Thursday, November 02, 2006

Generational Gap in leadership

Compelling reading today, even more so than usual, from MLQ3 with his Inquirer column entitled Four Points for Discussion. One of the points is positive regionalism, something of interest to me because of where I'm situated (as I'm sure is the case with Willy and Oli).

However, it was the first point that caught my eye: the generational gap in leadership that occured during Marcos' extended rule from 1972 to 1984.

From his article:
1969 to 1973 were watershed years, when the generation that reached maturity under the Japanese occupation was due to bow out. There should have been further transitions in 1973 and in 1977...1981 and 1985.... But the transition was postponed from 1972 to 1986. Since then, we have been 20 years behind in terms of leadership.

MLQ3 provides strong examples for each of the cases above (ellipsis mine for brevity).

Where I have questions is in the comparative exercise when looking at our situation in relation to other neighboring countries. A twenty year vacuum of potential leadership material is a serious thing indeed. However, dictators and military rule seem to have been the norm more than the exception during those years.

  • Since 1973, Thailand has been marked by a series of coup d'etats. Thai elections did not produce any credible leader, and the military installed their own premier. Not until Prem Tinsulanonda in the mid-1980s did the transition to democracy begin to happen.

  • Some years earlier, Malaysia had just come from a state of national emergency sparked by the May 13, 1969 riots. After parliament reconvened in 1971, UMNO has largely been the single dominant party in the country. Mahathir held power for 22 years since taking over the reins of government in 1976.

  • Suharto, during his New Order era, controlled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998, a reign far longer than Marcos'. Suharto was a former army general who took control in the wake of predecessor Sukarno's left-leaning policies.

  • In Singapore, the People's Action Party held a 15-year monopoly on parliament from 1966 to 1981. Lee Kuan Yew himself was prime minister from 1959 to 1990. Since 2004, BG Lee, his son, has been prime minister.

    A look at the recent history of many other Asian countries would probably show the same environment that might breed gaps in transitions of leadership within the same period.

    Granted, Marcos did severe damage to the growth of potential leaders in the country; but I think his 20-year rule simply put us on par with our other neighbors. Therefore, we probably need to look at other contributing factors to this dearth of leaders than the dictatorship.

    MLQ3 continues:
    A frustrated generation went abroad, depriving the country of an entire generation of intellectuals; those who stayed retreated to academe and engaged in an embittered effort to discredit everything that came before them, the result being a complete breakdown in a sense of identity and idealism.

    True enough, but why didn't the exodus happen in the same degree in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia?