Colombo Telegraph

Don’t Insult Singapore

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

Sentosa is a popular and much loved island resort in Singapore. It’s a kind of a playground for all. Sentosa Island is Singapore’s favourite leisure destination with exciting attractions, golden beaches, luxury retreats and the country’s first integrated resort. It’s visited by huge numbers every year. It’s estimated some twenty million people visit the island each year. Attractions galore and is simply breathtaking. They include long sheltered beach, golf courses, hotels, and the Resorts World Sentosa, featuring the theme park Universal Studios Singapore. The island has gone through a metamorphosis and has become a unique landmark.

For some Sri Lankan politicians from both sides of the divide the Republic of Singapore, a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia has become a favourite destination for different reasons, should I say a clandestine rendezvous for deal making, electoral strategizing or simply a much needed retreat to contemplate the next political move. I wonder if the Singapore Tourism Board is aware of this growing niche market. If they don’t they should forthwith throw in their resources and collate all data possible to better address their guests. Providing them with memory and pleasure and also possibly etch a sustainable Business Plan to exploit the emerging potential.

When the Palace radar is on a 24hour active mode with well remunerated guards brandishing technologically superior contraptions procured courtesy of the tax payer, it behooves opposition members and their erstwhile managers to exercise optimum caution. Defecting or accepting a sweetener can sometimes prove a life or death situation. It has to be done with maximum care. It’s funny if not a gross atrocity an elected representative pays obeisance to incentives and inducements disregarding the very oath on which the individual was primarily elected. This is Sri Lanka and possibilities are truly endless. In the last eight years or so a great deal of horse trading has taken place and millions and some say billions of rupees have actually changed hands. This is depressing news.

Lee Kuan Yew | Photo courtesy The Age

As for the opposition it’s doubly important they maintain extreme secrecy if not see their laboriously crafted strategies get pre-empted. Singapore it seems is able to give them all the privacy, confidentiality and much cherished isolation to dialogue and strategize sans hindrance or restriction. It’s kind of a travesty a country like Sri Lanka that claims to be a democracy tries to subvert the democratic process by employing covert eavesdropping and extreme surveillance. The hush maintained by the opposition in the recent developments quite unconnectedly reminded me of the very secret November 1910 gathering at Jekyll Island, Georgia during which the plan for the creation of the now notorious Federal Reserve was hatched.

Singapore has also become a destination for our rare breed of legislators to evade arrest after committing various kinds of felony at home. It’s very convenient, hassle free and visa free. Should we use another’s hospitality to hatch our own conspiracies? There is no right or wrong answer. After all the Mossad killed a Palestinian arms supplier in a plush hotel in Dubai quite recently using forged documents. For sure many would disapprove it. There’re many good things that we can learn from Singapore. We’ve always aspired to be another Singapore all our life but never, ever had the right leadership to take us there. I don’t think we’ll ever have it. So the next best thing we’re able to do is to give the country a bad name.

Its ironic our politicians chose Singapore to do all this work. Singapore is a nation built on very strong principles. Singapore is no doubt one of Asia’s great success stories, transforming itself from a developing country to a sprawling modern industrial economy in one generation. During the last decade, Singapore’s education system alone has remained consistently at or near the top of most major world education ranking systems. This is unprecedented. Even Barack Obama made reference to this. A “tiny red dot” on the map has achieved and sustained so much, so quickly. Singapore has kept its ranking in a global corruption survey as the fifth least corrupt country; it is surpassed by only Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Sweden in the Corruption Perceptions Index. On governance Singapore boasts of core set of principles and values that are enduring and relevant to its people. One example is trusting and maintaining the integrity of the public service, and avoiding waste and excesses.

First Singapore believes “Leadership is Key”. They are a small country. If other countries are like big massive unmanageable tankers, Singapore is just a speed boat quite vulnerable at sea. So they need leaders with grit to steer the speed boat. Whether its politics or public administration, at all levels leaders can articulate a compelling vision and pursue. Singapore trains their leaders to do what is right, and not necessarily what is popular.

A second broad principle is to “Anticipate Change and Stay Relevant”. Given the pace and scale of change facing all countries, no public service can afford to be passive or reactive, following established rules and administering existing systems, adhering to ”time-tested practices”. Facilitating and nurturing new ideas and constantly questioning old assumptions, and never be trapped in the past.

The third principle is “Reward for Work, and Work for Reward”. This principle reflects Singapore’s political values. It has evolved over time and has become a basic part of the outlook. Singaporeans understand that no one owes them a living. Given their set of circumstances — small, without natural resources, and highly dependent on the outside world – they can only earn a living and safeguard their future through their efforts and wits.

Fourth principle is to create “A Stake for Everyone and Opportunities for all”. The end goal of any governance system is not institutional strength, or even economic well-being, but nation- building. It is about creating an inclusive society where citizens not merely enjoy economic wealth, but feel a sense of ownership and belonging. The administration’s goal is to make Singapore a land of opportunity, a home loved by all its residents, a community all belong to, and a country which all are proud to call their own. This is for all Singaporeans, the Chinese, Malays and the Tamils unlike Sri Lanka.

“But we either believe in democracy or we not. If we do, then, we must say categorically, without qualification, that no restraint from the any democratic processes, other than by the ordinary law of the land, should be allowed… If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought.” Lee Kuan Yew.

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