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SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO AT THE BALI

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SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO AT THE BALI Powered By Docstoc
					SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO AT THE BALI DEMOCRACY FORUM ON 10 DECEMBER IN BALI Mr. Chairman the Honorable Prime Minister Kevin Rudd His Excellency Bapak President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono His Majesty Sultan Haji Hasanal Bolkiah His Excellency Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao His Excellency Bapak Hassan Wirajuda Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen Democracy as a Means towards Good Governance 1. We need good governance at all levels. To overcome the current global financial crisis which is threatening to become a global economic crisis, we need good global governance. The institution established at Bretton Woods after the end of he second world war are not well suited to the realities of a 21st century multi-polar reality. At the national level, many governments in the world are not functioning properly. Large numbers of their citizens are forced by economic hardship to migrate to other countries in search of a better live hood. In countless villages around the world, far away from the influence of central authorities, there is oppression and justice. 2. In a sense, the struggle for good governance is the sorry of mankind. Unlike animals like apes and chimpanzees, our social structures are only partly hard-wired in our DNA. We are a species that can organize ourselves in almost limitless ways depending on our history and the challenges we face. We do this through culture and institutions. The human beings living today are not much different genetically from the human being living, let us say, two hundred years ago. But our social organizations have become much more complex. In two thousand years time, provided we have not destroyed ourselves, we would have developed vastly different social systems to colonize space. 3. Against the sweep of history, democracy represented a major advance in human organization. It has never been the only way to organize human society. Even in Greece where it first flowered, it was a fragile innovation which did not last. Conditions only became ripe many countries later in Western Europe for democracy to strike deep root and spread. In some ways, we can see the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War as contests between the democratic idea and autocracy of one kind or another. It was principally a struggle within Western society but itself effects quickly influenced the rest of the world. In china, Sun Yat Sen established the Xingzhonghui (“Revive China Society”). In Indonesia, the Budi Utomo organization was formed. It eventually led to the end of empires and the establishment of new nation-states. 4. Democracy is therefore a broad current in human history. It takes different forms, often in competition with one another. It is a means to achieve better governance, never an end in itself. What is important is to put human beings living in communities

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at the heart of everything we try to do. The word „demos‟ referring to people has as its specific context people living n community. We associate counting votes with democracy but there are so many ways to structure a voting system which can lead to very different outcomes. The key is good governance. Democracy should always be structured to facilitate good governance, never to make it harder. Here, I am making a case for a pragmatic view of democracy instead of an ideological view. DEMOCRACY WITH SINGAPORE CHARACTERISTICS 5. Singapore‟s democracy is a work in progress. We inherited laws and institutions from the British which we have adapted to our own circumstances. Being a small citystate with no natural resources except people and a good geographical location, we have to be pragmatic. We can only make a decent living if we provide a service to others and if the neighborhood where we live in peace. We are not dealing with abstractions. Broadly speaking, Singapore democracy serves three objectives. 6. First, the rule of law. Good Governance requires the rule of law. Without proper laws defining the limits of freedom, there can be no freedom. Without good laws protecting property rights, investments will not be made and long term development will be affected. Having good laws on the statue books is not enough. Laws must be implemented and enforced fairly and consistently in a transparent way or they risk becoming dead letters or, worse, instruments of oppression. There must therefore be some separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Corruption is always a problem that has to be combated. 7. Second, a balance must be struck between the short term and the long term, and between the interest of the individual and the interest of the community. Electoral politics put pressure on governments to respond quickly to the needs of voters. Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen pointed out that famines in India have become a phenomenon of the colonial past because Indian politician today know they would be thrown out of office if they did not respond quickly to food shortage. All this is good but the problem with electoral politics is that the time horizon of political leaders shortens and pandering to the demands of special interest groups may be unavoidable. Larger and longer term considerations are often set aside as politician concentrate on winning the next elections. It is worth remembering that the word „demagoguery‟ has the same root word as the word „democracy‟. There is always a strong temptation to be populist, to borrow from the future, because the future has no votes, instead of investing in it. The mass media can either moderate or accentuate this dynamic. Without clear rules, newspapers and TV stations can be forced by competitive pressure to outdo each other in sensationalism. The result is more heat than light. In Singapore, we require newspapers and TV stations to report accurately. As opinion multipliers, it is important that what they multiply is accurate and not distorted. There is also the New Media should be managed as it is two-edged. When all is said and done, democratic systems which create a good balance between the short term and the long term, and between the individual and the community, will be better able to achieve economic growth and security. 8. Third, we must protect the rights of minority groups. No country on earth is homogeneous. Unless special provisions are made, majority rule can lead to the systematic marginalization of ethnic, religious and other groups. Without well-

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constructed rules, one-man-one-vote can be oppressive to them. Singapore being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, we are very sensitive to the protection of minority rights. For example, Muslim Singaporeans can resort to Shariah laws for family matters. Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice, we put curbs on proselytization. It is an endless balancing act-Punjabi Sikhs riding motorcycles in Singapore are allowed to wear turbans instead of crash helmets but Muslim girls in secular schools are not allowed to wear headscarves which are not part of the school uniform. In order to ensure full representation of ethnic minorities in our Parliament, multi-member constituencies have been created which require political parties contesting them to field slates of candidates with minimum number of minority candidates. 9. By taking a pragmatic approach, Singapore‟s democratic system tries to meet these three objectives of ensuring the rule of law; striking a balance between the short term and the long term, and between the individual and the community; protecting the rights of minority groups. However, as the global environment changes, as technology changes, our system has to evolve in tandem. For example, with the growing number of Singaporeans living overseas, we have had to find ways to enfranchise some of them. Maintaining a sense of belonging to a larger Singapore community is essential. Without voters feeling a sense of commitment to one another, a democratic system cannot work well. Democracy breaks down when rights are not balanced by obligations. Global Democracy 10. In the community of nations, we subscribe to the general principle of democracy but with important variations. Nations are considered equal even though we know they are not. In the United Nations and the WTO, every member has one vote, and small countries with populations of less than ten million are in the majority, which is good for small countries like Singapore. But size and power do matter. The five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council were the victorious powers after the Second World War and the proposal to increase the number of Permanent Members is the subject of endless dispute. When President Bush recently called a meeting to discuss a new global financial architecture, only leaders of the G20 countries were invited. This is the reality of the world. 11. As with democracy within each country, it is better that we take a pragmatic approach to democracy among community of nations. We cannot act on the basis of abstract principles. Imagine the whole world voting for the UN Secretary General on the basis of one-human being one-vote. Even if it could be practically done, such a procedure would never be accepted by many countries. 12. We are more likely to improve global governance by making adjustments which are realistic and incremental. Reforming the N is doable if we don‟t try to be too ambitious. Creating a new global financial architecture in the world is best done by renovating existing institutions in a way which acknowledges the new multi -polar reality. Making progress on the Doha Development Agenda is possible if the key protagonist make compromises which respect each other‟s political needs. Putting together a post- Kyotu agreement on climate change requires the US, China, India and others to buy in, but not at too high a political price. None of this is easily

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accomplished but the alternative of failing will have disastrous consequences for all of us. ASEAN‟s Role 13. Here in Southeast Asia, we should do all we can to stabilize our own environment regardless of what we are able or not able to achieve globally. After 40 years, ASEAN has done remarkably well preserving the peace in creating a common economic space despite the diversity of cultures, political system and per capita incomes. We are improving regional governance through the adoption of the ASEAN Charter which will begin its implementation next week when the foreign Ministers meet in Jakarta. Although there is still no agreement on details, we have agreed that ASEAN should establish the human rights body. Procedures for dispute settlement are being progressed, with those for trade disputes already in place. We are systematically enlarging our circle of friends to include countries around both the Pacific and Indians oceans. We work with them to create a larger architecture of peace in the Asia Pacific. Whether the agenda is UN reform, international finance, WTO or climate change, we in ASEAN will play our part. 14. Indonesia‟s leadership is indispensable in ASEAN. By respecting the equality of nations in Southeast Asia, President Soeharto greatly enhanced our regional resilience. At critical moments, Indonesia‟s leadership has proved decisive in advancing the ASEAN agenda. When I visited Pak Ali Alatas in hospital last week, we recalled how President Soeharto‟s decision made possible the launch of APEC in 1989. It was under his leadership that APEC established the Bogor Goals in 1994. In October 2003, the goal of an ASEAN Community was agreed to under Indonesia‟s chairmanship here in Bali which is a subject of abiding interest to all of us in ASEAN. Ten years ago, no objective observer of Indonesia could reasonably expect the country to make so much progress in establishing democratic constitutional rule with a high degree of devolution, giving independence to Timor Leste and negotiating a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Aceh. 15. We are realistic enough in ASEAN to know that we cannot do much to change the world. But we can play a positive role in improving governance in own region. To do this, we have to draw on the democratic idea, always putting human beings as the centers of our concerns. 16. Thank You.

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