Persuasive or crass?

I refer to the 28 Mar 2013 Straits Times report “Mr Lee’s speeches in new book” [1].

Education minister Heng Swee Keat reportedly said that it was Singapore’s good fortune that we had at our founding, a remarkable team led by exceptional men of rare gifts and that one of these gifts was the gift of persuasion [1].

Mr Heng may have confused our founding in 1819 with our independence in 1965. Based on our founding in 1819, the exceptional man of rare gift would be Sir Stamford Raffles. Based on the economic master plan we followed around the time of our independence in 1965, the man of rare gift would be Dr Albert Winsemius.

I leave it to Singaporeans to judge whether these are persuasive or crass remarks:

• If native Singaporeans are falling behind because the spurs are not stuck into the hide, that is their problem.

• If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and repent.

• …women will become maids in other people’s countries, foreign workers.

• If you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration – friends, inter-marriages and so on – than Muslims… I would say, today, we can integrate all religions and races, except Islam.

• If you can select a population and they’re educated and they’re properly brought up, then you don’t have to use too much of the stick because they would already have been trained. It’s like with dogs. You train it in a proper way from small. It will know that it’s got to leave, go outside to pee and to defecate. No, we are not that kind of society. We had to train adult dogs who even today deliberately urinate in the lifts.

• No country in the world has given its citizens an asset as valuable as what we’ve given every family here. And if you say that policy is at fault, you must be daft.

• Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac…Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.

The following remarks makes you wonder what the point is of being persuasive without ever being true to what you preached.

• If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought, and no excuse, whether of security, should allow a government to be deterred from doing what it knows to be right, and what it must know to be right
Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, April 27, 1955

• If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law – if that is not what we have always cried out against in Fascist states – then what is it?… If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies – even those who do not subscribe to our views – as much constitutional rights as you concede yourself.
Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955

• Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.
Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

[1] Straits Times, Mr Lee’s speeches in new book, 28 Mar 2013
Mr Heng noted that figures such as Mr Lee “come but rarely in history”. “It was Singapore’s good fortune that we had at our founding, a remarkable team led by exceptional men of rare gifts,” Mr Heng said. “One of these gifts, as one of Mr Lee’s closest comrades, Dr Goh Keng Swee, noted, was the gift of persuasion.”

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One Response to “Persuasive or crass?”

  1. Zen Says:

    Yes, Kuan Yew has been an excellent marketing man. He can twist and turn more agiley than a worm on a fisherman’s hook. And that is basically all he has been (besides being a thug).

    Possibly his best idea has been all the trees we have all over the place. However, those are being removed for good-looking but non-shady plants. Our forests are in the process of being removed.

    Publichouse.sg made a good point about how we all praise and visit Angkor Wat, but think nothing of driving a highway through our own younger version of it at Bukit Brown. This old graveyard, with its amazing plants and wildlife, hasn’t not even been Seen as a possible tourist attraction. When half of it is destroyed, there will be no reason at all to keep what remains.

    Like many nouveau rich, we want manmade, swanky stuff which costs a bomb and whose usefulness is highly questionable. Gardens by the Bay is a case in point. Foreign plants are thought highly of, but the secondary forest which sprung up there while the land was settling, was brutally cleared. It’s really the same attitude applied to Sporean workers.

    At the end, this country made huge strides due to the ideas and work of his team – in particular, Goh Keng Swee. It was this team which used to keep Kuan Yew in line. Now, their efforts are being attributed to this old man, who, sadly, doesn’t have the honesty to admit he was not responsible and to give credit where credit is due.
    .

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