Mothership Q&A: A glimpse of author-consultant Devadas Krishnadas

Author-consultant Devadas Krishnadas sheds light on why he did not write about Goh Chok Tong at all.

Belmont Lay |Martino Tan | March 7, 2014 @ 06:57 am

A former civil servant, Devadas Krishnadas was with the Singapore Police Force before joining the Ministry of Home Affairs and then moving on to the Ministry of Finance, among other ministries.

This means he has seen the inner workings of Singapore — the dark and dank recesses the wonks and what-have-yous congregate — that the rest of you are never going to be privy to.

But that doesn’t mean he discloses everything in his latest book, Sensing Singapore, a collection of commentaries on Singapore that were previously published in various media platforms.

Now a consultant and managing director in Future-Moves, Mothership.sg prods him with a barge pole to see what else we can get out of him.


1. In your book, you said that your writing was prompted by the desire to “investigate a more constructive path forward” for Singapore? Do you think things have changed since the last elections in 2011?

Certainly things have changed since the general and presidential elections in 2011. Both elections demonstrated the power of electoral politics to shift political direction and shape political behaviour.

The ruling party has become much more communicative and its members noticeably more humble and involved in their community work.

Major policy blocks –- from healthcare, education and population management — have been subject to review and change. Previously, ideological positions, such as on high ministerial pay have also been revisited. I hope that my public writing helps to support and promote this constructive and positive advancement of political and policy change.


2. You are considered by many to be a public intellectual. Will you join politics and run for office?

I think all Singaporeans should have a political consciousness but not everyone need be politically active. In my case, my ego is not big enough to think people would vote for me! I think my small contribution to the public discourse through my public writing marks the limit of participation.


3. In your essay, “Doing the Right Thing”, you mentioned that today’s elderly deserve to be singled out for special attention as they were part of the pionneer generation that laid the foundation of today’s success. How has your commentary contributed to the government’s Pioneer Generation Package in Budget 2014?

My advocacy for a pioneer generation package came in March 2013, some five months before the Prime Minister made the announcement at the 2013 National Day Rally. I have no idea though if it had any role in initiating or promoting the idea in policy or political circles. I have realised that to be successful in public advocacy one has to take one’s ego out of the equation.

If the commentary did help push the idea along in policy circles, great, if it did not, so be it. I think it was still useful in helping Singaporeans think about this important initiative of collective conscience.


4. You asked Nicole Seah, a young, promising female politician to write the foreword for your book. Why didn’t you ask Tin Pei Ling to write one then?

Now that would have been something! But more seriously, I felt that Nicole’s contribution, when placed alongside the foreword by Minister Shanmugam, would help position the book as balanced and not politically aligned to any one margin. Both she and Minister were gracious enough to say nice things about the book and the author for which I am deeply grateful to both.


5. As an author, do you have a target audience in mind when you wrote your book?

Yes, my primary target audience are Singaporeans and the secondary audience are people interested in the present and future course of Singapore. I noticed that there was a wide gap between the jargon filled and lengthy government releases and speeches and the brief and short-hand social media information pathways such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I wanted to bring back the art of the essay to give clarity to contrasting ideas, make sense of complex policy issues and to put forward clearly worded proposals. In doing so, I hoped at a minimum to play a public education role and at best, to have prompted readers to develop their own positions on the important issues of our time.


6. In your book, you mentioned Lee Kuan Yew seven times, Lee Hsien Loong five times and zero times for Goh Chok Tong. Why?

It certainly was not something planned! To redress this imbalance is motive for me to write a few more commentaries. Mr Goh’s fourteen years as Prime Minister definitely deserves more attention.




Mothership.sg is giving away three copies of Sensing Singapore, autographed by Devadas. First three readers to share this article on Facebook wins. Email us at [email protected] or send us a FB private message with your personal particulars (name and mailing address). Winners will receive the book by post.


Read Devadas’ earlier columns for Mothership.sg.

The necessary role of the public intellectual in S’pore

An Extraordinary Life: Lee Kuan Yew

Beyond the National Day Rally: Three shifts in our Political Future

Why Singaporeans need good news

Give your better self a try


Find Mothership.SG on Facebook and Twitter.

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