Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lee Kuan Yew And Goh Chok Tong Step Down From Cabinet

Big news in Singapore, as 45 years' worth of past Prime Ministers -- Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong -- step down from the Cabinet in the wake of the opposition's best election showing ever. (They're still in Parliament.) It's a good thing for Singapore. The older generation of leaders are stepping aside, making room for new people with new ideas.

The older generation accomplished amazing things. Lee Kuan Yew's biography is titled From Third World to First, and it's not an empty boast. He may have been a quasi-authoritarian ruler, but as far as I'm aware he was the best authoritarian of modern times. Thanks to him and the rulers of his generation, Singapore is a clean, wealthy, crime-free, non-corrupt, glittering metropolis rather than just another dingy Southeast Asian capital.

But it's time for Singapore to move beyond them. Lee's remarks that voters in Aljunied would have five years to repent if they voted for the opposition fit Singapore's authoritarian past better than its democratic future. I think that's part of the reason he had to take his demotion right now -- the PAP will have a hard time winning Aljunied in five years if voters think they were doing the Minister Mentor's bidding and delivering five years of punishment.

There are lots of smart younger people with good ideas on this island, and my hope is that power vacuums at the top will suck them upwards.

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