“If there’s a war, why should we fight for Singapore?”

These two questions have been asked before and I am sure my two sons will ask them again:

  • “Do I have to do NS?”
  • “Is Singapore worth defending and dying for?”

My answer had been a resounding “Yes!”.

Today, February 5, 2013, I finally don’t have an affirmative answer for them.

I am finding it harder and harder to justify the “Yes!”.

Come 2030, they will be 30 and 33 years old. The country they will be living in, if they choose to continue to live in Singapore, is expected to have about 7 million people if the current ruling party has their way.

This is a target being set that they say is a “worst case scenario”. And this from a PAP-led cabinet who did not have foresight and whose leader has apologized not once, but twice.

While I am all for doing what is needed and what is right, I think the approach taken by the current PAP government in pushing for the Population White Paper (PWP) (a 41 pager) is very heavy-handed and executed in a dismal way.  DPM Teo CH is the man on the spot pushing for the adoption of the PWP in parliament, and, frankly, after failing to win the Punggol East by-election, has much lower credibility (he might lose in the 2016 general elections anyway). Does the PM not even recognize this? Do they not have a strategy in introducing policy directions, directions that can be divisive, especially after losing a seat?  PM Lee and DPM Teo were a former brigadier general and a rear-admiral respectively in the Singapore Armed Forces. Both of them never fought a war (the one with real blood – fortunately for Singapore) and come from the same group think environment of the SAF (with due apologies to those in the SAF who don’t suffer from that condition). The “group think” probably explains their collective lack of 20/20 vision as admitted by the PM.

The PWP is probably a well-meaning document – yes, I’ve read it and I do mean probably. It took me about three hours to go through it and understand it as much as I could. But I am not convinced. I got sidetracked when I read this in page 5:

Since March 2012, the Government has been actively seeking views from Singaporeans as part of
the preparations for this White Paper.

Many Singaporeans from different walks of life and age groups – including trade unionists, workers,
retirees, students, businessmen, professionals, women’s groups, overseas Singaporeans, civil
servants, bloggers, grassroots leaders, and academics – contributed their views in focus group
discussions and dialogue sessions. Singaporeans also wrote in through the http://www.population.sg
website and via e-mail.

Many others expressed their views or wrote articles about this important issue, through other
platforms and fora.

We thank everyone for your valuable contributions, which have helped to shape this White Paper.

I don’t recall anything like that being asked for. May be I missed the memo. May be I was not in the target audience that the PAP government wanted to hear from. And they wanted to hear from people who would tell them what they wanted to hear. I don’t know.

What I do know is that both the process by which they’ve come up with the conclusions and recommendations in the PWP are flawed.

Do I have an alternative? Yes. Let’s talk and discuss this calmly and with all the numbers and data that will help us collectively come to an action plan.  Lay it out for all to see and understand. Not the hand waving and the “I know better than you” attitude.

Perhaps we need a Temasek WikiLeaks drop box (my email ID is h dot pillay at ieee dot org).

Let’s get the raw data, arguments for and against that has been done with the cabinet and the related government agencies.

Talk to/with us not AT us. Remember, we Citizens are the masters and you, the Government is the servant, lest you forget.

I don’t know what to tell my sons now. I will still want them to serve their national service – this is their country and have obligations, but I don’t think I can answer the second question. They will have to figure it out for themselves.

It is probably useful to keep in mind that it is very likely that all of those in the current cabinet may not be in parliament when the island is chock-a-block in 2030. But because of their decisions made today, my sons and the children born in this century will be the ones hurting.

Release all the data – both for and against. Let’s use open source crowd sourcing techniques to reach a collective decision. Trust us to do the Right Thing for our country.

My country, right or wrong, if wrong to be set right and if right to be kept right.

Majulah Singapura!

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