As to be expected, the mainstream media has gone into overdrive to rewrite the history of Lee Kuan Yew, minus warts and all.
But common sense tells us to be wary of such sales pitch: when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
MSM’s extremely slanted portrayal of Lee needs to be checked before more feeble-minded citizens regurgitate propaganda as facts.
Credit should be given where it is due and we must not conveniently exclude all the horrible things done by Lee as well as his bad ideas. They are part of our history.
Hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been wasted on Lee’s propaganda and more will be wasted if Singaporeans continue to fear speaking up. These tax dollars could have gone to needy Singaporeans.
Lee stepped down as PM 26 years ago. To continue crediting Lee with our ‘miraculous’ growth can only mean one thing: the 2 subsequent PMs’ contributions were insignificant or maybe they were even useless.
So who is the real Lee Kuan Yew? One thing for certain, everyone should take the sycophantic MSM’s propaganda with a lorry load of salt.
Truth be said, Lee was in fact a horrible person who had done many horrible deeds but he never had the guts to own up to any of them. Lee’s bad ideas running a government with minimal transparency and accountability, striking fear into citizens to discourage dissent, bankrupting political adversaries who were threats to him, etc. Lee had done lots of horrible things to perpetuate PAP’s power and service to the people was the last thing on his mind.
Lee’s simplistic idea of governance he should be given total control over the media, civil service and security forces to do his job. In other words, he had wanted to be able to experiment with society according to his whims which was akin to having any Tom, Dick and Harry as PM. After gaining total control through underhanded means, Lee revealed his true colours and quickly established an opaque system with minimal accountability. This is Lee’s true legacy to Singapore and chronic issues will never be resolved so long as such a system of governance is not removed.
Till today, few dare to criticise him openly, even after his death. Although Lee was supposed to be our servant, in reality, many feared him and offered themselves as slaves with greed as the motivating factor.
Most Singaporeans don’t really respect Lee: they only feared him. Any politician with Lee’s influence would have made numerous policy errors over 50 years. But most Singaporeans will not be able to list even a couple. When it comes to PAP grassroots and civil servants, Lee could have done no wrong. The fear of Lee is real. Lee was supposed to be the people’s head servant but in reality, the people feared and were enslaved to him.
If Lee were indeed a great leader, there would have been no need to conceal information which belonged in the public domain.
Singaporeans should be honest with themselves and not fear criticising Lee Kuan Yew (or even PAP). He was a human being with a bloated ego. A spade should not be called anything but.
Lee hid behind PAP-enacted legislations (so do PAP politicians). His media image struck fear in citizens but deep down, without the protection of PAP-enacted laws, Lee Kuan Yew was a coward. Yes, he was a coward and that’s my honest opinion. (If you feared vocalising this thought since years ago, please do yourself a favour and rid this fear once and for all by vocalising your real thoughts about this horrible man.)
When the most powerful man in our country talked about catching a citizen in a cul de sac with knuckle dusters, does it not show what a bully and coward he really was? Even leaders in less developed countries never stooped so low. Lee was one insecure human being who needed to be reassured of his power by issuing threats against citizens.
Lee: “Look, Jeyaretnam can’t win the infighting. I’ll tell you why. WE are in charge. Every government ministry and department is under our control. And in the infighting, he will go down for the count every time… I will make him crawl on his bended knees, and beg for mercy.” No leader in a democratic country has threatened a fellow citizen in such a despicable manner as Lee.
(While Lee was a horrible person, not all PAP members were like him. (On Goh Keng Swee) David Marshall: “Genuinely, no showmanship about it, genuinely humble….he speaks to the high as well as to the low….with the same approach. He had an extraordinary….total freedom from arrogance, from superiority, from any inferiority; he just was….a natural human being. And to me, a perfect human being…..it’s so much part of the air he breathes….to serve his country and his fellow human beings. And never a lie from him, never any malice from him. ..always treating me with courtesy and consideration. Never because I was a political opponent, treated me with ….unpleasant [ness]….never at all.” link)
Lee never wanted to govern Singapore “more effectively in their [our] interests” *. After 50 years, more than 80% of the land belonging to Singaporeans is still under PAP’s control. All the rules on public housing are PAP-created and perpetually tweaked for political mileage. 50,000 HDB units are owned by foreigners and at least half a million foreigners reside in public housing. HDB flats belong to buyers but only in name because the real owner is HDB. PAP then decides where it wants ordinary citizens to live and who should be entitled to public housing regardless of the fact that every working adult is a taxpayer. Every policy is aligned with PAP’s interests, not its citizens’.
Unaffordable public healthcare did not happen by chance but due to PAP’s corporatisation of the public healthcare sector. This allows PAP to squeeze a profit out of every transaction.
Ngiam Tong Dow, ex Perm Sec to Lee, said he had a big fight with Lee over COEs. According to Ngiam, “..the COE scheme meant that we were taxing every man, woman and child in Singapore, from the day of his birth till the day of his death…As COE taxes transportation, nobody can avoid it,”. The confirmation that Lee was serving PAP’s interest came in his reply, “What’s wrong with collecting more money?”.
No leader in a democratic country would even dare entertain the thought of making money off citizens. This was a bad idea: it was Lee’s idea.
Lee’s bad ideas have been unquestioningly implemented (who dares to question anyway) by civil servants till today. PAP’s obsession with profiting from public housing, healthcare, transportation, etc. has resulted in a self-created mess which is now impossible to resolve. Public healthcare and housing will always be unaffordable, regardless of the number of tweaks, and our MRT system will soon experience the mother of all major disruptions.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Every strongman in Asia has been consigned to the dustbin of history with the advancement of democracy. But Singapore is so unique our model of pseudo democracy has managed to survive and even allowed the government to rewrite Lee’s history.
Lee had his own definition of ‘leadership renewal’ – getting rid of all the old guards by 1988 except himself. After stepping down as PM, he could have contributed from behind the scenes, without receiving millions in tax dollars, and allowed younger leaders to learn the ropes. Instead, Lee became Senior Minister and continued to earn obscene amounts of tax dollars up to $4 million annually. Is there leadership renewal when Lee remained as chairman of GIC for 3 decades?
Lee was so indispensable that the title of ‘Minister Mentor’ was created for him to remain in cabinet after Goh had stepped down as PM. Which democratic country has created a new ministerial post for an octogenarian?
The public has been given the impression that Lee could have been earning a much higher salary if he was working in the private sector. However, this can never be proven because academic excellence does not guarantee financial success in any profession or business. If being book smart was the only yardstick to earning a high income, then why have Lee’s 3 children been earning tax dollars, directly or indirectly through stat boards/GLCs, their entire working lives?
But when he had no influence on outcomes, he had been proven wrong. Lee’s unsolicited advice: “I have visited (Burma) and I know that there is only one instrument of government, and that is the army…If I were Aung San Suu Kyi, I think I’d rather be behind a fence and be a symbol than after two or three years, be found impotent.” Lee again confirmed his cowardice but it would actually have been better to just shut up to prevent embarrassment to himself and Singapore. How is PM Lee, Lee’s son, to face Aung San Suu Kyi after what his father had said?
While fear was Lee’s favourite weapon, he also had his own fears. He feared robust debates in parliament and went to great lengths to conceal information. Information which should be in the public domain was also concealed to prevent public scrutiny of flawed policies. Lee was afraid and therefore decided it was better not to competed on a level playing field.
To me, Lee was an ignorant human being, full of himself and unable to understand the interdependence of people and things. Although he had ample time to reflect on his horrible deeds before his passing, he still could not bring himself to apologise to fellow Singaporeans he had harmed. He could have provided closure to his victims and their families but, to a horrible person, sorry seemed to be the hardest word.
Singaporeans should give Lee his due credit but we should stop imagining him to be even remotely god-like. Governing a country with no transparency and accountability whenever possible IS a bad idea. One has to be a horrible person to be able to incarcerate political opponents or bankrupting them in order to perpetuate one’s power without offering an apology after decades.
We should learn to be honest with ourselves and not be afraid to critique Lee Kuan Yew, or any other horrible person, and his bad ideas.
* “If I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I would not have the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their interests.”
Lee Kuan Yew, 1962