I refer to the 24 Mar 2015 Straits Times report “Singapore mourns: Thousands pay tribute to founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew”.
ST quoted PM Lee:
“The first of our founding fathers is no more. He inspired us, gave us courage, kept us together, and brought us here. He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him,” he said.
Lee Kuan Yew is not our founding father let alone the first because he never fought for our independence like George Washington or Gandhi did for their respective countries. Instead, Lee was the recipient of our independence and was on record to say that it was a moment of anguish for him. Isn’t it contradictory that Lee fought for our independence yet felt anguished when we became independent? Lee’s anguish at our independence confirms that he never wanted Singapore to be independent which in turn means that he never would have fought for our independence let alone be considered our founding father.
The inspiration Singaporeans have for Lee is misplaced for it wasn’t Lee but Dr Winsemius who was the true architect of our industrialization and whose plans brought us here. Lee’s courage was starkly absent when the Japanese invaded Singapore. He divided the country with his factious politics. He not so much built a nation than inherited one. Singaporeans were already proud before Lee came to power.
ST quoted PM Lee:
To many here and abroad, he said, “Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore. Singapore was his abiding passion. He gave of himself, in full measure, to Singapore. As he himself put it towards the end of his life and I quote, ‘I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.'”
Too many here and abroad equate Lee Kuan Yew with Singapore because they have no better information than state propaganda.
Lee didn’t give of himself to defending Singapore during Singapore’s hour of need but gave of himself to working for the Japanese enemy instead which would normally have been seen as treachery in other countries like France. Lee clearly would not give up his life for Singapore. Whatever Lee gave was in return for his own survival and benefit that had little to do with Singapore becoming successful for without Lee, Singapore would most likely have ended up like Hong Kong – different but prosperous just the same.
ST quoted PM Lee:
PM Lee called on Singaporeans to honour Mr Lee’s spirit, even as they mourned his loss, and work together to “build on his foundations, strive for his ideals, and keep Singapore exceptional and successful for many years to come”.
Singapore’s foundations weren’t Lee’s for much of what Singapore is today can be traced back to priceless British colonial inheritances as explained by Dr Goh Keng Swee.
Over at Tanjong Pagar, which Mr Lee represented for 60 years since 1955, thousands more turned out to pay tribute to the man some called the “father of the nation”, bowing respectfully before a large portrait of him.
Retired calligrapher Seow Cheong Choon, 80, wept as he recounted how he had once railed against Mr Lee, doubting he would deliver on his promises to house Singapore’s slum dwellers and squatters.
“He said he would give us all a house. Not just one or two people, but the thousands living in attap houses,” he said in Mandarin. “I was angry with his promises of false hope. Who could believe him? Singapore was chaotic, muddy, full of gangsters.”
He was referring to the time Mr Lee had declared at a 1965 grassroots event: “This country belongs to all of us. We made this country from nothing, from mudflats… Today, this is a modern city. Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear!”
This is another example of Lee’s habit of exaggerating his own accomplishments. Surely the turning of mudflat to city was achieved by the British, not Lee Kuan Yew? Singapore certainly did not transform from mudflat to city in the 6 short years that Lee was in charge. Lee also boasted to Chicago businessmen in 1968 that Singapore was already a metropolis. Again, Singapore did not turn from city to metropolis in 3 short years. Unfortunately much of Lee’s boasting has been uncritically accepted by the people. Mr Seow should take note of the numerous government advertisements asking the people to sell their flats back to the government and realize that for these people, Lee’s promises had, in the end, come to nothing.
Little wonder then that he came to be regarded as the man most instrumental in shaping this country, from the time he and his People’s Action Party colleagues pushed for self-government in the 1950s to their quest for merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the new nation Malaysia in the early 1960s, and their efforts to secure the Republic’s survival after independence was thrust on it on Aug 9, 1965.
The man most instrumental in shaping post independence Singapore has to be Dr Winsemius, for it was his economic plan that our industrialization was based on for which Lee himself expressed indebtedness.
The biggest push for self government came from the Leftists who were subsequently expelled by the PAP. It would be most shameless for the PAP to claim the credit of those whom it subsequently expelled.
Lee’s push for merger with Malaya was a mere substitution of British monarchy for a Malaysian one without any improvement to our state of independence.
He famously wept on TV announcing the “moment of anguish”, when Singapore was “severed” from Malaysia. Not only had he believed deeply in a unified Malaysia as a multiracial society, but he must also have sensed the enormity of the task for the new city-state to make a living in an inhospitable world.
That moment of anguish is proof that Lee Kuan Yew never wanted Singapore to be independent and so could never have fought for our independence let alone be regarded as our founding father.
Lee’s so-called belief in a multiracial Malaysia was hypocritical at best. He had already sold Singapore out to Malaysia knowing full well he was subjecting all Singaporeans to the Bumiputra policy that was already enshrined in the Malaysian constitution.
… Having survived life-and-death battles with the communists and communalists in Singapore’s troubled early years, he made plain that he was not averse to donning “knuckledusters” to take on and “demolish” his political adversaries. He refused to be swayed by popular sentiment or opinion polls, believing that voters would come round when they eventually saw the benefits of policies he had pushed through.
Lee’s so-called survival of battles with communists and communalists were figments of his imagination. The communists had largely been hunted down and eradicated by the British long before the State of Emergency ended in 1960. The Leftists that remained didn’t so much as do battle with Lee as were persecuted by him.
Lee was the key player in the entire communalist saga. It was his good comrades Lim Kim San and Dr Toh Chin Chye who pointed to Lee as being the one who made racist and incendiary speeches that contributed to racial riots (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/lee-kuan-yew-contributed-to-racial-riots/). Before Lee came to power, the Malays and Chinese had been living together peacefully for more than a hundred years (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/singapore-racial-harmony-during-colonial-times/).
Lee need not be swayed by popular sentiment because he controlled the press and could therefore shape popular sentiment instead.
He was both a visionary and a radical thinker, and was instrumental in a host of major policies that have shaped almost every aspect of Singaporeans’ lives, from promoting public housing, home ownership, racial integration in public estates and, later, estate upgrading, to adopting English as a common language for the disparate races in Singapore.
Lee was no visionary; his vision was borrowed from Dr Winsemius. Lee may have been instrumental in disastrous policies like Stop-At-Two or Graduates’ Mothers Scheme but the key policy of export industrialization went strictly according to Dr Winsemius’ plan.
Despite not having Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysia ended up besting Singapore in the English Proficiency Index (http://www.ef.sg/epi/#asia).
He made multiracialism and meritocracy as well as economically sound and corruption-free government hallmarks of the Singapore way. He carried over his own frugal ways to the business of government and was relentless in his fight against the “cancer of corruption”, making plain no one was beyond being investigated and ejected from office if they strayed.
Multiracialism, meritocracy and economically sound government were already well entrenched during colonial times. Singapore’s racial harmony was already an inspiration to all during colonial times (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/singapore-racial-harmony-during-colonial-times). Lee Kuan Yew, his wife Kwa Gek Choo and Dr Goh Keng Swee all won scholarships given by the British colonial government. Dr Goh Keng Swee attributed the second of four reasons why Singapore succeeded to the lean, mean British colonial government:
In the modern idiom, the Victorians who governed Singapore established and maintained an infrastructure at minimum cost with maximum efficiency.
[Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7]
He pushed for ministers and senior civil servants to be paid salaries pegged to private sector rates, despite that being controversial, believing it was necessary if Singapore was to continue to enjoy good, clean government.
It’s silly to pay thieves high salaries to discourage them from stealing. Why employ a thief to begin with?
The notion that public service should be associated with exorbitantly high pay had already been rejected by the public during the NKF-TT Durai saga.
And if this city gained a reputation worldwide for also being one of the cleanest and greenest, it was because the Prime Minister himself took a personal interest in enhancing the island’s greenery, parks and waterways, long before such environmental consciousness became fashionable.
Surely Singapore’s greenery didn’t begin with Lee Kuan Yew when Singapore’s best hope of a UNESCO listing – our Botanical Gardens was established by the British colonial government in 1859, 100 years before Lee came to power?
… Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed him as a “far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders”.
United States President Barack Obama said in a statement: “He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one of the great strategists of Asian affairs.”
Both Modi and Obama hardly knew Lee Kuan Yew so their appraisal of Lee couldn’t have been anything more than the regurgitation of popular reports or hearsays that mostly originate from Singapore’s state controlled media. Does Modi or Obama even know who Dr Winsemius is? Obama was probably misinformed because no one would be so stupid as to hail someone who felt anguished at a nation’s independence as its father.
He had soldiered on with his public duties after retirement, and even after the loss of his wife of 63 years …
Lee’s remaining in office despite supposedly retiring suggests the falseness of his retirement. That he held on to his MP title while hardly performing any constituency work suggests the futility of his so-called soldiering on. Whether he soldiered on for the nation or for his own party is also questionable.
Summing up his life’s work in his two-part memoirs, The Singapore Story, Mr Lee once revealed how he and his colleagues believed that Malaysian leaders anticipated the day when an independent Singapore would fail and be forced to appeal for readmission to the Federation, on Malaysia’s terms.
“No, not if I could help it,” he once declared … I did not know I was to spend the rest of my life getting Singapore not just to work, but to prosper and flourish.”
That’s another one of Lee Kuan Yew’s self-praise. Just because Lee was in charge doesn’t mean Singapore prospered and flourished because of him. Hong Kong is the best reflection of how Singapore would have turned out without Lee – different but prosperous just the same.
Moreover, our prospering and flourishing was in accordance to the economic plan written by Dr Winsemius whom Lee expressed indebtedness to. Whatever was Lee’s role, he certainly wasn’t the brains behind our prosperity. Unfortunately for many of our lowly educated pioneer generation, the only face they know that they will forever associate our prosperity with is Lee Kuan Yew’s.