SUCCESS STORY OF SINGAPORE
By Brigadier(Retd) Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Singapore is celebrating the Golden Jubilee of its meaningful existence. It was on 09 August 1965 that Independence was thrust upon Singapore by Malaysia when the tiny territory was separated from the land mass on its North and ordered to fend for itself. The dramatis personae and the onlookers knew that the tiny tot would wither away sooner than later. Of course, the Leadership of Singapore had the Will Power to turn adversity into an opportunity. They toiled and toiled and the result is for everyone, friend and foe alike, to see and admire.
The Second World War had brought Singapore into prominence. It was supposed to be citadel of defence of the British Empire in the East. The big guns placed on the hilly contour along the coast line were a deterrent to any invading force. The invading Imperial Japanese Army, however, was made of sterner stuff. Their invasion was along the land route and the mighty British Army comprising Indians too, capitulated in no time. An Indian Army infantry battalion just disembarking after a voyage on the choppy seas just walked into a PoW camp run by the Japanese Army. The Japanese took more prisoners of war than they had ever stipulated even in their dreams.
The Japanese officers and soldiers brain washed the Indian prisoners of war, coaxed and cajoled them and brought top echelon of the Indian freedom fighters like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to convince the Indian PoWs that they were in safe hands and would be trained and organized to wage war against the wily British rulers to liberate their Motherland, Bharat with the aid of the Imperial Japan.
The Indian National Army was born in Singapore. It was trained there. It held ceremonial parades in Singapore. The Indian community donated all they could to the INA coffers. Indian women gave away their golden ornaments to the INA fund to fight for liberation of their motherland. Their stock went up in the estimation of the Chinese people who formed an overwhelming majority in the population of Singapore. The outcome of war is too well known to be narrated here. The seed of cooperation between the two ethnic communities, Chinese and Indian, was sown. It is being harvested now.
In 1965 when Singapore was politically forced to stand on its feet in 1965, it was fortunate to have a forward looking Leadership who were determined to make Singapore a success story. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister, Goh Keng Swe, the architect of economic miracle and S. Rajaratnam, a philosopher par excellence formed the famous Team to govern Singapore and take it from rags to riches. These men of principles had only one aim: to make Singapore succeed as a State. They left no stone unturned to achieve success in the realm much against gloomy predictions of men who mattered. The prophets of doom were proved wrong and the Leadership along with citizenry was proved to be correct. Their determination made them march on the path of success.
The three pillars on which the chariot of success was held aloft were:
MERITOCRACY PRAGMATISM HONESTY
Let us take the principle of honesty first. In a growing economy and in a developing country Honesty matters most. If the Leadership is corrupt and keeps self before service, the ship of nation is bound to flounder on the rocks of private business. If the top leadership is honest, their example of honesty percolates down to the lowest level of the bureaucracy. Indeed the bureaucrats have to be paid well so that they do not look for other illegitimate avenues to make both ends meet. Of course, the Law of the Land should not only prescribe harsh punishment to dishonest leaders and bureaucrats but also ensure that the Law is enforced and the culprit put in prison or even executed depending on the severity of the offence.
Singapore observed and implemented both in letter and spirit the Rule of Law. Allow me to recall an incident where an American teenager was involved in vandalizing an automobile and was awarded a few lashes as punishment. No less a person than the President of the United States of America intervened to have the boy pardoned and spoke to Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. But the latter did not relent and said that no one was above law. The age old maxim may be narrated here to buttress the decision of the founding Prime Minister of Singapore.
However high you may ever be, the LAW is above you.
The path to success is a hard and difficult one but attainment of goal is indeed a sweet one.
Meritocracy is the foundation for building the edifice of administration. As you sow, so must you reap. If the senior leaders of a country are swayed by nepotism and select the next best leaving out the Best, the Bureaucracy will crumble sooner than later under its own weight and the weight of corruption. Merit should be the final point for making a decision. Anyone who does not meet the high standard of merit must never be selected as a bureaucrat. Indeed there should be no reservation of seats for candidates belonging to a slect caste or creed otherwise the State would be saddled with mediocre and administration would be affected adversely.
Pragmatic approach is equally important in administration. Emotion does not find a place where Pragmatism rules the roost. Pragmatic approach to solving problems leads a searcher to the best solutions beneficial to the State.
The Lee Kuan Yew Administration always went by the principles set for itself and did not deviate. Indeed, the decisions made sometimes looked inhuman on the face of it but delivered the goods. Individuals may have suffered because of strict observance of Principles but the State made progress. The citizenry was the sole beneficiary. No wonder about ninety percent citizens of Singapore now live in the houses owned by them. After all the common man looks forward to having two or three square meals a day, suitable clothes to wear and a house to live in comfortably. Singapore provides all these amenities to its citizens. Naturally, the citizens are happy and work hard to achieve results.
It may be mentioned that the State does not brook unnecessary and irrelevant criticism of its actions and decisions. Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Thought and Expression are important but within the legally prescribed limits. If unfettered freedom of press is going to hinder the progress of common man and not help them move on the path of progress, such progress may be jettisoned for the sake of stability of the State. Some critics may call this kind of administrative progress and happiness of common man as a sign of Enlightened Dictatorship. Never mind that, just keep on marching on the Path of Progress under the guidance of the State.
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