Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mr Lee warns of two-party system dangers

FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has warned of the dangers of Singapore moving towards a two-party system and electing weak and ineffective governments.

Singapore will 'spiral downwards' if govt is weak, says former PM
By Elgin Toh

The progress made by the country since independence is not cast in stone and would 'spiral downwards' with poor governance, he argued in a recent interview with China Central Television (CCTV).

In an implicit reference to arguments made during the May General Election, he noted that many Singaporeans now desire a 'First World Parliament' and a two-party system.

'Their argument is simple. A First World country must have a First World Parliament. A First World Parliament must have a First World opposition. Then you can change dice. I think if ever we go down that road, I'll be very sorry for Singapore,' he said.

Campaigning on the platform of a 'First World Parliament', the Workers' Party won an unprecedented six seats at the May7 polls. The ruling People's Action Party's vote share was also cut to 60.1 per cent.

Mr Lee's interview with CCTV took place a month ago and aired on July 6, and was done for its English talk show Dialogue in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1. A full transcript was obtained by The Straits Times yesterday.

Mr Lee took questions from host Yang Rui on a range of issues, and compared ruling parties in Singapore and China.

Asked about the legacy he leaves behind for the PAP, having stepped down from the Cabinet, he said:

'I took this country from a very low base in the Third World and in 20 to 40 years gradually transformed it into a First World country, and now it's gone on to a different leadership and new problems crop up because people believe that what has been achieved is always secure. I don't believe that is so.

'I believe once you have weak, ineffective government, the whole progress you have made will spiral downwards. But the majority of people believe it is secure for them, so now they have ideas about the West, two-party system.'

On Western criticisms of the systems of government in Singapore and China, Mr Lee said they sprung out of 'preconceived ideas' the West had about multi-party democracy. The US and Europe believe that 'out of contention you get progress', so parties take turns to rule, depending on who temporarily had the upper hand in the clash of ideas, he said.

'If I were the Chinese I would ignore (their criticisms) and carry on with what I have been doing and make progress, maintain peace and stability and discipline and improve the lives of my people,' he said.

That was his own approach to Singapore-bashing, he added: 'I just let the critics say what they like. I do what I know I have to do and I have every day proved to them their criticism does not carry weight, that I am still here, the system is still working and the people are thriving. That's the answer to them.'

Mr Lee also saw other similarities between the PAP and the CCP. They have comparable cultural backgrounds and both countries work on the basis of pragmatism, not dogmatism, he said.

'I am not interested in Western theories as such. I am interested in that they have these theories and I like to read about them, but it doesn't mean that I accept the theories as gospel truth. So, my approach is a pragmatic approach. Does it work? Does it not work? If it works, then do it. If it doesn't work, change. I believe Deng Xiaoping had the same approach.'

Mr Lee said China may be interested in the way the Singapore Government kept the city clean and built enough housing for all its citizens. But Singapore differed in its size, he noted. It is much smaller, and more vulnerable to outside forces.