Vote for strong leadership

I just concluded two weeks of reservist in-camp training. For me this was the mother of all reservists, mainly because it was our unit’s final combat assessment before we MR shortly.

In the course of training, you can hear many…many complaints:

“Why didn’t the stupid officer get things in order?”

“Why are they so messed up in their planning?”

“Why do we have such screwed up communications?”

…and the list goes on.

I think we are all skeptical with the decisions of our leaders. We like to tell them that they’re not “on the ground” and that they’re “not listening” to us. Well…guess what, we’re not “in the air” either seeing things from their perspective.

The officers are faced with combat scenarios that are ever changing. I don’t think for one second that they want to give us trouble for no reason at all and risk a mutiny.

Just yesterday also I had someone telling me about some “stupid policy” that made “no sense” at all and should be scrapped. When I asked him why, he said that it made him very busy and that he saw no reason why that piece of policy should be there.

I think when we accuse a leadership of stupidity, we have to consider several things first:

a.) Is this matter out of your area of experience?

b.) Are you complaining because a policy does not serve you?

c.) Do you have an aerial view of all the complexities and intricacies of the matter?

A leader knows that he is unable to appease and explain everything to everyone. It would be far easier to give in and give the people what they want. Those of you with children would know what I mean… isn’t it easier to just give you kid ice cream and sweets than to deal with their tantrums and hear them scold you to your face? But to do so would be very irresponsible for a parent.

The law makers don’t wake up from bed each morning thinking about how to make lives more difficult for Singaporeans. They know very well that if voters are upset with their policies they will get voted out. But if policies were so easy to pass, then what do we need them for?

Singapore needs intelligent solutions…and intelligent solutions are not always immediately apparent.

Let’s take for example the VIVA Foundation, spearheaded by Jennifer Leong (wife of George Yeo).

When they set up the VIVA Foundation to help children with leukaemia, the easiest thing to do is take the donations and redistribute it to the people who needed it. But that would be a very short sighted and ineffective solution. How many people can you help? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand?

“Viva means life. We want to save as many lives as possible,” said Jennifer in a media interview.

What the Viva Foundation did was to transfer the technology, knowledge and skills from St. Jude (the No.1 children’s cancer hospital in the States) to Singapore. Today, the cure rate for children’s cancer in Singapore has improved dramatically and millions of children’s lives now and in the future, all have a fighting chance to live.

Had the Viva Foundation merely just handed out money, we wouldn’t have seen the cures we see today.

It is the same thing with welfare. Instead of handing out money directly to the poor (which, don’t get me wrong isn’t a bad thing to do…or isn’t available), the Government invests this money into grants and subsidies to people who want to do businesses. When a man goes into business, chances are he has to hire – and then jobs are created. Isn’t that a more sustainable way of eradicating poverty?

We need strong leadership that sees what everyone cannot see, that has ideas that people do not have and has the mettle to execute programs that people on the ground may curse you for.

It is the same with National Service.

Back in 1965 when the National Service (Amendment) Bill was moved, street demonstrations and protests were staged to opposed the call-up. It was very, very unpopular.

The PAP knew that it was going to cost them votes – in a very bad way.

If we had weak leadership back then, we would not have been able to stand up to bigger bullies the last few decades. When Malaysia threatened to turn off our water supply, we recalled our soldiers and armed them to the teeth – our neighbour then learned once and for all not to mess with us like that.

As we go to the polling booths this Friday, have a think about leadership renewal. Have a think about the fresh blood we need to steer this country; the creative thinking, the knowledge, the skill, the diplomacy, the transparency and honesty and most of all, the political will to drive things to happen – regardless of voter sentiment.




  1. Well written Ben. I am Malaysian & looking & hearing
    Singaporeans consistent grumbling of lack of freedom & many other things, can these grumblers do better.

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