Rational, principled dissent can be valuable

The Yale-NUS College campus in Singapore, on March 14, 2017.
The Yale-NUS College campus in Singapore, on March 14, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Having entrusted the mandate to rule to the Government, a choice made by many after thorough deliberation and due consideration, responsible citizenry demands that our small population all pull together in one direction to face existential challenges.

Yet, the incumbent political party is not infallible and does not have sole possession of wisdom and perception in all its plans. Calm, collected and rational dissent must be articulated by citizens who feel that revamped alternatives or nuanced tweaks can be made to policies(Yale-NUS cancels course on dissent and resistance; Sept 15).

A different perspective not from the corridors of power, unaffiliated with any political process and from the ground is especially crucial, seeing that higher ranking officials from any organisation that has vested interests tend to have less objectivity and greater identification bias with their group agenda.

Well-articulated and principled dissent based on precisely researched facts and figures, presented with the purpose of finding better solutions to problems, is invaluable.

This should never be dismissed and indeed should be actively sought through active citizen engagement and national conversations.

Almost all disciplined dissenters are not dissidents, and oppose official stances not simply to foment unrest, or instigate sedition, but as a plaintive expression of dissatisfaction and concern.

Dissenting views should not be seen as nuisances, and an enlightened, democratically elected government can better take especial heed of negative feedback when this is given in a credible and coherent manner.

Even the best crafted and thought through of blueprints will disenfranchise certain factions of the populace, and dissenters must take into account the multifaceted constraints that policymakers face.

Dissent for the sake of dissent is misguided and is disastrous if it leads to violent resistance.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Rational, principled dissent can be valuable'. Print Edition | Subscribe