We will pay the price for unrealistic views of Lee

Seven days are over, and now I have the time and proper space to make sense of all that has been said about Lee Kuan Yew over the last week. Lee casts a long shadow over all of Singapore, and how we handle his narrative in the years and decades to come will have great bearing on how we change as a society.

Lee Kuan Yew (image credit: biography.com)

Lee Kuan Yew (image credit: biography.com)

In death, the man still has the power to unite us. From his grave, he still could be the one to tear us apart. But the choice rests with us rather than with him – our handling of the legacy that we, willingly or unwillingly, have in our hands.

There are two ways forward now. In one future we polarise ourselves, we retreat into two camps: one that idolises and one that vilifies (both unjustifiably). In another future we manage to gather our senses, sit down together and have earnest conversations about the man and about our future.

Lee Kuan Yew was unashamed of his choices – why are we ashamed on his behalf? Why the need to fabricate some narrative of unmerited perfection? Sure, he has received some unfair criticism, but even while it is wise for critics to steer away from criticisms during the man’s wake, it is similarly disrespectful to caricature his achievements and the hard choices he made.

MOE all but mandated a whitewashed history lesson in the days after his passing, and most teachers fed it to their students unedited. Die-hards like Calvin Cheng and Indranee Rajah had to reach for mockery and distortion to try and rebut what they saw as attacks on Lee Kuan Yew’s character. Talk about there being no trade-offs is pure nonsense. Talk about us having sacrificed only bad things in exchange for good things is likewise naive. Talk about how everything is totally humane fails to give Lee credit where he is due – that he made and stood by his choices in a fallen world where not everything can be win-win for everyone all the time.

And this is also the very same mistake that many of his critics make – seeing his actions in isolation and refusing to acknowledge the effective but imperfect outcome.

If Lee had not made those choices, and sacrificed dreams, even people, we would not have what we have today. And by any sensible critic’s reckoning this outcome for Singapore, out of all possible outcomes, is far, far better than what we could ever have hoped for.

Lee also sacrificed a part of his humanity. One cannot make hard choices like he did without hardening within; and to live with no regrets as he did meant that a hard pragmatism had to overrule.

Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy is admirable BECAUSE he made those sacrifices. He is a leader par excellence BECAUSE he had to bear the consequences of the people he sacrificed. He is a visionary without peer BECAUSE of all the futures and freedoms he steered us away from. As much as I may want an apology for all the things he did, I honestly am glad that he never apologised. The legacy handed to us is crystal clear.

Let us remember the man he truly was, not some cartoon hero or villain of our own imagination.


GE 2015 – first blood to Chee

The boundaries haven’t even been announced, but it seems that the first shots have already been fired in GE 2015 (or is it 2016?). Minister of Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing’s rebuttal to two articles penned by SDP’s infamous Sec-Gen Chee Soon Juan was all over the local dailies, signalling what is probably the starting gun for a drawn-out pre-election campaign.

It is worth noting that Chan wrote the letter in his capacity as Minister, an odd choice given that none of the subjects broached had anything to do with his ministry. What was that for?

Unfortunately for Chan, it seems that Chee has gained the better of him in this encounter, and the initiative shifts to the SDP, who last Saturday announced their interest in contesting Chan’s Tanjong Pagar GRC.

1) Chee’s agenda gets an airing

These HuffPo articles would have otherwise been missed/ignored by the Singapore public at large. HuffPo, in spite of it’s large US-based online profile, has little traction with the man on the street here. It is pretty left-wing, which makes for a great fit with Chee, but it’s not so much “attention and space” compared to what Chan just gave him.

Right now, any non-MSM socio-political publisher or blogger worth his salt will be talking about Chee. We’ve got no choice! It’s the flavour of the week.

As of now, just past midnight on the 17th, the first article “Without Freedom there is No Free Trade” clocked 109 FB shares and 663 Likes. “Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go” (in spite of its cringeworthy headline) has 59 shares and 494 likes. My bet is that these numbers will spike over the next 48 hours. Too bad I can’t see the article’s viewership stats – that would have been best.

By referring to the articles published on HuffPo, Chan is pulling a buttload of eyeballs to what seem to be two run-of-the-mill Chee Soon Juan pieces that merely re-hash staid SDP election issues. It’s all over the local grapevine now, and this helps spread the SDP message, as old and moldy a one as it is (I’m envisioning spores here).

2) An ad hominem that is going to backfire (or maybe already has)

There are already scores of commentators on social media commiserating with Chee, labeling themselves to be, like Chee, what Chan defines as a “failure”. Mothership went as far as to write a snarky fictitious response from Chee, accusing Chan of likewise never having been elected to represent the people (Chan’s GRC Tanjong Pagar went uncontested in the last GE). That’s a burn.

Don’t ad hominem until the crowd is already riled up (not completely rational) and on your side. Or better yet, don’t ad hominem. Keep it clean. I hope for his sake he was trying to play only to the home crowd.

Chee’s response is mature (mature-sounding at least), if a little overdrawn.

Post by Chee Soon Juan.

3) Missed opportunities for real debate

Chan’s letter to the HuffPo nearly completely neglected to debate Chee’s real points of contention – accusing the USSFTA of contributing (or even causing) Singaporeans’ labour woes and the lack of a free media. SDP’s campaign, launched last Saturday, seemed to address neither of these issues substantially. It would be at least relevant to accuse Chee of being full of hot air when it comes to pushing for real change, since Chee apparently said that he had no plans to push the liberal agenda as he had in previous elections (neither worker’s/human rights nor a free press/speech).

Chan missed an opportunity to talk about the progress made so far on worker’s rights: slow progress, but welcome change nonetheless. His ST forum letter today made more sense – real rebuttals (and in the context of MSF) with a personal snipe at the end, and one that played off Chiam See Tong’s popularity.

Too bad this exchange will be remembered for the snipe rather than the issues.

Chan Chun Sing needs to work on better strategies if he wants to win his first election – something that Chee Soon Juan would be more than happy to do in his stead.

Nparks is under who? HHH and ST both clueless

Han Hui Hui wrote to Vivian Balakrishnan to ask for the Hong Lim Park ban to be removed, but I don’t think it will work out for her.

REASON? Dr Balakrishnan is the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), and Nparks is under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

ST doesn't know either!

ST doesn’t know either!

Sadly, ST doesn’t know this fact either, and has happily published that Nparks is under MEWR as well. Unless there was a reshuffle today, Nparks is actually a child agency of MND, and Khaw Boon Wan is in charge.

from gov.sg

from gov.sg

Tragically, our political activists are barking up the wrong tree, and even worse, our newspapers don’t even know.

Handy tip: Warren Fernandez is a board member of Nparks. Yes. The Editor of ST.

Khaw Boon Wan is just sitting there smiling now. 😀

Hecklegate splits opposition into 3 groups

by Daniel Yap

Love it, hate it, don’t know what to think? Reactions to the Hong Lim Heckling from the opposition camp have been mixed, but one way or another, everyone seems to be falling nicely into three categories.

1. Conspiracy theorist. Somehow they are the victim. They’re always the victim/hero. These guys are in turn supported by some folks with Guy Fawkes masks in their profile pictures who will argue about technicalities like how it wasn’t “heckling”, but just a damn blardy rude interruption, or else they will ad hominem people who condemn the act and label them all as PAP IBs. Damn, suddenly so many people become PAP IBs. If PAP was capable of plotting something so smooth and ingenuous, I swear I will join them right away.

Key points:
Done nothing wrong
It’s a PAP trap/plot
Conspiracy by YMCA, NParks, Police, MSM, and the parents of the disabled kids.

Key Members:
Han Hui Hui
Roy Ngerng
Alex Tan
Kenneth Jeyaretnam (EDIT: KJ has now been upgraded – or is it downgraded – to the level of conspiracy theorist.)

2. Silence is golden. Here stand most of the people who were vocally supportive of Roy and Han… until now. Unable to break ties with their most visible political allies but at the same time unable to jump onto the loony train and screw their credibility. Lie low and you may yet survive the shitstorm.

Key points:
Nothing at all, maybe share some articles written by other people to show that I’m still an ally, but don’t say anything because this shit is bad.

Key Members:
Leong Sze Hian
Chee Soon Juan
The Ice Cream Party leadership

3. The “reasonable” opposition. These guys are happy to distance themselves from the increasingly-alarming CPF gang. Full retard is just too much. Never go full retard.

Key points:
The protesters’ actions were uncalled for and inexcusable
Condemnable behaviour
Stop calling me a PAP IB

Key members:
Andrew Loh
Worker’s Party
Ravi Philemon


Roy and Han Hui Hui go full retard

by Daniel Yap

Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui and a bunch of their supporters have raised a ruckus at a YMCA charity event at Hong Lim Park and heckled disabled kids, among other low class acts. EDIT: Seems like TRS’ Alex Tan was there too.)

Teo Ser Luck was in attendance at the YMCA event as the guest of honour and there were even pictures of him getting verbal abuse from some crass thug. After heckling some poor disabled kids (and a bunch of elderly people and children) the rabble decided to march around Hong Lim Park chanting.

TOC tries to save their face by claiming that the mob moved off soon after, but honestly, does that make everything okay? Damage done. If you didn’t want to heckle disabled kids, you would have kept your mouth shut in the first place. Marching off somewhere else and keeping up your shouting isn’t brownie points in my book.

Of course, you’ll now be able to find all the low-EQ, anarchist/opposition tryhards actually standing up to DEFEND Roy and HHH’s antisocial, crass behaviour. At least it’s now really easy to spot an opposition nutjob. Ugh, these people actually make me want to join the PAP. *shudder*

Of course there was the HHH POV video of the Nparks Director of Parks and some policeman. While HHH was being an ass, she was largely within her rights and the officials were outclassed and underprepared. Sigh, doesn’t the civil service ever learn?

Dr Puthucheary gets too personal with Catherine Lim

As soon as Catherine Lim puts pen to paper, she gets the PAP and its supporters all hot and bothered. Her open letter to PM Lee, published in the South China Morning Post, raised the concern that trust in the government was lacking.

First, Singapore’s consul general in KH (Where SCMP is based), Jacky Foo, wrote a letter to the SCMP to insist that Catherine Lim was wrong, citing a study done that showed trust in the government was high, although he failed to mention that the same study showed that trust in individual politicians was pretty low.

Then a certain (or should I say uncertain) Eugene Tan did some statistical gymnastics on the ST Forum page to try and prove that the PAP is highly trusted.

Now Dr Janil Puthucheary has volunteered to wade into the fray on PM’s behalf (PM being wise enough not to get involved so far) with yet another letter. While Dr Puthucheary did make a good point about how trust may fluctuate over the short term, and how good government is a long-term endeavour, he wasn’t able to control himself (unlike the previous two fellows) and decided to add some of his own personal attacks into the piece, saying that Ms Lim “could not be trusted to be consistent” and insinuating that she was one of the “jaundiced commentators on the sidelines”.

The second, especially, reeks of then-PM Goh’s “join politics or shut up about it” rant back when Ms Lim decided to pen him a letter.

Dr Puthucheary, who has been saving babies for about 13 years now (although this is irrelevant), Jacky Foo and the mysterious Eugene Tan all seem to have forgotten that many others have made exactly the same observation, with nobody in government taking umbrage.

ST Editor at Large Han Fook Kwang, for one.

ST Editor at Large Han Fook Kwang, for one. (photo: Andrew Loh FB)

NMP Laurence Lien for another.

NMP Laurence Lien for another.

Dr Puthucheary has come down excessively hard on a moderate and reasonable critic, and this does his party and government no favours at a time when (I assert baldly) trust is diminished and the G needs to appear reasonable and inclusive. I’m sure Dr Puthucheary will also consider me another jaundiced commentator on the sidelines. But, by definition, all commentators are on the sidelines, and it’s so easy to look down on the commentators and fans when you get picked for Singapore’s “first 87”.

It really makes his reference about getting feedback from Singaporeans look like lip service if he cannot listen to Ms Lim without getting all worked up.

Roy Ngerng digs own grave, may get dirt on PM

I just want to say this:

Bad Time, Roy

Especially if you might get sued for it.

Is this some immense hubris on Roy’s part or is he hatching some scheme that honestly doesn’t look like it’s going to end well? Now that PM has rejected his $5,000 offer for damages, and has revealed that Roy secretly played around by privately sharing a YouTube video that was supposed to be taken down, the door is open to continue what my friend calls “the cripple fight”.

This development is only going to entrench the situation on both sides. For those who think Roy a cad, his shenanigans will entrench him as an untrustworthy man who makes promises he has no intention of keeping.

For those who think that PM stands to lose credibility in the long term by going hard with legal proceedings, his rejection of damages on a condition-upon-a-condition (the YouTube video was not part of the original lawyer letter, but added to the stakes later) looks like PM likes to play with bloggers in the mud.

Perhaps both of these views may be true.

At the end of the day, I pity M Ravi, who has to come up with some excuse as to why his client was up to his tricks without his knowledge. I sure hope Ravi isn’t dealing with this shit pro bono.