Has the PAP government become 'decadent'? Yes, according to NUS Assoc Prof

Sep 21, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

"The PAP (People's Action Party) government has become decadent...and the old theory of Singapore's survival and success seems to have run its course," said Associate Professor Kenneth Paul Tan from the National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP).

Prof Tan was speaking in live Facebook webinar last week (Sept 11) titled, “Singapore’s GE2020: The real watershed election?” organised by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and co-hosted by the Malaysia and Singapore Society of Australia (MASSA).

The hour-long webinar focused mainly on Singapore's economic and political direction in the face of unprecendented economic challenges.

The PAP is "incapable of reforming itself today"

Prof Tan - who will leaving LKYSPP for a tenured professorship with the Hongkong Baptist University in January 2021 - said that the results of the past general election have shown that the party "is in many respects incapable of reforming itself today".

“Being incumbent for as long as it has, the original paternalist or authoritarianism of the post-colonial founding leaders, which was forged in heroic times has become entrenched today in a much less heroic, less transformative and certainly less inspiring technocracy,” he added.

“The PAP government has become decadent,” he concluded.

Decadence - a term used promiscuously but rarely precisely

Prof Tan conclusion was drawn from a particular grand narrative of Singapore's history which he sought to use to explain contemporary events.

In defining his usage of the word "decadent", Prof Tan explained that the PAP government "has reached the zenith of its achievements".

In his context, he suggested that the PAP government can no longer expand beyond its fixation on the old methods of governance as molded by the founding fathers.

He said, "...the PAP government seems instead to be self-referentially tethered to its own history and the success formulas that history narrates ad nauseam."

Where Prof Tan failed to recognise is the unprecedented threats that comes with economic and technological progress - threats which no leaders from the time of Lee Kuan Yew have had to to contend with.

He also failed to point out the marked progress made by Singapore in the past decade as a result of robust measures undertaken by new generations of PAP leaders to adapt to the evolving geopolitical landscape.

The government's financial prudence and steady monetary policies over the years have resulted in the country being able to respond efficiently and proactively to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The quality of life for Singaporeans have also improved and on any matrix, Singapore on the whole has progressed well in the past years.

Yes, there are still some faults in the system. It's not perfect. But the question to ask is not who's fault is it, but what are we going to do about it as a society.

Civilisational decadence sets in when societies or governments no longer run on the courage of its convictions. Instead, it is marked by defensiveness, frivolity, and a disinclination for abstract thinking - attributes that Prof Tan alluded to the PAP.

But a truly decadent government is when its leaders become prideful and fail to adequately address the next challenge they face; when its supporting systems and vision erodes for lack of action, and when the government jails its critics for daring to question its legitimacy.

The difference is the ability for a government to recognise such problems and to actively respond to the challenges posed by its physical, social, and political environment.

And also to ensure that academics like Prof Tan continues having his voice heard.

PSP's Tan Cheng Bock voted out as Sec-Gen after alleged party infighting

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel Francis Yuen has been appointed secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), taking over from party founder Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan, 80, has become party chairman. This was announced by the PSP on Thursday (April 1), after its central executive committee (CEC) met on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said Mr Yuen was the committee's unanimous choice to "lead PSP to the next level".

"Francis will lead and galvanise the party while (Dr Tan) concentrates on strengthening external support for PSP," he wrote.

Chairman role is basically a glorified flower pot

In many organisations around the world, the Secretary-General position has the authority to make all the decisions of running the organisation - or party. The Chairman generally does not have any more power pe se than any other voting member of the Executive Committee, except the power to run board meetings.

Comparatively, the Secretary-General is like the Chief Executive Officer of the company.

For example, the People's Action Party chairman is Gan Kim Yong while the Secretary-General is Lee Hsien Loong.

Party infighting?

The change comes amid reports of a rift in the party. An online news site, the RedWire Times, said in March that some party cadres have demanded for Dr Tan to step down as secretary-general, and allow for "more talented rising stars" to take over.

Commenting on the Redwire Times report, PSP member Kumaran Pillai said the new CEC line-up is in no way a reflection of any disagreement over the leadership of the party. Rather, Mr Yuen assuming the secretary-general role is part of a planned transition, he added.

“When Dr Tan started the party, he said he will mentor someone younger, and he hasn’t deviated from his original mission. People shouldn’t be reading too much into it.”

Mr Pillai added that he had a long dialogue with the party cadre who was quoted anonymously by Redwire Times as saying that some cadres are mustering support to demand for Dr Tan to step down from his post.

“His intention is not to stage a coup within the party. I think people have misinterpreted it and misunderstood what he said, sometimes it's like playing broken telephone, you say one thing and by the time you get to the last person, the whole story gets distorted along the way... there’s no infighting, there's no malice,” he said.

In other words, the flower pot needs watering.