Archive for January, 2014

Don’t cheapen what it means to be a founding father

January 29, 2014

I refer to the 29 Jan 2014 Straits Times letter “Timely to reinforce founding fathers’ values” [1] by Mr Georgie Lee Heng Fatt.

Singapore’s big day is not 2015 but 2019 because 2015 isn’t our 50th birthday but our 50th anniversary of our divorce from Malaysia whereas 2019 is Singapore’s 200th birthday.

1965 is our year of independence as well as our year of separation from Malaysia. Whether we view it from an independence perspective or a separation perspective, neither qualifies as our birth year. If we become independent at the age of say 30, do we say we were born at the age of 30? If we become divorced at the age of 60, do we say we were born at the age of 60? Clearly, we were born at age 0 which occurred in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore.

One might argue there were former kingdoms and civilisations that ruled Singapore in ancient times. However, the last kingdom that occupied the land of Singapore was razed to the ground by the Portuguese in 1613. More than 200 years separated those former civilisations from the founding of modern Singapore in 1819. There was thus a clean and clear break between those ancient civilisations and modern Singapore. The Singapore that we know today has continuously evolved since 1819 and can be traced back to 1819. To reset our age in 1965 is to betray our true forefathers who literally carved a city out of a jungle.

It is also a grave mistake to refer to our post-independence leaders as our founding fathers because people like Lee Kuan Yew did absolutely nothing to deserve that title. When we think of founding fathers, we think of people like George Washington, Ghandi and Sun Yat Sen. The common thread that binds these people and that uniquely qualifies them as founding fathers is their common struggle against colonial or foreign masters to gain independence for their respective peoples. Lee Kuan Yew never did anything remotely close to that. When the Japanese came, he didn’t fight them but worked for them instead. When it was time to fight the British for Singapore’s independence after the war, he again did nothing of that sort but cooperated and worked for the British instead. Because he had been such a good boy, the British and subsequently the Tungku helped him gain power by locking up the Leftists who were the ones who fought for our independence. In fact, LKY didn’t even want independence and cried the day we were separated from Malaysia. He fought not for the independence of Singapore but for Singapore’s marriage into Malaysia and short changing Singaporeans in the process. It was Tungku Abdul Rahman whom we must thank for giving us our independence.

Singapore owes much of its progress to the strong moral values of its people, values carried by various cultures from where they came and given opportunity to blossom and grow in a progressive climate rooted in British institutions. These values of our Singaporean forefathers were neither espoused nor moulded by any one man, let alone Lee Kuan Yew. Let us not short change our own forefathers by taking away the credit of strong moral values owed to them and heaping them onto a single person or select group of individuals. Anyone who is capable of locking political opponents for more than 30 years will never be worthy of our moral emulation.

If we truly come to terms with history and facts, we must accept that Lee Kuan Yew never created Singapore, never fought for our independence and in fact married us into Malaysia, committed morally unacceptable acts like locking opponents for 30 years. We can never accept Lee Kuan Yew as our founding father without cheapening what it means to be a founding father.