Wise leaders, involved citizens essential for nation's future: ESM Goh

Mr Goh with residents at a National Day dinner in Marine Parade last night. He said leaders had to put the people above their own ambitions and interests, and expressed confidence in new MPs and ministers.
Mr Goh with residents at a National Day dinner in Marine Parade last night. He said leaders had to put the people above their own ambitions and interests, and expressed confidence in new MPs and ministers.ST PHOTO: ABDUL AZIZ HUSSIN

In the face of challenges posed by possible tensions in Asia, the threat of terrorism and a slowing economy, Singaporeans may have certain fears and frustrations.

But as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong highlighted in a speech at a National Day dinner in Marine Parade last night, what is needed to assuage these feelings is good leadership that can steer Singapore confidently into the future.

At the dinner at Roland Restaurant, Mr Goh, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, cited two anxieties that may affect Singaporeans.

First, there is a fear that "the Singaporean dream - the ability to make a better life for themselves and for their children - is slipping from the grasp of the next generation".

Second, he said there could also be "the frustration that the Singaporean identity and meritocracy, predicated on equality amid diversity, is increasingly skewed".

EMERGING LEADERSHIP TEAM

I see a core leadership team emerging. They had won the support of the people in the last general election and are working hard to prove themselves.

EMERITUS SENIOR MINISTER GOH CHOK TONG

"Our minority groups, in particular, worry that their opportunities are less than others' because of their race, language or religion."

Mr Goh said that such anxieties are not new, and have been with Singapore since independence.

But "concrete meaning" must be given to Singapore's value of inclusiveness, with national unity of paramount importance.

He said citizens must not forget "those among us who struggle to keep up, or feel that they are losing to newcomers in their own land".

On leadership, Mr Goh said the qualities needed in leaders include the imagination and competence to overcome problems and implement solutions; the courage to make painful but necessary decisions; the ability to mobilise Singaporeans to achieve common goals; and the vision to inspire hope and confidence in Singaporeans for the future.

Most importantly, he stressed, leaders must have the trust of the people.

"They must put the people above their own ambition and interests. Political power is not about stature or building legacies but to do good for others."

He noted that Singapore's leadership succession is on track, and expressed his confidence in the new Members of Parliament and ministers who are "capable, dedicated and hard-working".

"I see a core leadership team emerging. They had won the support of the people in the last general election and are working hard to prove themselves."

Singapore's democratic processes have produced honest, competent and dedicated leaders over three political generations in the last 51 years, Mr Goh added.

"But as any good investor knows, past performance of a company does not guarantee future results."

He urged the Singaporean electorate to play its part in ensuring that a tradition of competent leadership remains in place.

"Our people are the bedrock of our democracy. They are ultimately responsible for choosing the leaders of our country. So my message to Singaporeans is: Stay involved in your community, be informed of events in and outside Singapore, and demand integrity in our politics and policies."

Singapore can continue to excel if it is nimble and adaptable, said Mr Goh, adding that he was heartened to see the growth of social activism among Singaporeans who take action when they see vulnerabilities within society rather than wait for the Government to do something.

"When these two halves come together - wise leaders and involved citizens - you will have an exciting future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Wise leaders, involved citizens essential for nation's future: ESM Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe