Saturday, January 6, 2018

Opinion: 4th generation leaders must stay connected to the ground to win support: An open proposal to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the cabinet

It is certainly not easy to select the next Prime Minister (PM) from the 4th generation of ministers, and I do agree with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong that this is an urgent challenge that has to be met.


Unlike the first-generation leaders who had to tackle and manage several burning issues such as confrontation, communists, racial riots and union strikes, the present cohorts have not yet been fully tested nor have they experienced hardship.


With the immense global challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead, coupled with many social issues which Singapore has to grapple with, it is crucial that our 4th generation leaders make every effort to stay connected to the ground to fully understand valid concerns, anxieties and sentiments from all Singaporeans.  


It is not just selecting a new leader to spearhead the team, but what is equally or more important is for the people to be able to relate well to the next PM and his team.


Mingling with citizens from all walks of life on a regular basis will pave the way for constructive feedback and a healthy exchange of ideas.  For active citizenry will help the government of the day to resolve problems, sometimes with gems of ideas surfacing. It is a known fact that no government can solve all problems, but with a fair exchange of ideas and suggestions from its citizens, including those from the opposition wards, Singapore has an excellent chance of making our home the best home to live in.


Our leaders seem to focus too much on economic growth. While economic growth is important, too fast a growth for a small country like Singapore can soon lead to a saturation point– as history has taught us in the rise and fall of countries.


Leaders have to go down to the ground to fully understand the real difficulties people face that includes bread and butter issues and the high cost of living. Politicians meeting residents in their homes should not just be restricted during the run-up to the General Elections, but has to be on-going.  And all ministers and MPs must be approachable and humble and so for their grassroots leaders,


I still recall the wisdom of former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who advised elected PAP MPs to ‘be humble in victory’. 

Let’s take a leaf from some of our ASEAN leaders who, while adopting a non-nonsense attitude, are still able to enjoy tremendous support as they have much love for their citizens and always stay closely connected to the man in the street.

In early January 2016, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, made a surprise visit to Muar and joined the people there for breakfast at a restaurant where he spent an hour chatting with the people.

With Indonesia having a relatively large and rapidly growing youth population President Widodo has seized the opportunity to reach out to the youth through social media.  Seeing the importance of connecting with his people, the Indonesian President has even enjoyed a lunch with many of them.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte also makes it a point to meet up with his people, both within his country and outside the Philippines.

However, meeting residents should not just be another PR exercise, but it should be a concerted effort to ensure that the needs of the people who elected the MPs are met at all times.

Thank you.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

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