Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Whose fault is it that the Western media thinks we are sheeple?

23 March 2015, Lee Kuan Yew passed away at the Intensive Care Unit of the Singapore General Hospital, where he had been warded since 5 February. Pneumonia is the nemesis of every fragile elderly person, and I wonder why he hadn't been hospitalised earlier, before his pneumonia became too severe to be treated effectively.
 
I wish he had had the chance to enjoy his life more in old age. I wish he could've spent more time with his wife. I wish he had bowed out of public life earlier, like so many other politicians around the world do, so that he could have had enough time for himself; so that he could have rested and not be constantly on the move to keep up with a punishing schedule.

It's all too late now.

To the people who ranted deliriously at me online a few months ago (see old post below) for suggesting that he retire, I hope you're happy that he was working till the day before he took that one-way trip to SGH. I hope you're happy that he hung around in Parliament against his doctors' advice to serve as a national symbol and political mascot so that your insecure souls could continue to have hope in this country.

The irony is that the people who had wanted to see him work without respite until he breathed his last are the same ones weeping uncontrollably now that he's gone. And in their grief, they have turned their wrath towards anyone who dare suggest that Lee Kuan Yew was not always right, that he had made mistakes in his time in office, and that his colleagues probably deserved more credit for the transformation of Singapore than we give them.

More than any other pioneer leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was adored and admired by the majority here in his lifetime. I think it was because despite his autocratic ways (most notoriously, suing his political rivals to bankruptcy), he was sincere about serving the country. He viewed Singapore as his "baby", his burden to be carried. Like a parent, he did everything he could to ensure that it would continue to do well long after he has expired. Such was his popularity that even people who did not vote for the PAP in the General Elections of 2011 told me that they used to vote for Lee Kuan Yew and still greatly respect him. (Sorry, Fabrications about the PAP, et al. Contrary to your optimistic assessment of the silent majority actually standing up, many of the people who queued to pay their respects to Lee Kuan Yew could have been Workers' Party supporters.)

I am truly sorry that he has left us because I respect tremendously that he was a remarkable man who stood by his convictions and who was not afraid to take on the people who spoke up against him. But that respect and admiration of him will not stop me from calling a spade a spade. He was also a worrywart who was much too paranoid about losing his hold on power.

To the people who are ranting against anyone with objective views of Lee Kuan Yew: your lack of perspective about the man you claim to admire is doing his legacy a great disservice. It is your refusal to perceive both the good and bad about his leadership that has led the so-called "Western media" to think that Singaporeans are repressed sheeple who have been brainwashed by the PAP.

It is your inability to step up to the challenge of meeting disagreeable opinions with logic (instead of with overbearing emotion) that has caused the world to think that we are an indoctrinated mindless bunch who can't think for ourselves.

What else would you call people who hold one-sided opinions (that just happens to be the same as what the state propaganda wants them to think), and who refuse to see the flaws in their government?

What would you call people who scoff at objective assessments of a public figure, calling the writers of such critiques "pseudo-intellects" who ought to be hated for showing disrespect to such a great man? What would you call people who label others as "ingrates" for failing to reciprocate what he had done for Singapore by giving blind support to the PAP? (Never mind that Lee Kuan Yew himself received a privileged and prestigious British education, yet turned against the British!)

I don't believe it's a problem of intellectual capability. Rather, it's a problem of people willingly letting the heart take control of the mind. I am sure there are some studies out there who can prove that there are people who actually (perversely) enjoy partaking of emotional events, even those with a funeral-like atmosphere. Although they are crying outwardly, the complexity of human emotion is such that at the same time, I believe they also relished being given this opportunity to "let themselves go", i.e. stop all analytical thought and just soak in the almost religious fervour surrounding the demise of a Great Leader. They were united with their friends, neighbours, colleagues; they finally had a Greater Purpose that surpassed the mundaneness of day-to-day living. They secretly relished being part of this community that has been rendered breathless by the idea of a perfect leader beyond reproach.

The death of a man, paradoxically, has made these people feel more alive.

Behold Lee Kuan Yew, the deity safeguarding Singapore?
A new urban legend: Rainbow in the sky that appeared after the funeral procession on 29 March 
(the photograph has been exposed as a fake by Mothership).
At least this person, together with the 76 people who gave her the thumbs up,
is honest in admitting she liked the mourning week.

I hope that I don't offend anyone here. If it helps, I also felt inexplicably sad and shed a few tears during the one minute of silence. But in order not to betray my father who is a lifelong critic of Lee Kuan Yew, and remembering how students from low-income families like myself were disadvantaged by his government's anti-welfare policies (was it our fault that our parents were poor?), I quickly pulled myself back.

I did not enjoy many of the gushing commentaries about Lee Kuan Yew, because they did not gel with my experience of his period in government. I couldn't ignore the stigma he had created around people who were of low income and who were Chinese educated, nor the fact that he had thought that the children of people from low-income families would not succeed intellectually because they had "bad genes" and parents who couldn't nurture them. (That was the whole point behind his failed Graduate Mothers' Scheme. Yet my mother, who has never had a single day of formal education in her life, brought me to the library frequently and nurtured my voracious appetite for reading.) 

To the detriment of many children born to parents with low income and education levels, although his government espoused the ethos of meritocracy and self-reliance, it did not simultaneously espouse respect for people of different social classes or different educational backgrounds. Instead of respect and care for one another, his government cultivated a culture where materialistic pursuits were more important than compassion. Partly because of that, I had difficulty securing a tuition fee loan for my university education. Most of my relatives looked down on my family and none wanted to be my guarantor. In fact, I only managed to find a cousin who was nice enough to help me out the day before the university's closing application date. Today, looking at the comments that our current government and its supporters have made about Singaporeans "going soft" and about poor Singaporeans wanting their CPF at 55 years old because they are "lazy" and want to spend the money on "drugs and gambling", it is evident that Lee Kuan Yew's prejudiced views about the poor continue to loom over the PAP government's management of social issues.

Nevertheless, for the sake of balance, here is a blog entry from a self-professed admirer of Lee Kuan Yew that I did enjoy reading: "There's no need to bid farewell for Lee Kuan Yew". The writer might've taken the words of Lee Kuan Yew and his government superficially, though. There were motives that went unexamined because he believed everything that Lee Kuan Yew said about himself and others.

Yet even the critics have to agree that Lee Kuan Yew, through immense will power and courage, was the man who had made the most contributions to the development of Singapore. He was not always agreeable and often unilateral, but he was probably the most successful leader that post-independence Southeast Asia has ever had.

Farewell and good night, sir.

______________________________

Why is Lee Kuan Yew still my MP?

I do not know, because I haven't heard a single word uttered from his mouth since... 2012? The last speech I remember hearing from him was a very nice speech in 2011. After winning the elections at Tanjong Pagar GRC via a walkover, he announced that he would step down from his position as advisor to the ministers, and he even wished Singapore well. I thought then, here's a great man who's seen and done it all, and there is nothing more that he wants than to spend time with his family.

It is understandable that he could not have stepped down as Member of Parliament immediately after the elections. But I thought that he should have stepped down from the MP position soon after that. Because every politician, after decades of service, should be able to make his last speech in a lucid state of mind. It would be a tragedy, in my opinion, if an old politician had to shuffle away silently in a state of deteriorating health, with no swansong speech for people to remember him by. Sure, we can always listen to old speeches, read old books, but nothing quite replaces the final public parting words of an old tiger in politics. I want LKY to make that speech, and I will be sorry if he is not able to leave on his own terms, in his own words. Let's hope that's not the case.

Anyway, since I have had my pseudonym Facebook account reported and suspended after giving feedback suggesting that LKY retire, I shall rebut on my blog the comments that followed my post on this page. I want the PAP groups behind those pages to know that banning a user on the pretext of helping Facebook to remove trolls does not silence public opinion on politics in Singapore.

I really have no problems with the post. However, it's about time that we look at the matter objectively, instead of emotionally. Are there no capable PAP leaders to replace LKY as MP?

Credit: Fabrications led by Opposition Parties


























In fact, in my comment to the post, I agreed that any vitriolic statements about the Lee family must stop. Such statements are callous and uncouth. In my reply to another post on the topic at The Online Citizen, I also pointed out that we should be grateful that the Lee family has made numerous sacrifices for the country, not least that of their personal freedoms. Like the majority of Singaporeans, I respect Lee Kuan Yew. Yes, even those who do not like him very much still respect him for his mettle in holding the country together and getting rid of a lot of problems that Singapore had in the past.

However, being a pragmatic Singaporean, I can't help but ask myself, "Why is he still an MP when he is not able to attend Meet-the-People sessions, and it is even explicitly stated on the GRC's page that his MPS will be conducted by someone else?" That someone else is the only MP I've seen around in Tiong Bahru - Indranee Rajah. She shows up at a lot of events in the area. But she also has her own region to take care of, which is the Tanglin region.

This is has been the permanent arrangement since 2011. It is not a temporary one.











The subject of LKY's retirement is not only a contentious topic, but it also evokes strong emotions in those who are his avid supporters. Any suggestion that maybe LKY is no longer suitable to be an MP on a pro-PAP page will, of course, be met by outraged defensiveness. Here are some of the choice comments I found. 

1. The optimistic fan who thinks that LKY is a secret philanthropist








In the first place, do you know that he donated his MP salary to charity? If you don't, this is pure optimistic speculation. It is true that the family seems to lead a simple life. Does this mean that they necessarily donated all their riches to charity? I am aware that Lee Hsien Loong did donate some of his salary for a good cause. Good for him. But I don't know what's happening to LKY's salary. 

2. The emotional supporter


This type of argument is irrelevant to the question of whether LKY can still be an MP. Singaporeans will continue to remember his achievements for many years to come. They will not forget him just because he has stepped down. 

3. The opposition hater






He's just being spiteful. Tsk tsk.

4. Those who believe that he's still playing a significant role, helping the government to mastermind strategies



OK. When was the last time you heard LKY giving a public speech? I agree that physical mobility is not important. The great FDR was wheelchair-bound most of the time because of childhood polio but he is fondly remembered as one of the best American presidents. Similarly, a leader of Singapore does not need to be physically mobile or perfect. WP leader Low Thia Khiang uses a hearing aid and it does not interfere with his role as an MP. SPP leader Chiam See Tong suffered a stroke, walked with a hunch and spoke with a slur, but he was still able to make speeches during GE2011 which showed his clarity of thought and political determination. A leader doesn't need to be physically perfect. A leader does not need to walk on his own. But a leader must have a lucid state of mind. 

Perhaps I am wrong about LKY. Perhaps he's still intellectually as sharp as before. I really do not know. What I do know is what I saw on national TV. When Lee Hsien Loong was giving his Mandarin speech at PAP's 60th anniversary celebration, LKY who was seated behind the podium, yawned openly a couple of times and didn't seem embarrassed that he was caught on camera.

Anyway, assuming he is still one of the top minds in this country, like many other retired political leaders, he can still be consulted for advice. He doesn't actually need to be in the government to offer advice. The Prime Minister is his son. Surely it'll be easy for a son to approach a father for advice?

***

For a sense of how emotional the topic is for some, here are some more views from people who have been thoroughly brainwashed. They truly believe that we should continue paying Mr Lee Kuan Yew to be a political representative even though he's way past the point of retirement. They truly think that it is okay for the Parliament to retain someone who has not spoken to Singaporeans for the past few years.

If we could create a shrine to worship him, I believe those people would actually go there for that purpose. Such is their adulation. But the man already has books, musicals, statues, awards, degrees, titles, think tanks - you name it, you've got it - created in his honour to recognise his decades of contribution to this country. He is also receiving a pension for his years of service. Do we really need to turn the Parliament into a platform for further hero worship? Doesn't that turn the Parliament, the highest legislative body in Singapore, into a farce?

Someone mentioned that his presence in the GRC gives confidence to party supporters. I recognise that some people may feel insecure with the changing realities around us, but him being around is not going to solve all of Singapore's problems. In fact, LKY's dominance in Tanjong Pagar GRC, at least until 2011, is the reason why leaders from the younger generation like Minister Chan Chun Sing has not been able to gain experience helming his own GRC.

***

It is apparent from the posts that some of the PAP supporters on that page are either politically ignorant, or they do not treat governance seriously. The respect that individuals ought to have for such an institution is sorely lacking. Although they claimed that Workers' Party leader Low Thia Khiang should be brought to task for failing to account for the financial statements of his GRC, these very same supporters think that it's okay for our government to have a representative who is so frail that he cannot perform the tasks that are expected of him, and has to rely on a helper. It almost seems like they have this "Aww, he so poor thing" attitude towards LKY upon learning of his illnesses, and expect other Singaporeans to show our appreciation for him by continuing to vote him into Parliament.

If you really love him and Singapore, do everyone a favour. Give the man the break that he deserves. Stop badgering for him to be returned to government. He doesn't need sympathy votes. He has grandchildren who adore him, a lovely home with great memories to look back on, and his mind should be filled with questions like, "When will I get to hold my first great-grandchild?" and not "What time will this dreadfully boring political event end?" If I may say so, I have many elderly relatives and all they wish for is a peaceful life in old age. Being a 91-year-old founding father of Singapore doesn't make him any different from other elderly men. So, I do not know why he's still in office, or even whether it's his choice.

Here are some leaders who ended a remarkable run on their terms, and in their own words.



Transcript: Nelson Mandela retirement speech

Credit: The New York Times

1 comment:

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