We are already paying the price for unrealistic views of LKY

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.


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