Punishing pace of political office

Transport minister Lui Tuck Yew.
Transport minister Lui Tuck Yew. ST PHOTO:JAMIE KOH

With the departure of several veteran politicians and the slate of new candidates announced, hopefully the quality of our Government can be maintained.

Compared with Singapore's founding fathers, latter-day politicians do not stay as long in politics.

Except for a few, many have returned to the private sector after several terms.

The recent decision by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew to leave politics ("Lui Tuck Yew decides to leave politics"; Aug 12) adds to my anxiety over the staying power of politicians.

While politics is certainly not for the faint-hearted, we must not make political office so onerous that only superheroes dare venture down this path.

From the news coverage of politicians on the ground, I can imagine their merciless schedule, with many public events to attend weekly so as to connect with the ground.

No wonder many who resigned cited spending more time with their families as their reason.

How long can a politician keep sacrificing time with his family at the altar of politics?

Some who enter politics come from the top brass in the civil service or military, who are used to having subordinates seeking their favour.

As MPs, the tables are turned, and they have to seek the support of their voters.

Politicians have to join in mass aerobics, make small talk and smile incessantly to gain support. How tiring it must be for some.

The strategy to get residents to experience the direct impact of the MPs they elect by putting the latter in charge of town councils may deter some with the political acumen, and intellectual and professional competence to run the country from entering politics, as they may not be suited or keen to handle the numerous administrative or municipal responsibilities that come with the job.

Such work leaves them with little time to research their parliamentary speeches.

Can we produce capable and incorruptible politicians, election after election, with our current expectations of politicians?

Will our Government remain stable if our current Cabinet members lose their seats in the coming election?

As election fever kicks in, let us review the sustainability of our political system.

Seto Hann Hoi (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Punishing pace of political office'. Print Edition | Subscribe