29 Jun 2004

Leader vaunts Singapore's political system


Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 28, 2004

Singapore's unique political system must be maintained for at least another 30 years to avoid South-Asian-style disunity, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in remarks published Monday.

Shortly after returning from a week-long visit to Pakistan,Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Goh told members of his People's Action Party that the trip had renewed his conviction in Singapore's political structure.

"I come back even more determined that we should keep our system of political self-renewal," The Straits Times quoted him as saying late Sunday.

Goh, who has led the country since 1990, has said he will hand over power this year to Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Singapore's only other prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

The transition is expected to be smooth and maintain the vise-like grip on power that the party has held since the British introduced self-rule in 1959, followed by independence in 1965.

Singapore practices a form of democracy in which the press has to report in the "national interest," rallies are mostly banned and elections inevitably end in crushing majorities for the governing party.

Goh said his trip to South Asia, which coincided with the abrupt resignation of Pakistan's prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had shown him how politicians can pull their countries apart.

5 Jun 2004

Lee Hsien Loong

What others say
Some foreign media excerpts of PAP's selection of Singapore's new leader.
Jun 5, 2004

Few analysts expect a radical change in government policy.
(Outgoing prime minister) Mr Goh Chok Tong, who was once written off as a weak, transitionary figure - a mere seat-warmer for the Lee family - has become popular among ordinary Singaporeans.
His deputy, on the other hand, is seen, like his father, as a stern, authoritarian figure.

The Age, Asustralia
Asia Editor, Mark Baker

The Lee dynasty has cemented its dominance of Singapore politics for another generation with the endorsement of Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son as the country's next prime minister.
The elevation of Lee Hsien Loong, who is Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and chairman of the central bank, will tighten the Lee family's grip on political and corporate power..
But there is speculation Mr. Lee (Kuan Yew) will announce his retirement once his son is installed as prime minister..

Nation (Thailand)

For at least another generation, Singapore will be moulded by the Lee family..
There is no question the Lee Hsien Loong is an intelligent, capable and experienced bureaucrat..
The government has through various public relations efforts tried to soften the younger Lee'ss stern image but it is hard to escape the perception that he is a hard chip off the old authoritarian Blood.
In a speech in January seen as giving an outline of his plans Singapore, Lee echoed his father while warning political opponents of their fate if they became too vocal. "They are fully entitled to (criticise), but the government has to rebut or even demolish them," he said.
It is precisely this kind of thinking that makes Lee's elevation worrying because he is so much like his father. Such ncompromising leadership was perhaps needed to transform Singapore from a malarial swamp to the most modern city in Southeast Asia, especially at a time of political volatility.
But if Singapore is to prosper in the future it will need to allow more input from more voices in society, not a population that from pre-school awaits direction on every aspect of their lives from how many children they can have to how they should save their money from a father-knows-best government; it will need a strong parliamentary opposition to question and scrutinise policy.
Ultimately, it will need a people who are weaned off the idea that they need the Lee family.
Jun 5, 2004
The Little Speck

1 Jun 2004

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

"The King is Dead, Long Live the King"
31 May 2004

People's Action Party (PAP) Press Release

The Central Executive Committee of the People's Action
Party met on 29 May 2004 and decided that Deputy Prime
Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be the next Prime
Minister when Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong steps down
as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Goh had earlier told the Ministers that
now was a good time for the hand over, given that the
economy has recovered and is growing strongly. He
suggested that the younger ministers meet to choose
his successor. A group of ministers met on 22 May 2004
and unanimously nominated DPM Lee Hsien Loong to be
their next leader.

A caucus of PAP Members of Parliament held on 28 May
2004 unanimously supported the choice of DPM Lee as
their leader to succeed Prime Minister Goh. The
Central Executive Committee then met on 29 May and
endorsed this choice.

Prime Minister Goh will announce in July the date of
hand over, after his return from an official overseas


A post that was put on line quite some time ago is republished below...
The 'charismatic' issue facing the Lee family has become entrenched at least in their own psyche. The continuing dominance of Lee offspring in the large economic institutions in Singapore seems to allude to a rather old and tested impetus of transition of power from one generation to another. The argument from the powers that be is that 'they' are the most able. Do they claim that the qualities of their father have been genetically passed on to them, by chance of birth and genetic imprint? Surely the 'nature/nurture' debate has more than 'genetics' as an answer.

In his famous typology of forms of authority, Max Weber distinguishes the traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal types. Charismatic authority disrupts tradition, and rests only on support for the person or leader. Weber defines charisma as 'a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as leader' (Economy and Society, 1922).

Yet we are told the selection process is based on principles of 'meritocracy'. The soon to arrive hand over of power to Lee Junior will result, if not Singaporeans becoming aware of the dynastic under-pinning of the structure of authority in Singapore, then the non-Singaporean 'economic herd' becoming aware of it in all its tainted glory. And the 'economic herd' is a jittery species. Investment in Singapore has already taken a turn for the worse.

Weber viewed charisma, as a force of social change but it is unstable. Many will feel that it is their duty to obey the leader. However, as Weber puts it, 'from a substantive point of view, every charismatic authority would have to subscribe to the proposition, 'It is written... but I say unto you..."'

Constant intervention in disputes between the SIA and pilots seems to imply this motivation. Can one man or family dictate policy, policy that alters electoral boundaries, Universal Humans Rights, and employer-employee contracts at will?

Charismatic phenomenon is unstable and temporary. In the longer term, he or she will die. For that reason, charismatic authority is often 'routinised' during the life time of the leader and succeeded by a bureaucracy vested with rational-legal authority or by a return to the traditional structures that have now become infected with the charismatic impetus.

The authorities in Singapore would like us to believe that it has been replaced with 'rational-legal', but the placing of the charismatic leader's son in power will undermine such an attempt. The coming hand over of power will need to be handled extremely carefully. Currently there is no question of power going to other cabinet members and so the PAP seems determined to go ahead with 'the plan'. But as soon as power is handed to Lee junior the international press will throw the spot light on the process and the process needs to stand up to scrutiny that M.P.s in Singapore do not have to face in local press.

The local media may be able to screen the nasty comments aimed at the process from the gaze of Singaporean's, but the 'economic herd' is beyond the PAP's authority. The people of Singapore have taken blow after blow in the current economic slump, if it is exacerbated by 'the plan' of the PAP, things can only get worse. A testing time is on the horizon. The full might of the PAP's authoriy and dominance will swing in to action to dampen discussion within the country, and Internet activity will be heavily scrutinized. Recently introduced legislation seems to be gearing up for a showdown.