Rise to the call for active citizenry

President Tony Tan Keng Yam gives a speech at the 99/15 Officer Cadet Course (OCC) Commissioning Parade on Jan 17, 2016 (Sun) at SAFTI Military Institute (MI).
President Tony Tan Keng Yam gives a speech at the 99/15 Officer Cadet Course (OCC) Commissioning Parade on Jan 17, 2016 (Sun) at SAFTI Military Institute (MI).ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

I applaud President Tony Tan Keng Yam for his speech at the opening of the 13th Parliament, which encompassed geopolitics, economics, local politics and social aspirations for Singapore ("After SG50, time to 'write the next chapter together'"; last Saturday).

I hope geopolitics will figure more in our people's consciousness.

We should look beyond bread and butter issues and take heed of regional developments as a people.

As a small city-state with an open economy, we are vulnerable to the flux of regional politics. We can continue to thrive only in a peaceful neighbourhood. It calls for adept diplomatic tact and involvement to safeguard our nation's interests.

Amid uncertain economic headwinds, we should reinvent ourselves to stay relevant to the world.

In a globalised world, our competitors are fast closing in on us. We should be quick to recognise new trends and prepare ourselves to chase and capitalise on them.

We should take economic restructuring in our stride and take the initiative to upgrade our skills and knowledge to remain employable right into our old age.

With a population that is more affluent, better educated and more well travelled, the making of a new social compact between the governors and governed is only to be expected.

Tweaks to the democratic system should go beyond form, and include substance, too.

Institutions should be strengthened to enhance checks and balances. Top-down, heavy-handed governance is passe.

With a small population, everyone counts. There should be adequate avenues for citizens to voice their concerns, and for leaders to receive timely feedback from the ground.

We should rise to the call for active citizenry and participate in, if not initiate, self-help community activities.

While we rejoice in the diversity in our communities,which adds to the vibrancy of this land, we should be mindful to integrate through mutual respect and embrace the varied uniqueness among us.

After all, it takes all kinds to make a world.

As our economic pie enlarges, we should all be able to partake in it, with no one left behind.

We must recognise that there will always be some who cannot keep pace with change, and we should lend them a helping hand in the true spirit of one people, one nation, one Singapore.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Rise to the call for active citizenry'. Print Edition | Subscribe