To The Economist – Lee Kuan Yew is not the founder of Singapore

April 16, 2015

I refer to the 22 Mar 2015 Economist report “The founder of Singapore died on March 23rd, aged 91”.

Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles before Lee Kuan Yew’s great grandfather was born. There has been no re-founding of Singapore ever since. Thus, Singapore’s founder is Sir Stamford Raffles, not Lee Kuan Yew. Sir Stamford Raffles died on 5th July 1826, aged 45.

The Economist wrote:

… Fidel Castro, perhaps, and Kim Il Sung, in their day … both … failed to match Mr Lee’s achievement in propelling Singapore “From Third World to First” …

Taiwan and South Korea were authoritarian too at first but became more democratic eventually without sacrificing economic development. They clearly show that an economy can continue to develop whether or not there was an authoritarian figure at the helm. Thus, Singapore’s rapid development need not necessarily have been due to the authoritarian Mr Lee but could also have been in spite of Mr Lee.

Singapore’s rapid industrialization post 1965 was in accordance to a plan written by Dr Albert Winsemius and his team from the United Nations. If there was anyone to attribute our propulsion to First Word, it would be Dr Winsemius.

Also, Singapore did not progress from Third World to First under Mr Lee. When Mr Lee took charge in 1959, our per capita GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity already put us in Middle Income status according to World Bank classification (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/dont-forget-to-praise-singaporean-forefathers-too/). Thus, Singapore progressed from Middle Income status to First, not from Third World to First under Mr Lee.

The Economist wrote:

… Moreover, he managed it against far worse odds: no space, beyond a crowded little island; no natural resources …

On the contrary, the odds were very much to our favor since according to Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr Lee’s most trusted deputy who was also Mr Lee’s economics tutor at the university, we possessed all four important ingredients to our success (1) excellent geographic location, (2) British system of free trade and enterprise (3) adaptability of the British colonial government honed over more than a hundred years which he described as priceless and (4) stability and progress of our neighbors.

Singapore may not have oil or mineral resources but Singapore has an important natural resource that was the reason for our founding and prosperity – our strategic geographic location at the maritime chokepoint between the Far East and the West.

The Economist wrote:

Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore a paragon of development … In compensation, he turned Singapore into a hugely admired economic success story.

To say that is to belittle the contributions of others and to rob them of their fair share of recognition. What would Lee Kuan Yew have amounted to without the economic plan of Dr Winsemius that was at the heart of Singapore’s development into an economic success story? It was Dr Winsemius who was the savior of the day when Singapore was booted out of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew’s dream of depending on the Malaysian Common Market for Singapore’s continued prosperity had all but perished.

The Economist wrote:

He also boasted of his street-fighting prowess: “Nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul-de-sac.”

Such bravado was sadly lacking when the Japanese invaded Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew ended up working for them instead of fighting for Singapore’s freedom like Lim Bo Seng and Lt Adnan did.

Economist wrote:

… The regional giant, Indonesia, had been engaged in a policy of Konfrontasi—hostility to the Malaysian federation just short of open warfare …

Konfrontasi ended almost as soon as it began with the toppling of Sukarno by Singapore friendly Suharto only a few months after Singapore’s independence.

Economist wrote:

Singapore as a nation did not exist. “How were we to create a nation out of a polyglot collection of migrants from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and several other parts of Asia?” asked Mr Lee in retrospect. Race riots in the 1960s in Singapore itself as well as Malaysia coloured Mr Lee’s thinking for the rest of his life … Public housing, one of the government’s greatest successes, remains subject to a system of ethnic quotas, so that the minority Malays and Indians could not coalesce into ghettoes.

Singapore already possessed all the trappings of a nation for more than a hundred years before Lee Kuan Yew took charge – an excellent civil service, British laws, British free trade and enterprise, police force, commerce, port, schools, hospitals, running water, roads and so on. We were in many ways already a nation except in name.

• Singaporeans were already calling themselves Singaporeans during colonial times (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/the-better-angel-is-superficial-only/).

• The various races have already been living together harmoniously for generations before Lee Kuan Yew took charge (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/correcting-the-reflections-of-a-pioneer/).

• Racial riots were the result of racial politics played on both sides of the Causeway (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/correcting-pm-lees-pioneer-package-address/) and (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/lee-kuan-yew-not-beacon-of-hope-for-south-africa/).

• Public housing was already started by the colonial government (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/unfair-comparison-between-sit-and-hdb/).

All that Mr Lee had to do was to inherit the nation but he did more than that. He whitewashed the solid groundwork laid by his British predecessors and shamelessly and unfairly hoarded every bit of credit to himself.

Economist wrote:

… Abandoned by Britain in 1971 when it withdrew from “east of Suez” …

How can Economist say Singapore was abandoned by Britain in 1971 when Singapore, Malaysia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand signed the Five Powers Defense Pact in 1971?

Economist wrote:

The astonishing record of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore
… Mr Lee said in 1994 that he was “not intellectually convinced that one-man, one-vote is the best”. He said Singapore practised it because that is what the British had bequeathed. So he designed a system where clean elections are held but it has been almost inconceivable for the PAP to lose power. The biggest reason for that has been its economic success: growth has averaged nearly 7% a year for four decades.

The astonishing record isn’t that of Lee Kuan Yew’s alone but those of every Singaporeans’.

Doesn’t Economist ever wonder why Mr Lee practiced one-man-one-vote bequeathed by the British but not press freedom which was also bequeathed by the British? Mr Lee had different explanations for different things that quite often contradicted one another.

No amount of clean election can cleanse the stain of the lack of press and television freedom that are at the roots of democracy.

Nazi Germany was another country in another era where economic and military successes led the people to support its Fuhrer and to close their eyes to the injustices suffered by the Jews and other minorities.

Economist wrote:

… The traditional media are toothless; opposition politicians have been hounded into bankruptcy … voters … if they elect opposition candidates, their constituencies will suffer in the allocation of public funds; constituency boundaries have been manipulated by the government. The advantage of Mr Lee’s system, its proponents say, is that it introduced just enough electoral competition to keep the government honest, but not so much that it actually risks losing power. So it can look around corners on behalf of its people, plan for the long term and resist the temptation to pander to populist pressures.

Despite being one of its worst performing years, the ruling party still won an enviable 81 of 87 or 93% of electoral seats in 2011. 93% is virtual monopoly and far from adequate competition.

Regardless of whether or not the government had been honest, there has been a long and growing list of false statements made by them (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/four-room-flat-has-remained-at-90-sq-m-since-the-mid-90s/), (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/rebutting-sam-tan/), (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/correcting-mp-hri-kumars-may-2014-parliament-speech/), (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/issue-is-why-pap-insist-on-changed-position-when-there-was-none/), (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/vivian-balakrishnan-failed-to-prove-wp-wrong/).

Instead of looking around corners on behalf of the people, the government has been looking at all angles to skin the people. Instead of planning for the long term, the government has been taking the ‘instant tree’ approach of doing things, a term coined by one of its own, Mr Inderjit Singh. Instead of resisting populist pressures, the government has started to pander to its people after losing just one Group Representative Constituency (GRC). The funny thing is that the things that the government finally decided to pander to are things that are no longer seen as populist but necessary and well deserved.

Economist wrote:

Mr Lee was a firm believer in meritocracy. “We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think,” as he put it bluntly in 1987. His government’s ministers were the world’s best-paid, to attract talent from the private sector and curb corruption. Corruption did indeed become rare in Singapore … As a police state, however, Singapore was such a success that you rarely see a cop.

Mr Lee’s firm belief was in feudal Chinese meritocracy where one’s success depended on the outcome of the once-in-a-lifetime imperial examination. He once ridiculed opposition member of parliament Mr Chiam See Tong for his less than sterling ‘O’ level results (equivalent to high school) by comparing them with those of Mr Mah Bow Tan’s, his own party candidate. But Mr Mah’s stirling ‘O’ level results and world’s highest pay could not prevent him from screwing up big time and causing the ruling party to suffer a GRC loss in 2011.

Paying millions to curb corruption is like paying robbers not to rob or paying thieves not to steal. To say that there is no robbery or theft because the robber and thief have been paid handsomely is ridiculous and silly.

One wonders from which corner of Singapore the Economist came to observe that a cop is rarely seen.

Economist wrote:

They … blamed high levels of immigration for keeping their wages down and living costs up. This was a consequence of a unique failure among Mr Lee’s many campaigns to make Singaporeans change their ways … he could not make them have more children. In the early 1980s, he dropped his “stop at two” policy, and started to encourage larger families among the better-educated. But, three decades later, Singaporean women have as low a fertility rate as any in the world.

High immigration wasn’t a consequence of Mr Lee failing to convince Singaporeans to have more children but the consequence of Mr Lee’s erroneous “stop at two” policy which led to the dramatic plunge in our birth rate.

Economist wrote:

… Singapore’s prime minister for seven years had been Lee Hsien Loong, his son. The Lee family would sue anyone who hinted at nepotism. And, for Mr Lee, that talent is hereditary was an obvious fact. “Occasionally two grey horses produce a white horse, but very few. If you have two white horses, the chances are you breed white horses.”

There has been widespread dissatisfaction with PM Lee Hsien Loong’s rule, culminating in his apology to the nation in 2011. Judging from his son’s performance, wouldn’t the elder Mr Lee perhaps wonder if his genes weren’t so white horse after all?

Economist wrote:

Thus Mr Lee, famous as both a scourge of communists at home and a critic of Western decadence and its wishy-washy idealism, revelled in the role of geopolitical thinker.

The communist label was a convenient pretext for Mr Lee to detain his political opponents without charge, trial or proof. Even then UK Deputy Commissioner to Singapore Philip Moore commented that Mr Lee’s evidence was circumstantial, stale and nothing very definite. Two notable detainees, Dr Chia Thye Poh and Dr Lim Siew Hock, stood the test of time and maintained their innocence throughout 32 years and 19 years of detention respectively. Doesn’t the Economist ever wonder what communist crime necessitated the detention of Dr Chia Thye Poh till 1998?

Mr Lee’s criticism of Western ideals was hypocritical at best. Before he came to power, Mr Lee championed for press freedom but once he consolidated his power, Mr Lee sang a different tune and murdered press freedom.

Economist wrote:

What, he must have wondered, if fate had allotted him a superpower instead of a city state?

Perhaps Mr Lee should wonder if fate had him born in Russia, India or Africa, would he have amounted to anything at all.

To BBC – Lee Kuan Yew was not Singapore’s founding father

April 13, 2015

I refer to the 23 Mar 2015 BBC report “Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew dies at 91”.

Lee Kuan Yew was never Singapore’s founding father and will never be fit to be called one. Americans credit George Washington as their founding father because Washington fought for and won Americans their independence from the British. But Lee Kuan Yew did no such thing. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even want independence in 1965 let alone fought for it. Lee’s marrying us into Malaysia and subjugating us to Malaysian sovereignty in 1963 also cannot be considered an act of independence.

BBC wrote:

Lee Kuan Yew, the statesman who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub …

Singapore is still small physically so there isn’t much transformation under Lee Kuan Yew in so far as smallness is concerned. But if BBC was referring to Singapore’s transformation in wealth and global connectedness, it would be good for BBC to note that Singapore was already the estimated 5th most important port in the world back in the 1930s, the most important communications centre in the Far East in the 1950s and the 3rd richest in Asia in per capita GDP in 1960 (Penn World Tables) with the highest per capita ownership of cars in Asia. So whatever transformation that Singapore underwent was from a very high base. Moreover, this transformation closely followed the plans laid out in an industrialization plan written by Dr Albert Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew. It is hard to credit Lee for our transformation knowing that the plans came from someone else.

BBC wrote:

The city-state’s prime minister for 31 years, he was widely respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity.

The architect should be someone who came up with the plans. Since the plans came from Dr Winsemius and his team in a report entitled “The United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore”, it should be Dr Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew who should be considered the architect of Singapore’s prosperity.

BBC quoted Lee Kuan Yew’s son PM Lee saying:

“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.”

BBC also wrote:

Mr Lee oversaw Singapore’s independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia.

The British parliament had already passed the State of Singapore act in 1958 granting Singapore statehood and full internal self-government. That according to Lee Kuan Yew’s own words was three quarters independence (tiga suku merdeka). Thus, when Lee took charge in 1959, Singapore was already ¾ independent. So Lee couldn’t have achieved anything more than ¼ independence as ¾ had already been achieved before he took charge.

Singapore’s supposed independence from Britain was simultaneously accompanied by our dependence on Malaysia. This swopping of British sovereignty for Malaysian sovereignty cannot be considered independence in any sense of the word.

Mr Lee’s overseeing of our separation from Malaysia was accompanied by much grief and tears captured on national television for posterity. He was so clearly distraught that he had to convalesce at Changi chalet for six weeks. Separation from Malaysia or independence was the last thing on Lee’s mind for Lee had fought bitterly to marry us into Malaysia and had clearly stated to the entire nation that Singapore could not survive without Malaysia. It was therefore never Lee’s intention to make Singapore independent so how could he even be considered to have fought for our independence? Lee had independence thrust upon him against his wishes. It is worth emphasizing that there was no independence hero accompanying Singapore’s independence in 1965. There were however, independence heroes who fought hard and eventually pressured the British into granting us statehood in 1959 (decision made in 1958). They were collectively known as the Leftists. It was they who fought for Singapore’s independence, not Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee not so much built a nation but inherited one from the British as all the trappings of a nation were already laid out by the British – excellent civil service, British laws, British system of free trade and enterprise, commerce, trade, port, airport, roads, schools, hospitals, public water system and so on.

BBC wrote:

But tiny Singapore – with no natural resources – needed a new economic model.

Not true. While Singapore did not have mineral resources or oil, Singapore has one important natural resource – our strategic location at the maritime choke point between the Far East and the West. Singapore was founded and prospered on the basis of our strategic location.

BBC wrote:

“We knew that if we were just like our neighbours, we would die,” Mr Lee told the New York Times in 2007.
“We had to produce something which is different and better than what they have.”

That wasn’t what Mr Lee told Singapore back in 1962. While fighting to merge Singapore into Malaysia, Mr Lee declared in no uncertain terms that Singapore’s economy depended on import substitution for the Malaysian Common Market which was no different from conventional wisdom then. It was our separation from Malaysia that gave Singapore no choice but to do things differently from others. But make no mistake, export industrialization was proposed by Dr Winsemius. With Singapore out of Malaysia, what choice was left for Mr Lee but to go along with Dr Winsemius?

BBC wrote:

“Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up,” he told a rally in 1980. “I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.”

Whatever iron Lee had in him or lack thereof can be seen in these two episodes:

When Lee Kuan Yew got back to Singapore, he invited the members of the Convention to attend his press conference. He was crying. I don’t understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it. He held two successive press conferences, and in which both he cried. On the third morning I went to work, and saw the press boys again. I asked Lee Wei Ching, his press secretary, “Why are they hanging around here?” Another press conference! I told Lee Wei Ching, “You ought to tell the Prime Minister to go to Changi and take a rest. Call the press conference off! Another crying bout, and the people of Singapore will think the government is on its knees. So he went to Changi, staying at the government bungalow for six weeks. There was a big time gap … between our last parliamentary meeting and the next meeting. More than five months. One would have thought with such a big event, Parliament should be immediately summoned and the announcement made to Parliament. The opposition came at me. Why is there no Parliament sitting? So I had to hold the fort. I was not appointed to act for him while he was away. When he went off to Changi, Parliament did not meet. So Singapore had a Parliament in suspended animation. Keng Swee and Lim Kim San saw me and asked me what was the constitutional position. Has he recovered? What if he does not recover? So what happens? I said I thought he was getting better, although I could not see him and telephone calls were not put through.

[Excerpt of an interview with Dr Toh Chin Chye, published in ‘Leaders of Singapore’ by Melanie Chew, 1996]

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]

Quite clearly, in times of difficulties, Lee was not the man of iron he claimed to be. His iron depended on the situation just as it did during the Japanese Occupation. While true men of iron like Lt Adnan and Lim Bo Seng fought for and defended Singapore, Lee for all his ‘iron’ chose to work for the Japanese.

Lee Kuan Yew did not give Singapore our independence

April 11, 2015

I refer to the 25 Mar 2015 “The Globe and Mail” article “Lee Kuan Yew gave Singapore independence, and the world a bad idea” by Mr Marcus Gee.

Mr Gee wrote:

Praise for Lee Kuan Yew … Just about everyone agrees he did marvels for his country, transforming Singapore from a swampy colonial port to an economic dynamo in the course of a generation.

Just because everyone agrees Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore from a swampy colonial port in one generation doesn’t mean it is therefore fact or truth. When Lee Kuan Yew inherited Singapore in 1959, Singapore was far from a swampy port. We were already a prosperous, modern city bustling with commercial activities. Lee Kuan Yew himself boasted to US businessmen in Chicago in 1967 that we were already a metropolis. Singapore certainly did not transform from swamp to metropolis in just 8 years.

Mr Gee quoted Lee saying:

The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development

The best proof that Lee was wrong lies with the examples of Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Hong Kong was never authoritarian while Taiwan and South Korea blossomed more after they abandoned authoritarian rule and embraced democracy.

Mr Gee wrote:

If he (Lee Kuan Yew) could raise his country to riches …

Lee Kuan Yew did not raise Singapore to riches. When Lee took charge in 1959, Singapore already had the third highest per capita GDP in Asia (PPP adjusted, Penn World Tables, 1960) and the highest per capita ownership of cars in Asia. Singapore’s post independence industrialization plan was written by our economic advisor from the United Nations – Dr Albert Winsemius. It is Dr Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew, whom we should thank for our rapid industrialization.

Mr Gee wrote:

The kind of leader that Mr. Lee personified – … fatherly, morally upright, far-seeing, a good shepherd to his flock … If such a leader can deliver the goods, many would say, well, then, who cares about a free press or a critical opposition?

Whether or not Mr Lee had been morally upright is a matter of opinion, not fact. Mr Lee detained Dr Chia Thye Poh for 32 years, longer than Nelson Mandela had been. At least Nelson Mandela had been convicted in court whereas Dr Chia Thye Poh was never even given a trial.

The far sight everyone credits Mr Lee for actually came from those around him. Export industrialization was documented in Dr Albert Winsemius’ economic plan. A good episode that illustrated Mr Lee’s lack of ‘far sight’ was the 2008/2009 Global Financial Crisis during which Singapore’s GIC, under Lee Kuan Yew’s chairmanship, lost billions right under his nose.

Mr Gee wrote:

… Mr. Lee was all but unique, an incorruptible strongman who really did put country above personal gain. The “Singapore model” is a direct product of his personality …

Whether or not Mr Lee put country above personal gain is again a matter of perspective, not fact. Mr Lee penalized opposition wards for not voting his party by refusing to grant them housing estate upgrading funds. How can that be anything but for the good of Mr Lee’s party? Even Mr Lee himself admitted so.

The success bits of the Singapore model is not the direct product of Mr Lee’s personality but the product of Dr Winsemius’ plan and according to Mr Lee’s most trusted deputy Dr Goh Keng Swee, the product of our priceless British colonial inheritances.

Mr Gee wrote:

… Mr. Lee led Singapore to independence

That is far from the truth. Mr Lee hardly fought for our independence let alone led us to independence. Singapore’s independence in 1965 was the result of us being booted out of Malaysia, not the result of us fighting for independence from Malaysia. Mr Lee didn’t even want independence and cried bitterly in front of national television on the occasion of our separation from Malaysia.

Some claim that Singapore gained independence from Britain when Mr Lee merged us into Malaysia in 1963. But how can the exchange of British sovereignty for Malaysian sovereignty ever be considered independence?

The truth was that the British had no choice but to gradually grant us more and more independence as a result of constant agitations from the people led by the Leftists. This culminated in the birth of the State of Singapore in 1959 with full internal self-government and the birth of Singapore’s flag and national anthem that are still in use today. It was the Leftists who fought for the people and who led us to domestic independence. When Mr Lee merged us into Malaysia four years later, it was not with improved but worsened conditions to our domestic independence instead.

Mr Gee wrote:

Mr. Lee opened the country to foreign trade …

Not true. Singapore was founded as a free port by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Singapore had already experienced close to 140 years of prosperity through foreign trade before Mr Lee took power.

Mr Gee wrote:

There is no denying it: the formula worked. Singapore averaged 7 per cent annual growth for decades, eventually surpassing its old overlord, Britain, in per capita income. Its transit system is extensive, its roads immaculate (and tolled), its schools top-notch, its parks gorgeous.

Let us not deny that the investment formula was from Dr Winsemius, not from Mr Lee.

Singapore’s per capita GDP when stripped of those accruing to foreigners is much less impressive and not too different from Britain’s.

Singapore’s transit system came almost a decade after Hong Kong’s, a gentle reminder of how life in Singapore need not have been worse under the British or any other government other than Mr Lee’s.

Singapore’s main arterial roads were laid out during colonial times.

Singapore’s top school – Raffles Institution was the school that Mr Lee attended. Other top schools were similarly set up during colonial times. Top-notch schools were already there even before Mr Lee was born, they didn’t sprout out only after Mr Lee became prime minister.

Our number one park, the Botanical Gardens was also established during colonial times.

Mr Gee wrote:

But the formula wouldn’t have worked without an essential ingredient: Mr. Lee himself.

That is opinion, not fact. There is no reason why Singapore under a different government could not have performed just as well. Hong Kong is the best reflection of what Singapore could have become had we remained a British colony or had the Leftists won power – different but just as prosperous.

Mr Gee wrote:

Just look around Singapore’s neighbourhood. Indonesia’s Suharto just next door advertised himself as a benign father of the nation. His regime collapsed under the weight of its corruption in 1998 …

The collapse of Suharto gave birth to a more prosperous and democratic Indonesia. The Suharto example shows that Singapore would have worked just as well with or without Mr Lee because what had worked for us wasn’t Mr Lee’s formula but the formulae of Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Winsemius. It was Mr Lee’s deputy, Dr Goh Keng Swee who credited our colonial formula as being our priceless advantage. Indeed, Singapore’s winning formula begun way back in 1819.

Mr Gee wrote:

Without the check of opposition, the scrutiny of a free media and the threat of being tossed out by the voters, most leaders descend along the familiar path to corruption and brutality. That Mr. Lee did not was a function of his character, not of the virtues of the Singapore model.

Singapore’s politicians are paid obscenely high salaries in this world. So what hasn’t been obtained through corruption has been obtained through legal means, courtesy of our lack of opposition check and a free media.

Singapore boasts the longest detention without trial in the world – 32 years, longer than Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned. Brutality has been substituted by something equally ruthless.

Mr Gee wrote:

So praise Lee Kuan Yew, by all means. He deserves the accolades he is getting for making his country such a an unlikely success story.

Too much of the praise heaped onto Lee Kuan Yew are praises due for others. The accolades he is getting is undeserved because Singapore’s success story is largely the result of others not him.

Silent majority no longer silent

April 7, 2015

I refer to the 1 Apr 2015 Straits Times letter “Silent majority in half a paradise” by Madam Loh Lay San.

Madam Loh wrote:

I AM one of the “silent majority”.
I have never written or blogged or Facebooked about national issues. But there’s always a time for it.

A warm welcome to Madam Loh, she is no longer the silent majority; her loud voice has resonated across the nation.

Madam Loh wrote:

I mourn the loss of our national giant, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. My heart is saddened as if I have lost someone close to me. At the same time, my heart is bursting with pride at the unprecedented show of gratitude and patriotism.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew may be Madam Loh’s giant and that of many others, but there are others who do not share her view so it would have been better for Madam Loh to refer to Mr Lee as her giant instead of our national giant.

The same show of gratitude and patriotism was also displayed by North Koreans when Kim Jong-il passed away. It showed that a nation can be conditioned to show gratitude and patriotism despite gratitude and patriotism not being due.

Madam Loh wrote:

Once, as I was leaving my exercise class, I remarked that it was extremely humid outside. Quick as lightning, my exercise mate from Hong Kong told me: “Don’t complain, Singapore is half a paradise.” She is right. And this, in no small part, is due to the work of Mr Lee, who really could not have done more in his life for this nation.

Madam Loh’s friend forgot to add that Hong Kong too is half a paradise. Whether our half paradise is due in no small part to Mr Lee is a matter of debate, not fact. People somehow have come to automatically accept it as truth without bothering too much about the real factual details.

Madam Loh wrote:

To the “noisy minority” in relentless search of freedom of speech, political freedom and all, the acid test is this: Have you given 50 per cent of your life for this country? How about 25 per cent, 10 per cent or even 5 per cent? If not, why the noise?

How does Madam Loh define giving one’s life for this country? Must one be a prime minister or a minister to qualify as giving life for the country? If that is Madam Loh’s definition, then nearly all Singaporeans have not given their lives for the country. That would be most unfair to Singaporeans who would effectively be condemned as jiat liao bis.

Or perhaps Madam Loh defines giving one’s life for this country as having worked in the public sector. If that is Madam Loh’s definition and Madam Loh wants to encourage all to give life for this country, then either everyone has to work for the public sector or the private sector has to be completely nationalized. Either way is impossible without ruining the country.

So the only fair and sensible definition must be that anyone who has worked hard to contribute in his or her small way to nation building in whatever capacity should be deemed as having given one’s life for the country. That will mean that almost everyone has given his or her life for the country. Whether it is 50% or 25% will depend on the person’s age and life expectancy. But by the end of our lives, we would all have given the bulk of our lives for this country. Even Mr Lee himself never gave 100% of his life for the country for how could baby Lee Kuan Yew sucking milk from his mother’s breast be considered as giving his life for the country?

But even with that definition, we run into problems as youths who have not taken part time jobs would not qualify as giving their lives for the country. In that case, why does Straits Times provide youth forums for youths to make noise when they don’t meet the qualifying criteria of having given their lives to the country?

So in the end, the definition has to be that there is no life giving requirement before someone can qualify to make noise. Otherwise our children will be mutes until the day they start working.

Madam Loh wrote:

There are always places where such freedom can be found. But together with it, there will be freedom to be discriminated against, freedom to be raped, freedom to be mugged, freedom to be shot – complete freedom.

Madam Loh shouldn’t automatically associate freedom with high crime rate because there are countries or places that enjoy the best of both worlds like Liechtenstein, Monaco, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and so on.

Madam Loh wrote:

As for me, I am staying put, humidity and all. I am blessed and proud to be a Singaporean.

I am sure every Singaporean is proud to be a Singaporean. But whether or not they associate that pride with Lee Kuan Yew is a completely different matter altogether.

SG is not a democracy despite rule by popular consent

April 3, 2015

I refer to the 2 Apr 2015 TR Emeritus article “SG is a democracy ruled by popular consent” from sgthinker.wordpress.com

Sgthinker wrote:

Dear Western Media: Singapore is a democracy and the PAP rules by popular consent
I am sick and tired of reading the western media’s statements that Singapore is not a democracy, but is instead ruled by autocracy or a benevolent dictatorship. This convenient but lazy stereotype needs dismantling …

Western media’s labeling of Singapore as an autocracy or a dictatorship is neither laziness nor stereotype but the undeniable truth.

Sgthinker wrote:

For every election since Singapore’s independence, the PAP has won at least 60% of the popular vote. This averages at 69.5% of the popular vote over the decades. In other words, approximately 2 out of 3 Singaporeans want the PAP, compared to the alternative political parties.
The facts speak for themselves. PAP rules by popular consent.

Rule by popular consent doesn’t in and of itself make Singapore a democracy. The most fundamental prerequisite for democracy is a free press. No free press means no democracy. Singapore’s press freedom is 150th in the world, close to rock bottom.

Democracy is impossible without freedom of the press, for freedom of the press is the basis of democracies.

Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

A free press is a fundamental prerequisite in the implementation of democracy.

Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

Freedom of the press is one of the rights that is fundamental to democracy. No country that systematically interferes with or restricts freedom can be considered fully democratic.

An Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern T.D., Prime Minister of Ireland

The people’s Right to Know is a universal principle that secures democracy, and Freedom of the Press is the basic freedom that guarantees this right.

Yoshiro Mori, Former Prime Minister of Japan

Freedom of the press has remained the condition sine qua non of democracy ever since: every cultural and political development is based on freedom of opinion.

Wolfgang Schüssel, Federal Chancellor of Austria

If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.

Information is the currency of democracy

Thomas Jefferson

A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. … Under dictatorship the press is bound to languish, and the loudspeaker and the film to become more important. But where free institutions are indigenous to the soil and men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the Fourth Estate, the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.

Winston Churchill

Sgthinker wrote:

Contrast this with the definition of autocracy (government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control). You can vote out the PAP. We are not an autocracy.

Although North Korea doesn’t have elections, it’s hard to imagine North Koreans voting out their Kim dynasty rulers if ever given a chance to. Despite terrible famines and severe children malnutrition, North Koreans still look up dearly to their Kim dynasty rulers, convinced that nuclear weapons are more important than food for children. North Korean’s unwavering support for their Kim rulers can be seen from the wailing and crying on the death of their Kim ruler which was not unlike what Singapore witnessed during the recent mourning of Lee Kuan Yew. North Korea is a good example of a people so brainwashed to be endeared to its leaders that it would not vote them out even if there were famine or widespread malnutrition.

Thus, Sgthinker should not underestimate the power of an autocratic government to brainwash its population. During the Second World War, the Japanese military dominated the government and systematically indoctrinated the nation into thinking they were superior beings, that the Chinese were pigs meant to be slaughtered and conditioned the people to commit untold atrocities.

After the war, the Japanese government systematically doctored its education program so that many Japanese today don’t know the full extent of the atrocities committed by their forefathers.

The same thing happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler did exactly what Lee Kuan Yew did. He controlled all the press and the people were fed with exactly the information he wanted them to be fed with. The result was a compliant nation galvanized to war and even holocaust.

So Sgthinker should never underestimate the extent to which a population can be brainwashed.

Sgthinker wrote:

How about dictatorship? (government where political authority is monopolized by a single person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure the entity’s power remains strong). There are other opposition parties in Parliament and you can always vote in more. We are not a dictatorship.

Other opposition parties in parliament are severely under-represented so much so that the PAP can out vote other parties anytime, all the time. That for all intents and purposes is a monopoly of the parliament. We can’t vote in more unless we have press freedom. Thus, we are a dictatorship.

Sgthinker wrote:

Retort 1: But the opposition gets virtually zero representation despite gaining over 30% of the popular vote!

That’s because we adopt the “First-Pass-the-Post” system that we inherited from the UK. It’s a winner-takes-all system, but it is also a democratic system. Unless you are insinuating that the UK is not a democracy too?

Sgthinker ignored fundamental differences between UK and Singapore. “First-Pass-the-Post” is needed in the UK to amplify small differences in voting outcomes because voting outcomes are close affairs due to UK press freedom. “First-Pass-the-Post” is not needed in Singapore because Singapore already has a dominant party so there is no need for “First-Pass-the-Post” to further amplify that dominance. Amplifying the dominance of a dominant party worsens the democracy of a nation. Sgthinker should not expect the same tool used in a completely different context will yield the same good results. It is ultimately press freedom, not First-Pass-the-Post that UK’s democracy is rooted in.

Sgthinker wrote:

There’s also the issue of gerrymandering. While this is indeed a problem, it should be noted that other democratic societies like the USA have this problem too, but you wouldn’t use this as an excuse to say that the USA is not democratic.

Not true, US state boundaries don’t change with every election.

Sgthinker wrote:

Retort 2: The opposition performed poorly because the PAP fixed them!

Mr LKY himself has admitted that he has come down hard on the opposition. But this action does not sufficiently explain the opposition’s poor performance. Why? Because the disgruntled voter can see all that discrimination happening and protest against it by either voting for the opposition, spoiling their vote or refusing to vote.

It is indeed possible, as in the case of Hitler’s government persecuting Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the deformed and so on while the German people looked away and did nothing. But the German people looking away didn’t justify Hitler’s persecution of Jews and so on. Similarly, Singaporeans looking away doesn’t justify LKY persecuting the opposition.

The data shows that even if we include spoilt or non-votes, the PAP still has the majority popular vote.
Voters are not blind and stupid. If they are truly upset at the PAP for “rigging elections”, they can still voice their disagreement by not voting the PAP and spoiling their vote. And indeed, the results show that people have done so. There are clearly not enough dissatisfied people to vote out the PAP. This is an inconvenient truth for opposition supporters. It is still a fact that the PAP has popular consent.

Sgthinker assumed that voters are neither blind nor stupid. That’s a dangerous assumption. While people may not be stupid, they may be ignorant. Sgthinker should not underestimate the ability of state controlled press, television and education to mould a nation of ignorant people as the examples of Nazi Germany and war time Japan have shown. Without press freedom, popular consent doesn’t necessarily mean wise consent.

Retort 3: The lack of a free press hampers democracy. If there was a free press that could criticise the PAP, and the voters would not have voted for the PAP.

It is dangerous to assume that a free press would necessarily be in the opposition’s favour. People who make this argument should be careful for what they wish for.

Not true. Singapore luminaries like Catherine Lim and Jack Neo have attributed Singapore’s recent political change to the Internet which although is a poor substitute for the press, is still better than nothing. The recent turn of events shows that press freedom, like internet freedom will more likely than not offer advantage than disadvantage to the opposition.

The reason is simple. The press is a profit-making entity. Reporters write to get viewership, which in turn generates revenue to keep the reporters paid. Yes, there are reporters that write in search of truth and to provide an impartial view. But we cannot forget that there are reporters who are paid to write (or incentivised to write), regardless of truth or impartiality.

Not true. There are so many internet news websites and news blogs out there written by citizens for free which shows that people feel strongly enough to disseminate information even if they have to do it for free or at great personal loss. There is no reason why they wouldn’t set up newspapers if they are allowed to even if there is no money to be made.

For proof, look at Fox News in the United States. Fox News was created by Rupert Murdoch, media magnate, in response to a gap in the American media industry. He created a media outlet that was specially designed towards the tastes of conservative (Republican) voters. Fox, with its conservative slant towards reporting and commentary, soon became the dominant news outlet for Republican voters. By giving conservative voters what they want to hear, Fox News has guaranteed its survival and profitability.

There are so many countries in this world with a free press. Sgthinker cannot quote one example and insist that Singapore will definitely conform to that example. Can Sgthinker quote a similar example from Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and so on?

Even in America, there are different media catering to different groups, infinitely better than in Singapore where 40% has nothing catered to it.

Free press can contribute to a politically polarised society, one where voters are stuck in an echo chamber where they only hear the opinions they identify with, ignoring other viewpoints. This is not the foundation of a good democracy.

Isn’t Singapore already polarized? Isn’t the current situation one where 60% is stuck in its own echo chamber, hearing only what it wants to hear while ignoring the other 40%? If that is considered bad foundation for democracy, then by Sgthinker’s definition, Singapore’s foundation for democracy is already not good which contradicts his claim that Singapore is a democracy.

It is easy for a free press in Singapore to create an echo chamber because it is profitable to do so. If Singapore already identifies as ~60% voting for the PAP, then isn’t it possible for a free press to spawn news outlets that are strongly pro-PAP (even more so than SPH today)? That could in turn make it even more difficult for the opposition parties to be voted in.

At least there will be two echo chambers – one 60%, the other 40%, still better than the current one echo chamber catering to 60% leaving the remaining 40% voiceless.

Sgthinker wrote:

I emphasise this. It is dangerous to assume that a free press would necessarily be in the opposition’s favour. It might work in their favour, or it might not.

That’s not the point. The point is the press has to be free in order that the people’s minds can be free.

We are already paying the price for unrealistic views of LKY

April 2, 2015

I refer to the 1 Apr 2015 TR Emeritus article “We will pay the price for unrealistic views of LKY” by Mr Daniel Yap.

Mr Yap wrote:

In death, the man still has the power to unite us.

LKY’s death didn’t unite us. Whether it was 0.5 million or 1 million or 2 million who honored LKY, there was still a sizeable minority who didn’t. So we can’t say LKY united us. LKY was too controversial to ever be a unifying figure.

Mr Yap wrote:

There are two ways forward now. In one future we polarise ourselves, we retreat into two camps: one that idolises and one that vilifies (both unjustifiably).

How can vilification based on facts be unjustifiable? Lee Kuan Yew only has himself to blame for polarizing the nation.

Mr Yap wrote:

Lee Kuan Yew was unashamed of his choices – why are we ashamed on his behalf?

That is like saying Hitler was unashamed of his choices – why should Germans be ashamed on his behalf? Make no mistake Mr Yap, the Germans are ashamed of Hitler’s choices and ashamed of their forefathers for supporting Hitler.

Mr Yap wrote:

it is similarly disrespectful to caricature his achievements and the hard choices he made.

What achievements Mr Yap? Lee Kuan Yew himself admitted that both he and Singapore are indebted to Dr Winsemius. So we owe our achievements to Dr Winsemius, not to Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Yap wrote:

Talk about there being no trade-offs is pure nonsense.

What trade off was there in detaining Dr Chia Thye Poh till 1989?

Mr Yap wrote:

… fails to give Lee credit where he is due – that he made and stood by his choices in a fallen world where not everything can be win-win for everyone all the time.

Lee himself credited Dr Winsemius. If Mr Yap honours Lee, then he should honour Lee’s words. Lee admitted that both he and Singapore owe Dr Winsemius so the credit should go to Dr Winsemius, not to Lee.

The world then wasn’t a fallen one. Post war population explosion may have led to high unemployment rates. But make no mistake, colonial Singapore before Lee took over was a prosperous one. The only time Singapore was truly fallen was during the Japanese Occupation.

Mr Yap wrote:

And this is also the very same mistake that many of his critics make – seeing his actions in isolation and refusing to acknowledge the effective but imperfect outcome.

The effective outcome wasn’t due to Lee Kuan Yew but due to Dr Winsemius. Lee’s actions served more than anything else to consolidate his own power than to contribute to an effective outcome. Even the Tunku and the British, Lee’s partners in action thought so too.

Mr Yap wrote:

If Lee had not made those choices, and sacrificed dreams, even people, we would not have what we have today.

That is a statement of opinion, not fact. To prove what he said, Mr Yap would have to turn back time, let people like Dr Lim Hock Siew free and see if Singapore would have become worse off instead. In all likelihood, if the Leftists had won power, the Singapore economy would have been in the hands of Chinese businessmen like Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chian. There is no reason why luminaries like Tan Kah Kee or Lee Kong Chian would have failed Singapore.

Mr Yap wrote:

And by any sensible critic’s reckoning, this outcome for Singapore, out of all possible outcomes, is far, far better than we could ever have hoped for.

Mr Yap is assuming that the outcome would not have been possible without Lee Kuan Yew. That again is opinion, not fact. Since it was Dr Winsemius’s economic plan that produced the best possible outcome, one can assume it was Dr Winsemius who mattered, not Lee Kuan Yew, so our best possible outcome was despite Lee being in charge, not because Lee was in charge.

Mr Yap wrote:

Lee also sacrificed a part of his humanity. One cannot make hard choices like he did without hardening within; and to live with no regrets as he did meant that a hard pragmatism had to overrule.

That is like saying Hitler sacrificed a part of his humanity because he couldn’t have made hard choices without hardening within. It is people like Mr Yap who give monsters the free rein to grow in strength and to ultimately consume a nation.

Lee may have lived with no regrets. So too did Hitler and Stalin. Just because no dictator have lived with regrets doesn’t mean their actions are therefore correct.

Singapore isn’t the only one that prospered; there are three other East Asian Tiger economies that prospered too. Hong Kong prospered without ‘pragmatic’ rule while Taiwanese and South Korean ‘pragmatism’ gave way to liberalism and democracy without sacrificing economic progress. Our compatriots have shown that ‘pragmatism’ was either unnecessary or should not have continued to this day.

Mr Yap wrote:

Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy is admirable BECAUSE he made those sacrifices. He is a leader par excellence BECAUSE he had to bear the consequences of the people he sacrificed. He is a visionary without peer BECAUSE of all the futures and freedoms he steered us away from. As much as I may want an apology for all the things he did, I honestly am glad that he never apologised. The legacy handed to us is crystal clear.
Let us remember the man he truly was, not some cartoon hero or villain of our own imagination.

Lee Kuan Yew’s so-called legacies are the legacies of others. When you strip the legacies due to others from Lee Kuan Yew, what’s left of him? The most important legacy – Singapore’s rapid economic industrialization was under the guidance and counsel of Dr Albert Winsemius. That is Dr Winsemius’ legacy, not Lee Kuan Yew’s. Mr Yap looks up to Lee Kuan Yew who in turn looks to Dr Winsemius. So ultimately, if we trace the source of inspiration, it’s Dr Winsemius.

Our economic policies, export industrialization, active courting of MNCs, setting up of EDB and DBS, pursuit of oil refinery, ship building, electronics and other industries are all documented in an industrialization plan for Singapore written by Dr Winsemius and his team from the United Nations. We merely followed Dr Winsemius’ plan, not Lee Kuan Yew’s.

Lee Kuan Yew was no visionary. His vision was borrowed from Dr Winsemius. The only vision Lee had was import substitution for the Malaysian Common Market through merger. He made it very clear just before our 1963 merger that Singapore’s economy depended on Malaysia and without merger we would be doomed. That was Lee’s vision. It didn’t materialize because we ended up being kicked out of Malaysia. That put paid to the only plan Lee had so much so that he cried and cried and didn’t know what else to do except to come up with a campaign “Can Singapore Survive?” So at the point of Separation, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even know how Singapore could survive. He was left with nothing. Given that situation, what else could Lee or any other leader in his position could have done except to turn to Dr Winsemius? So Mr Yap should recognize that the admirable legacy is not Lee Kuan Yew’s but Dr Winsemius’. Lee wasn’t the leader par excellence. He just happened to have the good counsel of Dr Winsemius and others.

What sacrifice did Lee make? When the Japanese came and many like Lim Bo Seng and Lt Adnan sacrificed their lives to defend Singapore, what did Lee sacrifice other than to work for the Japanese? When the Leftists agitated for independence and got brutalized in the process, what did Lee sacrifice other than to reap the fruits of their labors? What consequence did Lee bear for the sacrifices of Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Chia Thye Poh who were locked for more than two and three decades respectively? No consequences at all.

Mr Yap should look at Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea and understand that the futures and freedoms that Lee steered us away from didn’t make us a better place. Many of us who use South Korean mobile phones and watch South Korean TV dramas should realize that economic prosperity need not be sacrificed on the altar of freedom.

If I may borrow Mr Yap’s words, a part of Mr Yap’s humanity has been sacrificed when he expressed happiness that Lee Kuan Yew never apologized. Although Lee Kuan Yew never apologized, he admitted that not everything he did was right. So Lee admitted he was wrong sometimes but he just couldn’t bring himself to apologize to those he had been wrong to. Is Mr Yap glad that Lee admitted wrong doing without apologizing? Is that how Mr Yap will teach his children? Mr Yap should put himself in Dr Lim Hock Siew’s or Dr Chia Thye Poh’s shoes. What big time terrorist was Dr Lim or Dr Chia that they had to be locked away for twenty, thirty over years? Why did Tang Liang Hong had to run away from Singapore when PAP’s Choo Wee Khiang could say Little India is pitch black on Sundays without getting into any trouble? Even Lee Kuan Yew’s good comrade Mr Lim Kim San admitted that Lee made very racist remarks during our short period of merger with Malaysia that incensed the Malays and contributed tremendously to the racial riots.

Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy is crystal clear but not to Mr Yap who like many Singaporeans talk much without ever anchoring what they say on facts or complete facts.

If Mr Yap wants us to truly remember who Lee Kuan Yew was, villain or hero, he should first get the full facts and avoid substituting opinion for fact. For all we know, both he and his children are already paying the price for the unrealistic views he has of Lee Kuan Yew.

Response to “LKY’s legacy”

March 30, 2015

I refer to the 28 Mar 2015 TR Emeritus article “LKY’s legacy” from Lu Jiaquan’s Facebook page.

Mr Lu wrote:

The moment you wake up, you are in your HDB flat. His housing legacy.

The first flats weren’t built by LKY, not even the first high rise flats. They were built during colonial times and when LKY took power in 1959, he also inherited the SIT along with many uncompleted Queenstown units. So the housing legacy was a legacy that originated in British colonial times. LKY merely continued with that legacy.

Mr Lu wrote:

Once you step into your toilet/bathroom, you have the tap with potable water. His water legacy.

That would be an insult to Mr Tan Kim Seng whose memorial still stands at the Esplanade but whose legacy has been all but forgotten, stolen if one might say. It was Tan Kim Seng’s generous donation that made public running water possible.

Even Malaysian households have running water today despite not having LKY. Or is Mr Lu of the opinion that without LKY, the rest of Singapore including Mr Lu’s own father and grandfather would be so hopeless that we would still be without running water even till this day?

Mr Lu wrote:

Once you use the bus and MRT to travel, you are better than your parents in earlier days, travelling to Shenton Way from Toa Payoh for 2 hours or even worse. His public transport legacy.

Hong Kong had subways long before we did. If we continued to be under the British and not under LKY, we would have gotten our MRT earlier.

Subways are standard fare in most modern cities including many Third World ones. Yet we don’t hear citizens in those cities thanking any particular individual for their subways.

Mr Lu wrote:

You have shades of trees along the roads and streets to keep yourself cool. His greenery legacy.

It is not as though roads elsewhere, especially First World Cities have no trees.

Mr Lu wrote:

You do not have to worry going out late at night with your parents, without much fear of being mugged. His law and order legacy.

Once in a while, you read about Singaporean women getting raped in broad daylight, some murdered as well with the perpetrator still at large.

Hong Kong too like us has low crime rates. Our law and order is a legacy passed down from the British.

Mr Lu wrote:

Our country is safely secured from external armed threats. His citizen armed forces legacy.

The only occasion when Singapore fell to external armed threats was when the Japanese invaded Singapore. Today, the threat from Japan is no more. Not because we have armed ourselves sufficiently to repel another Japanese attack but because Japan today is no longer a security threat to Singapore.

Mr Lu wrote:

You have good quality, bilingual education because he believed investing in the youths. His education legacy.

That is an insult to Mr Lee Kong Chian. It was LKC, not LKY who first proposed bilingual education for schools and who first implemented it in the Chinese High School. There is no doubt that if Singapore had continued to be under the British, Lee Kong Chian would have continued with bilingual education for Singapore.

Even Malaysia, without LKY, has not only bilingual but trilingual education. Our bilingualism, like that of Malaysia’s is the natural consequence of us being former British colonies.

Mr Lu wrote:

So what has he done for you, your parents, and the future generations to come?

So what has LKY done that wasn’t actually done by others, inherited from others or would have been done by others as had been done too in Malaysia, Hong Kong and many other cities?

Blind gratitude is not gratitude

March 22, 2015

I refer to the 21 Mar 2015 Straits Times letter “Gratitude an important virtue” by Madam Chang Choon Kheng.

Madam Chang wrote:

THE creation of the hoax website falsely announcing former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s death, at a time when he is critically ill, shows that some of us have forgotten the virtue of gratitude (“Concern mounts amid outrage at rumours”; yesterday).

Contrary to Madam Chang’s assertion, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death hoax may not necessarily show that some of us have forgotten gratitude but may instead show that some of us have become more discerning about whom to be grateful to and for what.

Madam Chang wrote:

Given the situation Singapore was in soon after independence in the 1960s, Mr Lee had no choice but to rule with an iron fist, to ensure law and order in Singapore.

Mr Lee had already locked up all so called ‘communists’ during Operation Coldstore in 1963 which according to our ambassador to Australia Mr Burhan Gafoor, had completely shattered the CPM underground network. Konfrontasi with Indonesia also ended prematurely with the toppling of Sukarno by Singapore friendly Suharto just one month after our independence. Separation from Malaysia also severed the tension between the leaders of the two countries that was at the root of communal violence then. What else was there that gave Mr Lee no choice but to rule with an iron fist?

Our situation after World War II was much worse than after independence. Yet our former British colonial rulers never ruled Singapore with Lee’s iron fist.

Did Mr Lee have no choice but to detain Mr Chia Thye Poh till 1998? Did he have no choice but to detain Dr Lim Siew Hock till 1982? What difficult situation persisted from 1966 to 1998 or from 1963 to 1982?

Madam Chang wrote:

He did what he knew he had to do at that time.

Before winning power, Mr Lee fought for press freedom, after winning power Mr Lee suppressed press freedom. Whatever that Mr Lee knew he had to do had nothing to do with consistent moral values that transcended situations but had everything to do with Machiavelli self interest and self preservation.

Madam Chang wrote:

Looking at where we are now, we have to acknowledge that Mr Lee and his team have done much to make Singapore what it is today.

We can’t just look at where we are now and assume it was all due to Mr Lee and his team. We must also look at where we were before, the conditions that we were bestowed with, the citizenry that we were blessed with and the actual details of our journey before we can give the right acknowledgement to the right persons.

According to Dr Goh Keng Swee, there were four conditions that helped Singapore prosper:
(1) Excellent geographical location
(2) Excellent Victorian principles of free trade and enterprise
(3) Excellent British colonial adaptability honed over more than a hundred years since 1819
(4) Prosperity of our neighbors

So according to Dr Goh, where we are now was largely due to the continuation of excellent British ways of doing things which Dr Goh described as priceless. Thus, if Madam Chang acknowledges Mr Lee’s team mate Dr Goh, she should also acknowledge Dr Goh’s words of wisdom and acknowledge that much of why we are where we are today has more to do with our priceless colonial inheritances than Mr Lee or his team.

Madam Chang wrote:

I am a pre-school teacher and I am tasked with teaching our children virtues. Being grateful is a very important one.

The importance of being grateful means that one must exercise due care and diligence to pinpoint exactly who to be grateful to and for what. By attributing all that we should be grateful for to one person, Madam Chang risks being ungrateful to everyone else by failing to recognize their fair share of contributions. If we strip Mr Lee of the contributions by others, what little is left for us to be grateful about?

The key events that are closely identified with Mr Lee were our failed merger with Malaya, Graduate Mothers Scheme, Stop at Two and suppression of press freedom, hardly anything that we should be grateful about.

Madam Chang wrote:

When I teach the children in my class what gratitude is, I will tell them about the history of Singapore, to show them that we must be grateful to our leaders who worked day and night so that we could live comfortably today.

The Singapore history that Madam Chang tells must go beyond Mr Lee Kuan Yew as there were others before him like Tan Kah Kee, Tan Kim Seng and Tan Tock Seng who helped cement Singapore’s status as the leading centre of business and entrepreneurship in the region and helped lay the strong foundation upon which independent Singapore could further prosper. If Madam Chang only tells the tall tales of Mr Lee but not the true tales of other Singapore patriots and pioneers, she risks being ungrateful to so many others that all Singaporeans are indebted to.

Does Madam Chang think Singapore could have prospered if everyone lazed around while Mr Lee alone worked day and night? Even Mr Lee himself admitted in 1965 that it was ultimately the citizenry’s mettle that mattered. How does Madam Chang know Mr Lee worked day and night? Did she have special privilege to enter the Istana Palace to witness Mr Lee working day and night?

Madam Chang wrote:

Before we complain about anything, we must remember that the peaceful and clean city we enjoy today came at a high price – the sweat, tears and blood of the older generations. They persevered and had the “never say die” spirit which we should learn.

Before Madam Chang compliments anything, she must remember that Singapore was already peaceful and prosperous during British colonial times and that the high price of older generations included that of those who came before Lee. The sweat, tears and blood of Lee’s generation cannot compare with that of those who came after our founding in 1819. It was our earliest pioneers who literally carved a city out of the jungle and turned Singapore into the prosperous port city that Lee and his team inherited.

Madam Chang wrote:

Now that Mr Lee is critically ill, I feel sad that we may soon lose a good man. But I am also heartened that there are many who appreciate him, as shown by the many good wishes sent.

Madam Chang will not feel so sad if she can better understand the truth behind what Mr Lee did or did not do.

Madam Chang wrote:

I thank Mr Lee for all he has done in the past. He has indeed left a legacy for us. May we pass this legacy to our children, and be grateful for it.

Much of what Madam Chang thanks Mr Lee for is attributable to others. When stripped of these legacies due to others, there is nothing much left about Mr Lee to pass on to our children or to be grateful about.

Rebutting Mr Moh Hon Meng

March 15, 2015

I refer to the 7 Jan 2015 TREmeritus article on Mr Moh Hon Meng’s facebook post “In Defence of PAP” written three days before General Election 2011.

Mr Moh wrote:

… It used to be that if you spoke up against the PAP, you feared for your life. But now online sentiment for the PAP has turned so overwhelmingly negative that I’m afraid to post this!
But what’s of note in this election is that my friends have the courage to stand up and say what they believe in, so I must do the same.

If the boss of Diamond Industries continues to take out an entire Straits Times page to worship Lee Kuan Yew every 9 August, what fear is there of speaking for the PAP? If Mr Moh was truly fearful, surely he would’ve used a pseudonym, wouldn’t he? Mr Moh was less fearful of what he was doing compared to so many others who speak against the PAP anonymously.

Foreign Workers

Mr Moh wrote:

Forget the “Swiss standard of living”, we are fighting for our survival.

How can we be fighting for survival when we can afford a $1 billion artificial garden that incurs millions of dollars of losses every year? How can we be fighting for survival when we continue to splurge millions on fireworks, celebrations and F1 every year?

Mr Moh wrote:

We are surrounded by third world countries with cheap, hungry and hard-working labour.

Being cheaper and hungrier doesn’t necessarily mean that the Third World countries we are surrounded by are necessarily more competitive. The annual Global Competitiveness Report constantly ranks Singapore much higher than our Third World neighbors.

Mr Moh wrote:

In the 1990s, businesses were leaving Singapore in drove to set up in Malaysia, Vietnam and China. The business owners complained that Singapore was too expensive to do business in.

Businesses that left in the 1990s to Third World countries were low end businesses, businesses that Singapore could afford to lose. This helped Singapore refocus on higher end businesses which translated to a better economy today. Singapore in the 1990s was nowhere as expensive as it is today. Yet, higher end businesses aren’t leaving in droves today. Being competitive isn’t primarily about being cheaper.

Singapore business cost is primarily rental cost and since the government is the Number 1 landlord in Singapore, shouldn’t Mr Moh direct the problem of high business cost to our government rather than to Singaporeans?

Mr Moh wrote:

Singaporeans wanted “lifestyle”, and eschew late hours, low pay and hard work. We want to be paid a high salary, and yet leave at 6pm to have work-life balance. We want to sit in air-con offices and not sweat in the sun.

Singaporeans continue to work some of the longest hours in the world today. What “lifestyle” is that? If Germans, Swiss, Swedes, Dutch and so on can work regular hours, have work life balance and receive high pay, why can’t Singaporeans? Expatriates in Singapore generally sit in air-con offices and don’t sweat in the sun except when they go jogging or cycling so why can’t Singaporeans?

Mr Moh wrote:

We want benefits for mothers, fathers and older workers. We want companies to provide child care, medical care and long (paid) compassionate, maternity and paternity leave. We want a lot of things. It is not wrong to want these things.

Benefits for parents and the old, child care, medical care are standard fare in First World nations. Isn’t Singapore supposedly First World? Then why should Mr Moh begrudge these supposedly First World standard fare items?

Many in the First World do not need compassionate or paternity leave because they can easily take time off for personal or family matters. Outstanding companies like Google don’t even require employees to clock in. First World maternity leave can be much longer than ours. So no Mr Moh, we don’t want a lot of things. We just want what most First World nations enjoy. Don’t be a hypocrite by saying it is not wrong to want these things and yet begrudge Singaporeans wanting such things.

Mr Moh wrote:

But from the point of view of employers and investors, their response was basically this: “No thanks, Singapore. I’will rather set up in some other country and maybe hire a few high value Singaporeans to move and work there. Maybe.”

If employer and investor mindset is to pay dirt cheap and work Singaporeans’ socks off like machines, then our response will be the same. Thanks but no thanks. Feel free to go to many of our friendly neighboring countries. Singapore is a First World country that aspires to First World investments, not Third World investments.

Mr Moh wrote:

So the PAP government said “Please still come to Singapore. We’ll let you hire the low cost, hard-working foreign workers that you need, and give you land subsidy, tax incentives etc .” And the businesses came back.

The fact that businesses came back wasn’t necessarily due to PAP allowing low cost foreign workers to come in. It was the successful and decisive handling of the Global Financial Crisis by Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner that things began to return to normalcy. No amount of PAP cheap foreign labor would have made any difference if the Global Financial crisis persisted, the global financial markets continued to meltdown and global consumer sentiments remained dead. After the financial markets were tamed, businesses naturally came back whether or not we had low cost workers or not.

Mr Moh contradicted himself when he said:

But a good number of higher value jobs, those in the air-con offices, like marketing, accounting and finance, legal, design, operations etc., went to Singaporeans.
This is at the low end. At the high end …

A good number of higher value jobs are at the low end? That must be one of the most oxymoronic sentences by a PAP sympathizer. Has Mr Moh not heard of the many complaints about a particular nationality hiring only its own kind so much so that Minister Tan Chuan Jin had to come up with the Fair Consideration Framework? If a good number of higher value jobs went to Singaporeans, why did Minister Tan come out and say such things:

SINGAPORE — Describing the new Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) as a “sensible approach”, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin today (Sept 23) said it sends a “strong signal to all employers that they should consider Singaporeans fairly in filling available jobs”.

“Our objective is simple – to let Singaporeans benefit fairly from economic growth, by helping them get better jobs now and in the future,” said Mr Tan in a blog post …

Mr Tan noted that the majority of participants in the Ministry of Manpower’s Our Singapore Conversation felt that “the playing field is somewhat unlevel between Singaporeans and foreigners for job opportunities”.

They asked for ways to ensure that Singaporean fresh graduates were not disadvantaged with competing with foreign employees …

“I hear you,” said Mr Tan. “Not just the OSC participants, but the many Singaporeans I have met and who have written to me about the discrimination they have perceived at the workplace.” …

In dealing with firms that require “additional scrutiny” — such as those with a low proportion of Singaporeans at the PME level — the MOM will adopt a more “targetted approach”, said Mr Tan. “We will start to identify and engage such firms probably by early next year, and shine a light on their hiring and staff development practices, even as we work towards the setting up of the new jobs bank next year,” he said.

[Today, Fair Consideration Framework a ‘sensible approach’: Tan Chuan Jin, 23 Sept 2013]

Mr Moh wrote:

At the high end, the foreign businesses said “Look, Singapore has got some good people, but not those at the very high end. Not the mold-breaking engineers, not the Nobel Prize winners, not the think-outside-the-box industrial designers. We need these people.” So the PAP said “OK, let’s bring in these foreign talents (FT) as PRs. They will impart skills to our people. We will also change our education system, add more universities and research facilities, to try and achieve this. In time, we hope to produce our own Nobel scientists.” And so the high end MNCs came also.

Singapore education is supposed to be world famous. We always boast about our high PISA rankings, our high university rankings and our textbooks being used all over the world. So how could Mr Moh end up saying Singapore hasn’t got talented, mould breaking, think-out-of-the-box people at the very high end? Was he implying that our education, for all its hype doesn’t train mould breaking, think-out-of-the-box people who would become very high end? Shouldn’t Mr Moh be very concerned with our education system instead of just giving a one liner about it? He gave the impression that he wasn’t truly concerned with drilling down problems to their roots but was merely explaining things away conveniently.

Mr Moh wrote:

It is not the PAP who has suppressed wages for Singaporeans. It is global competition. The third world, hungry low cost worker, is suppressing wages and causing jobs to be lost in the U.S., Europe and Japan, not just here.

Mr Moh was employing one of PAP’s favorite silly fallacies here. Global competition from low cost Third World workers cannot lower the wages of workers providing face to face service to the customer or cause them to lose their jobs. The jobs lost in the US were mainly manufacturing jobs, not service sector jobs. Kopitiam or Koufu cannot shift their restaurants to Third World countries without also closing their businesses here. The only way low cost Third World workers can make their way to Kopitiam or Koufu is that PAP allowed it.

Our median wages have also been suppressed. How did the low cost Third World worker end up suppressing our median wages too? Thus, it seems that even not so low wage Third World workers have also made their way here in sizeable numbers which cannot be conveniently explained away by PAP’s simplistic theory repeated by Mr Moh.

Mr Moh wrote:

If we do not offer some low cost workers, and do all we can to woo these multinationals or even simply to persuade our OWN local companies NOT to set up their operations overseas, we will lose a lot of Singaporean jobs.
Who are these foreign workers? They are construction workers, ship-builders, domestic workers, nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, chambermaids etc.

You can easily spot the garbage in Mr Moh’s arguments here. On the one hand, he spoke about the need for foreign workers to woo multinationals. On the other hand he said these foreign workers are ship builders, domestic workers, nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, chamber maids and so on.

• Which multinational wooed employ lots of ship builders when most of our ship yards are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of domestic workers?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of nurses when most of our hospitals are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of garbage collectors when most of our garbage companies are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of chamber maids when many of our hotels are locally owned?

Do we need to woo multinationals for ship building, medical, garbage collection and hotel industries? Is Mr Moh saying Singapore is so gone case we can’t even set up such low tech industries ourselves but have to rely on multinationals? Mr Moh should not use the false pretext of wooing multinationals to justify the mass import of workers that don’t support these multinationals.

Mr Moh wrote:

How many Singaporeans can we find for these jobs? Singaporeans are getting more and more educated and all of us want to be supervisors and managers, and this is good. But who would we manage and supervise? Yes, the FTs have taken away some jobs that otherwise could have been done by Singaporeans, it’s hard to finely calibrate these things; but on balance, their presence ensures that businesses, and cushy, well-paying jobs, remain here and create plenty of opportunities for local SMEs.

Some time ago, a famous restaurateur advertised for a high paying job in one of his outlets and quickly closed applications soon after because applications were overwhelming. This shows that if pay is good, there will be takers for these jobs too. Singaporeans may be getting better educated but not all of us want to be supervisors and managers but all of us want to make a decent living at whatever level that we operate from. Mr Moh shouldn’t pluck sentences from thin air, if there are many well paying cushy jobs for Singaporeans surely the disgruntlement cannot be so wide spread?

Housing policy and overcrowding in MRTs

Mr Moh wrote:

Many economists will tell you that in the short term, there are often imbalances between demand and supply which will lead to distortions in prices. I believe that the price distortions will swing in the other direction in 3 years time, when there would be too many houses to meet demand (particularly if demand is being curbed, following the elections, if foreigner inflows are curtailed). Over the long term however, the government’s policy should be geared towards managing these swings, match supply and demand, and ensure a slow, and affordable increase over time.
Could the increase in foreigner inflows and the number of flats be better coordinated? Perhaps. But it is very fast to approve foreign worker permits, particularly when key MNCs are pressurizing the government for them, and especially when the financial crisis was upon us, whereas it takes a few years to build flats. This mismatch has caused prices to skyrocket.

By attributing the problem to the ease of approving work permit and difficulty of building flats, Mr Moh was essentially trivializing the matter and letting the PAP off the hook. The fact of the matter was that PAP wasn’t even starting to build those flats even if it would have taken them years to do so. Back then, PAP was busy justifying why they shouldn’t build more. They resisted calls by the people to build more. It was only after they lost Aljunied that they started to build more. Mr Moh shouldn’t change the facts to whitewash PAP’s arrogant ways.

Investment losses by the GIC and Temasek

Mr Moh wrote:

It is not right to pinpoint a specific year when it comes to investment performance. The long term performance needs to be considered.

There is nothing wrong with pinpointing, not a specific year, but a specific period of a few years of investment performance. The danger of considering too long a performance term is that the good performance of past managers will be lumped together with the bad performance of current managers which will then mask the bad performance of current managers.

Even Warren Buffet, the world’s greatest investor, lost billions in 2008, like GIC and Temasek did. But he continued to invest, just as GIC and Temasek did, and they recovered their losses when the recovery came in 2009 and 2010. The long term performance of GIC and Temasek has been commendable (based on the data that they released).

We don’t really know about that. A number of distinguished academics have come forward to point out obvious anomalies in Temasek’s accounting such as the wrongful booking of the receipt of government linked companies as profit. Without proper accounting, we will never know if GIC and Temasek truly recovered their losses as well as Warren Buffet did if at all.

Flooding and escape of Mas Selamat

Mr Moh wrote:

I believe these to be civil service lapses, not political ones. As it is with the Nicoll Highway collapse, electrical outages, and the likes. Heads have rolled at the civil service, as we’ve read, but I’m not clear what some opposition parties want. Is it that we must have ministerial resignations for these mistakes? The international community and most Singaporeans would feel very unnerved if a minister resigned every time some mistakes like these occur.

In typical PAP style, Mr Moh credited all success to PAP politics while assigning lapses further down the civil service hierarchy. It’s always those lower down the pecking order that get the blame while those higher up take the credit.

No one is saying that the minister should resign for everyday small mistakes. What Singaporeans want is for ministers to resign for gargantuan, mega mistakes. Or is Mr Moh of the opinion that our ministers are so prone to making mega mistakes that resignations would happen all too often? Ministers in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have resigned over critical mistakes but the international community has never been shaken. Why should Singapore be different?

Cost-of-living increases

Mr Moh wrote:

A lot of the increase comes from the increase in prices of food, oil and other commodities in the global marketplace, which we import.

Mr Moh was practising the usual PAP tai chi of blaming everyone else but themselves. Most well known global indices already acknowledge rental as the main culprit for Singapore’s rapid increase in cost of living.

Mr Moh wrote:

A part of the reason is the tremendous liquidity that has been created by world governments to combat the financial crisis. Some of this liquidity found its way into the prices of some commodities.

The tremendous injection of liquidity to combat financial crisis cannot tremendously increase food or commodity prices because the markets for these products are closer to perfectly competitive, where neither supply nor demand are significantly controlled by any one player.

Mr Moh wrote:

… Perhaps the issue is how we help the lower income cope, rather than say that the PAP has caused the increase.

The issue isn’t merely to help the lower income cope because the middle income is also feeling the squeeze. Furthermore, by asking Singaporeans to only focus on solving the problem and not bring the PAP to task, Mr Moh was essentially encouraging PAP’s irresponsible behavior.

YOG

Mr Moh wrote:

The question that has been asked is “where is the accountability?” I’m wondering, “what kind of accountability should there be?” The ministry has already offered all the facts. In my view, it was the first time this thing called a YOG was organized anywhere in the world, our most important priority was to pull it off properly.

It is not true that all facts about the YOG are already there. Does Mr Moh know where every single dollar went to in detail? Does Mr Moh know every single detail to the original budget? Does he know exactly why additional expenditure was required, how necessary were they and why weren’t they foreseen? Yet Mr Moh so readily claimed that all facts are already there. Just because there was a need to pull it off properly doesn’t mean there was no need to pull it off on or close to budget.

Mr Moh wrote:

But compare this to the F1. It was also the first time a night race was held anywhere in the world, and there, the results were better than we projected.

F1 accountability is even worse. They made a report to study its costs and benefits and ended up congratulating themselves without ever releasing the report for public verification. Mr Chiam See Tong asked for the report but was not given. What accountability is there? The fact that they don’t even dare to release the report shows that the results are likely to be much worse, not better.

Mr Moh wrote:

I appreciate the risk-taking nature of our government in these events.

It is people like Mr Moh who provide the government with the blank cheque to do anything they like and who indulge in the government getting from bad to worse.

Mr Moh wrote:

We want our government and our children to be adventurous and entrepreneurial, we must accept that mistakes will be made. Under-budgeting, as any entrepreneur will tell you, is very real in any new, untested venture.

The YOG is a bad example for our children to be adventurous and entrepreneurial. Would an adventurer mountain climber be so careless as to miss a foothold by a mile? We are not talking about mere under-budgeting but severe under-budgeting. In the real world, the entrepreneur who severely over spends becomes bankrupt. But here our minister was given free money to chalk up the balances. What entrepreneurship is that?

Mr Moh wrote:

Are we telling our government to only do things when they have 100% confidence, and not risk making any mistake? That’s what kiasu is, and we don’t want that.

We are not telling the government to do things with 100% confidence. But should 80% confidence translate to 400% overspending? This kind of overspending inspires absolutely no confidence let alone 80% confidence.

Not wanting kiasu doesn’t mean we therefore want suku.

Main criticism of PAP

Mr Moh wrote:

For a lot of my friends, it’s the arrogance. They may believe that the PAP is the best party to run the country, but they are voting opposition anyway because they have had enough of the arrogant PAP style. That’s heart over head, but that’s what we are like as human beings. Our minds will be closed to the best logic if our hearts are not there. We will accept the most perverse logic, even to our deaths, if our hearts are won. And politics is about winning hearts, not minds. So for my friends whose hearts are lost to the PAP, even if Pullitzer prize winning arguments are presented here (or estate upgrading), it is of no use.

Mr Moh seemed to be insulting a lot of his friends by saying they are all heart and no head and will accept perverse logic to their deaths because their hearts are lost despite his Pulitzer Prize winning arguments. No Mr Moh, yours is a bullshiter prize argument. Your friends are not as headless as you said they are. They can think for themselves and they know that when so many things have gone wrong and are continuing to go wrong, perhaps it is time for a change.

Mr Moh wrote:

That arrogant style was actually appreciated by an earlier generation of Singaporeans, who were less educated. It wasn’t called arrogance then. It was called strength of conviction, it was called leadership. It was called decisiveness and resolve. In the 60s to the 80s, we needed those qualities in a leader, in our leaders.

It is not true that PAP in an earlier generation was also arrogant but which was then appreciated as strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness and resolve. The best proof is in Lee Kuan Yew’s words.

Back in 1965, Lee emphasized that it was the quality of the people that mattered:

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew … stressed that it was the quality of the people – “the mettle in them” that counted … Singapore … did not believe in shaking knuckle dusters at others because the people here were polite … But, he stressed, the island was determined to survive in South-east Asia for the next 1,000 years … Nothing will hold us back. We have thick skins and necks. Even our chickens have thick necks.

[Straits Times, We will survive for the next 1,000 years – Lee, 19 Sept 1965]

By 2007, Lee was saying it was his extraordinary government that brought about Singapore’s transformation:

Lee Kuan Yew: … The Member has compared Singapore against Switzerland, Denmark and Finland … have they brought the standard of living of their people up, multi-fold times, from third-world to first-world in one generation? To maintain that quality of government both in the political leadership that sets the tone for the whole civil service and for the whole country … To make the transformation from what we were in 1959 or 1965, whichever the starting point, to what we are requires an extraordinary government with extraordinary government officers to support it, to bring to where it is.

[2007 parliament debate on ministerial salary]

Thus, contrary to what Mr Moh wrote, PAP in the earlier generation wasn’t as arrogant as they are now so don’t believe in Mr Moh’s rubbish of equating arrogance to strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness or resolve. One can show strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness and resolve without ever being arrogant.

Mr Moh wrote:

But the electorate is a lot more educated now, and there are a lot of well qualified people who can run the country very well. Their response is “look, if you cram another hard truth down my throat, I am going to stand up and take away the ruling mandate away from you.” And that is precisely what a few very qualified candidates are trying to do now, representing all the other Singaporeans who have had it up to here with the “I-know-it-all, you-just-listen-to-me” style. For the previous generation, the PAP may have been the only answer. It is not so with this generation.

Many of the so-called “hard truths” have been repeated by Mr Moh here. We can clearly see that these aren’t “hard truths” but are hardly truths. Many in the previous generation will pass on without ever realizing that PAP was never ever their answer. The answer was from a UN advisor which the PAP took lock stock and barrel and called it its own.

Mr Moh wrote:

Can the PAP be less arrogant? I think PM Lee is trying, as we can see from his apology yesterday. Is it too little too late? Will the PAP really change in the future? I believe in PM Lee’s resolve, but that’s just me.

PM Lee’s apology achieved nothing other than garner tremendous sympathy votes for the PAP. But PAP remains as arrogant as ever.

Mr Moh wrote:

What are my views about the opposition? On an overall basis, I don’t think that a multi-party parliament is necessarily a better one. In fact, when we look at parliaments around the world, the multi-party ones are more often than not mired in disagreement, unable to move forward. The evidence just isn’t there.

All First World countries have multi-party parliaments and they continue to be the most prosperous, progressive segments of humanity on earth. All our latest gadgets and applications continue to be churned out by them. So how could Mr Moh say multi-party parliaments are unable to move forward? So contrary to Mr Moh, the evidence is there as has always been.

Mr Moh wrote:

So what am I saying? What is my conclusion? I am not persuading anyone to vote PAP. That would be arrogant of me. I want to defend some of PAP’s past policies, especially if they were, in my mind, done right and with the interests of Singapore at heart but which have been misperceived. A few of my friends, who know me to be pro-PAP, have actually asked me to defend the PAP. Perhaps they are sitting on the fence and struggling with the decision and want to hear a different side from what is mainly circulating online now. I hope this helps.

Who was Mr Moh kidding? Do you believe Mr Moh was defending PAP and helping fence sitters hear the PAP side without hoping they would be persuaded to vote for PAP? That would be like a salesman who defends a product with a bad reputation and lets undecided customers hear the good points about the product yet claims that he isn’t hoping that the customer will buy his product.

It’s quite common for politicians to claim to have the interests of the country at heart as did Hitler and Stalin.

Mr Moh wrote:

Overall, I hope Singaporeans will vote who they honestly believed to be the best candidates for them. If this is done, I think that we, as a country, should be ok. I fear the Singaporean who says “I think the opposition candidate in my constituency is crap, but I will vote him anyway because I think the PAP is arrogant.” I cannot agree with that.

If Mr Moh sincerely believes that Singapore would be okay if Singaporeans vote for whom they honestly believe are the best candidates, then Mr Moh should sincerely wish that those who honestly believe that the opposition is the best should vote for the opposition.

Mr Moh should understand that voters may honestly believe that crap opposition is better than arrogant PAP because a crap worker is still better than a worker who gives crap reasons for not doing his work. So if Mr Moh is true to his words and honest with himself, he must agree, not disagree with that.

Correcting falsehoods by sgoreng

March 10, 2015

I refer to the 24 Feb 2015 TR Emeritus commentary “SG success not due to ‘Vision of One Man’” by sgoreng.

Lee Kuan Yew and others who credited Dr Winsemius are Westerner dog’s shit?

Sgoreng wrote:

But when the editor of TRE gives the whole credit of Sg’s economic achievements to an angmoh like Winsemius, no such protest is heard. The editor of TRE and many of its posters are “angmoh kao sai” i.e., westerner dog’s shit.

If crediting Singapore’s economic achievement to Dr Albert Winsemius means becoming a Westerner dog’s shit, then many authors and luminaries including Lee Kuan Yew himself are Westerner dog’s shit because all of them credited Dr Winsemius with Singapore’s economic achievement:

Most of all, he (Dr Winsemius) was wise and canny. I (Lee Kuan Yew) learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him. He gave me practical lessons on how … Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments by using their desire for profits … It was Singapore’s good fortune that he took a deep and personal interest in Singapore’s development. Singapore and I personally, are indebted to him for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore.

[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

Is sgoreng saying Lee Kuan Yew is Westerner dog’s shit?

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.

[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

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

[Straits Times, He Believed in Singapore’s Future, 7 Dec 1996]

Is sgoreng saying Straits Times is Westerner dog’s shit?

Albert Winsemius presented a ten-year development plan to turn Singapore from a port dependent on entrepot trade to a manufacturing and industrial centre. Following the Winsemius Report, the Legislative Assembly passed an Act in 1961 to create a statutory board to promote industrialisation and economic development. The EDB came into being …

[Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore, Asad Latif, page 106]

Is sgoreng saying Lim Kim San is Westerner dog’s shit?

Dr Winsemius of the Netherlands and Mr I.F. Tang of China were two foreign friends of Singapore who made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.

[A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, Ngiam Tong Dow, page 66]

Is sgoreng saying Ngiam Tong Dow is Westerner dog’s shit?

The Winsemius Report, as it is commonly known, eventually formed the blueprint for Singapore’s development efforts.

[No Miracle: What Asia Can Teach All Countries about Growth, Mitchell Wigdor, Chapter 6]

Is sgoreng saying Westerner Mitchell Wigdor is Westerner dog’s shit?

Singapore’s economic miracle owes something to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius. Dr Albert Winsemius was not merely a consultant, he was someone who revolutionalised and set Singapore’s economy in the right direction.

[Tactical Globalization: Learning from the Singapore Experiment, Aaron Kon, page 170]

Is sgoreng saying author Aaron Kon is Westerner dog’s shit?

Goh Keng Swee and Dr Albert Winsemius are generally regarded as the brains behind the coherent export/foreign investment oriented policies that Singapore has followed.

[Multinationals and the Growth of the Singapore Economy, Hafiz Mirza, page 77]

Is sgoreng saying author Hafiz Mirza is Westerner dog’s shit?

In line with the recommendation of the Winsemius Mission, Singapore implemented policies contrary to the spirit of the 1960s by allowing foreign companies full ownership of their investments and control of operations. This gave Singapore an immediate advantage over other countries that had adopted a more nationalistic or socialist philosophy that prevented complete foreign ownership and control of large manufacturing investments.

[Singapore, the Energy Economy: From the first refinery to the end of cheap oil, Ng Weng Hoong, page 12]

Is sgoreng saying author Ng Weng Hoong is Westerner dog’s shit?

With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.

[State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Philip Nalliah Pillai, page 30]

Is sgoreng saying author Philip Nalliah Pillai is Westerner dog’s shit?

Singapore’s emergence as a pivotal manufacturing node in the emerging network of transnational capitalism was partly made possible by missionary zeal displayed in the adoption of the Winsemius Report, submitted on behalf of the United Nations Industrial Survey Mission of 1960.

[CyberAsia: The Internet And Society in Asia, Zaheer Baber, page 59]

Is sgoreng saying author Zaheer Baber is Westerner dog’s shit?

Sgoreng did not pass primary school science?

Sgoreng wrote:

Despite the article quoted, reason for yourself. There are UNDP advisors in many other countries. How many of them have done as well as SG? This should give you idiots an inkling of how important or unimportant those advisors are.

What Sgoreng was effectively saying is this:

Many other potted plants receive sunlight and carbon dioxide but only the SG potted plant survived. This shows how important or unimportant sunlight and carbon dioxide is to plant growth.

From his reasoning, it seems like Sgoreng failed his primary school science.

Sgoreng happily wrote the opposite of what is printed in books

Sgoreng wrote:

Winsemius Industrialisation Plan called for Singapore’s own product – products which are completely made in Singapore by local industries financed by local investments. Who in the rest of the whole would buy such Singapore’s products in the first few years after we became independent in 1965? The future looked so bleak that a trade delegation was sent to Africa on the off chance of picking up some business. Little trade followed. Even Africans were not convinced that we could make goods better than others. For an initial period, Jurong Industrial estate was mostly empty except for some HK and Taiwan investments in toys, textiles and garments.

What Sgoreng wrote is largely contradicted by the books below:

In 1960, a UN industrial survey mission headed by Albert Winsemius was sent to Singapore, at the PAP government’s request, to survey the possibility of industrialisation. The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts, by wooing well-known foreign firms to set up joint ventures with local firms. It also advised that the new local industries to be set up should aim at the overseas market, since the domestic market was tiny. In 1961, the government drew the State Development Plan based on the Winsemius Report, which later became a Five-Year Development Plan. That same year, in accordance with the advice given by Winsemius, it set up the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was then given the task of constructing industrial estates, providing loans to firms in the private sector, attracting FDI, setting up joint ventures with foreign MNCs, and putting into practice fiscal measures under the Pioneer Industries Ordinance.

[Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31]

The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB. The Winsemius report provided the basis for Singapore’s first development plan. It made two particularly notable observations. The first was that Singapore did not lack entrepreneurs but they were mainly in commerce and not in manufacturing. This suggested the need for the government to participate directly to operate certain basic industries if neither foreign nor local enterprises were prepared to do so. However, said the report, long-run government participation might harm the investment climate unless it was true to commercial and market principles. The second point recommended the establishment of a nonpolitical EDB with divisions for financing, industrial facilities, projects, technical consulting, services, and promotion. The report recognised that the EDB’s core function should be the promotion of investment and that it should eventually hand over its financing activities to an industrial development bank. The Winsemous report was accepted and its recommendations implemented almost immediately. In its early years, the EDB had technical advisers from the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Initially, it concentrated on the four industries identified in the Winsemius report, namely, shipbuilding and repair, metal engineering, chemicals, and electrical equipment and appliances.

[Lessons from East Asia, Danny M Leipziger, pages 240, 241]

Thus, instead of calling for local industries by local investments as claimed by Sgoreng, Dr Winsemius instead called for wooing well known foreign firms and foreign investments. The industries recommended in Winsemius’ report indeed became the industries that our nation heavily pursued which continue to exist today or had been integral to our nation building. The successful establishment of Philips in Singapore proved Dr Winsemius right and naysayers wrong. What is strange is that after 50 years, there are still naysayers like Sgoreng around.

Sgoreng contradicts Dr Goh Keng Swee for reason behind electronics investments

Sgoreng wrote:

Our economic and unemployment problems were largely solved only when SG was able to attract US electronics investments. Winsemius role in this is obscure, if any. It was LKY working hard as SG’s super-salesman travelling across America to convince US electronics corporations to set up factories here. He was very successful. The Americans came. Singaporeans had the opportunity to show their good work ethos. After that, Euro and Japs investments followed. And there’s a good Singapore Story to tell.

Contrary to what Sgoreng said, the key to Singapore being able to attract US electronics investments was China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966 which scared off investors from nearby South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong to farther away Singapore.

It is a matter for speculation whether in the absence of the upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution in the mid and late 1960s, the large American multinationals – among them, National Semiconductors and Texas Instruments – would have sited their offshore facilities in countries more familiar to them, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These resources had skills superior to Singapore’s. My own judgment remains that these three areas were too close to the scene of trouble, the nature of which could not but cause alarm to multinational investors.

[Wealth of East Asian Nations, Goh Keng Swee, page 256]

Evidences early in this article already showed that the policy of wooing foreign direct investments came directly from Dr Winsemius’ “United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore”. Dr Winsemius was also deeply involved in bringing Dutch multinationals like Philips and Shell.

A year after his first visit to Singapore, he presented a 10-year economic development plan. Winsemius also advised the government about large scale housing projects in Singapore and managed to get Philips, Shell and Exxon to Singapore.

[Managing Transaction Costs in the Era of Globalization, F. A. G. den Butter, page 38]

Our 153rd press freedom is reason why all credit due to others went to LKY

Sgoreng wrote:

TRE editor and its idiotic posters should ask themselves this. Besides SG, who else have accorded recognition to Winsemius for his work in SG? No other countries. Not even the UN itself.

The main reason is our World Number 153rd press freedom which distorts the truth so much that many Singaporeans and outsiders can no longer tell truth from falsehoods emanating from Singapore.

Useless evidence from Sgoreng

Sgoreng wrote:

Lastly, let’s hear from Mr. Winsemius himself. Dr Winsemius retired as Singapore’s economic advisor in December 1983, at the age of 74. He was then quoted saying, “I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It could do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears.” Singapore was a country he regarded almost as home.

This statement conveys nothing apart from Dr Winsemius having satisfied himself that he has done his work in guiding Singapore well.


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