PAP leadership renewal doesn't produce true leaders, renews nothing: SDP's Chee Soon Juan

SDP Chairman Paul Tambyah said there should be open discussion in public instead of "opaque discussions" behind closed doors.

Sulaiman Daud | April 15, 2021, 06:08 PM

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) weighed in on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's decision to effectively take himself out of the running to be the next Prime Minister.

Speaking to Mothership, SDP Chairman Paul Ananth Tambyah wished Heng "all the very best for his future."

However, Tambyah, a doctor and Professor of Medicine at NUS, said the whole episode called into question the "lack of transparency" in the way Singaporeans are allowed to choose their leaders.

He added:

"Ideally, with an educated electorate like we have in Singapore, there should be an independent electoral commission, open discussion by all stakeholders in public about the issues that concern Singaporeans with each candidate sharing their visions for our country rather than opaque discussions behind closed doors."

Singapore has a Westminster form of government where the leader of the political party that secures the majority of seats in Parliament after the General Election (GE) will be asked by the President to become the PM.

Chee Soon Juan on PAP's "highly-engineered" method of finding a new leader

Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the SDP, also commented on the development via a Facebook post on April 12, saying he had been "asked repeatedly" about his party's leadership renewal programme.

"The allusion is that since the PAP has had succession plans, other political parties ought to have one too," he said. Chee became acting Secretary-General of the party in 1993, and was elected to the position in 1995.

However, Chee said there was a "problem" with such thinking, and remarked:

"The PAP’s highly engineered method of finding a new leader reminds one of clunky political systems that are better suited to old world politics where the staid and uninspired take centre stage."

Chee drew a comparison to the Soviet Union, where leadership was handed over from one successor to another, which "produced leaders whose political thought were as different as shades of grey."

He added that such planned transfers of power were "antithetical to democratic systems" as leaders should emerge through suasion from the rightness of their cause, instead of being anointed by their predecessors.

Chee cited a number of examples of leaders who were doing well after being elected, such as New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, saying that vision and capability "trump gender, race and age."

However, in Chee's view, the potential successors to Heng as the PM-in-waiting have "precious little to choose" among them in terms of worldview, and claimed their vision for the country is "wrung from decades of withering groupthink."

He concluded that the SDP is not sold on PAP-style leadership renewal process as it does not produce "true leaders and certainly renews nothing."

Top image from SDP's Facebook page.