Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 3

I refer to Straits Times congratulatory messages by Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s worshippers on the occasion of his 90th birthday [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

Founding Father?
Mr Johnson Lim and Mr Oei referred to LKY as our founding father [3] and founding prime minister [2] respectively. The term ‘founding father’ or ‘founding’ has special meaning and should only be used on those truly worthy of the title. George Washington, Gandhi and Sun Yat Sen have been respectively credited as the founding fathers of America, India and China because they led the fight against foreign overlords and eventually won independence for their respective peoples. This in essence is what it takes to be a founding father – to put one’s life on the line for the freedom of one’s people. LKY never did that but cooperated with and worked for our British overlords instead just as he cooperated with and worked for Japanese overlords during the Japanese Occupation. LKY never fought for our independence. Instead, he fought to get Singapore married into the Malaysian family which was in effect an exchange of British lordship for Malaysian lordship. That by any definition is not an act of founding. Our eventual independence was thrust upon us without a fight, without us even wanting it. The mere act of receiving independence cannot be considered an act of founding for that would cheapen what it means to found. It was such a day of anguish for LKY that he cried on national TV. The stark contrast between the joy of leaders like George Washington and the sadness of LKY on the occasions of their respective nations’ independences marks the clear difference between true founding fathers and founding father wannabes.

Mr Senan described LKY as having tremendous force of authencity that earned him respect through a lifetime of consistent inner alignment [1] while Dr Ng described LKY as being at his fiery best in his first legislative assembly speech as an opposition member [5]. But in those first legislative assemblies, LKY said the following:

• 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

Having said all that in his supposed fiery and authentic best in 1955 / 1956, LKY went on to do the exact opposite by enacting the Television and Newspaper Act and by continuing to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) in peaceful times when it was clear that the ISA was never meant for peace time use. What force of authencity and what lifetime of consistent inner alignment was Mr Senan referring to that led LKY to say one thing and do another? What was that supposed fiery best that Dr Ng remembers LKY by that have stood the test of time?

Mr Johnson Lim quoted from LKY’s book in which LKY said everything he did was for an honourable purpose [3]. What honour was there in locking up good citizens like Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Chia Thye Poh for nearly 20 years and 32 years respectively? Dr Lim was locked away when his son was only 5 months old and released when his son entered college. Dr Lim thus lost a quarter of his life and missed out on his once a lifetime joy of experiencing his only child grow up even though he never committed any crime that was punishable by law. The simple fact was that Dr Lim was never charged or convicted in court. Having denounced in 1955 the arrest and detention of a man without charge as being totalitarian, how then can there be honour in detaining Dr Lim for nearly 20 years without charge?

Fair Play?
Mr Allen Tan credited LKY for developing a culture of moral correctness and fair play that is lacking in many countries even today [4] while Dr Ng described LKY as being so important as to eventually rise above politics [5]. But where is the supposed fair play when LKY himself admits without shame that he engages in unfair pork barrel politics by giving priority for HDB upgrading to constituencies with stronger voter support for the PAP [6]? How will LKY eventually rise above politics when as recently as two years ago he said Aljunied has five years to ruminate, regret and repent if they choose the opposition?

Never wrong?
Mr Senan quoted Margaret Thatcher saying LKY was never wrong [1]. But how do we trust Margaret Thatcher to be always right when she said LKY was never wrong when many Britons believe Margaret Thatcher to be wrong and that many of her policies gave rise to problems later for Britain [7]? Is it a case of LKY was never wrong or LKY would never admit that he was wrong?

Still holding the fort?
Dr Ng reminded us that LKY is still holding the fort in Tanjong Pagar GRC [5]. But how in his current state is LKY serving the people of Tanjong Pagar? Has he met or served any of his constituents over the last few years? Is he being fair to his constituents?

Mr Senan described LKY as a teacher who rolled up his sleeves, took the mantle of leadership and accountability to the people and dished out tough leadership necessary for the tough times then [1] while Mr Johnson Lim quoted from LKY’s book saying one is either born a leader or one is not [3]. Sleeves rolled up or otherwise, what is certain was that LKY never picked up arms to defend Singapore when Singapore was invaded by the Japanese. His supposed accountability to the people is to deny that he was ever responsible for our low birth rates today. The excuse of tough leadership for tough times extended well beyond us becoming First World. When it was time for him to show his leadership during our momentous split from Malaysia, LKY ended up devastated, out of action and propped up by Dr Toh Chin Chye instead:

• 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

Mr Oei declared LKY as having led his party to landslide victory in 1959 [2]. There can be no doubt that the victory was Lim Chin Siong’s as LKY himself often describes the situation then as one of riding the tiger. Lim Chin Siong and his fellow leftists were the tigers who won the day, never mind who sat on them then.

[1] Straits Times, ‘Bold vision put S’pore on path to fast growth’, 16 Sept 2013, Mr Dinesh Senan
• Underlying his accomplishments is the tremendous force of his authenticity. What he feels and thinks, he says and does. This often meant bluntness of expression and political incorrectness.
• Authenticity won him global influence. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher said “he was never wrong”. Mr Lee has earned such respect through a lifetime of consistent inner alignment, raising Singapore’s image in the process.
• Above all, he has been a teacher who rolled up his sleeves and took the mantle of leadership of, and accountability to, the people.
• We learn from him that tough times demand tough-minded leadership

[2] Straits Times, From Third World to First – in one generation, 16 Sept 2013, Anthony Oei
• This is just a glimpse of the colossal accomplishments of our founding prime minister, who celebrates his 90th birthday today.
• In 1959, he led his party to a landslide victory in a historic general election for a fully elected self-government.

[3] Straits Times, Lessons on the S’pore Spirit, 16 Sept 2013, Johnson Lim Teng Kok (Dr)
• FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, celebrates his 90th birthday today.
• “I am not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose.”
• “I think you are a born leader or you are not a leader. You can teach a person to be a manager, but not a leader. They must have the extra drive, intellectual verve, an extra tenacity and the will to overcome.”

[4] Straits Times, The little country that could, 17 Sept 2013, Allen Tan Han Loong
• Under Mr Lee, Singapore developed a system of clear governance, that is, a culture of moral correctness and fair play, which many other countries lack even today.

[5] Straits Times, Mr Lee takes the spotlight – with no pomp or fanfare, 17 Sept 2013
• In his first speech in the then Legislative Assembly, Mr Lee, who was one of three People’s Action Party members in the opposition, was at his fiery best.
• Some men are so important in a nation’s history that they eventually rise above politics.
• Dr Ng pointed out that Singapore’s first prime minister has been a member of the legislature since 1955, when he won his first election. He has not looked back since and today, 58 years later, he is still holding the fort in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

[6] From Third World to First. The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, Lee Kuan Yew, page 157
The PAP had countered the opposition’s “by-election” strategy with the electoral carrot that priority for upgrading of public housing in a constituency would be in accord with the strength of voter support for the PAP in that constituency. This was criticized by American liberals as unfair, as if pork barrel politics did not exist elsewhere.

Dispelling the Thatcher myths
“The trouble is that almost everything that’s wrong with Britain today is her legacy,” Mr Livingstone said … Thatcher deregulated Britain’s banks, “allowed manufacturing to wither” and stopped building council homes, Mr Livingstone told Sky News UK. “She created today’s housing crisis, she created the banking crisis, and she created the benefits crisis. It was her government that started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was at broadly full employment. “She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry, that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the Benefits Bill, the legacy of that, we’re still struggling with today. “In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong.”
Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said it is wrong to eulogise Thatcher as a conviction politician because her beliefs have since proven to be “half-baked”.
In reality, however, in taking a meat cleaver to the unions, Thatcher was tackling the symptoms not the disease.
The fact is that under Thatcherism the UK’s trade position went from the merely weak to the totally disastrous. The UK ran a current account surplus of 0.6 percent of GDP in 1978, the last full year before Thatcher came to office. As of 1989, the last full year before she was ousted by her own party in May of 1990, the current account DEFICIT had reached an appalling 3.9 percent of GDP. In the meantime Thatcher presided over a savage program to destroy the UK’s core exporting industries and, with wholesale financial deregulation, laid the groundwork for the catastrophic financial bubbles of more recent times.


One Response to “Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 3”

  1. ;Annonymous Says:

    Another excellent piece – kudos to you. Perhaps those starry-eyed chaps who believe that LKY was an anti-colonialist could point to one act or speech which marks him out as one. The truth of the matter was exposed by the late novelist and doctor Han Suyin in 1964/5 when she was a speaker at a forum held at the then University of Singapore together with Alex Josey. She said that the British, who loved horse racing, would try a few out to see if they would be good. One such tryout was none other than LKY. She knew because being an international personality with direct access to Chairman Mao, she was occasionally invited to Phoenix Park by the Britsh High Commisioner for an exchange of views. Alex Josey merely smiled but did not challenge her. Han Suyin was then a part-time lecturer at Nantah and practiced medicine at a clinic in JB. She was promptly banned from entering Singapore permanently. She died last year. The ST had a big piece about her but made no mention of her being banned from Singapore.

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