President: Debate welcome but beware divisive politics

President: Debate welcome but beware divisive politics

A warning bell about divisive politics was sounded in Parliament yesterday, with President Tony Tan Keng Yam urging Singaporeans to debate with vigour but not at the expense of Singapore's well-being.

Conflicting views and robust debate are welcome but when they divide people, the fallout would weaken the country, Dr Tan said.

His red alert came amid the picture he sketched of a brighter future for Singapore that includes stronger social safety nets for the elderly and vulnerable, and an education system that will give people more than one shot at success.

"To achieve all these ambitious goals, it is crucial to maintain constructive politics that puts our nation and our people first," he said.

While Dr Tan acknowledged that politics thrives on robust debate, he also pointed out that heated arguments have their shortcomings.

"In many countries, the hurly-burly of politics has resulted in short-term populist measures, and sometimes gridlock and paralysis," he said.

Dr Tan encouraged everyone to join in the discussion, scrutinising policies and speaking up to secure "the best ideas and best leadership for Singapore".

Sometimes the debates stir great passion but after policies are formulated and Bills passed, differences must be put aside for Singapore to move forward as a nation.

"All sides must take a long-term perspective for the common good. And once the debate is settled, we must come together again, to move ahead as one united people."

This article was published on May 17 in The Straits Times.

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