Active citizens, civil society and Govt can be 'strong partners'

Active citizens, civil society and Govt can be 'strong partners'
A cyclist on Pulau Ubin. A website to update Singaporeans on plans for the island, and to get their views on its redevelopment, is just one instance among many of how an active citizenry has worked alongside the Government, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

Civil society, active citizens and the Government can work together as "strong partners" to build a better Singapore as long as all parties are open-minded, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee yesterday.

He gave as an example the project to enhance and protect Pulau Ubin that he spearheads.

Yesterday, a website was launched to update Singaporeans on plans for the island, and also to get their views on how it should be redeveloped, he said.

This is just one instance among many of how an active citizenry has worked alongside the Government, he added.

Mr Lee's speech in Parliament follows calls by Nominated Members of Parliament Laurence Lien and Faizah Jamal for the Government to welcome and encourage the contributions of civil society, even "if they have a few sharp edges".

Mr Lee said civil society, when it had good proposals and was "mindful of the sensitivities and dynamics across broader society", had effected change in tandem with the Government.

While both sides could disagree, they can still work together to find win-win outcomes, he added.

The key, he said, was for both parties to keep an open mind and to remain civil.

This cooperation, though, does not preclude any party pushing its points of view robustly and passionately, Mr Lee said.

However, he cautioned that people should not listen only to those who are like-minded as it will result in an echo chamber effect, and eventually cause gridlock.

In such situations, even when a decision is made, the result is "more likely to be sub-optimal compromises rather than genuine win-win outcomes".

Mr Lee also argued that when common ground is found, there should not be the perception that "everyone falls in line or the people are compliant".

Acknowledging that the Government "doesn't have a monopoly on all knowledge", he said its decision-making can "benefit greatly from wide and inclusive consultation on many fronts".

"As a whole, we are feeling our way forward as society develops and matures to find the right balance for constructive debate and inclusive decision- making."

yuenc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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