Response to “6 reasons why LKY detractors are wrong” – Part 1

This is part 1 of the response to the 4 Apr 2015 TR Emeritus article “6 reasons why detractors of LKY are wrong” by X.

X wrote:

With the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew … hundreds of thousands of people willing to queue for hours just to pay our respects to the founding father of Singapore.

Lee Kuan Yew is not the founding father of Singapore and can never be considered one because he never fought for our independence like George Washington or Gandhi did for their respective countries.

X wrote:

Singapore is often said to be more a dictatorship than a democracy … because there is no option to vote for, we are ultimately living under a dictator. Yet, this is really because our small population provides for a dearth of talents willing to serve Singaporeans in politics … In fact, the man himself has considered a two-party system where both parties are equal, to be ideal. However, Singapore just does not have enough people to have such a system. Big countries already have a problem finding a pool of dedicated, patriotic, intellectual and selfless talents. In a tiny island state like ours, this problem is magnified.

Many of our ministers come from the SAF or civil service. But there are so many more generals and high ranking civil servants from SAF and civil service respectively. How can X say there is a problem finding dedicated, patriotic, intellectual and selfless talents? To turn it around, is X saying those generals or high ranking civil servants who did not end up in politics are either not dedicated, not patriotic, not intellectual or are selfish? If any of those are true, how in the first place did they become generals or high ranking civil servants?

There are many small population nations like Norway and Finland that have multi-party politics so small population is a poor excuse for lack of political plurality.

Action speaks louder than words. Lee Kuan Yew clearly demonstrated his preference for a system where his own party is dominant over a two-party system. He even claimed to be able to govern much better if he could rule without elections.

X wrote:

Perhaps detractors would also argue that few dare to join the opposition party because of Mr Lee’s history of suing his opponents. Yet, if we look at the facts, the people that he did sue were attacking him on a personal basis.

Lee Kuan Yew never lost any defamation suit. That perfect record is something that is almost never found in real life. Shouldn’t X wonder if the same cases had been read in a court in US, UK or any other Western nation, would the outcome have been the same?

X wrote:

The current reigning opposition never ran into legal troubles with Mr Lee or the other Members of Parliament, simply because they do not defame others. They do their job of the opposition party by supplying alternative, constructive views, and not by supplying personal attacks as previous opponents did.

The current opposition has been stifled to such an extent that much of what they can raise in parliament has been severely curtailed.

X wrote:

Many western publications … sing praises of Mr Lee, saying that a benevolent dictator like him is hard to come by, and is actually the best form of governance a country could get.

Most Western publications that sing praises of Mr Lee often do so with stale regurgitated motherhood statements from the local press that doesn’t stand up to truth or logical reasoning.

X wrote:

At the end of the day, it matters not what form of governance we subscribe to – it is undeniable that the policies the government have put in place have indeed helped with our progress.

X must not deny that the key policies that helped us progress came from Dr Albert Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew was devastated, shattered and hid from public view for six weeks upon our ejection from Malaysia. In the end, it was Dr Winsemius’ wisdom that we relied on, not Lee Kuan Yew’s.

X wrote:

Further, so long as there is a capable opposition standing for election, we as citizens have the power to vote them in – this is the defining point of a democracy.

But democracy requires a free press to be its guardian without which there can be no democracy, so says Winston Churchill whom Lee Kuan Yew admired. Since Singapore does not have a free press or free television, what democracy is there to speak of?

X wrote:

However, let us not oppose for the sake of opposing, but instead vote for the candidate that best represents the people.

Similarly, let us not support for the sake of supporting. Chiam See Tong’s good performance in parliament for Singaporeans and for his constituency over many years shows that the candidate that best represents the people need not necessarily be the smartest or the most decorated.

X wrote:

Mr Lee’s argument, however, was that the high salaries of private companies are keeping the talents from coming to civil service. He said that, “If this salary formula can draw out higher quality men into politics, whatever their motivations, I say, let us have them.”

We used to have cheap and good ministers whom Singaporeans complained little about. Now we have expensive and not so good ministers that Singaporeans complain a hell lot about. So it’s not necessarily true that higher salary necessarily draws out higher quality men.

X wrote:

Was he wrong? Was he really after the money? At this time, with the many reports on his frugality, I think not.

X is mistaken. It’s not necessarily true that a frugal person wouldn’t go after money. In fact, it’s possible that a person is frugal because he loves money so much that he feels pinched if he has to spend it. The same love for money that makes him frugal can also make him go after money. In the case of Lee Kuan Yew, we must never forget his eternal phrase “what’s wrong with more money?”

X wrote:

Mr Lee really was after able talents from the next generation to bring Singapore forward and continue his legacy. He was simply being pragmatic, recognising the fact that in this practical society, his people would rather enjoy a high pay in private companies than to serve in civil service with lower pay.

We know that is not true. George Yeo earned around SGD 1.4 million in 2013 (HK$ 8.8 million) working for Kerry Logistics which is about half of the SGD 2.8 million he earned as a minister in 2010 (http://www.transitioning.org/2010/02/19/worlds-richest-and-best-paid). Civil servant Tan Yong Soon could afford expensive culinary lessons in France because civil service pay is not bad.

X wrote:

Let us pause for a moment and take this for what critics call it – corruption. Compare it to the prevalent corruption in other countries – ministers accepting bribes, paying their way into power, pushing for policies that benefit those who bribe them. If our government is corrupted because of their high pay, I say at least their corruption does not crush the country.

X does the usual selective comparison that PAP loves. If Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Germany and so on can have uncorrupted government without crushing their countries, why can’t we? Why does people like X always compare First World Singapore to corrupted Third World ones? It reeks strongly of Third World mentality.

X wrote:

Take the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009 for example. Singapore, being a highly trade-oriented country, was among the first and most greatly affected. With consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth from 2008 to 2009, Singapore had officially gone into recession. In the 2009 Budget, the Resilience Package was introduced. The policies were generally commended by financial experts for them being well thought out instead of knee jerk reactions, and they proved to work extremely well when Singapore was one of the first to recover from the crisis, with a GDP growth of over ten percent in 2010. If this does not prove that we have quality ministers who do their job, I don’t know what does.

It wasn’t just Singapore but Asia in general had been praised by IMF for handling the crisis well and for rebounding quickly and strongly:

In my view, the macroeconomic, financial, and corporate sector reforms put in place over the last decade have played an important role in the region’s resilience. So, despite being hit hard initially, Asia was able to bounce back quickly from the global financial crisis.

[Dominique Strauss-Kahn – Managing Director of the IMF, Opening Remarks at the Asia 21 Conference – Daejeon, Korea, 12 July 2010, “Asia and the Global Economy: Leading the Way Forward in the 21st Century”]

Malaysia has come out strongly from the world recession. Forceful counter˗cyclical policies, sound balance sheets … Malaysia’s financial sector has withstood the global recession well. Thanks to the Bank Negara Malaysia’s proactive supervision, measures to ensure uninterrupted access to financing, and prudent lending practices, loan book did not deteriorate as much as feared and started improving in the second half of 2009.

[IMF Executive Board Concludes 2010 Article IV Consultation with Malaysia, Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 10/114, 13 August 2010]

… IMF praised the Indonesian government and central bank for their response to the global financial crisis …

[IMF urges Indonesia to target inflation, Financial Times, 7 Jun 2009]

The praise that other Asian countries received for their similar sound handling of the Global Financial Crisis should instead prove that quality ministers that do their jobs can come at a fraction of what they cost in Singapore.

Call it corruption, embezzlement, greed; call it whatever you wish. This writer, however – having been brought up in a meritocratic society that is Singapore – believes that one should be rewarded for his hard work, and even more for producing quality work. If we hold the notion that civil servants should be paid and treated like what they’re called – servants – then we would hardly get good leaders in the Cabinet.

X should understand that the common man on the street that does hard, menial jobs may not be less hard working or produce less quality work than the civil servant scholar writing nonsense in the comforts of his office cubicle. X should acknowledge that it was the common people who first recognized the problem of escalating housing prices long before any MP raised the issue in parliament and long before any minister took action. No matter how good a cabinet leader is, he may not have the best ideas or the greatest wisdom which can come from the people instead. Based on X’s essay, the quality of future civil service leaders is not something to look forward to.

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