In his speech to Singaporeans yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to work with him and his team of 4G leaders as they lead us into uncharted, troubled and uncertain future.
There was nothing new or inspiring in PM Lee’s speech. He again harps on exceptionalism, but really, how exceptional have his team of 4G Leaders been?
The way they handled the Covid-19 crisis has dented our international reputation. Let us be mindful that the global community is aware that we went from being the ‘gold standard’ in pandemic care to being a ‘cautionary tale’. And this happened because they turned a deaf ear to the warnings of people who work with foreign workers, that the living conditions of such workers may be cause for concern for the coronavirus to spread like wildfire in the community. How can we trust leaders who are like a little deaf frog?
At the start of the pandemic, when people were instinctively seeking ways to protect themselves with masks, these very same leaders came out to say that “masking-up was not the best thing that every Singaporean can do to protect himself”. Only a leaked audio clip revealed the real reasons why these leaders may have been discouraging universal masking – because of supply chain constraints, they had to conserve the surgical masks for our medical system. How can we trust leaders who are not truthful to us?
In his speech yesterday, PM Lee took credit for keeping the number of fatalities in Singapore low. That the number of fatalities is low reflects on the diligence of our nurses, doctors and other essential workers in our healthcare sector. How can our leaders take credit for keeping the fatalities here low, but not take responsibility for the number of infected persons in Singapore which is nearing the 40,000 new cases mark? Also, are our number of new cases kept artificially low because fewer swab tests are being conducted?
Of course, more aggressive testing will drive up the number of infected cases but further risks of community transmission could be curbed. Unless our political leaders want to keep the infected numbers down before the elections. But then, how can you trust leaders who put electioneering first before properly fighting the pandemic?
Panic-buying, empty supermarket shelves and hoarding of essential items are just some of the knee-jerk reactions of a public concerned over potential food shortages triggered by the pandemic. And our leaders’ response to this is to diversify our food sources from countries further away. Doesn’t that seriously worry you?
While we are importing our food products from countries further away, our local farms have to cease operations as the government wants to take back the land to build more housing. With a declining total fertility rate, why the need to rush and build more housing?
The question for me is, should Singaporeans continue trust a team who have blamed their shortfalls on the lack of hindsight? Should we continue to trust a team without foresight?
Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, believed that a system of a few good men (and some women) would be the best fit for Singapore. He said in his memoirs, “My experience of developments in Asia has led me to conclude that we need good men to have good government. However good the system of government, bad leaders will bring harm to their people. […] The single decisive factor that made for Singapore’s development was the ability of its ministers and the high quality of the civil servants who supported them.”
This is one main reason why we do not have strong institutions and rigorous processes. This system of Government, however, could be dated and can only work when we have good, capable leaders with foresight.
This pandemic is unlike any other crisis many of us may have seen in our lives. But there may be many more unknowns and perils ahead of us. And with the many twists and turns before us, we must come together and work hand-in-hand to chart the way forward.
We cannot rely only on one man, or even one band of men and women. We cannot let these men amass so much power especially when they have readily admitted that they do not have the foresight.
It is a massive task – but united, we can!
Ravi Philemon, Red Dot United