Saturday, April 4, 2015
Placing a significant man into history
Reading the two pieces in the Straits Times today - one by Han Fook Kwang, the other by Tom Plate; one is struck by how commentators galore are trying to place a most significant political leader and statesman into history. The debate over the post-LKY era and what shape it will take will inhabit our stream of consciousness in the weeks and months to come. Whilst we can deliberate on and on about the missing leadership DNA that will no longer infuse the genome of tomorrow's political leaders and administrators, or indulge in speculation as to whether LKY is a 'hedgehog' or 'fox' in the formulation of Isaiah Berlin, the true state of affairs is that no words can adequately predict with total exactitude what shape Singapore will take with LKY no longer amongst us. How should we as a people cope with the swift return to the affairs and concerns of the day? Is the formula for governance still burnishing a team of like-minded, committed leaders, presiding over a confucian culture whose participants dutifully operate under a singular leadership? Surely not. If our population is coaxed into thinking that the country will not survive absent a solo prescription, then it must surely fail, and deservedly. Singapore has many talented individuals in leadership - at all levels of government. The greasy pole has emplaced at the highest levels men and women who carry the promise of greatness into the future. Many will be called to be statesmen, but few, or indeed, only one will be chosen. We should be constantly reminded of the wisdom of Napolean. He said, in response to a question about the lack of great statesmen in the world - to get power, you have to demonstrate absolute pettiness. To exercise power you have to show true greatness. These qualities are, rarely, to be singularly found in one individual.