to open up the politic cockpit to competition. As production slows and nonconformity increases, this may be the least disgraceful for the PAP to transfigure its party image from being the “only choice” to the “best choice.”

    Collectively, we should be ashamed. We’ve “a duty to stand up for pluralism, equality, tolerance of dissent and the rule of law.

    Reference:
    Sally Andrews, The Diplomat 2019, ‘Soft’ Repression: The Struggle for Democracy in Singapore | The …, Viewed 19 May 2019, .

    (http://www.hydrant.co.uk) 2019, Singapore : Constitution and politics | The Commonwealth, Viewed 19 May 2019, .

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  • HDB flat worth ZERO @ 99:

    Straits Times: CPF Rule Change: What’s in it for you as a homebuyer?

    The homebuyer gets his CPF money tied up in a depreciating asset so it also depreciates becoming zero at the end of the 99-year lease. HDB flats are depreciating assets. This is a fact.

    So stop dreaming and get your CPF money out of your flat and put it back in your CPF account (where it can earn 2.5% p.a.) before it also becomes ZERO.

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  • Fine city:

    @LTA IS CORRUPT

    Agree with you.
    I live in Sembawang and my neighbour can chope carpark lot using garbage bins and no problem but my guest over-parked for a while on the designated carpark lots kena fined.

    So,which is more serious offence,chope public road using garbage bins to reserve place for use as personal parking or over-parking for short durations on officially assigned carparking lots on roadside.
    Btw, the said carpark lots and the illegal reservation of public road with bins are nearby each other,barely 20 or 30 feet apart?

    So,can LTA explain the discrepancy?

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  • NotMyProblem:

    Fine city:
    @LTA IS CORRUPT

    Agree with you.
    I live in Sembawang and my neighbour can chope carpark lot using garbage bins and no problem but my guest over-parked for a while on the designated carpark lots kena fined.

    So,which is more serious offence,chope public road using garbage bins to reserve place for use as personal parking or over-parking for short durations on officially assigned carparking lots on roadside.
    Btw, the said carpark lots and the illegal reservation of public road with bins are nearby each other,barely 20 or 30 feet apart?

    So,can LTA explain the discrepancy?

    Have you heard of a Chinese saying; “Check who’s the owner, before you hit the puppy”;

    LTA already check who’s the owner!!

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  • Err:

    The workers mostly followed to rules to the tee(are there rules against objects in the lot? ). Furthermore, With bins parking, who is going to own up? More work to track hence easier to ignore. You park with your license plate, makes you clearly identifiable, how not to fine you for violation?

    Fine city:
    @LTA IS CORRUPT

    Agree with you.
    I live in Sembawang and my neighbour can chope carpark lot using garbage bins and no problem but my guest over-parked for a while on the designated carpark lots kena fined.

    So,which is more serious offence,chope public road using garbage bins to reserve place for use as personal parking or over-parking for short durations on officially assigned carparking lots on roadside.
    Btw, the said carpark lots and the illegal reservation of public road with bins are nearby each other,barely 20 or 30 feet apart?

    So,can LTA explain the discrepancy?

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  • Xi:

    Democracy is a process of inviting “the devil” into your affairs. You get him involve, he will own you and you shall pay with your life, your dignity and your soul just to be able to breathe from his smelly breath.

    Anyone who is serious about the fate of humanity will stay away from this form of government.

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  • @Xi is right !:

    Democracy is a process of inviting the “devil”, therefore you MUST do the invitation YOURSELF, otherwise none can get in.

    In one-party or dictatorial system, you DON’T NEED and DON’T HAVE the right to do any invitation.

    Your “devil” is already into your affairs, owned you, already paying with your life, your dignity, your soul, and you have NOT CHOICE but to breath any smelly breath.

    This will be the same even for your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren ….. the same “devil” for 10,000 years !

    At least in democracy, you, your children, your grandchildren HAVE A CHOICE to choose the lesser of any “devil” or their favourite ones.

    Is that not slightly better ?

    Xi:
    Democracy is a process of inviting “the devil” into your affairs. You get him involve, he will own you and you shall pay with your life, your dignity and your soul just to be able to breathe from his smelly breath.

    Anyone who is serious about the fate of humanity will stay away from this form of government.

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  • oxygen:

    @ Xi

    MATE, IF YOU ARE RIGHT OF ASSERTIONS below. Mao’s China would have been the FONT of successful capitalism, not Wall Street.

    Instead we saw millions died of starvation in the riotous days of authoritarian oppression – the infamous Cultural Revolution.

    And China’s feudalism of 5,000 years of civilisation would not have ended up with POO YI as the ultimate disgrace of the last Chinese emperor – the Jpanaese overlord transformed him into a blank piece of paper painting whatever picture they like whenever they like.

    Yet today, nobody in China turns his/her back towards Mao’s statue to give him the last insulting fart of respect when taking a selfie with him in the background.

    What cannabis are you smoking here, @ Xi???

    Xi: Democracy is a process of inviting “the devil” into your affairs. You get him involve, he will own you and you shall pay with your life, your dignity and your soul just to be able to breathe from his smelly breath.

    Anyone who is serious about the fate of humanity will stay away from this form of government.

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  • Partial truth?:

    @ Yet today, nobody in China turns his/her back towards Mao’s statue to give him the last insulting fart of respect when taking a selfie with him in the background.

    Not true. Some of the China and Taiwan temple, u saw the chinese put Mao’s photo or plaque on top of whatever god statue worshipped.

    I personally witness in sg flat. I visited a friend , pass by his neighbor unit ( sitting room ) , right infront of the neighbor sitting room wall a table with 3 福祿壽 statue. Infront of the 3 statues, a smaller statue of Mao. On the wall, higher than the 3 statues was a mounted plaque of Mao’s picture.

    I asked my friend, your neighbor married PRC wife. Yup! no wonder!

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  • Xi:

    Look at everything that’s wrong in Singapore and magnify that by 1000 times( in population term) and the self centered and self interest species will eventually choke each other to death in a rat race, in a frog well or pit full of snakes.

    Future is hollow and meaningless and deaths(of masses) quietly disposed or managed systemically and bureaucratically so no one knows(and nobody cares)the exact number of “dead people” behind all your closed doors sky high(plus cost) HDB flats all over a crammed tiny space while, some like you, enjoy spouting changes or support for the next regime, in the same autocratic and pseudo democratic vein(full of deceit and more strangulating laws), because you have nothing better to do( like love your neighbours).

    If you have enough of such a “dressed up” but ugly society, then join the club. Otherwise, by your majority, it is a one way ticket to H E L L in your polished but dying shopping malls!

    oxygen:
    @ Xi

    MATE, IF YOU ARE RIGHT OF ASSERTIONS below. Mao’s China would have been the FONT of successful capitalism, not Wall Street.

    Instead we saw millions died of starvation in the riotous days of authoritarian oppression – the infamous Cultural Revolution.

    And China’s feudalism of 5,000 years of civilisation would not have ended up with POO YI as the ultimate disgrace of the last Chinese emperor – the Jpanaese overlord transformed him into a blank piece of paper painting whatever picture they like whenever they like.

    Yet today, nobody in China turns his/her back towards Mao’s statue to give him the last insulting fart of respect when taking a selfie with him in the background.

    What cannabis are you smoking here, @ Xi???

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  • oxygen:

    @ Partial truth?

    I ROAMED IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF CHINA for a few years and have NOT seen, generally, natives paying attention and respect to Mao’s remembrance. For all his faults and failures, Mao united China in 5000 years of history giving it outside world respect.

    Your case illumination is one example in the opposite – why did they left China to come to SG?

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  • oxygen:

    @ Xi

    Aarrgh, in the same autocratic and pseudo democratic vein? I DON’T READ OF MILLIONS DYING in LEE-jiapore or a CULTURAL REVOLUTION there!

    Xi: some like you, enjoy spouting changes or support for the next regime, in the same autocratic and pseudo democratic vein(full of deceit and more strangulating laws),

    Your agitated wild claims sounds, unfortunately, like an angry, mad cut s*ake ready for the next last venomous bite before it gone into the garbage bin to be removed never to return!

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