Archive for October, 2015

Singapore wasn’t a start-up but was already exceptional in 1965

October 29, 2015

Dear Standard Chartered,

I refer to your article “Singapore: An exceptional start-up turns 50” published by Straits Times on 7 Aug 2015.

You wrote:

Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away this year, belonged to the bricks and mortar generation.

Lee Kuan Yew is not Singapore’s founder. Singapore’s founder is Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore in 1819.

Lee and his People’s Action Party, who navigated Singapore’s incredible journey from Third World to First, could not have been more different from Silicon Valley’s brash tech entrepreneurs.

Lee did not navigate Singapore from Third World to First. Singapore was already Middle Income status, not Third World status back in 1965. According to the University of Pennsylvania, our 1965 real per capita GDP (output, chained PPP, 2005 USD) of $6,279 was third highest in Asia and 29th out of 109 countries (Penn World Tables version 8.0) and when converted to 2011 dollars, already put us in the Upper Middle Income bracket according to World Bank classification today. We were thus already at the cusp of becoming First World back in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew himself boasted to Chicago businessmen back in 1968 that we were already a metropolis. There’s no way Singapore could have turned from fishing village to metropolis in just 3 years.

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]

We were already the 5th most important port in the world some 30 years before 1965:

Singapore was already the estimated 5th or 6th most important port in the world by the early 1930s and the key port in the Straits region by the late 19th century

[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114]

We were already the most important communications centre in the Far East and had more cars than anywhere else in Asia 10 years before 1965:

Singapore was the most important communications centre in the Far East, not just for shipping but a focal point for airlines, telecommunications and mail distribution at the beginning of the 1950s.

Singapore in the mid-1950s had 30 people per private car compared to 70 for British Malaya and more than 120 for the rest of Asia.

[The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33]

Given the level of development we already had, Singapore back in 1965 could hardly be considered a start up.

Furthermore, our industrial development at independence went according to Dr Albert Winsemius’ plan, not Lee Kuan Yew’s plan (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/dr-albert-winsemius-was-the-true-architect-of-singapores-industrialisation/). Lee Kuan Yew himself expressed gratitude to Dr Winsemius for our prosperity today.

For these reasons, Lee Kuan Yew cannot be likened to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur for no Silicon Valley entrepreneur worth his salt would hire someone else to do the start up on his behalf and taking over an already well run company cannot be considered an act of starting up.

You wrote:

Yet, as Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, I see striking parallels in the ethos and approach of Singapore’s founders in the 1960s and the Silicon Valley pioneers a decade later.

How can Singapore be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year when we had already celebrated our centenary back in 1919?

SINGAPORE CENTENARY
Yesterday’s historic ceremony honouring the colony’s founder
1819 – 1919
This tablet to the memory of Sir Stamford Raffles to whose foresight and genius Singapore owes its existences and prosperity was unveiled on Feb 6th, 1919, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Settlements … he (Raffles) founded Singapore, this child of his … On the occasion of the celebration of the Centenary of this important outpost of the British Empire … the Chinese Chamber of Commerce … express our admiration of the sterling qualities and remarkable foresight and fortitude of that great Empire builder, Sir Stamford Raffles, whose memory we have gathered here this morning to honour.

[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 7 February 1919, Page 5]

2015 is our 50th independence anniversary, not our 50th anniversary per say. In four years time (2019), we should be celebrating the 200th anniversary of our founding.

You wrote:

Singapore’s independence in August 1965 was not planned.

Forced to separate from a federation with Malaysia, Singapore’s leaders faced some incredibly difficult choices.

Singapore came of age when its much bigger Asian neighbours were also newly independent, but with significantly larger populations and natural resources to draw sustenance from. Faced with impossible odds, Singapore’s leaders did what pundits today describe when a tech upstart successfully takes on well-entrenched incumbents – they disrupted the status quo.

Singapore’s eventual emergence as an economic powerhouse followed an unconventional path. In the immediate aftermath of World War II and the burst of decolonisation that followed, new nation states turned inward and shut their doors to outside investment and influences …

For many newly independent nations in the 1960s, conventional wisdom held that policies built on self reliance and state control of the economy would deliver better results than free trade, foreign investment and the private sector.

Singapore’s leaders challenged this view, opening up the country to trade and investment at a time when many doors in the region were firmly shut.

Singapore’s leaders didn’t just come to power in 1965; they came to power in 1959 when Singapore attained complete internal self government which Lee Kuan Yew called ¾ independence. It is important to note that Singapore’s leaders didn’t choose the unconventional path between 1959 and 1965 when they were already in power and could do so. During this period, they chose the conventional path instead like leaders of other new nation states did and even forced Singapore to merge into Malaysia to pursue the conventional wisdom of import substitution for the Malayan Common Market.

Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP proposed a political union with Malaysia, which would provide a good-sized domestic market for an industrial strategy of import substitution. Expulsion from the union with Malaysia in 1965, on political grounds by the government in Kuala Lumpur, destroyed the import-substitution strategy.
[The Fraser Institute, Case Studies in the Relationship between Political, Economic and Civil Freedoms, page 155]

During the federation period and immediately afterward, Lee’s government initially pursued an import substitution strategy … but the alienation from Malaysia, with its much larger market, rendered the strategy impractical.
[Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Asia Competitiveness Institute, Remaking Singapore, Michael Porter and Christian Ketels and Neo Boon Siong and Susan Chung, July 2008]

Singapore’s industrialisation strategy was originally dependent on policies of import substitution within the Malaysian common market, but the attainment of political independence in 1965 led to export industrialisation.
[Robert Fitzgerald, The Competitive advantages of Far Eastern business, Page 55]

Import substitution was adopted in the early 1960s in anticipation of the Malayan common market. However, Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 dashing the hopes of the common market, hence an export strategy was promoted instead.
[Eddie C. Y. Kuo / Chee Meng Loh / K. S. Raman, Information technology and Singapore society, Page 87]

Singapore at first adopted the industrialisation policy of import substitution, followed after 1966 by the export of labour intensive manufactured goods.
[Jacques Charmes, In-service training: five Asian experiences, Bernard Salomé, Page 21]

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]

It was only upon our divorce from Malaysia that Singapore had no choice but to embark on the unconventional path. This is in stark contrast to true entrepreneurs like Bill Gates who forsook the conventional path through college and deliberately chose the unconventional path of entrepreneurship instead. Unlike true entrepreneurs, Singapore leaders did not forsake the conventional for the unconventional but was forced to do so only after the conventional became unavailable.

More importantly, it was Dr Winsemius who planned and wrote our unconventional path. Lee Kuan Yew wasn’t an entrepreneur in any sense of the word but merely engaged a true entrepreneur who was Dr Winsemius.

It is also worth noting that:

• the percentage of small population economies (less than 10 million) achieving World Bank’s High Income status is almost double that of large population economies (more than 10 million)

• economies that does not depend on natural resources (less than 5% of GDP) but have achieved World Bank’s High Income status is more than double that of economies that depend on natural resources (more than 5% of GDP)

It is thus wrong to assume that being large and predisposed of natural resources is automatically a blessing. Statistics point to the other way around instead – that for economic progress, it is far better to be small and nimble and unencumbered by natural resources.

It is also important to note that Singapore has a resource far more precious than any natural resource – our priceless geographical location that has been the basis of our founding and prosperity since 1819.

You wrote:

Singapore’s leaders believed in the role of the state, but with two crucial differences: They modernised governance to ensure clear accountability, and they focused on execution, ensuring that the vision of the founders was translated into tangible policy action that impacted the lives of Singaporeans.

Singapore governance – our laws, civil service, government organs were largely inherited and evolved from British colonial roots.

You wrote:

John Maynard Keynes once remarked that when his information changed, he altered his conclusions. Like Keynes, Singapore’s leaders injected a strong dose of pragmatism into their public policies. This helped Singapore through good times and bad, as policymakers were not wedded to ideological preferences.

To use the parlance of Silicon Valley, Singapore leaders “debugged” policies which were not working and “rebooted” the system when needed. Singapore’s ever-evolving cityscape embodies its willingness to constantly adapt and change.

But according to our leaders, adaptability wasn’t injected by them but inherited from our British colonial past:

There are four reasons which enabled Singapore throughout her history as a British colony, and today as an independent republic, to survive and even prosper in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties … The second reason must be ascribed … to Sir Stamford Raffles’ great vision of the island growing into a great emporium founded on the Victorian belief in the virtues of free trade … For well over a hundred years Singapore learnt to adapt her economy to changing circumstances. This ability to adapt which was won in the hard school of experience remains an asset which the government of independent Singapore decided to retain. It might have been politically expedient to rid ourselves of institutions and practices that bore the taint of colonial associations. Had we done so, we would have thrown away a priceless advantage.

[Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7]

You wrote:

This vision and determination to succeed is the hallmark of any good start-up entrepreneur.

But the vision came from Dr Winsemius, how can Dr Winsemius’ vision become the hallmark of Lee Kuan Yew?

You wrote:

Singapore policymakers like to say that no one owes the country a living, and such positive anxiety has fuelled the country’s remarkable growth since 1965.

Singapore policymakers also pay themselves the highest salaries in this world as though Singaporeans owe them our living. But make no mistake – it wasn’t Lee Kuan Yew’s anxiety but Dr Winsemius’ wisdom that fuelled Singapore’s remarkable growth.

Lee Kuan Yew, appearing in tears on television when announcing separation, was devastated. His feelings strongly contrasted with scenes in Chinatown where firecrackers were set off to celebrate liberation from rule by Malays from Kuala Lumpur … Most Singaporeans … did not share the government’s dismay … Lee’s dismay was also not shared by the country’s most prominent foreign advisor. Winsemius … said in an interview in 1981 that … To my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.

[The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 171]

It was Winsemius who knew what to do because he had done it before. In contrast, Lee Kuan Yew was anxious because he didn’t know what to do.

You wrote:

The “little red dot of a nation” … has turned 50 – not bad for an exceptional start-up which has vaulted to the First World but never forgotten its scrappy beginnings.

No one says India turned 68 this year just because India achieved independence in 1947. Everyone knows India is thousands of years old. Similarly, no one says China turned 66 this year just because the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949.

Similarly, no one should say Singapore turned 50 this year just because Singapore achieved independence in 1965. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 and has turned 196 this year. We are too old to be considered a start-up and our exceptionalism has been a part of the Four East Asian Dragon exceptionalism well documented by economists for decades already. With the 5th most important port in the world in the early 1930s, most important communications centre in the Far East in the 1950s, third highest per capita GDP in Asia in 1965, Singapore’s 1965 ‘beginnings’ were far from scrappy.

Lee Kuan Yew is not Singapore’s founder or founding leader

October 18, 2015

I refer to the 16 Oct 2015 Straits Times report “Public can give views and join forums on Founders’ Memorial”.

It was reported that dialogues will be held to get views from the public on a Founders’ Memorial to honour Singapore’s founding generation of leaders.

Definition

According to the Cambridge dictionary, to found means to bring something into existence while founder refers to someone who establishes an organisation. Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and has existed for 196 years already. Since Singapore’s 1965 leaders neither brought Singapore into existence nor established Singapore, it would be wrong to commemorate them as founders since they neither fit the definition of found or founder in any sense of the words.

There will of course be those who would play around with words and argue that 1965 was the year that independent Singapore came into existence or was established. But in so far as independent Singapore is concerned, only independence was established in 1965, Singapore itself was established much earlier in 1819.

The independence of an organisation is not the same as its founding just as the independence of a person is not the same as his or her birth. For example, Frasers Centrepoint became independent from the F&N Group in 2013. But that doesn’t mean Frasers Centrepoint was established or founded in 2013. The history of Frasers Centrepoint goes back twenty years earlier to 1983 with the opening of the Centrepoint Shopping Centre.

We shall not even bother with ancient Singapura which was all but destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1600s. Singapore today did not originate from that ancient city. Instead, Singapore today can be traced all the way back to Raffles.

Founding father

There is another definition in the form of the founding father. Cambridge defines it as “one of a group of men who started the United States as a country and wrote its constitution”. This definition cannot be transplanted to Singapore without first understanding the act of founding that led to the birth of America.

George Washington and Gandhi are America’s and India’s respective founding fathers because they were instrumental in delivering their respective nations from the yoke of foreign power subjugation. It was in gratitude of their momentous contributions that they are hailed as founding fathers by their respective peoples.

With this in mind, we have to ask ourselves what did Lee Kuan Yew or his colleagues do to win our independence in 1965? The answer is – nothing. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even want independence. He cried bitterly on national television on the occasion of our independence and stated in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want independence; instead he wanted Singapore to be subjugated under Malaysian sovereignty. This is in such stark contrast to what the founding fathers of America did it would be silly for us to remember him as founding leader when he did the exact opposite of what founding leaders do.

Our independence was thrust upon us against the wishes of Lee Kuan Yew when Tunku Abdul Rahman kicked us out of Malaysia. It was the Tunku, not Lee Kuan Yew or his colleagues who gave us our independence. The mere act of receiving independence is too cheap to be considered an act of founding. All Lee ever did was to swap British sovereignty for Malaysian sovereignty in 1963 which was no act of independence either.

Road to independence

It is important to recognise that our independence wasn’t obtained in a single stroke in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew himself said that Singapore was already ¾ independent (tiga suku merdeka) back in 1959 when Singapore was elevated to the status of a state with our own state flag and anthem that are still in use today. So rightfully, it is three times as important to celebrate 1958/59 as it is to celebrate 1965. 1958/59 didn’t just happen out of nowhere but was the culmination of a long road to independence that began soon after the end of the Japanese Occupation with the political awakening of the people.

The war ended suddenly with Japan’s surrender on 14 August 1945 … While the returning British troops were welcomed, the occupation had eroded the innate trust in the empire’s protective embrace. New political forces were at work and the road to independence had begun.

[Singapore, Joshua Samuel Brown and Matt Oakley, page 25]

After the Second World War and a traumatic occupation by the Japanese, a political awakening occurred in Singapore … as they began to anticipate independence … The late 1940s and early 1950s were characterized by labor unrest, strikes, and demonstrations. In 1955, they forced the British to introduce a new constitution proposed by the Rendel Commission … However, the 1955 elections were followed by more riots and social unrest, constitutional negotiations were reopened, and new elections were planned for 1959 with Singapore granted almost complete internal self-rule.

[Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Daron Acemoglu, page 8]

Thus, while Singaporeans today detest protests and riots, we must not forget that it was through them that Singapore’s independence was delivered.

The trade union movement bore Singapore out of colonialism and into statehood.

[Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 11, Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng]

There is little doubt that the exodus of British capital and activity due to strikes and unrest hastened the relinquishing of control over internal affairs.

[South East Asia in the world economy, Chris J Dixon, Page 144]

To defuse hostile sentiments against colonial rule, the colonial government in Singapore had agreed to accept the reformation of the local constitutions in 1954, granting Singapore greater internal self-government. Elections held under this constitution in 1955 eventually paved the way for a local government to be formed.

[Singapore in Global History, Derek Thiam Soon Heng and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, page 220]

The people’s vehement desire for self-government was why Britain had to grant early self-government in order to gain the people’s acquiescence to govern them.

[Defence and decolonisation in Southeast Asia, Karl Hack, page 224]

The leading force driving Singapore’s push towards independence was the Leftist Chinese whose endless strikes and riots gradually forced the British to cede power. Even Lee Kuan Yew readily admitted this.

For Lee the greatest sins of the English-educated lie in their self-interest, and failure to cast their lot with the anti-colonial movement. He was certain that Singapore’s political future would be in the hands of the Chinese radical left.

For Lee, the Western-educated elite too prone to kowtow to the British were pathetically ‘irrelevant’ in the anti-colonial struggle; labour unions and the Chinese-educated world were something else altogether

[Singapore: The State and the Culture of Excess, Yao Souchou, page 35, 38]

So if Singaporeans truly treasure the independence that we enjoy today, we must not forget that it was primarily won by the struggles of the Leftist Chinese who bore the brunt of the sacrifices that the fight for independence called for.

A growing chasm between the Chinese-educated and English-educated population was clearly developing. This chasm was marked by the general allegiance of the English-educated to the British. This was in clear contrast with the vehemently anti-colonial and anti-imperial Chinese-educated Chinese.

[Negotiating Multiculturalism: Disciplining Difference in Singapore, Nirmala Purushotam, page 53]

Singapore’s anti-colonial movement was largely organised by Chinese-educated leaders from the Chinese middle schools

This (anti-colonial) movement was led largely by Chinese-educated leaders enjoying popular Chinese support

The citizenship-language campaign … had whipped up considerable Chinese interest in politics by 1954

[Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55, Yeo Kim Wah, page 173, 248, 260]

The left wing, strongly supported by the Chinese-educated working class, was probably the more passionately anticolonial entity.

[Fates of Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony: The Politics of the Legal Complex, Terence C. Halliday, Lucien Karpik, Malcolm M. Feeley, page 157]

Prosperity

Our 1965 leaders will fail any conventional definition of what a founder or founding father or leader is. Unfortunately, Singaporeans die die must credit our 1965 leaders as their fathers, mothers, founders, founding leaders, founding prime minister because they falsely believe it was they who delivered Singapore’s prosperity.

How sadly misinformed they are. Suppose the Leftist Chinese didn’t foolishly sacrifice themselves to fight for independence and Singapore remains a British Crown Colony till this day, Singapore would invariably have ended up like another Hong Kong – different but prosperous just the same.

Suppose Barisan had won power instead, we would have business magnates like Lee Kong Chian, Tan Lark Sye and Tan Kah Kee who would undoubtedly have turned Singapore into an economic powerhouse just the same but perhaps more entrepreneurial like Hong Kong.

More importantly, the economic strategy that Singaporeans always credit our 1965 leaders for actually came from someone else – Dr Albert Winsemius. He is the single most important person Singaporeans should credit for our economic success today:

He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.

[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

Singapore and I (Lee Kuan Yew) personally are indebted to him (Dr Albert Winsemius) for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore. I learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him … He gave me practical lessons on how European and American companies operated … showed me that Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments.

[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

Singaporeans insist we owe Lee Kuan Yew but Lee Kuan Yew said he and Singapore owe Winsemius. So in the end, who do we really owe?

More below:
https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/dr-albert-winsemius-was-the-true-architect-of-singapores-industrialisation/

https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/credit-to-singapore-ports-ascent-to-world-no-1-position-goes-to-dr-albert-winsemius/

Japanese Occupation

The most significant episode of Singapore history wasn’t 1965 but 1942 when Singapore was plunged into 3 years and 8 months of darkness under the Japanese Occupation. The Japanese massacred 50,000 of our forefathers as described in Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs:

Dalforce … Put together by John Dalley … brought together Chinese from all walks of life, supporters of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), including notably some 500 communists freed from prison by the British at the eleventh hour. Once armed, the volunteers were sent to hold the ground east of Kranji River on the flank of the 27th Australian Brigade. They fought ferociously. Many died, but so did many Japanese. They made Dalforce a legend, a name synonymous with bravery …

… those picked out at random at the checkpoint … 40 to 50 lorries arrived to collect them. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were transported to a beach at Tanah Merah Besar, some 10 miles away on the east coast, near Changi Prison. They were made to disembark, tied together, and forced to walk towards the sea. As they did so, Japanese machine-gunners massacred them. Later, to make sure they were dead, each corpse was kicked, bayoneted and abused in other ways … A few survivors miraculous escaped to give this grim account.

The Japanese admitted killing 6,000 young Chinese in that Sook Ching of 18-22 February 1942. After the war, a committee of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce exhumed many graves in Siglap, Punggol and Changi. It estimated the number massacred to be between 50,000 and 100,000 …

If the Japanese were to be in Singapore as my lords and masters for the next few years, and I had not only to avoid trouble but make a living, I would have to learn their language.

… Shimoda offered me work in the new world in which the Japanese were now the masters … I got another job … in the kumai or guild that controlled essential foods … I read an advertisement in the Syonan Shimbun inserted by the Japanese information or propaganda department called the Hodobu

… This time it was the Japanese who were on the run … I read dispatches of the stubborn resistance they put up as the British advanced towards Mandalay and down the Arakan coast. I felt certain the British would soon push their way down the Malayan peninsula in the same way, and feared that, with the Japanese fighting to the last man, to the bitter end, with enormous civilian casualties. It was only a matter of time …

I decided it would be better to get out of Singapore while things were still calm, and I could resign from the Hodobu without arousing suspicion over my motives. I applied for leave and went up to the Malaya to reconnoitre Penang and the Cameron Highlands, to find out which was a safer place …

… Had the Japanese stayed on in Singapore and Malaya, they would, within 50 years, have forged a coterie of loyal supporters as they had successfully done in Taiwan …

The only people who had the courage and conviction to stand up to the invaders were the Chinese who joined the Malayan Communist Party and, in smaller numbers, the Kuomintang-led resistance. Both groups were fired by Chinese nationalism, not Malayan patriotism, and were to prove as much a source of trouble to the British in peace as they had been to the Japanese in war …

[The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew]

It’s obvious from Lee Kuan Yew’s accounts that while he recognised what bravery was, he didn’t exhibit bravery and while he recognised bestiality, he didn’t resist bestiality. Throughout Singapore’s hour of need, Lee never thought of fighting for the land of his birth but thought only of self-preservation. He obviously could have escaped into the jungles of Malaya to join the resistance there but preferred to work for the Japanese instead. He planned to leave Singapore only when he knew that the Japanese were about to lose.

This is in stark contrast to Lim Bo Seng or Lt Adnan who fought and died for Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew even discredited Lim Bo Seng’s sacrifices by saying it was out of Chinese nationalism rather than Malayan patriotism.

The immortalisation of Lee Kuan Yew as our founding leader would not only be a grave injustice to those who fought and died for Singapore, it would also set a very bad example for future generations of Singaporeans. How can someone who only cared for his life but not for the land of his birth and who readily accepted the cruellest of conquerors as new masters be worthy of our respect as founder or founding leader?

That would be like celebrating Marshall Petain of Vichy France who was branded a traitor after the war instead of Charles de Gaulle who continued to fight after France’s fall. Incidentally Lee once expressed admiration for de Gaulle but was quite clearly the opposite of de Gaulle.

If Singapore is invaded again and Lee Kuan Yew can get up from his grave as he claimed he can, do you think he will fight for Singapore? If Singapore falls again and Lee Kuan Yew can get up from his grave, do you think he will join the resistance to carry on the fight in the jungles?

Singaporeans who still do not see the answer must be really daft. Singaporeans who see the answer but still choose to revere Lee Kuan Yew must have moral compasses similar to Lee Kuan Yew’s. If the people of Singapore by and large have no qualms about self-preservation over the defence of their land of birth, it’s not hard to imagine them putting up token resistance to save their own skins in times of war, and we can’t blame them because their so-called ‘founding leader’ didn’t even try. While it is one thing to choose self-preservation over sacrifice for the nation, it’s a completely different thing to glorify someone like this as founding leader.

Conclusion

The Singapore that we know today has one and only one founder – Sir Stamford Raffles.

The closest to the definition of a founding father that Singapore has were those who fought and eventually won us our ¾ independence – mainly the Leftist Chinese.

Our 1965 leaders fit neither definition of founder or founding father or leader.

The one person whom we should be most thankful for our prosperity today is Dr Albert Winsemius.

But most of all, we should simply be thankful of our own fathers and grand fathers because they were not the stupid ones who had be to led by the nose towards success. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea became successful too but because they enjoyed much greater democracy they know that prosperity did not come from any single party or leader.

Lee Kuan Yew didn’t fight for Singapore during Singapore’s hour of need but chose to work for the enemy instead. That in most countries is considered treason. To hail Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore’s founding leader is to raise treason to the highest form of honour in Singapore.

The American founding father put his life on the line to fight off the enemy while the soon to be crowned Singapore ‘founding leader’ worked for the enemy to save his own life. How much more stark must the comparison be before Singaporeans finally get it?

A chance conversation with a PAP voter friend

October 18, 2015

This PAP voter said she appreciates the stable life now compared to the tumultuous times of strikes during her growing up years. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that many of the labour laws that guarantee workers’ rights today including Sunday off arose from those strikes. Without those strikes, the British might conveniently have held on to Singapore for as long as they could like they did in Hong Kong. In any case, those strikes were during a time of power struggle. Once the victor emerged, regardless of which side won, the power struggle would stop and she would enjoy her peaceful life just the same.

She said Lee Kuan Yew had to do terrible things in order to push the country forward. I said Chia Thye Poh was imprisoned till 1989 and detained till 1998. What threat was Chia Thye Poh to the country’s progress in 1989 or 1998? I should have added that Singapore at that time was already embarking on the Swiss standard of living.

I pointed out that if the PAP’s stance is so defensible and unshakable, it should have no qualms freeing up newspapers and television for it could easily defend any argument from newspapers not within its control. PAP voter said press control is to guard against extremists who may destabilise the country through the press. I said the laws that allow the PAP to round up extremists still exist. It can by all means round up any extremists if it so desires. Let our voices speak for themselves. Let the people see if our voices are extremist or not.

She said CPF is good because if the money is put in a bank it only earns peanut interests. I said she isn’t comparing apples to apples. CPF funds are locked up for 20, 30 years, if the money is put in a similar bond with 20, 30 year maturity, the returns will be similar.

PAP voter said after Lee Li Lian took over Punggol East for a few years, the estate did not improve. I said that is because the PAP controls the purse springs so that any estate improvement over and above normal funds must come from the government. Any party who controls the national purse string will have access to these funds. Does she not feel it is unfair or unhealthy that estate improvement funds are being politicised?

She said WP did not do its job and allowed bad debts to accumulate. She said this was unfair to people like her who paid her estate maintenance bills regularly. I don’t know what to say.

She said WP used money from Punggol East to replenish overdrafts in Aljunied. I said that’s political smearing. Teo Chee Hian used an incomplete statement from within the stack of statements to claim accounting irregularities whereas Low Thia Khiang used the main page which is the summary page that showed all accounts are finally tallied.

She said she was relieved that Singapore voters proved wise. I said no, voters are not wise but are misinformed as there are clearly so many loop holes with her arguments which show an incomplete understanding of the truth to many political issues.

She said opposition only knows how to talk. I don’t know what to say. I can’t find a single evidence of opposition project so grand and outstanding it completely shuts the mouth of critics.

She remarked that I am an opposition voter. I said no, I merely wish to see balance in the parliament, 50% PAP – 50% opposition. In other words, I am the true middle ground. There are many false middle grounds today who even though are called swing voters are merely swinging from 2% opposition to 8% opposition and vice versa. She said if parliament has 50% opposition, Singapore liao lor. That is the crux of the opposition problem. The majority of Singaporean voters think opposition is good for nothing except talk only.

PAP voter said her studies were affected when the government suddenly changed the language of instruction from Chinese to English. Her teacher cried in class as the entire textbook changed from Chinese to English overnight. She said amongst her classmates, only one made good in life – some academic in Nantah. I said to her, your life has been turned topsy turvy as a result of PAP’s policies. Yet you continue to vote for PAP. If Barisan were in charge and you were able to make a living based on the Chinese language, would you not have done better in life?

Safeguards in place to entrench single party rule

October 4, 2015

I refer to the 1 Oct 2015 Straits Times letter “Safeguards in place to check single-party rule” by Mr Edmund Lam (Dr).

Mr Lam wrote:

Some members of the intelligentsia have expressed concerns about the implications this unexpected development will have on the future of our democracy and on possible abuses by the dominant party.

But this is based on the false assumption that an ideal democracy with a two-party system will bring about a better life for the average lot.

Leading democracies, such as the US and Britain, are seeing widening inequalities and disillusionment among their electorates.

Mr Lam’s selective comparison is no argument at all. Why only compare with US and Britain? Why not compare with Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand or Australia?

Even if we consider US and UK, it can hardly be said that their people aren’t leading better lives. Inequality in US and UK are lower than in Singapore while nearly all other First World nations have much lower inequalities than us.

GINI

[United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER)
http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/WIID3-0B/en_GB/wiid/_files/92393927664936620/default/WIID3b.xls%5D

Both US (15th) and UK (21st) are ranked above Singapore (24th) in the World Happiness Report 2015. US (10th) and UK (13th) are also ranked above Singapore (18th) in the Legatum Prosperity Index 2014. UK (41st) is also ranked higher than Singapore (90th) in Happy Planet Index 2012. So based on data, it is unlikely that US and UK citizens are any more disillusioned than Singaporeans are.

A 2009 Gallup survey shows 165 million and 45 million adults worldwide want to migrate to the US and UK respectively compared to only about 10 million adults who wish to migrate to Singapore. The US and UK are therefore about 17 times and 5 times as attractive a migration destination as Singapore is respectively.

The United States is the top desired destination country for the 700 million adults who would like to relocate permanently to another country. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of these respondents, which translates to more than 165 million adults worldwide, name the United States as their desired future residence. With an additional estimated 45 million saying they would like to move to Canada …

Forty-five million adults who would like to move name the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination.

… This means that Singapore’s adult population would increase from an estimated 3.6 million to as high as 13 million.

[http://www.gallup.com/poll/124028/700-million-worldwide-desire-migrate-permanently.aspx]

An updated version of the Gallup poll in 2012 shows similar numbers:

Roughly 150 million of them say they would like to move to the U.S. — giving it the undisputed title as the world’s most desired destination for potential migrants since Gallup started tracking these patterns in 2007 … large numbers are attracted to the United Kingdom (45 million)

[http://www.gallup.com/poll/153992/150-million-adults-worldwide-migrate.aspx]

Conversely, more than half of Singaporeans wish to migrate if given a choice (The New Paper, More than half of S’poreans would migrate if given a choice: Survey, 9 Oct 2012, http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20121007-376116.html)

The combined picture of all these surveys is clear: contrary to Mr Lam’s assertion, life in US or UK isn’t worse than life in Singapore. The evidence points to the contrary, that life in most First World nations are better than in Singapore which should validate their two or more party systems instead. In any case, without trying out a two party system here; there is no way Mr Lam can say for sure it won’t work better for Singapore.

Mr Lam wrote:

But there are safeguards in our system.

Our independent first-class judiciary is one antidote for our one-party system.

The very mention of safeguards gives away the lie and points to the obvious danger inherent in a one party system.

Mr Lam shouldn’t confuse the powers of the judiciary with the powers of the legislative. The judiciary can only operate within the laws made by the legislative in parliament. The judiciary cannot go against unjust laws and hence cannot serve as the antidote to our one party legislative system.

Mr Lam only has to read this: “http://anyhowhantam.blogspot.sg/2015/09/give-j-b-jeyaretnam-posthumous-pardon.html?view=sidebar” to understand the grave injustices our opposition politicians suffered.

Mr Lam wrote:

Another equally important institution is the mainstream media, especially The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, which can act as proactive and constructive arbiters in our society.

Mr Lam must be kidding, with a global rank of 153; our mainstream media is only good for laughing stock.

Mr Lam wrote:

They have done a remarkable job in covering the recent general election in terms of impartiality.

Disagree, especially for Mediacorpse. The host of a TV programme allowed Lawrence Wong to attack Dr Chee Soon Juan below the belt but prevented Dr Chee from defending himself after that.

Mr Lam wrote:

This is not to advocate that the media play the role of the opposition.

Why would Mediacorpse play the role of the opposition when it went into overdrive to broadcast pro-PAP reels 24 by 7 in the months leading to the general election?

Mr Lam wrote:

In essence, this election has shown that Singaporeans need to evolve a social and political system tailored to our limitations and needs of our people, and not to blindly emulate Western democracy.

This election has shown that even phDs like Dr Lam can be complete idiots when it comes to political understanding and have nothing to contribute other than blind regurgitation of government propaganda.