Ladies and Gentlemen,
Benito Mussolini and Lee Kuan Yew have many similarities. Both were dictators, and Lee still is. By propaganda through their state controlled press, they both successfully created an illusion that their countries were succeeding. Benito Mussolini fell principally because of his country’s imminent defeat in the Second World War. Lee Kuan Yew still remains the dictator over his island republic but not for very long. He will fall because he no longer can hide behind propaganda due to the advent of the Internet. People are beginning to see progressively that what he says is not necessarily what he does. The cat is repeatedly escaping from the bag. It is only a matter of time.
Mussolini in 1922 first started off as a socialist, claiming to want to improve the condition of the working class. So did Lee Kuan Yew in 1955 with the PAP claiming to champion the cause of the working poor in Singapore. Soon thereafter, just like Mussolini, after coming to power, both abandoned their earlier cause of fighting for the poor and aligned themselves with the rich, the banks and big business.
In return for the support of the merchant class, Benito Mussolini abandoned his crusade on behalf of the poor, outlawed strikes and abandoned the revolutionary movement altogether. So too in the case of Lee Kuan Yew. His days of being a socialist effectively came to an end on assuming power.
In Mussolini's Italy of the 1920s, the advent of Fascism was the product of the failure of free market economy, the fear of Bolshevism and the general feeling of anxiety among the business classes in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. The rich and the business classes in Italy wanted security, stability and peace and a strong central leadership of an all powerful leader like Mussolini appeared to provide the stability they were looking for. Lee's actions were no different. His mantra was the fear of instability if democracy was permitted. He argued that if the people were given their fundamental rights such as free speech and expression as generally found in Western countries, there will be chaos, resulting in the drain of foreign investment and the stemming of any future foreign investment into the country. Lee's argument is that as Singapore is devoid of any natural resources, any disruption of stability will invariably result in irreversible harm to Singapore’s very survival. Therefore the need for him and his son and the PAP to continue ruling Singapore as dictators.
Both Mussolini's Italy and Lee’s Singapore did not have a history of democratic traditions; Singapore made up of peasant immigrants from China and India and the local Malays, all of whom were mainly uneducated without any knowledge or understanding of political rights. Lee Kuan Yew made sure that such values never took root in Singapore, by not allowing any human rights and systematically and carefully making sure that schools did not teach anything about it, with no publicity given to it. Today in Singapore, effectively, almost every child, although educated is selectively so. He may know a lot about civil engineering but nothing about the constitution of Singapore or his rights under it.
Mussolini effectively silenced all political dissent with the murder of Matteotti, the socialist member of Parliament. Those who opposed lost their jobs and in more serious cases sent to prison. A blanket of fear spread out over Italy, silencing all political dissent. Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore is different only in manner. He does not murder people but he punishes them with long prison sentences under solitary confinement and torture. One is left to wonder which is worse, immediate death or slow torture, solitary confinement and destitution? In Singapore Lim Chin Siong and Chia Thye Poh come to mind, both imprisoned and tortured for many years all just for opposing Lee Kuan Yew.
Lee also uses the courts, presently his favorite weapon, to punish any opposition with judges making any rulings he desires against his hapless victims. JB Jeyaretnam and Dr. Chee Soon Juan have been jailed repeatedly sued for defamation and made liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars, disqualified from politics and impoverished. Such punishment against these men send a strong signal to the rest of the public not to criticize Lee Kuan Yew, thus stubbing out any dissent whatsoever.
Mussolini made it comfortable for the rich, thus favoring more investment and the retention of capital within Italy. He did this by tax breaks for the rich and stemming any plea of the working class for better conditions. Lee does exactly that in Singapore. Lee does not permit free and fair bargaining by the workers and instead wages are decided by the government, again under the same old excuse that higher wages will chase all businessmen out of the country and therefore will seriously de-stabilize the country financially.
From 1925 to Mussolini’s fall in 1942, his Fascist party did not face any political opposition to speak of. Neither did Lee Kuan Yew from 1960s to the present day. Successfully instilling fear among their people accomplished the goals of both the dictators Mussolini and Lee Kuan Yew. They both managed complete and universal control over their entire citizenry. They both managed to divest all power from parliament and instead transfer to themselves absolute control. All elected representatives of the Fascist Party were no more than rubber stamps, appointed by Mussolini to mechanically carry out each and every wish of Mussolini. Lee Kuan Yew's Members of Parliament are no better. They will sing dance, do the flop at the flick of Lee's finger. In Singapore the word “parliament” is a misnomer.
Mussolini just like Lee Kuan Yew, created a police state. Mussolini ordered that all journalists, teachers, government workers, everyone should be a member of the Italian Fascist Party. It was clearly beneficial to be a member of that party anyway. Beneficial because you had job security, you were promoted in your positions and your loyalty to Mussolini was appreciated. You could become rich with the right qualifications. On the other hand, refusal to join the Fascist Party may mean certain hardships, such as loss of income and neglect by the authorities. You see the same in Singapore. Those card carrying members of the PAP live comfortable lives in return for their loyalty. Others who refuse on conviction, live mediocre lives. Those who openly dare to resist within the country are arrested and dealt with through Lee's judges in his courts.
The principle tool of Mussolini to attain complete control over his people was propaganda. He carefully managed to ensure that all forms of media, such as the radio, films and the press only stated his side of the story. The entire media were daily reporting that all was fine, and getting better by the minute. It was as if the entire country was in a constant state of euphoria over the perceived successes of the Italian republic. The Italians could not have known anything else.
Mussolini made sure that no foreign news media were permitted making it absolutely sure that Italians will know what he states and nothing more. Mussolini personally chose his editors and journalists. He effectively abolished the Parliamentary system, although the forms were preserved to hoodwink the people into believing it existed. Laws were re-written. All teachers were warned only to teach the government line.
The fact that journalists, teachers, civil servants and all officials in Italy at that time were required to swear allegiance to Mussolini was kept a secret from the public and these officials were ordered under pain of severe punishment not to reveal this fact. All trade unions under Mussolini lost all independence and were instead ordered to "co-operate" with their employers under laws that effectively removed any bargaining power for the worker.
Lee Kuan Yew today does all that Mussolini did. He appoints newspaper editors. The state controlled Straits Times's editor is Chua Mooi Hong, an Internal Security Department, Intelligence Officer, and a sworn card carrying member of the PAP. She effectively decides what is fit to be published in Singapore and what is not.
Lee's teacher's have lost all independence to teach what should be taught. Instead children graduate from schools effectively shielded from any understanding of their rights under the constitution. Almost all of them do not even know such a thing exists.
Although the similarities are many and striking, there is one new factor in the equation now, which Lee Kuan Yew never imagined, and which almost certainly will be his downfall in the very near future. And this failure to realize an important factor such as this, is always because dictators always think they know best. And it is this arrogance on the part of dictators that always results in their fall. And this new factor which is already beginning to chip at the foundations of Lee's citadel, is the Internet.
Mussolini in 1925 to 1942 did not have to deal with the Internet because it did not exist. If Mussolini controlled the media within Italy and prevented any news from outside, he could absolutely control the minds of his people and work on their fears to his advantage. This luxury no longer exists for Lee Kuan Yew, because of the godsend to all those who love liberty and the nemesis of dictators, which is the Internet.
News travels throughout the globe and into Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew is powerless to control it. And it is this Internet that is daily telling not only Singaporeans but the world that things in Singapore is not exactly what Lee makes them to be. And this constant barrage of contrary opinion from the world is slowly beginning to cast doubts on the veracity of Lee's proclamations. And with these doubts, Lee can no longer control the minds of his people that Mussolini could. And before long, we expect to see the demise of Lee Kuan Yew, not only physically but also his Party and his ideas.
You see, the powerful effect of the Internet is one factor that Lee Kuan Yew could not have seen in 1959.
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