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Freedom: The Price of Good Governance

19 September 2011 No Comment

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Everything in this world has a price. We pay for our food and goods with currency and the price of love is time and sacrifice. Have you ever thought about freedom having a price-tag, too?

von Nur Diyanah Mohd Azmi

Tiny, modern Singapore. This economic powerhouse is known for mainly three things: clean streets, the chewing gum ban and Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew is the first Prime Minister of Singapore, who has ruled the country with an iron fist from 1965 to 1990. Lee Kuan Yew and his political party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), have brought stability to the country – both economically and socially. For a country with virtually no resources, except for its people, Singapore experienced unprecedented economic growth for a country despite its age and size. Such progress is highly enviable and the citizens of Singapore are thankful to the government for it.

More or less satisfied
First and foremost, Singapore is multi-racial. Besides the Chinese majority of the Singaporeans, the other races include Malays, Indians and the Eurasians. Despite this diversity, they are all considered Singaporeans and they are all entitled to the same rights. The government has put in place several measures to ensure that these races co-exist together in harmony. For instance, all religious holidays are recognised and all the main languages of each racial group – English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil – are acknowledged. For decades, Singaporeans are more or less contented with their lives. The meritocratic system that the government implemented ensures that there are equal opportunities for all regardless of race or income group. The public housing policy put in place by the government strives to ensure that no Singaporean is left homeless. In addition to having a roof over their heads, they have a stable job to feed their families and sufficient material comforts that altogether satisfy them. This is good governance.

Freedom as a relative term
However, does good governance come with a certain price tag? Have Singaporeans unknowingly been paying for their material comforts with freedom? Freedom remains a taboo topic in Singapore, despite it being 2011. State education has moulded the minds of Singaporeans to not question the authority of the Singapore government. The older generation of Singaporeans chose not to question for two very simple reasons: they are afraid and they are more or less contented with what they have – they see the government as responsible for the lives that they lead. After all, the country experiences economic growth year after year, their children receive first-class education and the streets are safe.
On the other hand, the youths of my generation have begun voicing their thoughts aloud. The younger generation, being highly educated, are exposed to different ideologies and governing styles. This makes them question certain strict regulations imposed on the Singapore citizens by the government. One issue of concern is the restriction on the freedom of speech. Singaporeans are not allowed to carry out protests or demonstrations unless it is at Hong Lim Park – dubbed “Speaker‘s Corner” – a venue specifically allocated by the government. In addition, the media in the country, although not run by the state, is heavily regulated by it. There is hardly any form of criticism against the government found in our papers or television news. The censorship is tight and political satire in Singapore is rare and strictly controlled. This of course poses a problem. If a government were to have so much power and control over its citizens, who keeps them in check from abusing their power? Is relying on the government for everything really good for the nation socially and politically? The politically matured would of course agree that reliance on the government is not good for democratic growth. However, is democratic growth more important than economic growth?  The general consensus of Singaporeans: We are more concerned with maintaining our lifestyle. Therefore, we accept such restrictions. It seems that the citizens of this country pay for governance with the currency of freedom.

Nur Diyanah Mohd Azmi (20) studiert an der Nanyang Technological University in Singapur. Im Jahr 2008 nahm sie in Deutschland an einem vierwöchigen Austausch teil.

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