In a recent post, WP NCMP Leon Perera quoted on his FB page what Janadas Devan, Institute of Policy Studies Director, said at a recent IPS event. Janadas Devan apparently said, “If ever we become so idiotic as to elect buffoons into office; if ever our politics became so toxic as to allow nativist, neo-fascist, populists into power; we are unlikely to have a second chance, a redo; we would be finished.”

At a recent IPS event Mr Janadas Devan, who is the Director of the IPS and also Chief of Government Communications in…

Posted by Leon Perera on Friday, February 17, 2017

Then, Leon Perera commented that “If, in our one-party dominant system, the ruling party were to come under an erratic Prime Minister in the future who makes a few reckless economic, social or foreign policy decisions; or if the ruling party becomes corrupt, divided or misguided; and there is no alternative party to take its place or voters are too afraid to vote for it. Or if a failed and unpopular ruling party in the future takes a turn towards tyranny to entrench itself in power and Singapore voters are too afraid to take action to defend our democratic society. In all of these scenarios too, Singapore may be finished, “liao”, with no chance to redo.”

Leon Perera’s FB post caught my attention because I was at the IPS event. In fact, when I heard what Mr Devan said there and then, I actually thought that him being the “establishment man” was trying to throw cheap shots by insinuating that the opposition was “buffoons” or populists”.

But, Leon Perera’s quote of what Janadas Devan said was incomplete.

Janadas Devan continued to say:

“This has nothing to do with one-party dominant or two-party systems — the subject of our last session today. It is a given, I believe, our politics will become more contested – for the simple reason our society is diverse, the challenges and issues we face are complex, and an increasingly better educated population open to the world are bound to have different views on public policy. All that is well and good. The challenge is maintaining exceptional government — capable of that sustained, long-term planning and action without which this city cannot be a country — even as our people become more diverse and our politics more contested. Can that be done?

Not easy”

(Have to thank IPS for uploading the transcript).

So, that’s something to think about.

Actually, I think what both Leon Perera and Janadas Devan said were worth pondering about. Leon Perera was unhappy with this one-party dominant system for the reason he stated above. I think that’s reasonable because we need some form of checks and balance against tyranny. Hence, Leon Perera was looking at the issue from a party-centric view.

But, Janadas Devan seems to go beyond just debating about what political system is good for the country; no matter what system (one-party, two-party or multi-party), the party that is voted in to form the government has to be exceptional. The voters are key, argued Janadas Devan.

Being practical Singaporeans, we have to keep that in mind.

At the end of the day, democracy is a game of numbers, and we get what we voted for. Look at Brexit, look at Trump’s victory. Look at the threat of fake news. We may mock at the Brits and the Americans, but the possibly of something like that happening else where, including Singapore, is very real.

And the best defence against these, is a informed and discerning electorate.

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However, what exactly is  a“exceptional” government? That’s another topic for another day.