Lessons in Democracy from the US Impeachment — for Singaporeans

Commentary

The world is watching anxiously as the US begins the trial of President Trump in the Senate following his impeachment by the House of Representatives. While the US Constitution provides for the impeachment and removal of a sitting president for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”, it is nonetheless an extremely serious and solemn process that can inflict deep divides in the country. In understanding what is happening in the United States, there are 4 things that Singaporeans should learn.

  • The democracy that we have built cannot be taken for granted. At the heart of the US impeachment saga is the fear of foreign interference. Singaporeans must fight against any form of interference from anyone other than Singaporeans in her elections. No one other than Singaporeans should have a say in who and how we elect our government. We should welcome tough laws and sanctions against outsiders from using money, media or any form of influence campaign in our elections.
  • Our unity as “One Singapore” is the bedrock of our success as a nation – but we should recognise that such cohesiveness is earned and should not be taken lightly. The impeachment of President Trump has caused and is continuing to cause a big rift among Americans. American society is so divided today that it is even difficult to have a civilised conversation. As a society, Singapore must continue to work hard to preserve the respect and trust among our fellow citizens – and not allow any politician or outsider to exploit our diversity – especially in matters pertaining to race and religion.
  • If politics and/or politicians fail us, it is our democratic norms and institutions that will be our guard rail. We must always work to ensure that our institutions remain impartial and strong – especially our Parliament, Judiciary and Law Enforcement branches of our government. We must never allow our institutions to be corrupted by partisan politics nor influenced by any external forces or the “deep state”. We should expect our men and women in positions of trust in these institutions to be impartial and true defenders of the Singapore Constitution and Rule of Law – without fear or favor.
  • We must hold everyone in our government accountable and “no one is above the law”. Singaporean should be proud that we have a strong tradition in the rule of law and will not tolerate any abuse of power or corruption by anyone in positions of trust. To preserve this norm, we must continuously educate future generations of Singaporeans to have zero tolerance for bribery and corruption at all levels of our government – from the lowest to the highest position in the land.

How the Senate trial will end is anybody’s guess. What is more important is to see if the US comes out of this mess with a stronger or weaker democracy. In the mean time, we can take this moment to reflect on our own.

(Image: https://sg.usembassy.gov/slide/republic-of-singapore-national-day/us-sg-flag/)

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