Singapore far from being the best place to live in

July 30, 2014

Dear Mr Coclanis,

I refer to your 29 Jul 2014 Straits Times article “S’pore’s no utopia but still a good place to live in”.

The government’s recent expansion or extension of social welfare does not surprise Singaporeans. Singaporeans know that the government is trying its best to win back votes after having suffered the stinging pain of the loss of a GRC back in 2011. All the recent hullabaloos can be traced back to 2011.

Living standard

Singapore’s material, social well being and living standard are well below that suggested by our high per capita GDP because:

• Our wage share of GDP is lower than most Western nations
• If foreigners and foreign owned multinationals are excluded, our remaining indigenous per capita GDP (GDP of locals) is much lower
• For the same GDP, we are putting in far longer hours
• Most international indexes place Singapore amongst the highest cost of living. For the same per capita GDP, higher cost of living means lower standard of living

This is illustrated in the Economist article “http://www.economist.com/node/17079148” which shows our relatively low standard of living compared to Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Sweden despite our better or similar per capita GDP.

economist

First problem with Economist Where-to-be-born index

Anyone who thinks that the Economist Where-to-be-born index tells us the actual quality of life in a country will be sorely mistaken. It does not. Instead, the Index tells us what the quality of life for that country should be based on regression. The problem with any regression is that the actual data points hardly ever fall on the regression line, so for practically all countries, the actual quality of life will deviate from what the Economist deems it should be.

• The life satisfaction scores for 2006 (on scale of 1 to 10) for 130 countries (from the Gallup Poll) are related in a multivariate regression to various factors. As many as 11 indicators are statistically significant. Together these indicators explain some 85% of the inter-country variation in life satisfaction scores. The values of the life satisfaction scores that are predicted by our indicators represent a country’s quality of life index. The coefficients in the estimated equation weight automatically the importance of the various factors. We can utilise the estimated equation for 2006 to calculate index values for year in the past and future, allowing for comparison over time as well across countries.
[The Economist International, The lottery of life methodology - How we calculated life satisfaction, 21 Nov 2012, http://www.economist.com/news/21567049-how-we-calculated-life-satisfaction-lottery-life-methodology%5D

Below is an example of a regression between life satisfaction and per capita GDP (Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll, Dr Angus Deaton, page 4). Clearly, most data points don’t fall on the regression line. Take Russia for example, the regression line predicts that for Russia’s per capita GDP, it should be experiencing a life satisfaction score close to 6 (dotted line), but in fact, Russia’s life satisfaction score is only about 5.

regression

Coming back to Singapore, the strength of our underlying indicators leads the Economist to predict that we should be experiencing a high life satisfaction score of 8.0 that should put us in world No. 6 position. But in reality, our life satisfaction score is far worse than 8.0. Anyone impressed with our No. 6 position is merely being impressed with the high hopes the Economist have for us, not the reality that we experience daily which the Economist isn’t telling.

The reality is that Singapore is ranked:

• 33rd by United Nations World Happiness
• 36th out of 129 countries in the Gallup World Poll (2007 – 2010) which asked people how satisfied they are with their lives as a whole
• 37th in the World Values Survey which asked similar questions on life satisfaction
• 109th out of 148 countries in the Gallup World Poll (2008 – 2011) which asked people how happy they were the day before
• 97th out of 156 countries in the Gallup World Poll (2005 – 2011) which asked about joy and laughter the day before
[Straits Times, Why Singaporeans are the happiest in the region, 17 May 2012]

The reality is that Singapore scored:

• 6.6 out of 10 and ranked 33 out of 156 countries for the question “How would you rate your life, on a scale of zero (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible)?” in the Gallup World Poll (2005 to 20011)

• 6.8 out of 10 and ranked 36 out of 129 countries for the question “On a scale of zero (least satisfied) to 10 (most satisfied), how satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” in the Gallup World Poll (2007 to 2010)

• 6 out of 10 and ranked 109 out of 148 countries for the question “On a zero to 10 scale, how happy were you yesterday?” in the Gallup World Poll (2008 to 2011)

[Straits Times, How Singapore Scored, 17 May 2012]

Second problem with Economist Where-to-be-born index

According to the Economist, the indicator with the biggest weightage – the GDP is not the prevailing GDP but the forecasted one in 2030. After all, it is a Where-to-be-born index not a Where-to-be-now index.

• Being rich helps more than anything else

• A forward-looking element comes into play, too. Although many of the drivers of the quality of life are slow-changing, for this ranking some variables, such as income per head, need to be forecast. We use the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030, which is roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.
[The Economist International, The lottery of life - Where to be born in 2013, 21 Nov 2012, http://www.economist.com/news/21566430-where-be-born-2013-lottery-life%5D

Since the Where-to-be-born index essentially predicts the future, we need to ask ourselves how good the Economist has been in making such predictions. Turns out the Economist also had a Where-to-be-born list back in 1988 and by comparing the two lists (http://www.businessinsider.com/wond-economist-where-to-be-born-index-2013-1?IR=T&), it is not hard to see that the predictions have been quite far off the mark.

Alternatives to Economist Where-to-be-born index

For these reasons, the Where-to-be-born index cannot be the closest thing to a Rawlsian index when other quality of life or life satisfaction indexes exist that are based on actual, real data.

• World Happiness Report 2013, Singapore ranked 30th in happiness with score of 6.546
• Happy Planet Index 2012, Singapore ranked 90th with an index of 39.8
• Mercer Quality of Living Index 2012, Singapore ranked 25th
• EIU Best City 2012, Singapore ranked 22nd
• International Living Quality of Life Index 2011, Singapore ranked 93rd in Quality of Life final score
• Gallup Global Wellbeing study 2010, Singapore recorded a miserable 19% thriving compared to 31% to 82% for Western countries
• Satisfaction with Life Index 2006, Singapore ranked 53rd with a score of 230

When so many international indexes put Singapore in a mediocre position for quality of living, life satisfaction or happiness it is hard to see how Singapore has acquitted itself well when judged by Rawlsian criteria.

Others

The supposed hallmark of Singapore moving quickly to recalibrate public policy has been for the worse, not for the better when it comes to individual rights and personal liberties. It is now against the law to walk in a group of five, so five friends in Singapore cannot walk together in public without risking being hauled to jail. That’s how bad we have become. Singapore continues to languish near the bottom of press freedom and democracy index year in year out.

Don’t make a habit out of aping our government in blaming citizens for our brain drain problem. Singaporeans are not so unrealistic that they cannot embrace or enjoy the lives many have led since happily moving on to Western countries.

Judging by the rankings in the numerous alternatives to the Where-to-be-born index, there are plenty of places preferable to Singapore one can land at. While Singapore is a good place to live in, it is far from being the best.

Spare our children the hypocrisy please

July 29, 2014

I refer to the 24 Jul 2014 Straits Times letter “Lack of kids’ books on Singapore history” by Ms Irene Louis.

Ms Louis was taken aback by the high price of a children’s book on Lee Kuan Yew. She pointed out that in the US; children’s books on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are plentiful and cheap and reasoned that it was because Americans have been exposed from young through colorful storybooks that they take pride in their past. So she suggested making children’s books like the one on Lee Kuan Yew cheaper to instill national pride in the young and asked the government to look into it.

Ms Louis should refer to the 29 Jul 2014 Straits Times report “Same name, different lives”. Photographer Samuel He was quoted as saying Mr Lee’s “name stirs up equal amounts of pride and anger among Singaporeans.” Ms Louis should therefore understand that Lee Kuan Yew is no George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. He is not respected by all Singaporeans, not even most Singaporeans but perhaps half of Singaporeans only. Therefore, a storybook on Lee Kuan Yew will only instill as much national anger as it would instill national pride. It is better for Ms Louis to look to other less controversial figures to instill national pride in the young of which there are plenty like Sir Stamford Raffles, Lim Bo Seng, Goh Keng Swee, Yusof Ishak, Lee Kong Chian and so on.

Ms Louis should also understand that Americans take pride in their founding fathers not because they were exposed from young but because their deeds were indisputable. On the other hand, many Singaporeans cannot take pride in Lee Kuan Yew because he is not even a founding father by any definition and nearly all the good deeds that have been attributed to him were deeds by others like Dr Winsemius and so on. How to take pride in someone whose good deeds belong to others?

Lee Kuan Yew is not our founding prime minister

July 29, 2014

I refer to the 29 Jul 2014 Straits Times report “Same name, different lives”.

The report referred to former Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew as our founding prime minister who reared a nation and whose name stirs up equal amounts of pride and anger. The report was supposedly inspired by a similar search in US for present day persons with the name of Abraham Lincoln and those of other former presidents.

It is wrong to refer to Lee Kuan Yew as our founding prime minister because Singapore was never founded by Lee Kuan Yew but by Sir Stamford Raffles instead.

• Receiving independence in 1965 after separating from Malaysia was also not an act of founding just as Frasers Centrepoint Limited wasn’t founded in 2013 when it became independent in 2013 after separating from its parent F&N Group. Similarly, Raffles Institution wasn’t founded in 1990 when it became independent in 1990 but was founded instead in 1823.

• A name change from State of Singapore to Republic of Singapore in 1965 also cannot qualify as an act of founding just as each name change from RTS to SBC to TCS to MediaCorp TV cannot qualify as an act of founding.

• The founding title can be bestowed on individuals to whom the people of the nation owe the debt of their freedom and independence. Lee Kuan Yew himself said in his memoirs that we were already ¾ independent in 1959 so by his own admission, we owe him nothing for ¾ of our independence. Our last ¼ independence was courtesy of Tungku Adbul Rahman who kicked us out so again we owe Lee Kuan Yew nothing for him to deserve the founding title.

• The founding title can also be bestowed on individuals who put their lives on the line to fight for our independence. Since Lee Kuan Yew did no such thing, again he does not deserve to the founding title. We should not cheapen what founding means.

Lee Kuan Yew did not rear the Singapore nation but inherited it instead with all the trappings of a nation intact – British law, civil service, police force, schools, hospitals, world class port, considerable economic development that included ship repair, airlines, telecommunications, substantial industry, high quality entrepreneurs, skilled labour force (The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33).

Abraham Lincoln is revered by practically all Americans. Since Lee Kuan Yew’s name stirs up anger half the time, Lee Kuan Yew is no Abraham Lincoln, no unifying figure that the nation can celebrate as one.

Singapore in 1965 was neither underdog nor Third World

July 28, 2014

Underdog made good

I refer to the 25 July 2014 Straits Times letter “Underdog made good” by Mr Jeremy Cheong Weng Kee.

Mr Cheong characterized Singapore in 1965 as the underdog that overcame the odds to succeed. Far from it, Singapore was already ranked Third in Asia and 29th out of 109 countries in output side per capita GDP (2005 PPP USD) back in 1965 (Penn World tables version 8.0), not top notch but neither underdog either.

We were also more than just the underdogs because:

• Singapore had become a global port that could rival any other in the world by the time the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and with the advent of the steamship revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century
[Derek Thiam Soon Heng, Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Singapore in Global History, page 57]

• Singapore was already the estimated 5th or 6th most important port in the world by the early 1930s and the key port in the Straits region by the late 19th century
[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114]

• Singapore was the most important communications centre in the Far East, not just for shipping but a focal point for airlines, telecommunications and mail distribution at the beginning of the 1950s
• Singapore was the biggest market in the world for natural rubber, an important international market specializing in tin futures and a major oil distribution centre in the inter-war period
• Singapore had extensive numbers of high quality entrepreneurs and substantial industry and a skilled labour force, not least in ship repair prior to independence
• The first estimates of Singapore national income in 1956 showed rapidly rising per capita income that was very much greater than almost anywhere else in Asia
• Singapore had already experienced considerable economic development before World War II
• Singapore in the mid-1950s had 30 people per private car compared to 70 for British Malaya and more than 120 for the rest of Asia
[The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33]

Mr Cheong reminded us of the many resilient people capable of extraordinary things Singapore was blessed with. One such resilient person was Dr Toh Chin Chye whom Dr Goh Keng Swee credited as the one who nudged both him and Lee Kuan Yew to snap out of their anguished moods.

• During the Big Split … Dr Goh Keng Swee … recalled Dr Toh Chin Chye visiting him in his Fullerton Building office in 1961, after seeing Mr Lee, saying: ‘I have just come from Harry’s office. He was staring at the ceiling just like you did. You should snap out of this mood. The fighting has just begun. It is going to be long and nasty. But if we keep wringing our hands in anguish, we are sure to lose.
[Straits Times, What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?, 4 Feb 2012]

Another resilient person capable of extraordinary things was Dr Albert Winsemius:

• Dr Winsemius and I.F. Tang made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.
[Ngiam Tong Dow, A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, page 66]

• Lee’s dismay was also not shared by the country’s most prominent foreign advisor. Winsemius, the former leader of the UN development mission and now a regular consultant to the Singapore government, said in an interview in 1981 … to my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.
[Sikko Visscher, The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, page 171]

Uniquely Singapore way to fund needs

I refer to excerpts from the 27 Feb 2014 Straits Times article “Uniquely Singapore way to fund needs”. The article referred to Singapore as a Third World country which our pioneer generation contributed to.

Using data from the Penn World Tables, it can be shown that Singapore back in 1965 was no longer a Third World country but a middle income nation.

1965 per capita GDP / GNP / GNI GDP per capita (output) GDP per capita (expenditure) GDP per capita (average)
Real per capita GDP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) from PWT 8.0 $6,279 $2,957 $4,618
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 7.1’s GNP to GDP ratio $6,449 $3,037 $4,743
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2011 USD) converted by comparing World Bank’s current GNI and 2011 GNI for 2005 $7,229 $3,404 $5,317
World Bank classification by income Upper middle income status Lower middle income status Upper middle income status

Don’t forget to praise Singaporean forefathers too

July 28, 2014

Dear Mr Khalid,

I refer to the 24 Jul 2014 Straits Times report of your praise for Singapore.

Third World to First?

Singapore isn’t the only economy that has done well progressing to First World in a very short time but one of four East Asian dragon economies including South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. There is no need to overly praise Singapore for what seems to be the common East Asian success story.

We must not blindly parrot the phrase “Third World to First” without first being clear and precise about what Third World or First means. Is a First World nation:
• an Advanced Economy according to the IMF?
• one with the highest Human Development Index according the UN?
• one placed in the highest income category according to World Bank?

For example, Chile and Kuwait do not make it into IMF’s list of advanced economies so by IMF definition they are not First World. But are they Third World then? Certainly not because these countries made it to UN’s list of countries having the highest levels of human development. We must not make the mistake of regarding a nation that isn’t First World as automatically being Third World. That was Singapore’s situation back in 1965, we weren’t First World then, but neither were we Third World.

Carl Trocki classifies Singapore as being of middle income status back in 1960:
• Our per capita GDP in 1960 was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status
[Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, page 166]

Using data from the Penn World Tables, it can be shown that we were already of Upper Middle Income status according to World Bank classification back in 1965.

1965 per capita GDP / GNP / GNI GDP per capita (output) GDP per capita (expenditure) GDP per capita (average)
Real per capita GDP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) $6,279 $2,957 $4,618
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 7.1’s GNP to GDP ratio $6,449 $3,037 $4,743
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2011 USD) converted by comparing World Bank’s current GNI and 2011 GNI for 2005 $7,229 $3,404 $5,317
World Bank classification by income Upper middle income status Lower middle income status Upper middle income status

Thus, Singapore did not progress from Third World to First since independence but from Middle Income status to First instead. This is the best portrayal of our progress towards the First World since it is the only one that is based on data stretching back to the 1960s.

Bringing races together?

Singapore didn’t just have racial cohesion under the present government. Singapore already had racial cohesion during colonial times as these evidences attest to:

• Racial Harmony In Malaya
To those who know their Malaya from one end to the other, no less than to the casual visitor, it is a constant source of wonder how so many different races and communities live and work together in the utmost harmony … we repeat, that the different communities live and work in harmony because the British system of justice and administration enables them to obtain fair play. There are no discriminatory or repressive laws, there are few, if any race prejudices in the bazaars and counting houses, there is nothing to prevent the humblest coolie from rising to great wealth – many indeed have done so …
[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 July 1935, Page 8]

• MALAYA’S RACIAL HARMONY IMPRESSES
“It is a pleasing feature of life in Malaya that there is not merely a complete absence of friction but much cordiality in the relations between the different races inhabiting it. It is quite common to find Malays, Chinese and Indian all living the same street in perfect harmony and apparently, with some degree of intimacy.” The Mui-Tsai Commission Report Chapter VIII.
[The Straits Times, 1 March 1937, Page 13]

• SINO-MALAYAN AMITY IMPRESSES GEN. WU
It makes me happy to see the Chinese and other peoples here co-operating so well with each other.
[The Straits Times, 15 November 1940, Page 11]

• The Malayan Melting-Pot
The Sultan of Perak … “I wish to say to you that Chinese and Malay in the past eighty years before the coming of the Japanese lived side by side in absolute peace. The Chinese lived in the midst of Malays without any trace of fear, and the Chinese also fearlessly and peacefully pursued his vocation in any Malay settlement … Here in Singapore we are constantly impressed by the easy, natural and friendly relationships existing between Eurasians, Straits Chinese, Straits-born Indians and others who went to school together and now meet each other in adult life … Boys – and girls – of the local-born communities who sit side by side in the classrooms of Raffles Institution and St. Joseph’s and St. Andrew’s and the A.C.S., learn to become unconscious of racial differences, to meet on common ground, and to accept each other simply as Singaporeans – not as members of this racial community or that. Naturally this process is more penetrating in the secondary schools than in the elementary ones, because the influence of the school is exerted for a longer period and in years of higher mental awakening …
[The Straits Times, 25 May 1946, Page 4]

• S’pore an ‘example’ of race harmony
Singapore has set an example to the world of racial harmony, said Mr. T. P. F. McNeice, President, in reply to Mr. C. F. J. Ess, at the meeting of the City Council yesterday.
[The Straits Times, 29 September 1951, Page 5]

• Duchess praises ‘one people’ idea
The Duchess of Kent, the first Royal Freeman of the City of Singapore, said yesterday that its people were engaged upon a project of far-reaching significance – the casting into one mould of elements derived from many different cultures.
“This plan in itself testifies to the good will and good sense so characteristic of the people of this island,’ she said.
[The Straits Times, 2 October 1952, Page 1]

• Police help island troop to learn sailing
Singapore’s 84th Pulau Tekong Sea-Scout Troop is certainly helping to strengthen the bonds of friendship among Malays and Chinese on the island. It is undoubtedly a Sino-Malay affair for half of its 20 members are drawn from each race. Even the four patrol leaders in the troop are equally divided on a communal basis. Members of each patrol, however, are mixed.
[The Singapore Free Press, 17 July 1953, Page 12]

• Our racial harmony inspiration to bishop
An American Negro bishop said in Singapore yesterday that complete racial harmony among students and teachers in Colony schools was an inspiration to him. He said it proved his theory that if you get people of all races close enough together for them to smile at each other racial pride and prejudices will vanish quickly
[The Straits Times, 30 September 1954, Page 4]

• ‘See yourselves as just one people’ Governor’s advice to teachers
The people of Singapore must not think of themselves in terms of their racial and language loyalties, but as Singaporeans, the Governor, Sir William Goode, said yesterday. Schools must be Singapore schools, not English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil schools … In 1953, he said, English was the only medium of instruction at the college, but today they worked in English, Malay and Chinese. “In this way too the different races in the Colony can be welded into a united people with a common loyalty and a common pride in Singapore and a united determination to work for the good of Singapore.”
[The Straits Times, 12 October 1958, Page 7]

• U.S. TEACHERS ‘IMPRESSED’
Eighteen American teachers (above) from 11 states left for Bangkok by CPA this morning after a four-day stay here … Prof. Mulder said they were impressed by the racial harmony they had observed in Singapore and had come to know the state much better.
[The Singapore Free Press, 16 July 1959, Page 10]

• TELLING THE PEOPLE
So many races, but one nation
If a world list were compiled of countries enjoying high degree of inter-racial harmony Singapore would undoubtedly occupy a leading position. Here people of various races work, play and live together happily as one nation. They help each other in time of difficulty. They rejoice in each other’s happiness. And they share each other’s grief. Such is the respect, understanding and goodwill between the Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and other races living here that visitors in Singapore have often praised the State as an example for the rest of the world to follow. The latest visitor to express this view is Mrs. A. Qugley, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, who passed through the State during a tour of the Far East. She said that “the people here must be extremely proud of themselves for the “really great” racial harmony that was evident
[The Singapore Free Press, 6 July 1961, Page 6]

Gainful employment?

Singapore does not define a poverty line even though it can be done. Given our high GINI inequality, it can be expected that a sizeable number of Singaporeans have salaries that fall below our poverty line if one is ever defined and those who fall below the line should not be considered as having gainful employment.

To conclude, the success that you congratulate Singapore for today can be traced back to colonial times. Let’s not forget to praise Singaporean forefathers who helped lay a strong foundation for Singapore during colonial times.

Singapore healthcare costs: a letter to World Bank president

July 26, 2014

Dear Dr Kim,

I refer to the 18 Jul 2014 Channel NewsAsia report of your recent comments on Singapore healthcare.

Singapore’s healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP is low primarily because Singapore’s old age dependency ratio of 13.2 is much lower than those of most Western democracies which can range from about 20 to 32. It is well known that the bulk of a nation’s healthcare costs are incurred on old folks so naturally, a younger population like Singapore’s, all else being equal, will spend less on healthcare.

The following is a plot of World Bank’s “health care cost as % GDP” against old age dependency ratio for High Income countries. The regression’s extremely low P-value of 3.84 × 10-9 confirms the very close relationship between health care costs and old age dependency. Apart from the US, the graph shows no significant outlier points. In other words, Singapore healthcare cost isn’t out of the ordinary after adjusting for old age dependency.

correlation

Extremely low P-values are also obtained if health care costs are normalized by life expectancies or if all countries are considered. It is therefore a mistaken view that Singapore is one of a kind in getting good health outcomes with very little spending. It spends less primarily because it is younger.

There are other reasons why Singapore achieves good health care outcomes despite low health care expenditure:

Singapore has no natural disasters, no extreme weather conditions that can kill. This reduces our death rate and improves our life expectancy which is a key measure of health outcome.

• Examples:

Straits Times, Japan’s snowstorm leaves 19 dead, causes transport chaos, 17 Feb 2014

Straits Times, Heatstroke kills three in Japan, 24 Jul 2014

Some old Singaporeans would rather take their own lives than to incur health care costs so as not to burden their children with hefty medical bills.

• Example: http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/11/unwilling-to-burden-family-95-year-old-samsui-woman-commits-suicide/

Before you praise our government’s focus on execution, do read some of our news about how overcrowding has led to corridors and tents being used to house patients.

• Straits Times, Hospitals facing severe bed crunch take unusual steps, Patients being housed in tent and corridors, or sent to other hospitals, 8 Jan 2014

As World Bank president, it is hoped that you will advise governments around the world not to blindly follow the Singapore example but to base their healthcare expenditures on what is right for their old age dependency ratios. After all, in time to come, when Singapore ages and our old age dependency ratio creeps up to what it is for Western nations today, we too will end up with high healthcare costs.

Refuting Ronald Tan

July 26, 2014

I refer to Mr Ronald Tan’s 20 Jul 2014 TR Emeritus letter.

The gist of Mr Tan’s arguments is these:

1. Since Comintern in Moscow directed the MCP’s set up, MCP was taking orders from Comintern, Soviet Union. So the MCP wasn’t patriotic, wasn’t fighting for the Malayan cause but was merely following Soviet orders to turn Malaya into another Soviet satellite similar to East European Soviet states where oppression was worse than by the Nazis and where political dissidents were either executed or sent to gulags.

2. Ho Chi Minh tortured the South Vietnamese and supported the Khmer Rouge which murdered two million people. Anyone who portrays Ho Chi Minh as an admirable anti-colonial is whitewashing his despotism and his mass murders which is no different from Holocaust denial.

3. Saying that communist violence cannot be condoned but that they deserve better is covering up for communist wrong doings and is like saying the Nazis deserve better even though they were mass murderers.

MCP taking orders from Soviet Union

The argument that MCP was taking orders from the Soviet Union because its set up was directed by Comintern is facile at best and deceitful at worst.

The following evidence shows that Comintern was disbanded during the war so the MCP’s patriotic jungle war against the Japanese couldn’t have been Soviet directed after that. It also shows that the later Cominform was more focused on China and Indonesia and that Ho Chi Minh had an independent streak, not a complete Soviet stooge.

• The Comintern had been abolished in 1943 as a gesture to the anti-Fascist allies. In November 1947 it was reconstituted as the Cominform [Communist Information Bureau] … But Andrei Zhdanov ‘boxed in’ the organization with ‘the rigid and rather simplistic “two-camp doctrine”, under which the Cominform deliberately bypassed what would seem to have been obvious opportunities in Asia. The turn to Asia … was focused more on China than Southeast Asia, and in Southeast Asia more on Indonesia than Indochina … some in Moscow saw Ho Chi Minh as too independent, too much like the Yugoslav Tito who had refused to bend to the Russians’ will in Europe.
[Southeast Asia and the Great Powers, Nicholas Tarling, page 124]

The following evidence shows that the Special Branch, Chin Peng and the Russian agent Sharkey all denied Soviet instructions for the MCP uprising of 1948.

• The Times (London) had long ago (June 1948) taken the view there was little evidence of direct Soviet intervention in the rise of revolutionary movements then taking place in Malaya and other parts of Southeast Asia

• At the beginning of the Emergency in June 1948, the Special Branch was inclined to downplay the importance of the CPM’s uprising unless it received external support, and no reports of any such external assistance had been received. It began to look more closely at the situation, however, when captured documents revealed that the CPM was in written contact with Liu Shao-che, a top-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee … It was apparent that the CPM attached importance to Mao Zedong’s On New Democracy (1940) and his “Theory of National Democratic Revolution”, which essentially adapted Marxist-Leninism for Chinese conditions to provide an ideological justification for China’s supporting communist revolutions in Southeast Asia.

• After weighing all of these factors and their knowledge of the local situation, the Special Branch came to the view that Soviet influence, as opposed to Chinese influence, was negligible in Malaya

• Too Chee Chew who later became head of the government’s psychological warfare section, supported the Special Branch’s analysis. Writing much later in the New Straits Times … he reasoned that while the CPM leaders could be expected to take note of such international communist directives that happened to serve their purpose, they would infinitely prefer to be masters of their own destiny than “running dogs” or puppets of international communism.

• Chin Peng stated that Sharkey did not convey any “instructions” or “message” from the Calcutta meeting to the CPM, a denial that he subsequently repeated at the Chin Peng Workshop in Canberra, 22 February 1999. In fact, in an earlier BBC TV interview in London on 19 June 1998, he had already denied that the hidden hand of the Soviets was behind the CPM’s uprising.

• In the Tribune of 14 August 1948, Sharkey pointed out that ‘Always the Communist Party is supposed to be “ordered” from outside to do this, that or the other thing: whereas wars of national independence cannot be conjured up by “instructions” from anyone but arise out of existing conditions.

• To sum up … evidence assembled by the Special Branch that the CPM’s uprising arose from its own dynamics rather than any “instruction” issued to it from the Soviets … the views arrived as early as 1949 by the Malayan Special Branch are corroborated by contemporary research that mined the recently opened Russian archives in Moscow as confirmed by … Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 10-11 July 2008.

[The origins of the cold war in Southeast Asia: the case of the Communist Party of Malaya (1948-1960) – a Special Branch perspective, Leon Comber, visiting senior research fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore]

The following evidences show that the MCP was more China and anti-Japanese inspired, not Soviet inspired:

• … Chin Peng … had been introduced to the Party through the anti-Japanese movement which had taken hold of the Chinese Middle School students after 1937 … As a schoolboy, he dreamed of enlisting to fight in China and began a process of self-education in the works of Mao Zedong.
[Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain's Asian Empire, Tim Harper, Christopher Bayly]

• By 1948 it was clear to the Communists leaders that the Russian revolutionary model was not working, so they converted to Mao’s model. In June 1948 the new secretary general of the Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng, mobilized the former anti-Japanese guerilla army and committed it to a Maoist-inspired guerrilla war.
[Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq, James R. Arnold, page 137]

• the Malayan Communist Party … Over-all strategy was now dominated by the Chinese line and patterned after that evolved in the Chinese revolution. Such texts as Strategic Problems of the Malayan Revolutionary War, issued at the time by the insurgents, were not much different from Mao Tse-Tung’s own Strategic Problems of China’s Revolutionary Wars, first written in 1936.
[The 1948 Communist Revolt in Malaya: A Note on Historical Sources and Interpretation, Michael R. Stenson, Gerald De Cruz, page 1966]

• On November 15, 1969, the Chinese opened a clandestine radio station, the “Voice of the Malayan Revolution,” which in its broadcast called for an “extensive people’s war” in Malaysia and Singapore. It stated explicitly that the Communist part of Malaya was guided by the thought of Mao Tse-tung.
[Autopsy on People's War, Chalmers A. Johnson, page 80-81]

• the Central Committee of the CCP congratulated the Malayan Communist Party on the thirty-fifth anniversary of its founding; discussed the party’s leadership of “the armed struggle against British imperialism and … the MCP’s opposition to “modern revisionism”
[Revolution and Chinese Foreign Policy: Peking's Support for Wars of National Liberation, Volume 34, Peter Van Ness, page 89]

• The Malayan Communist Party had a vision of large guerrilla bands, in the ‘Yenan way’ of Mao Zedong’s movement in China.
[Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945, Christopher Alan Bayly, Timothy Norman Harper, page 134]

The following evidences show that Comintern or Soviet Union had limited control or influence in Southeast Asia or Malaya:

• If the Soviet Union had instigated the insurgency it remains odd that no Soviet arms, funding or civil-military personnel were sent to ensure success. This would have almost certainly been an imperative, especially if the USSR wanted to ensure that a future communist Malaya fell under their influence and not, after 1949, that of Mao’s China. It also fails to take into account the anti-colonial element. The MCP, like other anti-colonial insurgent groups, would likely have been influenced by India and Burma’s recent independence from Britain.
[The Counter-insurgency Myth: The British Experience of Irregular Warfare, Andrew Mumford, page 45]

• The Comintern did its best to control communist movements in South East Asia, but its ability to impose its will was limited by poor communications, insufficient financial and logistical support, interception of its directives by the authorities, and by periodic arrests of militants … Finally, not least of the problems faced by the Comintern, was its directives always had to be adapted by communist parties to domestic traditions and local circumstances.
[The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, S. A. Smith, Stephen Anthony Smith, page 238]

It is clear from the above evidences that Mr Tan’s assertion that since the Soviets directed the setup of MCP they controlled MCP is pure hogwash. It then follows that all the Soviet atrocities Mr Tan tried to pile onto the MCP to make the MCP look immoral is also pure hogwash as is his assertion that the MCP was fighting and dying in the jungles for the Soviets rather than for Malayans. The MCP’s fighting and dying for fellow Malayans against the Japanese or against colonialism clearly and unambiguously qualifies them as patriots. If fighting and dying for your fellow countrymen is not considered patriotism, what is? There is nothing fawning, adulatory, disturbing or immoral about recognizing patriotism as patriotism. On the contrary, it is Mr Tan’s refusal to recognize patriotism as patriotism that is disturbing and immoral.

Ho Chi Minh and communist violence

Mr Tan got it wrong when he said that Ho Chi Minh’s fighting the French does not make him a liberator. Ho Chi Minh’s freeing of his people from the French is definitely an act of liberation. Similarly, stating that Vietnamese today hail Ho Chi Minh as their hero is not portraying him to be a saint but merely stating a fact as a fact.

Mr Tan reminded us of Ho Chi Minh lending support to the Khmer Rouge who murdered two million people. But Ho Chi Minh merely helped Khmer Rouge come to power; he didn’t help them commit massacres which only occurred after the Khmer Rouge won power. Is Mr Tan also going to blame the Soviet Union for lending support to the Chinese Communist Party resulting in millions of death during the Great Leap Forward? Ho Chi Minh even invaded Cambodia to put an end to Khmer rule. Mr Tan reminded us of Vietcong atrocities. But even the Americans committed atrocities like the My Lai massacre.

Stating Ho Chi Minh’s revere by his own people is neither portraying him as admirable nor whitewashing his cruelty nor denying the Holocaust but merely stating a fact as a fact. Is it not a fact that the Vietnamese today revere Ho Chi Minh? What cruelty can prevent a fact from being said as a fact? Does the Germans’ act of Holocaust prevent us from saying they just won the World Cup?

Saying that communist violence cannot be condoned but that they deserve better obviously refers to Chin Peng and the MCA vis-à-vis others like Ho Chi Minh and his Vietcong, Sukarno and Nelson Mandela in the original posting. If the crueler Vietcong can be regarded as heroes by its own people today, why does the less cruel MCA deserve less? This is no denial of Ho Chi Minh’s cruelties, no denial of the Holocaust. This is just putting cruelty beside cruelty and saying that the one with less cruelty ended up with more infamy in its own country. This is not, as Mr Tan has claimed, like condoning the Nazi mass murder or covering up for communist wrong doing but simply comparing wrong doings and saying that for the same or for less wrong doing, the MCA had been more villainised.

Mr Tan wrongly brushed off the original article as an apologia for communism and communists like Ho Chi Minh. It is not. Instead, it is Mr Tan who is making an issue out of no issue.

To conclude, Mr Tan’s main argument that the CPM was doing the Soviet’s bidding is without basis, without merit. His attempt to pile Soviet atrocities onto the CPM is rejected too as it rests on his false assertion that the CPM was doing Soviet bidding. Mr Tan’s attempt to alter the statement of the fact that the Vietnamese today revere Ho Chi Minh into one of glorifying Ho is also rejected because, like it or not, a fact is a fact. Mr Tan’s false sense of self-righteousness is betrayed by his own deceitful arguments.

Correcting why the past matters

July 22, 2014

I refer to the 13 Feb 2014 Straits Times article “Why the past matters” by Mr Barry Desker.

According to Mr Desker, people in Singapore did not see themselves as one people in 1942 and at most cared only for their families, clans or ethnic groups.

Mr Desker would be pleased to know that back in 1935, a Chinese firm was already giving out scholarships that came specifically without the race criteria while in 1937, the YWCA already represented women across 20 racial groups. These are some of the examples of people in Singapore caring beyond clan and ethnicity prior to 1942.

• CHINESE FIRM’S $10,000 JUBILEE SCHOLARSHIPS
The Colonial Government has received, through Mr. Gaw Khek Khiam, J.P., chairman of the directors of the Ho Ho Biscuit Factory, Limited, of 33, Chin Swee Road, Singapore, a cheque for $10,000 from his company for the foundation of a scholarship or scholarships at the Singapore Trade School … The donors have also expressed the desire that no racial criterion shall be applied to the selection of scholars, the only suggested qualification being that they should have been educated at Malayan (preferably Colony) schools and be the children of parents who have resided in Malay for a number of years.
[The Straits Times, 30 April 1935, Page 11]

• 20 RACES REPRESENTED IN LOCAL Y.W.C.A.
The Y.W.C.A. was not a charity; it was just a woman’s club which developed character and gave younger women opportunities to enjoy a fuller life. Although it was a Christian organisation the membership was not restricted to Christians. The officers and voting members were, of course, Christians. The work in Singapore was of an international character, no fewer than 20 different racial groups being represented in the membership. Besides finding work for those girls who are unemployed, the Y.W.C.A. also looked after women who were strangers to Singapore.
[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 22 April 1937, Page 3]

According to Mr Desker, Singapore society only came together gradually over the last 50 years to create a sense of nationhood and identity that goes beyond clan, race, language or religion and of emerging ties linking Singaporeans based on Singlish and eating roti prata or satay. 50 years ago is 1964. Is Mr Desker saying the Chinese and Malays only started eating roti prata after 1964 or the Chinese and Indians only started eating satay after 1964? That would be most silly indeed. Mr Desker would be pleased to know that Singapore society was already coming together beyond clan, race, language or religion prior to 1964.

• Racial Harmony In Malaya
To those who know their Malaya from one end to the other, no less than to the casual visitor, it is a constant source of wonder how so many different races and communities live and work together in the utmost harmony … we repeat, that the different communities live and work in harmony because the British system of justice and administration enables them to obtain fair play. There are no discriminatory or repressive laws, there are few, if any race prejudices in the bazaars and counting houses, there is nothing to prevent the humblest coolie from rising to great wealth – many indeed have done so …
[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 July 1935, Page 8]

• MALAYA’S RACIAL HARMONY IMPRESSES
“It is a pleasing feature of life in Malaya that there is not merely a complete absence of friction but much cordiality in the relations between the different races inhabiting it. It is quite common to find Malays, Chinese and Indian all living the same street in perfect harmony and apparently, with some degree of intimacy.” The Mui-Tsai Commission Report Chapter VIII.
[The Straits Times, 1 March 1937, Page 13]

• SINO-MALAYAN AMITY IMPRESSES GEN. WU
It makes me happy to see the Chinese and other peoples here co-operating so well with each other.
[The Straits Times, 15 November 1940, Page 11]

• The Malayan Melting-Pot
The Sultan of Perak … “I wish to say to you that Chinese and Malay in the past eighty years before the coming of the Japanese lived side by side in absolute peace. The Chinese lived in the midst of Malays without any trace of fear, and the Chinese also fearlessly and peacefully pursued his vocation in any Malay settlement … Here in Singapore we are constantly impressed by the easy, natural and friendly relationships existing between Eurasians, Straits Chinese, Straits-born Indians and others who went to school together and now meet each other in adult life … Boys – and girls – of the local-born communities who sit side by side in the classrooms of Raffles Institution and St. Joseph’s and St. Andrew’s and the A.C.S., learn to become unconscious of racial differences, to meet on common ground, and to accept each other simply as Singaporeans – not as members of this racial community or that. Naturally this process is more penetrating in the secondary schools than in the elementary ones, because the influence of the school is exerted for a longer period and in years of higher mental awakening …
[The Straits Times, 25 May 1946, Page 4]

• S’pore an ‘example’ of race harmony
Singapore has set an example to the world of racial harmony, said Mr. T. P. F. McNeice, President, in reply to Mr. C. F. J. Ess, at the meeting of the City Council yesterday.
[The Straits Times, 29 September 1951, Page 5]

• Duchess praises ‘one people’ idea
The Duchess of Kent, the first Royal Freeman of the City of Singapore, said yesterday that its people were engaged upon a project of far-reaching significance – the casting into one mould of elements derived from many different cultures.
“This plan in itself testifies to the good will and good sense so characteristic of the people of this island,’ she said.
[The Straits Times, 2 October 1952, Page 1]

• Police help island troop to learn sailing
Singapore’s 84th Pulau Tekong Sea-Scout Troop is certainly helping to strengthen the bonds of friendship among Malays and Chinese on the island. It is undoubtedly a Sino-Malay affair for half of its 20 members are drawn from each race. Even the four patrol leaders in the troop are equally divided on a communal basis. Members of each patrol, however, are mixed.
[The Singapore Free Press, 17 July 1953, Page 12]

• Our racial harmony inspiration to bishop
An American Negro bishop said in Singapore yesterday that complete racial harmony among students and teachers in Colony schools was an inspiration to him. He said it proved his theory that if you get people of all races close enough together for them to smile at each other racial pride and prejudices will vanish quickly
[The Straits Times, 30 September 1954, Page 4]

• A Chinese bank to train Malay
The Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation has awarded a one-year scholarship to Inche Mohamed Yasin bin Abdul Rahman, a member of the Johore State Council, to study general banking with its head office in Singapore. This is the first time the bank has awarded such a scholarship to a Malay.
[The Straits Times, 3 February 1955, Page 4]

• ‘See yourselves as just one people’ Governor’s advice to teachers
The people of Singapore must not think of themselves in terms of their racial and language loyalties, but as Singaporeans, the Governor, Sir William Goode, said yesterday. Schools must be Singapore schools, not English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil schools … In 1953, he said, English was the only medium of instruction at the college, but today they worked in English, Malay and Chinese. “In this way too the different races in the Colony can be welded into a united people with a common loyalty and a common pride in Singapore and a united determination to work for the good of Singapore.”
[The Straits Times, 12 October 1958, Page 7]

• U.S. TEACHERS ‘IMPRESSED’
Eighteen American teachers (above) from 11 states left for Bangkok by CPA this morning after a four-day stay here … Prof. Mulder said they were impressed by the racial harmony they had observed in Singapore and had come to know the state much better.
[The Singapore Free Press, 16 July 1959, Page 10]

• TELLING THE PEOPLE
So many races, but one nation
If a world list were compiled of countries enjoying high degree of inter-racial harmony Singapore would undoubtedly occupy a leading position. Here people of various races work, play and live together happily as one nation. They help each other in time of difficulty. They rejoice in each other’s happiness. And they share each other’s grief. Such is the respect, understanding and goodwill between the Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and other races living here that visitors in Singapore have often praised the State as an example for the rest of the world to follow. The latest visitor to express this view is Mrs. A. Qugley, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, who passed through the State during a tour of the Far East. She said that “the people here must be extremely proud of themselves for the “really great” racial harmony that was evident
[The Singapore Free Press, 6 July 1961, Page 6]

Mr Desker wrote of our vulnerability as a city state despite our prosperity and enviable standard of living now. But city states like Rome and Venice have outlived the empires to which they belonged to. Larger nations like Japan and Ukraine are also susceptible to feeling threatened by even larger nations like China and Russia. Vulnerability is thus not a function of being or not being a city state but a function of our military capability vis-à-vis those of our neighbors as well as the prevailing political climate. In both military and political terms, Singapore is not as vulnerable as our city state status suggests.

Mr Desker urged Singaporeans to remember the Japanese invasion, communist subversion and communal riots that undermined our stability and well being and tested the unity of our forefathers. Mr Desker can also urge Singaporeans to distinguish those who resisted the Japanese and those who worked for them. He can explain that the great majority of the Leftists were not communists but were true patriots and nationalists who fought British colonialism and agitated for our independence. Mr Desker can also add reasons to our communal riots like the one below:

• That PAP appeal: ‘It is political trickery’
Until the PAP and its supporters came into the political arena, the Chinese as a whole had worked and co-operated not only with the Malays, but also with other racial groups. For the PAP, after planting the seeds of dissension and distrust, now to call for tolerance is political trickery of the highest order. There can be no racial harmony based on political double talk, of tolerance in word and intolerance in deed. Racial harmony can only be built on goodwill, co-operation, good faith and mutual trust.
[The Straits Times, 2 February 1959, Page 5]

Correcting Mr Tay Boon Suat

July 20, 2014

I refer to the 26 Feb 2014 Straits Times letter “Timely boost for pioneer generation” by Mr Tay Boon Suat.

Mr Tay quoted former Nan Hua primary school principal Madam Fong Yuet Kwai saying Singapore was forced to become a country. That is not correct. Singaporeans experienced a political awakening after the Japanese Occupation and began agitating for nationalism, self-determination and an end to British colonialism. That generation of Singaporeans shouted Merdeka, the Malay word for independence. The reward for their dogged determination was that Singapore progressively received more independence and by 1959, in the words of LKY, achieved ¾ independence. While the Leftists wanted to press on and complete the last ¼ journey towards full independence, LKY autocratically hijacked the national agenda and forced Singaporeans to accept merger with Malaysia. Singapore wasn’t forced to become independent; instead, we were forced by LKY into marriage with Malaysia. But in a twist of fate, Singaporeans got what they wanted and there was great rejoicing in the country:

• Lee Kuan Yew, appearing in tears on television when announcing separation, was devastated. His feelings strongly contrasted with what he pictured as the scenes in Chinatown. “They set off firecrackers to celebrate their liberation from communal rule by the Malays from Kuala Lumpur, carpeting the streets with red paper debris”. Most Singaporeans … did not share the government’s dismay …
[Sikko Visscher, The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, page 171]

Mr Tay’s parroting of PAP’s misplaced pessimism about the survival of post independent Singapore is contradicted by the optimism of our then No. 1 economic advisor Dr Winsemius:

• Lee’s dismay was also not shared by the country’s most prominent foreign advisor. Winsemius, the former leader of the UN development mission and now a regular consultant to the Singapore government, said in an interview in 1981 … to my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.
[Sikko Visscher, The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, page 171]

Mr Tay parroted LKY questioning whether Singapore will be around in 100 years even as LKY confidently declared America, China, Britain and Australia will be. But China and Britain barely made it through World War II intact. If America hadn’t defeated the Japanese, it was unlikely bitter rivals Kuomintang and CCP would have. If America didn’t sustain Britain, it was unlikely Britain could have continued to wage war on Germany. If America hadn’t won in the Pacific, the Japanese’s next stop would have been Australia. America is the reason why China, Britain and Australia are still around and not renamed like Singapore was to Syonan-to. America was also the reason why Syonan-to was renamed back to Singapore. America continues to rescue small nations and small populations like Kuwait and Kosovo. If any country big or small is to be around in the next 100 years, it is because America is around.

Mr Tay asserted young Singaporeans attribute our success to good education and government efficiency. Mr Tay should encourage young Singaporeans to read Dr Goh Keng Swee’s book “The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7” in which he attributed our success to our (1) excellent geographic location, (2) excellent British institutions, (3) adaptability honed from 100 over years of continuous adaptation by the colonial government and (4) stability of Southeast Asia.

Mr Tay reminded Singaporeans that we are a city state heavily dependent on the fragile confidence of foreign investors. But bigger countries like Malaysia and Thailand require even more foreign investments to support larger populations. They, not us, have it tougher.

Mr Tay reminded Singaporeans never to forget our pioneers’ contributions. Mr Tay should also not forget the contributions of our pioneers’ pioneers and their pioneers too.

Celebrate Singapore’s national day by understanding its history

July 19, 2014

I refer to the 13 May 2014 Straits letter “Celebrate Singapore’s birthday by learning its history” by Ms Lim Lih Mei.

Ms Lim feels that a truly meaningful way of celebrating Singapore’s birthday is to learn Singapore’s history through events or activities that explain the historical significance of places like Bukit Chandu, Old Ford Factory, Fort Canning Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Park so that Singaporeans understand our achievements did not come easy or happened overnight and that citizens shoulder a heavy responsibility to make our country an even better place.

If Ms Lim truly learns Singapore history, she will know that 8 Aug is not Singapore’s birthday but her Independence Day instead. The day Singapore was given independence was not the day Singapore was born.

Understanding the significance of Bukit Chandu and Kent Ridge means showing gratitude to people like Lt Adnan and Lim Bo Seng who rose up to the occasion in our hour of need to fight for our country. They are the perfect role models to inspire the younger generation to defend Singapore, not those who chose self-preservation over sacrifice. The former represented courage, honour, sacrifice, dependability and rootedness for the country. The latter represented cowardice, dishonor, selfishness, dubiousness and rootlessness that swayed according to the winds of change. The day-night difference between the two is captured by the following:

• In the war years, against the great suffering of the Chinese-educated who bravely put themselves behind the wheel of resistance, the Westernized elite was distinguished by ingratiating themselves to the Japanese, so Lee remembers:
Many of us will remember the unhappy spectacle of English-speaking, Western-educated colleagues suddenly changing in their manners of speech, dress and behaviour, making blatant attempts at being good imitation Japs. Indeed some were sent to Japan so as to be better educated, to enlighten their ignorant countrymen in Malaya and doubtless also to become the privileged class, second only to the genuine Japanese themselves.
[Singapore: The State and the Culture of Excess, Souchou Yao, page 34-35]

In France, those who fought on despite the capitulation of the French government were hailed as heroes after the war while those who fraternized with the enemy were publicly humiliated as traitors. It would be truly meaningful if Singaporean society can finally learn to distinguish the two and not mistake one for the other.


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