Minister of State (MOS) for National Development Desmond Lee attended the 7th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) today. The BDF, which was initiated by Indonesia in 2008, is an annual forum on the development of democracy in the Asia Pacific.
MOS Lee delivered a statement in line with this year’s theme, “Evolving Regional Democratic Architecture” during the General Debate. The text of MOS Lee’s statement is appended below.
MOS Lee also met with Indonesian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Dino Patti Djalal on the sidelines of the Forum. MOS and Dino reaffirmed the strong state of bilateral ties between Singapore and Indonesia. MOS reiterated Singapore’s desire to continue to work together with Indonesia in strengthening our cooperation in a range of diverse areas.
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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
10 OCTOBER 2014
STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF STATE FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MR DESMOND LEE AT THE SEVENTH BALI DEMOCRACY FORUM, 10-11 OCTOBER 2014
1 I am honoured to lead Singapore’s delegation to the seventh Bali Democracy Forum. Since its inception in 2008, this Forum has developed into a well-respected international platform for the sharing of views on democracy and governance. Under the stewardship of President Yudhoyono, the BDF has brought together nations of differing cultures and histories in a common setting where we can frankly share our respective ideas and experiences on democracy. This is a continuous learning process and Singapore is honoured to be among the growing list of countries which are represented at the BDF year after year. Continued international support for this Forum bears testimony to its relevance in this complex and challenging global environment.
2 Indonesia’s democratic experience continues to break new ground. President Yudhoyono’s administration oversaw the conduct of peaceful Parliamentary and Presidential elections this year. While emotions occasionally ran high both before and after the elections, all sides remained committed to following the due democratic and constitutional processes. President Yudhoyono has been instrumental in ensuring a peaceful transition of power to his successor. This will be Indonesia’s first transition from one directly elected President to the next. The successful handover sets an important precedent for future political leaders in Indonesia.
3 This year’s theme of “Evolving Regional Democratic Architecture” is a timely one. As the old adage goes, the only constant is change. Recent events in our region have demonstrated that the approach towards democracy and its practical implementation continues to weigh heavily on everyone’s minds. There remains an interesting and robust discussion on the evolution of democracy within countries in the region. New tools of communication, especially social media, have allowed much larger numbers of people to get involved in the dialogue on the future of our respective political systems.
4 The situation is no different in Singapore. Our political system was born out of our unique circumstances. We are a small city state, consisting of a population from diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions. These factors impose certain distinct challenges which we have to take into account when developing a political architecture that is most suited to Singapore’s needs. My colleagues have spoken about some of the unique features of the Singapore political system at previous editions of this Forum. These include the Group Representation Constituency which helps to safeguard minority interests and the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament and Nominated Member of Parliament Schemes which help to introduce a diversity of views during Parliamentary debates.
5 Singapore’s focus has been on developing a political system that delivers on good governance and improves people’s lives. A stable political system is built on the trust and confidence that people have in the system and its leaders delivering a better life for them and their families. In this regard, we have consistently sought to build up sound and effective institutions, whether in the judiciary, law enforcement or delivery of public services. We uphold the principle of meritocracy. Every Singaporean has an equal opportunity to fulfil his or her goals and is not judged on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender.
6 For a small country like Singapore, change and evolution has to be part of our DNA. We always have to be nimble and ready for change in order to be well-positioned for any opportunities that might come our way. Our political architecture is similarly structured. We do not cling to dogma or ideology. We judge our policies in a pragmatic fashion; there is no adherence to rigid political doctrine.
7 Our political and governance structures as well as processes have had to evolve in line with a changing demographic and socio-economic setting in Singapore. We have had to raise and diversify the level of engagement between the government and the people. We have retained our traditional Meet-the-People sessions, where residents can approach their elected representatives directly on a range of concerns such as financial and family difficulties, understanding relevant regulations and their dealings with various government departments.
8 However, with the ubiquitous use of social media and other modern tools of communications, the government has expanded the range of platforms to directly interact with and engage our citizens. Our government feedback channel REACH is now on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. We have had a series of open conversations with Singaporeans from all walks of life through “Our Singapore Conversation” dialogues.
9 We also recognise the fact that we have to cater to new and more diverse expectations of Singaporeans. With more opportunities to work, study and travel abroad, Singaporeans’ views of what constitutes success and quality of life have evolved considerably. We now endeavour for our policies to try to accommodate a range of such expectations, whether in the arts, music, environment or preservation of our natural and physical heritage.
10 While we have evolved our public engagement and policies, we have not forgotten our duty to those who have not been as successful in reaping the benefits of globalisation and technology. The government has a number of programmes in place to enable lower-skilled and less well-off Singaporeans to participate in life-long learning and skills-upgrading in order to improve their employability and adaptability in today’s workplace. We also provide a broad range of assistance measures to help lower income and disadvantaged Singaporeans cope with the cost of living and give their children the opportunity to develop their full potential and do better in life.
11 Our national policies, public engagement approach and our social assistance measures reaffirm the strong social compact in our political system. We endeavour to preserve the faith and confidence that Singaporeans have in our system, as one that allows them to bring up their families in a safe and secure environment and which helps them fulfil their goals and aspirations.
12 Let me end by once again thanking our hosts, Indonesia, for organising this Forum. As the world becomes a more interconnected place, active dialogue and the sharing of democratic best practices among countries is increasingly crucial. While the political system in every country will need to evolve in its own right, we will all benefit from sharing our experiences. I am confident that this Forum will continue to be an effective medium for this shared objective. Thank you.
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