Jamus Lim goes to Stanford: may he pave the way for the opposition

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Jamus Lim’s three-week sabbatical at Stanford University in California has a number of positives, including the fact that Singapore politics are maturing. But first, it gives me the opportunity to talk about another way of taking a sabbatical in 1968 that had some impact on Singapore’s relationship with the United States.

At the age of 45 and having already served nearly a decade as Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew landed at Harvard University in 1968 for a three-month internship as a member of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government. The Harvard Crimson Lee reported saying, “I’m here to rest, to rethink, to reformulate policies, to have new ideas, to meet stimulating minds, to come away enriched with a new burst of enthusiasm for what I do”, he said. -he declares. “I intend to study all the things I’ve done ad hoc without the proper tutoring over the past 10 years.

“He indicated that he plans to spend most of his time here talking to professors, particularly about economics, history, political science, sociology and anthropology – ‘the things that will allow me to meet issues, doctrines and theories that will be our issues in the years to come. ”

The rest was history. He benefited from the experience and the exposure. Relations between Singapore and the United States have been good so far, with occasional hiccups. Tellingly, Harvard University subsequently became almost a go-to place to find ‘new ideas’ for many of Singapore’s great leaders, including Lee Hsien Loong, the current Prime Minister, and Lawrence Wong, the next future Prime Minister.

The three-month Harvard for LKY could have been shorter.

In 1980, I was myself in the United States for a one-and-a-half-month US government visitor program that took me to, among other places, the Rand Corporation, a think tank, in Santa Monica, in California. At a lunch hosted by a Rand manager, he said to me, “Your PM nearly ruined my career. I was asked to draw up a month and a half program for him. Rand is just a research center. A week, yes. A month and a half, difficult to do. He would be bored. Fortunately, my boss came back to tell me that Lee Kuan Yew was only coming to Rand for a few days because he had decided to spend more time at Harvard. What a relief!”

I discovered later in my career that LKY made full use of the expertise of its overseas contacts to help solve many of Singapore’s problems.

Likewise, Jamus Lim would likely take the same path.

The time of the straits reported:

“Professor Lim will be in California, where he participates in the annual Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program, which began in 2005, at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law.

“According to the school’s website, this is a three-week training program for global democratic leaders in leadership positions in their respective fields such as business, government, or the nonprofit sector. lucrative.”

I see all of this as a win-win development for Singapore politics.

Jamus Lim will return to Parliament after his sabbatical with broader perspectives useful for better debates.

His sabbatical is possible because the opposition is not so small and weak today. The Workers’ Party has enough active former MPs like Low Thia Khiang and Png Eng Huat to cover Lim’s work in the district.

Young Singaporeans who believe we need a more balanced political system will be encouraged. Young opposition politicians will have as many opportunities for personal development – ​​under the national mantra of lifelong learning – as anyone.

Don’t let Jamus Lim going on a three-week sabbatical be a rarity. This should be a welcome norm for all our young politicians.

Politics is about progress, new thinking and new ideas – not being stuck in groupthink or a frog pit.

Tan Bah Bah, Consulting Editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior editor of the Straits Times. He was also the editor of a magazine publishing company.

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