Reading today’s papers, I came across the article commentary about Singapore’s High Commissioner to Britain, Mr Teo’s, rebuttal against The Guardian’s John Kampfner’s article about "The New Authoritarianism" (See full article here)
Mr. Teo’s rebuttal (See the rebuttal) titled "The Singapore Model" emphasizes strongly that while liberal democracy will work for the West, in Asia, it is a different situation altogether.
I agree with Kampfner’s view that in Singapore, we are "willing to hand over several of [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][our] freedoms in return for prosperity or security." Certain issues like the freedom to openly make a public statement about anything has been given up for the freedom of responsible speaking, and even to hold a protest, one will even need a permit from the authorities and it must be conducted indoors. However, my contention is that what is so wrong about wanting to achieve prosperity or security for oneself, for the family and for the entire nation?
We must understand the context in which Singapore is placed in. The Republic is not a nation like those in the West. We have our own cultural values, our own systems of traditions and even our own taste and preferences. Hence, why should it be that when the nation is not following the liberal western style of democracy will it be that the government is termed Authoritarian? We have merely adapted democracy to meet our needs as a multi-racial society living in a multi cultural Asia.
Certain commentaries to Mr. Teo’s article sparked concerns that while Singapore has opened itself up to the world, we are a nation that has been rejecting its influence. I feel that there must be a clear line to be drawn when it comes to governance and globalization. Globalization while the benefits are many, also bring about the system of cultural erosion as generally the Western values (such as free democracy) are imposed upon societies. However, when it comes to governance, much more is required than being dependent on the influence one’s government receives across the border. It is of grave importance that the government that is in power is able to be in sync with that of its own people, and not to the ideals of foreigners.
Human Rights Groups have criticised Singapore for failing to allow total rights to its people and even Kampfner argues that "this system is morally corrupted by politicians and civil servants who want more money and power- to dictate the terms to the ordinary citizens." Nonetheless, if the Human Rights Group wish to champion about a person’s rights and that the Singapore’s system of governance have failed to accommodate it, I would like to question on the very right of humans to choose what they want – and in this case, for their style of governance. If the government have ignored human rights for the trade off of better prosperity and security for the nation, who is then the Rights Groups that champion for their cause when they are attacking their very own concept of Rights itself by labelling this nation as Authoritarian? I myself believe that a person is given a right to choose, and I will choose for the best of my interest and by so far, this government in Singapore has done that in their own style.
Yet still, I agree that Singapore’s style of governance does have its flaws, but it is a truth universally known that there is no such thing as a perfect governance or even a perfect style of governance. Governance of a country is rather more an evolutionary process each day where it is created based on the context the country is placed in rather than the success stories of the West. China and Russia may have sent envoys and officials here to learn Singapore’s own success story, but ultimately it is up to them on how they wish to adapt it best for their own society.
There is no one size fits all solution, and it will be inaccurate to label that Liberal Western Democracy is suitable for the whole world, where so many of us are so different in our cultural and traditions. Will it then come to a time when this system of democracy or in that sense any form of government be imposed onto the entire world itself such that we all will then become mere blueprints from a single government style?
The Right to choose is a basic concept. You have advocated for rights, so we choose our ‘authoritarian’ style of governance. It is what works best for us after all.