Sunday, May 15, 2011

Departure of SM Goh and MM Lee -- a hugely symbolic move

Yesterday night, Senior Minister (SM) Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew, in a joint statement, announced that they will be resigning from Cabinet. According to the statement, they have decided to do so in order to allow Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien and his team of younger ministers to have a "fresh clean slate" and "to connect to and engage with this young generation in shaping the future of our Singapore".

My assessment of this decision by SM Goh and MM Lee to leave the Cabinet, should it be accepted by PM Lee, is that it is a hugely symbolic move.

Evidently, the decision by SM Goh and MM Lee to leave the Cabinet is a significant signal that a new epoch in Singapore politics is upon us. A new epoch in which PM Lee and his team will be seen as truly being totally and independently in charge. Speculation that these two former PMs remain as the "power behind the throne" will perhaps decrease in significance in the future.

However, at the same time, it is also perhaps evident that in view of their stature as elder statesmen and their force of personality (perhaps especially so for MM Lee), SM Goh and MM Lee will, despite no longer having official influence after they vacate their Cabinet positions, still retain considerable informal influence.

Also, while clearly significant, the departure of SM Goh and MM Lee from Cabinet will be a mere symbolic gesture, albeit a huge one, if it is not followed up by other changes. If, after the departure of these two elder statesmen, there are no real changes to the style and substance to the governance of Singapore and public policies under the PAP government, the departure of these two elder statesmen will amount to nothing.

But, judging from the post-GE 2011 statements made by members of the PAP government so far, the optimist in me am inclined to think that there will be more changes coming soon.

But, for now, the departure of SM Goh and MM Lee from Cabinet will, in the absence of other changes, remain a symbolic move, albeit a hugely significant one.

1 comment:

di said...

Sorry, no hallelujah from me.

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