Friday, March 31, 2006

The pinnacle can be precarious

Our objective is to win and serve the needs of our customers. If our competition is unable to catch up with us, I'm not going to apologise for that. I don't think that the party needs to make apologies for the fact that the Opposition is weak.

So said the new PAP candidate for the coming General Election, Ms Jessica Tan, General Manager of Operations at Microsoft Singapore, in an interview with Today (31 March 2006). Well, good for you, Ms Tan, but I would be more impressed with your convictions if you had not been from Microsoft and the PAP - organisations that bestows a feeling of strength and superiority. To refresh your memories, Microsoft and the PAP were built-up from positions of weakness many many years ago. By the same token, political parties that are weak today can become strong tomorrow.

Microsoft had to outwit and out-compete the IBM behemoth, which really started the PC revolution with its IBM PC. Two young man started Microsoft in a garage they did not even own.

By Mr Lee Kuan Yew's own admission, PAP's strength was not apparent in the beginning, its survival not guaranteed. He wrote about the PAP in 1955:

The PAP organisation was weak, almost non-existent: no paid staff, branches or grassroots leaders. For canvassing and help at election rallies, we could call upon the unions and Chinese middle school students. But once our campaign started, our candidates went their separate ways. Lee Kuan Yew in The Singapore Story - Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, p182

Precarious PinnacleMr Lee has also written of how the PAP could have been sunk by the communist, so fierce was the struggle in those early years. His PAP eventually prevailed and the rest, as they say, is history. Ms Tan is a beneficiary of that legacy today.

So I thought it a bit presumptious for Ms Tan to claim a position of strength on someone else's hard work. I think every PAP candidate must be more humble and circumspect. Treat your opponent and the voters with the greatest of respect because the democratic process can be so fickle sometimes - as Mr Lee himself has acknowledged in the past. Success in business, in academia or in the material trappings of life does not automatically lead to success at the polls. Why do you think GRCs were invented? There is safety in numbers, is there not?

The view from atop the pinnacle on the edge of a cliff can be inspiring and breadth-taking, but there is one way going forward without expending sweat and toil building higher - and that is down. As the saying goes, pride precedes a fall.

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