Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A Post-LKY Singapore?

The crowd cheers as Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (C) arrives at the Marina Bay Floating Platform for the annual National Day Parade celebrations in Singapore in this August 9, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Calvin Wong/Files

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How do you spell Singapore without 'LKY'?

How do you spell Singapore without 'LKY'?

They crammed into an art cafe in Singapore and pulled no punches, deriding authoritarian officials who ruled with an "iron fist" and complaining that government ministers with million-dollar salaries were out of touch.

One woman, a middle-aged professional, got nods of agreement when she said modern Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, had done great things but that new ways were needed from current leaders still practising a "do-as-I-say style of parenting".

Singapore remains regimented but the unusually frank criticism at the recent gathering, part of a government-run national "conversation" about the city state's future, reflects the reality that this is no longer the era of Lee Kuan Yew.

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Wrong to credit Singapore’s transformation to Lee Kuan Yew

I refer to the 18 Mar 2013 Straits Times report of your video presentation to the Australian Mines and Metals Association during which you urged Australia to learn from the successful economic policies of Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore [1].

That is a grave misunderstanding of the truth behind Singapore’s transformation. The successful economic policies that transformed Singapore belong to Dr Albert Winsemius, the Dutch economist sent by the United Nations in 1960 to help Singapore industrialise. It was Dr Winsemius who came up with Singapore’s economic plan which Singapore judiciously followed. Many reliable sources confirm Dr Winsemius as the rightful transformer of Singapore:

• He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist [2].

• He was behind the 10-year development plan that saw the island state transform into today’s high technology, high value added industrial hub [3].

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Lee Kuan Yew – and politicians older than him


It’s heartening to see that Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, at 87, is still prepared to contest the next general election if his health permits and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, asks him to. It would have been sad if he had lost his zest for public affairs following the death of his wife last month.

Britain has no parliamentarian as old as he – the oldest, Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1959, is 80

But there are three American senators only four months to a year younger than Lee Kuan Yew and a Texan in the House of Representatives who is even older than him.

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MM Lee’s house: ‘When I’m dead, demolish it’


In its basement, some of the most important discussions on the future of Singapore were held in the 1950s
Now, the question is: Will the house at 38, Oxley Road survive its famous owner, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew?

Broaching the subject was Mr Lee himself, during an interview with a team of Straits Times journalists for the book, Hard Truths, to be launched today.

When the conversation veered to his home, which he has described as ‘a big, rambling house with five bedrooms, and three others at the back originally used as servants’ quarters’, he said: ‘I’ve told the Cabinet, when I’m dead, demolish it.’

His reason? ‘I’ve seen other houses, Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s. They become a shambles after a while. People trudge through. Because of my house the neighbouring houses cannot build high. Now demolish my house and change the planning rules, go up, the land value will go up,’ he said.

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Conviction politicians


Have politicians in the mould of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Lady Margaret Thatcher become an unaffordable luxury?

She was both friend and fan of Singapore's own conviction politician without equal - Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

As leaders, they evinced the same sort of certainty about where their countries needed to go. They were unafraid of tough decisions and cared little for opinion polls - sure that whatever the popular view at a particular point in time, it was their view that would prevail in the end, as voters came round to see the wisdom of their policies.

In her speech at the Istana, Mrs Thatcher said of Mr Lee: "There is no other world leader I have met in my time in office whom I have admired more for the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and for his vision of the way ahead."

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Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher



An amazing parallel runs through the political careers of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of the Republic of Singapore, and Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister. Both began their political career at the same time and stepped down as prime minister on the same day.

Both laid down their office on November 28, 1990. Both were succeeded by their deputies: Goh Chok Tong became prime minister of Singapore, and John Major of Britain.

But while Thatcher left No. 10 Downing Street red-eyed with tears she could barely hide in a famous photograph showing her with her husband Dennis by her side in the back seat of a car, eased out by her own Conservative Party cabinet colleagues, Lee Kuan Yew remained in power. He became senior minister the very same day.

“For me it is a moment of anguish because all my life … you see, the whole of my adult life … I have believed in merger and the unity of these two territories,”

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Margaret Thatcher vs Harry Lee Kuan Yew


However, after being asked to compare Maggie to the Singaporean “Supreme Leader” Lee Kuan Yew, this makes things interesting. Do I prefer Maggie, or Harry Lee Kuan Yew?

Firstly, as much as Maggie was despised, she has never did away the rights to free speech and assembly. The United Kingdom is a country which respects fundamental rights such as the right to free speech which is enshrined in the Constitution. However, in Singapore, we have a case of our rights to free speech and assembly all taken away by the enacting of laws such as needing a permit to assemble (which will never be granted if the purpose is political) and outlawing protests and anyone who dare to break this unjust law face the prospect of being sued to bankruptcy or being jailed. As despicable and evil as Maggie was, she never did away with these fundamental human rights. Hence, Maggie gets my vote on this one.

Secondly, Maggie was accused of “waging a war against the working class” with how her desire to privatise everything, doing away with the manufacturing industry, and most notably the mining industry, causing the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of miners and also the deaths of ten people during the year long strike. Let’s look at Singapore’s situation under Harry Lee Kuan Yew. The salaries of the politicians and ministers, most of whom are earning more than President Obama, the continued labeling of jobs such as nursing as “low-skilled” and preferring PMETs from other countries instead of prioritising jobs for the less skilled Singaporeans resembles a war on the working class as well. Also, the doing away with the Constitutional right to protest and assemble, which means that the aggrieved has no way to voice his grievances, as the media in Singapore is state-controlled, if this isn’t a war on the working class, what is? At least under Maggie, you knew you had the right to protest if you are furious or aggrieved about a situation, but whether or not you will eventually prevail is another question. In Singapore, you don’t even have the chance to stage a protest as you will be arrested immediately if you do so, and you know the battle is lost before you even voice your unhappiness. Hence, Maggie gets my vote on this one with regards to the “war on the working class” as her war isn’t as extreme as Harry Lee Kuan Yew’s!

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Thatcher Vs LKY

Now, onto LKY and Singapore. Yes LKY is 2 years older than Thatcher and who knows how many years he has left. How will Singaporeans react when he finally passes on? I expect the reaction to be far more muted than in the UK, given the nature of Singaporeans. Even those who disagreed with his policies will not speak up and protest for fear of being seen as disrespectful to the dead - that's a far more Asian thing. Now in the UK, there have been widespread celebrations since her death last week and perhaps culturally, we're a nation that is not afraid to offend and we value the freedom of speech. Nonetheless, even that may seem a little bit self-contradictory at times and we don't quite know how far we should allow ourselves to go as a nation.

Take the BBC for example. On one hand, they made the decision not to broadcast the song that is currently at no. 2 in the charts, "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" from the Wizard of Oz and instead only broadcast a very short portion of the chorus along with a documentary report. This fuelled anger amongst the citizens who may not have felt that strongly about Thatcher, but resented this kind of censorship over what is just music. On the other hand, in last week's episode of the famous panel show 'Have I Got News For You', we had (obviously left-wing) comedians making fun of Thatcher's dead on prime time television - as if they were trying to redress the balance. Now I can't imagine Singaporean comedians doing the same on Mediacorp after the death of LKY - it just wouldn't happen and any kind of anti-LKY sentiment would be confined entirely to the internet and international media from outside Singapore.

In my humble opinion though, I think the Singaporean public may be a lot kinder of LKY as the British public have been to Thatcher for a simple reason. LKY stepped down from the role of prime minister in 1990, was the senior minister from 1990 to 2004 and the minister mentor from 2004 to 2011 Now this is vital because the dissatisfaction amongst Singaporeans really arose in recent years, starting in the second half of the last decade. Whilst LKY is not without controversy, he could quite easily use the excuse that he wasn't really in charge when the wheels came off the bus (even many would argue that he was still pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes all this time). People will remember him for the good times in the 1980s and 1990s rather than for the period after 2005.

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Personal attacks on Politicians Hinders Democracy


Personal attacks about local politicians and leaders are rampant in every country and Singapore is no exception.

I have a gut feeling that what happened to Thatcher might happen to our MM Lee should anything were to happen to him. Many netizens already laughed at the fact he got admitted to hospital early this year.

In the recent years, irrational hate is rampant in Singapore’s online community, anyone who is says publicly that they support PAP policies, is a grassroots leader or is a PAP member etc would often be shot down by this group of netizens.

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Had Margaret Thatcher been able to do it the LKY way


Years ago, I was surprised that quite a number of my British friends did not like Margaret Thatcher – the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the only female prime minister of United Kingdom. My knowledge of her, then, came mainly from The Straits Times and our local broadcasting station. I used to like her; I used to respect her. And I still do – though it does not mean I fully agreed with what she had done.

The Russians called her “The Iron Lady” – a label which befitted her personality, and she probably liked it. I am always amused when I recalled a much earlier nickname given to her by her British opponents : “Milk Snatcher” – it gives me a picture of a baby holding and sucking a milk bottle in his stroller and suddenly Mrs. Thatcher appeared, snatched away the milk bottle and walked away from the screaming baby. (Note : When Thatcher was a state secretary for education, she abolished free milk to school kids of 7 to 11 years old.)

Each time I compared Harry Lee Kuan Yew with Margaret Thatcher, I ended up losing plenty of respect for Harry.

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Singapore an obedience trained island

One cannot deny that having such a subservient population has some advantages. One such advantage is that you don’t see disruption to daily life as you see in other democracies. There are no strikes or work stoppages. Singaporeans, out of fear, simply do as they are told like obedience trained dogs. The machines run as programmed, the trains run, the buses run and everyone knows his place and his job. The island functions like clockwork.

But the down side of this monotonous efficiency, which is disastrous to the island’s future, is its boredom, its lack of divergent thinking or innovation. You end up with an entire island population who do not have any strong views about anything. For a modern society such as Singapore to move ahead, it is not enough to have citizens like obedient German Shepherds, you need thinking people.

Society advances through new ideas and thinking outside the box, which for the successfully brainwashed Singaporean is not possible. If all you have is a society of German Shepherds or Cocker Spaniels who know how high to jump when told, you are only going to have a stagnant society, a society incapable of blazing new trials and new directions. A society of rigidity and boredom. 

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A Tragic Send Off



Thatcher was not the only politician who insisted that she did not care about her poll ratings, pointing always instead to her unbeaten election record. “I have never been over concerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls,” Lee Kuan Yew once said, echoing a sentiment that he has conveyed throughout his career.  “I think a leader who is, is a weak leader.”

Lee’s policies have elicited great criticism over the decades. While some may hail him as a visionary, others denounce him as authoritarian, fascist, or worse.

Let's take a leaf from the Guardian report on the polarisation about Thatcher's demise: "How should we honour her? Let's privatize her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she would have wanted."

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Ding Dong the Witch / Wizard is Dead?



As we approach the inevitable end of a similarly controversial and divisive  home-grown  figure we might wonder how history will reassess his legacy once he is no longer there.  I have said before that it will be similar to Tito’s death in Yugoslavia. The iron fist in a velvet glove  who, according to his own spin,  held the country together by a ruthless but necessary suppression of  minority rights and dilution of political power through measures such as the Ethnic Integration Act. Unlike Tito he has been able or willing to use immigration as a tool to maintain what he sees as a favourable racial and religious balance.

However , in another echo of the policies of our former colonial masters and something Mrs. Thatcher would have been familiar with, he has also shamelessly made use of and exaggerated racial and religious divisions in order to maintain and extend his hold on power.

About the only thing we can be sure of is that there are unlikely to be any protests or similar marks of disrespect at his passing, though perhaps more out of the customary apathy and fear than from deep-seated affection. Not to mention that in Singapore, protest is illegal.

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Late Margaret Thatcher got “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” song when she died. LKY?

A 22 years old Jeraldine puts forward an interesting but realistic concern, Quote: “I have a gut feeling that what happened to Thatcher might happen to our MM Lee should anything were to happen to him. Many netizens already laughed at the fact he got admitted to hospital early this year.”

Jeraldine was comparing the risks of hate opinions and outright condemnation of Lee Kuan Yew by a divided Singaporeans who will celebrate his death as what happened in Britain with Thatcher today.

But her age and her view of life as likely experienced from text book reading/internet influenced opinions growing up in Singapore has shielded her away from the harsh truths of some of the heinous and morally wrong actions of our leaders like Lee Kuan Yew (LKY).

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Is the Iron Lady Rusting in Peace?



Thatcher’s demise could well serve as a timely reminder for some Singapore leaders to engage in some serious self-examination. Those who refuse to leave their perches and continue to hang on to them for dear life may want to do some serious thinking about their legacies.

Better to go at the peak of your achievements than to cling onto that wobbly throne long after your expiry date. Some have argued that the street parties to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death have gone too far but truth be told, the Iron Lady’s too far gone for any of her enemies to celebrate her life, hence they can only celebrate her death.

Let me get to the point: When you die, will the nation mourn or will we break out the champagne and dance in the streets? A question relevant to our self-appointed Eminence Grises who should have been fed to the fish a long time ago, who should have been rusting in the junkyard of politicians long passed their sell-by dates a long time ago.

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Ding Dong! The Bitch is Dead!


Thousands of people around Britain are celebrating the death of the so-called “Baroness” Margaret Thatcher.

Shortly after her death was announced, a crowd of some three hundred revelers gathered in Glasgow’s George Square where many protests were held in response to Thatcher’s controversial poll tax.

Some wore party hats and launched streamers into the air while a bottle of champagne was opened with a toast to the demise of Baroness Thatcher.

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Update: Lee Kuan Yew buttf**king Margaret Thatcher


related:
New Law to Protect Lee Kuan Yew's Name and Image
LKY Passing: Good Intentions Gone Wrong
PM broke down in Parliament talking about his Dad
A State Funeral Service held for Mr Lee Kuan Yew
 
Lee Kuan Yew passes away on 23 Mar 2015
Lee Kuan Yew – The Man and his Legacy
Lee Kuan Yew in ICU with severe pneumonia
The Battle For Merger
Happy 91st Birthday Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore!
Former PM Lee Kuan Yew in the limelight

Singapore's Founding Father Hospitalised
Lee Kuan Yew turns 90
Lee Kuan Yew hospitalised: Suspected Transient Ischaemic Attack
Lee & Lee - The job has changed
"One World's View Of The Man"
Lee Kuan Yew on death: I want mine quickly, painlessly
A Post-LKY Singapore?