Friday, August 29, 2014

The nature of PAP's governance is "a continuation of colonial rule"

This is probably the most important speech you will NOT hear in the SG50 celebrations next year.

Historian PJ Thum exposes the 3 Myths of Vulnerability, Development and Meritocracy and calls the PAP Government an "imperial government and a continuation of colonial rule"


"So if you're the first Prime Minister of Singapore. You have just been handed power by the British. Where does your legitimacy come from? You're not an indigenous people. You've won an election under very dubious circumstances where you put your political opponents into cold storage. So what do you do? You take a leaf out of the previous colonial government. You reject democracy, you suspend individual rights, you continue to cripple all sorts of safeguards against your exercise of State power etc. by arguing that Singapore is an exceptional case, by arguing for Singaporean exceptionalism. Why? You use the three myths of development, vulnerability and meritocracy."


"By 1950, Singapore was the richest country in Asia. The only country in Asia that was richer than Singapore was metropolitan Tokyo. It was famous then for everything that we are famous for today - tall buildings, wide boulevards, clean drinking water. We had more cars per capita than anywhere in Asia. We were famous for being a trading port, an offshore financial centre, a specialised commodities futures centre, world market for rubber and tin, an oil distribution centre. Lee Kuan Yew himself in 1960 as his electoral fortunes declined as he got more and more unpopular, kept going around saying, "Look, Singapore has the highest income in Asia." If you read the Straits Times in 1960 he kept saying this to point out how good we were doing."


"The PAP's first generation, the Old Guards as we celebrate so much, was an example of how great leadership and talent can be found from people of all backgrounds regardless of education and upbringing. But after the party split several times in the 50s and early 60s, the leadership needed people they could trust to fill the ranks and so they turn to people who are like them - friends, colleagues, relatives - people with talent and who were smart but who thought very much like the leaders of the PAP. So power became concentrated in the hands of a narrow elite. And over time this has meant homogenity of thoughts, values and experiences. They think alike, they feel alike, they believe the same things. Multiple studies on Singapore's elite have shown that the strongest determinant of elite status in Singapore is the proximity to the PAP leadership. The elite is overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese, overwhelmingly upper class; they attend a narrow range of schools, something like 90% of scholarship holders come from just 4 schools. Because a majority of them were male, most of them would have actively served in the military as scholar officers. Don't get me wrong. Within this elite, competition is very fierce and is meritocratic. But to get in there is an accident by birth and the rest of Singaporeans are excluded by definition from the very beginning. So you have a pre-selected elite who don't know that they are the pre-selected elite, who within the competition of this pre-selected elite, believed that they have gotten to where they are through hard work and therefore they owe nothing to the rest of society for their position.."


"The PAP has abandoned attempts to restore democratic normality and instead have reasserted Singapore's exceptionalism.
Singapore's vulnerability was emphasised. Legislative authority was used to legitimise regulatory oppression. The media was suppressed and a monopoly was asserted over public discourse. Opposition has been depicted as subversive and detention without trial has been used to remove the leadership of the political opposition.

To maintain the three myths, the PAP, like the British, have used instruments of intellectual and legislative control. Over the decades the PAP has gone further than the British in implementing colonial policies in destroying Chinese education, shutting down Nantah, ending all Chinese schools..

To me the really sad thing is Singapore democracy really worked from 1955 to 1963 when Singaporeans went to the polls on an average of once a year. And out of this short period emerged policies that made Singapore world-famous today - HDB, CPF, industrialisation, a tri-lingual education system that produced a reasonably talented second generation of PAP leadership. But after the PAP's absolute control in 1968, what do we have? We have Stop At Two, the second industrial revolution where GDP dropped 10% in just one year, we have a CPF that's constantly being fiddled with.. And that is a product of a lack of democracy, a lack of debate, a lack of dissent and a lack of new ideas in the government.

The nature of our governance in Singapore today is an imperial government. It is a continuation of colonial rule."