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December 07, 2017

MFA Press Statement: Visit by Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development & Ministry of Education, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim to Banten, Indonesia from 6 to 7 December 2017 for the 10th Bali Democracy Forum

Courtesy call by Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development & Ministry of Education, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi at the side-lines of the 10th Bali Democracy Forum. [Credit: MFA, Singapore]

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS), Ministry of Social and Family Development & Ministry of Education, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, visited Banten, Indonesia from 6 to 7 December 2017, to attend the 10th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF). The BDF, first organised in 2008, is an annual multilateral forum that provides a platform for countries to share experiences and best practices in fostering democracy in the Asia Pacific.

SPS delivered a statement at the General Debate in line with the theme of this year’s conference, “Does Democracy Deliver?” The full text of SPS’ statement is appended below.

On the side-lines of the BDF, SPS met Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi. SPS and Minister Retno reaffirmed the close and long-standing ties and cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia. SPS and Minister Retno also welcomed the commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations (RISING50) between Singapore and Indonesia this year, and looked forward to further strengthening Singapore-Indonesia ties in the years ahead. SPS and Minister Retno also discussed the important role that women play in democratic societies.

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


1.                 A very good afternoon to all. It is an honour to represent Singapore at this year’s Bali Democracy Forum. Let me begin by congratulating Minister Retno and the Indonesian Government on the tenth anniversary of the BDF, and for organizing this forum at Banten at short notice.


2.                 Over the last decade, the BDF has become an important platform to exchange ideas and views on democracy in all its facets. This includes themes such as good governance, pluralism, and democratic participation.


3.                 The theme for this year, “Does Democracy Deliver”, is particularly apt. We are living in a new age of uncertainty, with shifting global trade patterns and rapid technological change. This has implications for how societies live, work, and govern themselves. 


4.                 If there is one clear conclusion from the ten iterations of the BDF, it is that there is no singular, universal form of democracy. Governments across the world are elected to serve the interests of their people and strive to bring about the best possible outcomes for them. But there is no one approach that works for all. The test of every government, then, is how successfully it ‘delivers’ on these outcomes, and fulfils the aspirations of its people. Singapore’s first Minister for Foreign Affairs, S Rajaratnam, coined the phrase “democracy of deeds” to describe what he saw as the most critical component of Singapore’s democracy – one based on actions and results, as opposed to a “democracy of words”, engaged in empty rhetoric and political confrontation.


5.                 Mr Rajaratnam spoke of these two “democracies” in 1971, but they are still applicable today. For Singapore, we have always subscribed to a “democracy of deeds”, and have abided by the following key principles:


6.                 First, to maintain a multi-racial and multi-religious society, which is fundamental to our nation’s identity and societal fabric. This social harmony that we have today did not occur by chance but is the result of deliberate and careful policies, crafted in the interest of all Singaporeans, regardless of their race or religion. We ensure that minority communities in Singapore are represented in our Parliament, where their views are heard and taken seriously. The government also takes a firm stance against racial or religious politics, and does not tolerate discrimination and hate speech in the name of free speech, whether in the real or cyber world.


7.                 Earlier this September, Mdm Halimah Yacob, a member of Singapore’s Malay community, was sworn in as Singapore’s President. President Yacob is the first Malay to become President since our first President was inaugurated 47 years ago. She is also our first ever female President. Her inauguration is testament to our democratic ideals and our efforts to create a nation where all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language, or religion, can have his or her place.


8.                 Second, to always have the best interests of the people at heart. This also requires a government that is responsive, and as the theme says, “delivers”. Every elected Member of Parliament in Singapore conducts what we call Meet-the-People sessions, where we meet and help residents with their problems. This allows us to understand the residents’ concerns so that we can address them promptly. This does not mean making the most popular decision simply to please and gain votes. While we must listen to the aspirations and needs of our citizens, we must also take a long-term perspective to policy-making, even when policies may be unpopular.


9.                 Third, all of this would be impossible without a clean administration, at all levels, from the government and judiciary, through to the civil and uniformed services. Without a system of accountability, and leaders with a high degree of integrity, many will try to ‘game’ the system for their own benefit, and to the disadvantage of others.


10.            No country has perfected the art of governance or has the perfect democratic system. We must therefore remain engaged and learn from each other’s experiences. This year’s theme, “Does Democracy Deliver”, reminds us not to be complacent amid turbulent times.


11.            Once again, I thank Indonesia for its constructive leadership in establishing the BDF and for offering countries with different cultures and histories a platform to share ideas and experiences on democracy. In today’s interconnected world, it is ever more important that we are able to engage in open and constructive dialogue.


12.            Thank you.

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