Those were the days, not too long ago, when politicians were naïve, just a figure of speech. They were young and highly charged, with bellies full of fire, to serve the people and the country. That was a time when the country was ruled by foreigners, the colonial masters. To these young intellects, the first question that bumped into their heads was why should the country be run by foreigners who were no better than them. Probably they also believed that they could do better for country and people when they were in charge.
That kind of idealistic thinking set a trend that changed the course of our history. Young and eager men and women fought to take back this country, to run it for the betterment of its own people. When they succeeded, the locals took charge of all the major ministries and institutions, to manage them for the good of the locals, not for the Queen of England. And with the locals thinking locals, and when the political leaders were thinking of bettering the lives of the people, things changed dramatically. It was local politicians and people serving local people, for the interest and good of the people.
Has anything changed? The politicians have all changed except for one. But everything else has changed. Oh, they are still saying that they are serving the people and the people’s interests. This has not changed. But the substance has. While the first generation of leaders replaced the foreigners with locals, we are seeing more foreigners replacing the locals. Don’t be conned by the term ‘new citizens’. And as for serving the people, this is relative depending on how one views it.
There used to be the govt providing facilities, building facilities, including housing and transportation, ahead of the people’s needs, and waiting for the people to benefit from them. The people needed housing, and houses were built. Schools, hospitals, transportation, jobs, industries, were waiting for the people. Today, the people have to queue up, to wait for these services and facilities. They don’t build public housing to wait for the people. The people wait for the housings to be built. The people wait for schools for their children, wait for hospital spaces and medical services, transportations etc etc.
Jobs then were localized, decolonized. Today we are seeing a new kind of colonization in jobs. Foreigners are taking over the juicy and plum jobs all over again. And this is good, progress of a different kind. Foreigners changed shirt and become instant citizens to take over jobs from Singaporeans. From displacing foreigners we are replacing locals with foreigners/new citizens.
It is scary when a politician stands out and proclaims that he is in politics to serve the people and country. Scary indeed. The naïve politicians of the past were admirable, respectable and sincere in what they said and did. There were some honesty in their ethics, ambitions and idealism for being politicians.
Today they are pragmatic and honest. No more young and idealistic. They may even say if I am not pay so much, don’t call me. And they will delay the opening of an MRT station because there is not enough load, not profitable, not justifiable. They will build public housings, but you wait for another few years for them to be built. They cannot afford to build and wait for the people. Hospitals, transportations, public services, must be justified in terms of profits before they are built. There are exceptions of course, like public parks which were built together with public housing.
With some exceptions here and there, the ethos for public service is never the same again.