“Younger Singaporeans are a globalised lot and open to a world of possibilities” (Gen Y May Opt For Non-Chinese PM, Mr. Elgin Toh).
The report “Gen Y May Opt For Non-Chinese PM” (January 29, 2011) by Mr. Elgin Toh: Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew’s proposition that Singaporeans are not prepared for a non-Chinese Prime Minister (PM) has stirred considerable controversy, with corresponding reactions raising a few eyebrows. Nonetheless, even if there is a historical or statistical basis for the aforementioned contention, evolving public sentiments and expectations would prioritise tangible abilities in public office and political campaigns instead of pedantically nitpicking over race, religion or gender.
In the international context, numerous instances have proven that genuine political finesse, coupled with various circumstantial pressures, has been most instrumental – in recent times – in shaping public opinion towards socio-political decisions. Perils in economic management and assorted uncertainties have demanded back-to-basics, no-frills approaches and recommendations to seek constructive solutions. The United States of America (USA) and President Barack Obama are prime instances these aspects.
In times of crisis and seemingly tumultuous futures for nations, the crème de la crème should emerge to take large and lead. MM Lee’s assertion on Singaporeans’ receptivity to politicians seems to run contrary to our heralded policy of meritocracy; in which the best-performing individuals would be handed the reins to devise policies regardless of their backgrounds or superficial characteristics. Meritocracy, especially in the public sector, should not be determined by academic abilities per se; but should encompass communication capabilities, having a constant ear on the ground, sincere and genuine public engagement or feedback et cetera. Because of the increased information accessibility and hastened flow of opinions – usually facilitated online – politicians now have heightened imperatives to act upon feedback or criticisms almost instantaneously.
In particular Singapore youths, conscious of a plethora of global developments and cognisant of their roles as stakeholders and potential change-makers, will definitely not cling onto antiquated notions or stereotypes of political leadership. Discussion and dialogues on policy issues, socio-economic concerns and a variety of proposals would be strongly grounded in reason; with them weighing the pros and cons instead of fussing over the race, religion or gender of their representatives. Shaking of generalised assumptions of apathy and lethargy, young Singaporeans will certainly vote intelligently for individuals whom they reckon can get the job done effectively and efficiently.
Politics has evolved into a fine balancing act between idealism and realism. As scenarios change, so too will mindsets. MM Lee should be assured of the fact that upcoming generations will make decisions based on both their brains and hearts.