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    Updated on Sunday, April 14, 2002 10:22 PM

Focus on people in remaking Singapore


*Memandangkan hubungan dua hala Malaysia dan Singapura tidak pernah sunyi dengan isu dan kontroversi, IM akan secara selektif menerbitkan beberapa artikel mengenai republik tersebut supaya para pelayar IM akan dapat memahami corak pemikiran dan budaya mereka.

By Jacky Zhu

As we strive to remake Singapore, we should be mindful that the term "remaking Singapore" should not be reduced to just a slogan. The drive to remodel the republic should focus on people to meet the urgent needs of Singaporeans as well as take a far-sighted view to lay the foundation for our future. In my view, the following points should be considered.

Firstly, it should promote a sense of humanity and come up with more ways to help the disadvantaged. "Living from hand to mouth" is indeed the experience of some weaker groups in society. For the elderly, for instance, it should not be a dream to be able to enjoy one's old age.

The disadvantaged hope to have their voices heard. For them, leaders should not remember the need to speak Hokkien only during a general election. They should also not stress the importance of the Chinese language only in relation to hitching a ride from the China Juggernaut. Mastery of a language should not be a measure of one's social status. The purpose of knowing more languages is not to show off the advantages one enjoys over others, but to use the languages to serve the people well.

Secondly, we should have long-term plans to continue to develop the Singapore brand name (Finland, a small country, for instance, is well-known because of Santa Claus). We should also be quick in identifying and adapting to changing trends. This instinct would have spared us the rush in switching to the biochemical industry when the manufacturing sector went into decline. We should be pro-active and not play catching up all the time.

And even as we continue to pursue economic success and material comfort relentlessly, we should not postpone or neglect our spiritual or cultural development. We should play a leading role as the country with the highest quality of lifestyle in Asia. At the same time, we should be patient and meticulous in fostering our own culture and ensuring its transmission to the younger generations. We may even be able to export our culture.

Thirdly, we should capitalise on our strengths, be innovative and creative, and forge a national identity that strikes a chord with the people.

Singaporeans, especially the younger ones, should be familiar with our history. In order to value what we have achieved so far, they need to know how the pioneers had defended and helped create the Singapore of today. They should identify with Singapore instead of being bowled over by Japanese pop culture out of ignorance. Our future depends on young people who should not confine themselves to the island-state but should set their sights beyond Singapore.

To work towards creating a Singaporean identity, we have to listen to the voices of the "silent majority". Intellectuals also need to break free from the "tradition of maintaining silence". Heaping praises on our achievements and turning a blind eye to our shortcomings will not help us overcome our problems. In fact, it may well lead to our decline.

Intellectuals can make constructive criticisms and suggest workable strategies. The process of remaking Singapore is a colossal task that should involve everyone. The inputs from Singaporeans who are creative and independent-thinking (or people who represent their interests) are more important than the "nanny" who has always taken care of almost everything.

Besides, I hope justice can be tempered with mercy. Do not throw the book at people in the first instance, allow them the benefit of a kind and gentle reminder (this has to do with morality) instead of slapping them with a fine or Corrective Work Order. The purpose of strict enforcement of the law is to maintain an orderly society. But people should not become so fearful of breaking rules and regulations unwittingly that they refrain from exercising any initiative.

In short, the remaking of Singapore should focus on people and create a Singapore that gives people a sense of belonging.

*Note: The writer is doing his Ph.D at the NUS. Translated by Yap Gee Poh. *Source: Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore.


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