No say? It’s simply not true, she says

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the letter by Ms Margo McCutcheon dated 17 Sept 2010.

Ms McCutcheon is astounded by the tremendous changes in Singapore over her three year absence. She concludes that Singapore is hard to beat. But Singapore isn’t the only place where development has been rapid. East Asia on the whole has been moving very rapidly so Ms McCutcheon would be similarly astounded had she visited Shanghai, Tianjin or other Chinese cities.

Ms McCutcheon’s American husband offered his unsolicited advice on democracy to a middle-aged Singaporean couple. To him, democracy is just partisan bickering and gridlocked government. But the truth is far from that simple. Consensus and decisive action were clearly shown by American leadership during the depths of the global financial crisis when it was most needed. The much debated US healthcare reforms were eventually passed nonetheless. National issues are seldom as clear as black and white and if vigorous and robust debate is seen as bickering, then perhaps Ms McCutcheon’s husband is merely trivialising without understanding the complexities and conflicting nature of such issues which necessitates robust debates.

Ms McCutcheon does not understand that the cohesive and prosperous society that we have today wasn’t crafted over decades but nurtured over close to 200 years since 1819. Ms McCutcheon misquoted MM Lee as saying that an open political market place could lead to racial politics. MM Lee said he was fine with opening up politics but drew the line on race, language and religion. There is a world of a difference between Ms McCutcheon’s interpretation and MM Lee’s actual words. The former implies that political openness is dangerous whereas the latter is saying that political openness is okay except for race, language and religion. Even MM Lee himself has commented freely on Chinese language issues from time to time.

Ms McCutcheon claims that Singaporeans have more say than her fellow Canadians and gave the example of the ‘consultation’ that Singaporeans had before the GST was implemented. But like all the other ‘consultations’ including the one on casinos, the wishes of Singaporeans were ultimately ignored. If the decision always goes against the wishes of the people eventually, it simply shows that we have no say.

Already, the government has taken us to such a severe level of overcrowdedness that could lead to a potentially devastating bubble despite our constant pleas. There is much to lose unless we find a way to rein in this runaway government of ours which has the tendency of late to gallop blindly into abysses. If the couple in Holland Village can jeopardise Singapore simply by shouting democracy, then Singapore must have been a pack of cards all this while ready to be blown apart by the slightest wind.

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