Response to PM Lee’s National Day Rally 2015

I refer to PM Lee’s National Day Rally 2015

PM Lee said:

Two weeks ago, on the 9th of August, we celebrated our Golden Jubilee with a parade at the Padang … And here we have a family – grandfather, father and son … their grandfather Mr Selamat, 78 years old. He joined the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1948 before I was born …Three generations saluting the nation and we saluted them back.

Saluting Mr Selamat who joined the fire brigade in 1948 means saluting beyond 1965. We cannot celebrate the past 50 years without also celebrating the 146 years before. In 2019 we should be celebrating SG200, the 200th anniversary of the birth of modern Singapore.

PM Lee said:

We started off with no hinterland and a weak economy … We were a poor third world country …

Our cut off from our hinterland didn’t mean that our economy was weak. According to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn World Tables version 8.0), Singapore’s 1965 output side per capita GDP was third highest in Asia and 29th out of 109 countries, not top notch but not weak either. Our then per capita GDP of US$ 5,317 (Penn World tables, average of output and expenditure GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity) already put us in World Bank’s Upper Middle Income category. We were already at the cusp of becoming First World at independence. We were not a poor, Third World country.

Our per capita GDP in 1960 was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status.

[Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, page 166]

PM Lee said:

We depended on our entrepot trade, but our neighbours were building their own ports and sought to bypass us.

The quest by our neighbours to bypass us wasn’t a new quest but a quest Singapore has been facing since colonial times (

Dr Goh Keng Swee used this to illustrate how our ability to rise above our neighbours’ competition was forged during colonial times (

PM Lee said:

Our workers were unskilled and anxious about their future

On the contrary, our economic advisor Dr Albert Winsemius was impressed with the skills of our workers.

Singapore’s leaders were guided by the counsel of the eminent Dutch economist, Dr Albert Winsemius who was struck by the often informally acquired skills of Singapore labourers whom he watched undertaking effective repair jobs with simple tools.

[Diane K. Mauzy / Robert Stephen Milne, Singapore politics under the People’s Action Party, Page 66]

Dr Winsemius recommended the use of Singaporeans’ skills and abilities to industrialise the country.

The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts …

[Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31]

PM Lee said:

… we determined to make the world our hinterland

PM Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, knew next to nothing about making the world our hinterland. He declared that Singapore could not survive without the Malaysian hinterland which meant that he knew of no other way of taking Singapore forward.

Everyone knows the reasons why the Federation is important to Singapore. It is the hinterland which produces rubber and tin and that keeps our shop window economy going. It is the base that made Singapore the capital city. Without this economic base, Singapore would not survive. Without merger … and an integration of our two economies, our economic position will slowly and steadily get worse. Your livelihood will get worse …

[The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew Volume 1, Lee Kuan Yew, page 109]

In the end, it was Dr Winsemius who gave us the plans to make the world our hinterland (

PM Lee said:

… we made PSA and Changi, the best in the world.

Singapore was already the estimated 5th most important port in the world as early as the 1930s. We were already 4 positions away from becoming the best, some 30 years before PAP took charge.

By the early 1930s, Singapore was estimated to be the fifth or sixth most important port in the world.

[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, page 114]

Our ascent to World No. 1 port was due in no small part to Dr Winsemius’ insistence that we containerise our ports (

PM Lee said:

… people lived in cramped and squalid slums, no modern sanitation, no utilities, but we built HDB flats to house all of us and made Singapore a first world metropolis and our beautiful home.

Not everyone lived in cramped squalid slums, certainly not PM Lee’s family. Our first flats, including Singapore’s first high rise flats, were built by the British colonial government, not by the PAP ( Our journey towards a first world metropolis began whilst we were still a British colony. Incidentally, Lee Kuan Yew boasted to Chicago businessmen in 1967 that we were already a metropolis. How could we have transformed from slum to metropolis in just 2 years?

Singapore already had modern sanitation during colonial times, just that not everyone had it:

Two decades later, in 1910, Singapore’s first sewerage scheme was started. “The system then consisted of only a network of sewers and three pumping stations and a trickling filter plant to serve the central area of Singapore,” informs PUB – Singapore’s national water agency. Although by 1930, an extensive sewerage system was built to serve almost 100,000; over 150,000 people were still using the night-soil bucket system.


Modern sanitation is part and parcel of life in modern cities. Even Malaysia has 95.7% modern sanitation according to the World Bank. It should be relatively easy for physically small Singapore to develop modern sanitation. Yet, we only achieved 100% modern sanitation just ten years ago in 2005.

PM Lee said:

Nearly all our water came from Johor and every now and again when an issue arose with Malaysia, some crazy politician would threaten to turn off the tap, to get us in line, but we did not die of thirst. We cleaned up our rivers, we dammed them up to become reservoirs, we built Marina Barrage and turned Marina Bay into Marina reservoir. Our whole island became a catchment area. We invented NEWater and on National Day 2002, we toasted our success.

The threats began in 1965, yet NEWater only came in 2002. There was a long gap of 37 years because we had to borrow technology from elsewhere which became feasible only recently ( In other words, we only invented the name of NEWater but not the technology it is based on. How can we toast success when 40% of our water still comes from Johor?

PM Lee said:

Thirdly, we celebrated our journey from third world to first as one united people. When we separated from Malaysia, we were not yet one people. Memories of the race riots were fresh and raw. The minorities were uncertain of their place in the new country.

Our journey wasn’t from Third World to First but from Middle Income to First by virtue of our 1965 per capita GDP (Penn World Tables). The casting of many races into one people had already begun during colonial times ( We would not have had the racial riots if it wasn’t for PM Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew (

PM Lee said:

We separated from Malaysia because we believed in this ideal of a multi-racial society. We believed that before race, language and religion, we should first and foremost be Singaporean.

When Lee Kuan Yew merged Singapore into Malaysia, he did so with the full knowledge that he was subjecting all Singaporeans to Malaysia’s Bumiputra policies which was already enshrined in the Malaysian constitution when Malaysia became independent in 1957. To then say that Lee Kuan Yew was fighting for a multi-racial society is therefore hypocritical at best. Lee Kuan Yew’s foremost belief wasn’t Singaporean but Malaysian because he fought so hard to merge Singapore into Malaysia and cried so hard when we separated from Malaysia.

PM Lee said:

That was the fundamental reason for our foundation as a country.

Singapore’s eviction from Malaysia cannot be considered an act of founding a country as that would insult the very act of founding. Founding fathers like George Washington, Gandhi and Sun Yat Sen put their lives on the line to fight for their respective countries’ independence and rejoiced when independence was achieved. In contrast, Lee Kuan Yew fought to surrender our independence to Malaysia and cried bitterly when independence was thrust upon us. Lee Kuan Yew was the exact opposite of a founding father; he was Singapore’s No. 1 traitor.

PM Lee said:

So we came down hard on chauvinists and racial extremists.

When PAP MP Choo Wee Khiang made racist comments in parliament, PAP didn’t come down on him. Lee Kuan Yew’s so-called coming down hard on chauvinists was just an excuse to serve his political purpose, not a universal precept applied uniformly across the nation.

PM Lee said:

We made English our working language and gradually all our schools shifted to teaching in English.

English as our working language is a heritage carried from British colonial days, just as it is in Hong Kong. In any case, South Korea, Taiwan and China have shown that prosperity doesn’t require English to be the working language.

The teaching of English in vernacular schools was first proposed by Lee Kong Chian, not Lee Kuan Yew (

PM Lee said:

We created Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) so that minorities would always be represented in Parliament …

But minorities have always been represented in parliament long before we had GRCs. David Marshall and JB Jeyaratnam were minority members who triumphed over majority ones. NSP proposed the Constituency Reserved for Minority Scheme last year which served the same purpose without GRCs. The GRC is no more than a political tool to entrench the PAP.

PM Lee said:

… we made the effort to … to ensure that every community could hold his own and not be left behind. So we set up self-help groups … Mendaki … SINDA … CDAC … Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and the Eurasian Association …

Long before we had these, we already had very good community support from businessmen and business associations during colonial times. Tan Tock Seng Hospital, The Chinese High School, Anglo Chinese School and others were set up by the community during colonial times.

PM Lee said:

… I have attended … the SG50 Kita National Day Observance Ceremony … led by the Malay/ Muslim organisations but with other groups participating … a joint concert organised by the Taoist Federation; the New Creation Church and others … one of the items – a Chinese Kungfu group performing with the Silat group … At one dinner, I had sitting around my table representatives of all the world’s major religions … It showed the Rabbi of Singapore together with the Mufti of Singapore and Mr Gurmit Singh, a Sikh leader … Each had different dietary rules, each was served food that met his religious requirements, but nothing stopped them from having a meal together and being friends together … Only in Singapore!

Racial harmony is not a post independence phenomenon for the PAP to boast about. Colonial Singapore was already a bastion of racial harmony long before PAP was born (

PM Lee said:

… we could not afford free-riders and that is why Mr Lee Kuan Yew exhorted us over and over again to become a rugged society.

The obscene amount of money Lee Kuan Yew and his wife made during their lifetimes makes you wonder who the free rider really was.

PM Lee said:

No one owes us a living

Provided no one takes away our living. But PAP took away farm lands and orchards and so took away the source of living for farmers and orchard owners. PAP did away with yellow top taxis and so took away a good source of living for individual taxi owners.

PM Lee said:

Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) had a very successful programme, the Omega Challenge. It has been going on for seven years, the students who have been, have testified to how much they benefitted from it. Tragically on their recent expedition to climb Mount Kinabalu, the Omega Challenge group was caught in an earthquake. Seven students, two teachers and a guide died.

How can a programme be successful if it ends in so many deaths? The fact that the Omega Challenge could go on for seven years was simply down to luck. If tragedy had struck seven years ago, the programme would have been dropped seven years ago just as it is being dropped now. Now that we know that Mount Kinabalu is prone to earthquakes, no one, not even PM Lee can guarantee that tragedy wouldn’t strike again. Is it responsible to put our children in harm’s way, knowing there are other mountains that are not in the earthquake zone?

PM Lee said:

We all mourned them and grieved with their families, we held a National Day of Remembrance. It will take us a long time to get over this tragedy but life goes on and it is important that we move on.

But there were pictures showing PAP ministers smiling and appearing happy during the Southeast Asian Games even during the mourning period itself. It thus didn’t take long for PAP ministers to get over the tragedy which can only mean it was all for show and they were merely shedding crocodile tears.

PM Lee said:

The Government has kept its promises, what we said we would do, we did do.

PAP promised Swiss standard of living but we are still struggling day by day. PAP promised to return CPF at age 55 but that promise kept getting postponed again and again.

PM Lee said:

We have kept our politics honest, we insisted on high standards of integrity in public life, no corruption, no dishonesty.

Only a tiny fraction of the PAP government’s accounting discrepancies had surfaced recently. How many more discrepancies, no one knows yet. We won’t know until PAP loses power and an alternative party unlocks all of PAP’s closets to discover what has been going on in the past 50 years.

PM Lee said:

We are also honest when it comes to policies and when it comes to the choices that we have to make. We do not shy away from hard realities … We do right by Singaporeans.

When property prices shot up rapidly from 2007 to 2011, the PAP wasn’t honest but kept denying they had any power over demand and supply. It was only after the election setback of 2011 that they finally admitted they had control over both supply and demand. Instead of shying away from hard realities, PAP conveniently explained them away. Their so called doing right is simply to claim they are right no matter how much the people beg to differ.

PM Lee said:

… on the issue of Land Acquisition. The Government needed land to build HDB new towns … to house our people. To build industrial estates like Jurong to create jobs for our people. Later on to build the MRT network to move people around. So the Government passed laws to acquire land not at the market price, without paying market prices. It was tough for the land owners who suffered financial losses, sometimes more than once. It was tough for the households who had to be resettled, lives were disrupted, thousands, maybe tens of thousands had to change their livelihoods. But if the Government had not done this, we could not have housed our population and we could not have transformed Singapore, so there were sacrifices but in the end, it was for the common goal and everybody benefitted and I thank all those who sacrificed for this common goal.

Having gotten land on the cheap, on what basis does the PAP charge market prices for HDB flats and rentals? On what basis does the PAP say lowering HDB prices is tantamount to raiding government reserves when the land on which the reserves are based on belonged to Singaporeans in the first place? When the PAP subsidises HDB flats below market prices, should we thank PAP or thank former land owners?

PM Lee said:

But I believe that I am doing what Singapore needs and what best safeguards your interest. If I did not believe that, I would not be doing it. It is my responsibility to make this decision, to make this judgement and then to act on your behalf. And having acted on your behalf, to account to you for the results and for the reasons why I decided the way I did. I think I owe it to you. You have elected me. This is my duty, I cannot shirk it.

Hitler too believed he did what was best for the German people. History is replete with self-delusional leaders who thought they knew best but could not face reality.

There is a way for PM Lee to shirk it – don’t stand for election. In that way, he won’t get elected so he won’t owe anyone and it won’t be his duty any more.

PM Lee said:

These principles have brought us here – multiracialism, self-reliance and mutual support, keeping faith between the government and people. These principles have made us special.

Multiracialism, self-reliance and mutual support were principles already enshrined during colonial times. If these made us special, that means British colonialism made us special.

PM Lee said:

If we are divided, whether along racial lines or class lines, we cannot survive. We have to stand as one united people, we have to progress together.

The German people of the Nazi Third Reich stood as one united people but ended up being misled by their leaders towards utter ruins. War time Japanese also stood united with their leaders but they too ended in defeat and nuclear tragedy. History has shown that unity can be a liability than a strength. A people united under a foolish leader is a people seeking to drown together. Division is an integral part of a society’s renewal process to allow fresh hopes to emerge from a rotting aristocracy.


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