Once again, PM Lee has said that Singapore will not have 2 quality teams (Straits Times, 22 April 2011). He cited that even with their access to all the talents in the country, the PAP has difficulties in finding people for certain jobs.
Perhaps PM Lee has not noticed that quality people are coming out of late in increasing numbers on the alternative camps, both formerly from the government service and from the private sector. He also discussed about former government scholars who have been nurtured by the system and are now opposition candidates. While it is their right to do so, he sort of implied that they should have been grateful to the government for having nurtured them. It is time for a reality check by PAP as to why they are missing out on these talents and why many talents, even those formerly from the government service and grassroots are appearing on the opposing team.
The system has run for too long as an elite group that they have lost touch with the commoners. Mr Ngiam Tong Dow, former Permanent Secretary in various ministries cited the example of Sparta and Athens, two city states in Greek history. Singapore is like Sparta, where the top students are taken away from their parents as children and educated. Cohort by cohort, they each select their own leadership, ultimately electing their own Philosopher King. Mr Ngiam felt that though the starting point was meritocracy, the end result was dictatorship and elitism. In the end, that was how Sparta crumbled. He observed that Athens, a city of philosophers known for its different schools of thought, survived. Sparta was a well-organised martial society, but in the end, very brittle. Athens survived because of its diversity of thinking and was a city worth fighting for.
It can be quite delusionary when one is amongst elites for a long time. You will start to think that only you are the best, that only you have the solutions to everything. Singapore is in danger of being a Sparta now, promoting only one way of thinking, recruiting people from the same mould as that of previous generations of elites.
I have greater confidence than PM Lee that Singapore has a bigger diversity of talents to have more than one team. I was educated entirely by the Singapore system and was politically apathetic until I started working and travelling. Somehow, our very meritocratic education system is guilty of making talents disinterested in politics. People are driven to pursue career success and some prefer to achieve personal success and then wait for the ruling party to invite them to join their tea parties.
I did not consider to be part of the PAP as I felt there should be room for divergent voices and an alternative team. Some talents may feel choked in the PAP system and prefer to stay out. Some have chosen to join in opposing teams. Unless PAP loosens itself up, it will increasingly find talents avoiding it and joining the opposite camp.
Written by Yee Jenn Jong. Jenn Jong is a WP member. This blog is written in his personal capacity.