Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are and have been enduring dictatorships, many very brutal, but yet manage to remain for decades.
Take the case of North Korea. Unless something extraordinary and completely out of the blue happens, the dictatorship, as brutal as it is, can be expected to merrily go on for some considerable time.
It has the necessary elements to enable this. It has 24 million people, its borders are closed, it is not possible to obtain passports, the language is Korean and not English, the Internet is completely closed, the people believe the state propaganda that theirs is the best country in the world and the slightest criticism of their leaders would lead to arrest torture and even death.
Singapore is not North Korea. It does not have the structures in place to keep its citizens silenced and helpless, because they are not. Consider Singapore's circumstances. It has a mere 1.5 million local born citizens. The remaining vast majority are foreigners. It has the English language, its border's are open and anyone desiring a passport can get one. English makes the people mobile and facilitates emigration. Internet unlike North Korea is not banned enabling its people to know exactly what is happening around the world. It is not possible for Lee Kuan Yew's son to tell his people that they have the best country in the world, because it is simply not, and they know it.
Under these circumstances, it is not possible to govern a country like Singapore with brute force alone as can be done in North Korea. For a country like Singapore, the governors can only govern with the support of the people. Once that support collapses the dictatorship falls.
In 1959, when Lee Kuan Yew first got Singapore a plan was devised to dismantle civil society for the sake of economic advancement. At that time, it obviously worked. After all, then people needed jobs, not democracy. As long as they had something to eat, they were content.
But circumstances are no longer like that now. They are better educated. Many are well travelled, more sophisticated. They are no longer the sort of people who would be content as long as they had something to eat.
But the problem for Lee Kuan Yew and his son's government is that while Singaporeans have changed, the government has not. Even in this sophisticated society, free speech is illegal, there are no free and independent newspapers, assembly is illegal, protests are illegal, there is no rule of law, the judges are Kangaroos, and government supporters are rewarded while critics are persecuted. And the people are bitterly aware of their slavish lives. In fact it would not be incorrect to say that the entire population have no respect for their leaders whom they consider nothing but dishonest opportunists looking for their own pockets, not the peoples welfare. Every one of these leaders corruptly receive as salaries several millions dollars each year.
Since open revolt would result in arrest and imprisonment, the people do not resort to this. Instead they vote with their feet. Singapore has the highest brain drain in the world. It is bad enough for any country to lose their best and brightest but it is fatal for a island this size with a local population of just 1.5 million!
Another manifestation of their anger at their government is the almost zero fertility rate, the lowest in the world. And to make things worse, they have a large senior citizen population which is dying off in increasing numbers. One look at the Internet shows how bad the situation is for this government. It is impossible to find a single piece of writing from Singaporeans supportive of their government. The huge numbers of foreign companies there who primarily employ foreigners may be happy but it does no good for the locals. The foreigners aren't interested in human rights. All they want is a buck, dictator or no dictator.
There are numerous reports of the island's very low productivity rate, which should not be surprising. An unhappy population and an unhappy workforce, never gave their best. The idea is do the least for the buck for these dictators who pay themselves millions while they get nothing. Why should they work hard for a government such as this, they ask.
I think it will all unravel when 91 year old Lee Kuan Yew dies. Although he is senile and bed ridden and useless, his very presence in the island gives legitimacy to his son, whom he made Prime Minister. Upon his death the sons legitimacy no longer exists.
Despite the state controlled newspapers publishing daily both the real and imaginary exploits of the son, as far as the people are concerned, he is simply the son of Lee Kuan Yew and nothing more.
His education, his meteoric rise in the army within perhaps 5 years to general, his winning elections and promptly made Deputy Prime Minister, then Minister means nothing to the people. He is simply not a leader. Were it not for his father, he would probably now be quietly working at the Bank of China along Battery Street, pushing a pen and looking at invoices.
I think there will be a power struggle when the 91 year old dictator dies. The son would probably be kicked out. Whoever else claims the seat is not going to be respected by Singaporeans since there are no leaders in Singapore, merely scholarship students who passed exams and then given jobs as Ministers at top salaries to do Lee's bidding. None of these characters would have the dedication, daring, courage and loyalty to run the risk of politics, especially under these uncertain circumstances. In all probability they would probably pack up and leave the country.
There are no Fidel Castros, Che Guevaras, Martin Luther Kings or Gandhis in that island. Their so called leaders would probably shiver and shudder in fear, even if it was just thunder and lightning.
I don't see much hope out there. This one man one party dictatorship style does not work in a society like this. Despite all his claim for great wisdom and foresight, Lee Kuan Yew failed to realize that in a society with greater sophistication and ability, it is not possible to run the country like they did in 1959. But it doesn't seem they are going to change anytime soon. And that would be their undoing.
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Tel: 510 491 8525