ESM Goh to S’poreans: What kind of politics do you want?

Faris Mokhtar

Confrontational or constructive?

Pragmatic or populist?

Those were the "hard choices" facing Singaporeans in deciding the kind of politics they want, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during a National Day dinner at Marine Parade on Saturday.

Expressing concern about the "whipping up of resentment" by those opposed to the Government during the May General Election, he asked if Singaporeans would choose "constructive politics" or "confrontational and divisive politics based on stoking envy and resentment".

In his first major speech since the May elections, Mr Goh also said that with the country being in transition, the new and younger team of leaders together with the people will have to decide what their goals are for Singapore, and how to achieve them.

They will have to make "hard choices" to solve problems within the economic, social and political spheres, reported Channel NewsAsia.

Referring to the growing number of Singaporeans voicing out their views on various issues, especially online, he added that those born after independence will increasingly decide Singapore's political future.

"Singaporeans generally, not just the young, now want to have more say in their future and have their diverse interests reflected in a pluralistic parliament," he said.

"It is much easier to agitate and criticise than to come up with alternative, sound policies that will solve problems for the majority. Will Singaporeans choose constructive politics and debate policies rationally in the future, or choose confrontational and divisive politics based on stoking envy and resentment?"

They must also choose between pragmatic and populist politics, said Mr Goh.

In pragmatic politics, Singaporeans will accept measures with short-term pain but long-term gain.

"In populist politics, they want immediate gratification and ignore the long-term costs. Which way will Singapore politics go?" he asked.

Turning his attention to Presidential Elections later this month, the former Prime Minister urged voters to scrutinize all four presidential hopefuls, "especially their character, integrity, experience, bearing and gravitas".

"In particular, we should ask whether they can deliver their promises under the Constitution," he was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

As deputy prime minister, Mr Goh was involved in conceptualizing the elected presidency in the 1980s.

Saying that he knows the candidates well after having worked with all four of them before, he added that he wants the presidential office to be occupied by the best person who can rise above partisan politics and strengthen Singapore's governance framework.