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