Monday, July 18, 2011

Singapore. Living in fear stunts achievement

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Everyone in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore knows where he stands. Lee and his government are boss. The citizen on the other hand is expected to know his place. And this inferiority stifles progress, stifles achievement or spontaneity; where every action is calculated and checked to see to it that Lee is not displeased.

For one, the Singapore courts are not there to serve the people. Most legal work in the island happens in the Subordinate Court, where people are arrested charged and punished in busloads for breaking Lee Kuan Yew's laws.

Civil law on the other hand is almost non existent. The High Court in Singapore is almost a ghost house where there are hardly any cases, and if any case was ever heard there, it has to be some millionaire woman or other suing her doctor for $60 million for a botched medical procedure. It is as you guessed, primarily the forum for the rich and connected and usually the one who is more connected wins over the less connected.

There are several reasons for the law being almost beyond the reach of the lesser ordinary citizen whom Lee has called mere "digits". For one you almost need to be a millionaire to bring a law suit there, where filing fees and court fees run into several thousand dollars each day. Then there is the English practice where the loser has to pay the winner legal costs, which again will run into several thousands of dollars, making litigation a very risky proposition, especially when Lee Kuan Yew controls his judges.

And third, there are really no laws to speak of when it comes to administrative injustices. For instance, the state controlled Housing Agency, the HDB, in whose apartments almost every single Singaporean lives does not really have any grievance procedure. If you were unjustly passed over for an apartment which was given to a Lee Kuan Yew cronie, there is nothing much you can do. You can write a letter of complaint if you want, but there is nothing else you could do if it ended up in the thrash can, other than banging your head against the wall.

It is the same as far as grievances against any state agency. The idea is, take it or leave it. It is simply, Lee Kuan Yew's rules in Lee Kuan Yew's island. He builds the apartments with your money and lets you take a flat of his choosing. Either take it or leave it. Most importantly shut your trap and behave.

And this philosophy of my way or the highway runs across his entire government. There are many who suffer silently from injustices suffered from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Health and every other government agency you can think of. It really does not matter to his government whether any individuals rights have been violated or anyone has been unjustly discriminated. Lee's idea appears to be that he has a system of government set up where the average citizen is provided with the bare minimum of housing and bare minimum of essentials to survive. And that is as far as it goes.

And the ones who make decisions as to what you should have and what you should not are Lee Kuan Yew's chosen elite. These are the government scholars, given government scholarships abroad who return to serve his government. These are the ones who literally decide how you should live, what apartments to build and how many, and how much taxes you should pay.

The difficulty of using Lee Kuan Yew's courts is not because of chance, it is by design. Lee does not want an atmosphere where you feel you have any individual rights, because it tends to weaken his ability to rule. A population that feels helpless is much more readily controlled, instead of one which thinks they have rights. In Lee's Singapore, if someone feels they have been unjustly treated, the proper thing to do is to stand in line outside your Member of Parliament's office (which happens to be a member of Lee's government) and beg for help. If you are lucky, you will get it, if not hard luck. The idea is to instill in you the realization that you are nothing, Lee Kuan Yew and his government is everything.

And I was going to say, this sort of a controlled life lived in fear of Lee Kuan Yew and what he could do to you if you crossed him, produces a type of second rate individual who never achieved any success. The reasons are many. Firstly the average Singaporean unlike Lee Kuan Yew's elite feels neglected and ignored, which makes him bitter and hate his government. He realises he is nothing but dirt, in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore where his chosen few live like Gods. They live lives of luxury and security, protected by Lee Kuan Yew and his government. He on the other hand is nothing but a "digit".

In an unjust scenario such as this, he has nothing to look forward to. His country has neglected him and he has no concern for his country. All his life is spent just keeping his job, making sure that he does not trample on any one's toes and to continue the remainder of his life as peacefully as possible. In his life there is no challenge, no purpose but just a dull existence, not only for him but also for his family, keeping clear of Lee Kuan Yew and what he can do to you.

An existence such as this never achieved greatness, never achieved spontaneity nor any geniuses. It simply will not where the average Singaporean has no interest whatsoever in his country and his country has no interest whatsoever in him.

In the US it is very different. The laws in the US not only exist in the books, it is actively exercised. There are grievance procedures set up in every department. If you are denied a drivers license, you have a grievance procedure to help you. Denied housing? There is a grievance procedure for this too. Every single infringement of your rights allows you to challenge it. And if there was still no satisfaction, you have legal redress in court before an impartial judge who delivers justice regardless of whether Obama likes it or not.

And it is not just the avenues of justice available, we make sure it is readily and cheaply available to everyone. The court filing fee for an entire law suit in the Superior Court of California costs no more than about $300.00. And we don't have the practice of making the loser pay the winner's costs of litigation, which therefore reduces the uncertainty of huge losses just for suing someone.

Every single tribunal in California is full of litigants of one sort or another, all seeking justice where they feel denied. And every single citizen lives his life, free and with the firm belief that this is a country of laws and his rights would always be protected.

And that is why America continues to be the most attractive country in the world where the whole world wants to come and live, a place which continues to produce greatness and where the people respect their government as their government respects them, not just the rich and connected but even the lowest of the low.

Today the US is one of the few among the developed countries of the world whose population is increasing and not decreasing, like that of Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. And that should be no surprise to anyone.

Lee should realize that merely writing in his state controlled press that Singaporeans are happy is not enough. They should really be happy.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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mycroft said...

Rupert Murdoch, octogenarian, feared media mogul, today appeared before the Commons Select Committee investigating alleged criminal behaviour in the UK phone hacking scandal. There was a striking feeling of déjà vu vis-a-vis that other octogenarian oblivious to his fading faculties, Lee Kuan Yew, during his grilling by Dr Chee Soon Juan before Judge Belinda Ang.

Shorn of his protective ring of minders and spin doctors, Murdoch looked exactly like what he was - an elderly man, hard of hearing, occasionally querulous and often lost for words as his once-sharp mind struggled to form a coherent response to pointed questions from the Committee. As we saw with LKY, the myth of fearsome invincibility bears little resemblance to the reality in the harsh glare of public scrutiny.

Murdoch (presumably bringing up the MP's expenses debacle in mitigation): "Singapore is the cleanest society in the world, as every minister is paid at least one million dollars a year and has no temptation to transgress".

How the audience laughed! That alone should tell you that plenty of people understand exactly what legalised corruption is all about in a one-party state and don't buy Lee's naïve doctrine of paying a thief not to steal.

"Good luck in selling that one," Committee member and MP Damian Collins replied, tartly.

And just a little later, a protester whacked old Rupert full in the face with a shaving-foam pie.

J said...

Rupert Murdoch is known to steal competitors' data through phone hacking, etc, even in the USA. One of News Corp culture is to "Bury your mistakes".

Lesson for Lee Kuan Yew. No mistakes stays buried for long, even for opaque secretive corporation like News Corp.

And for Mr Nair, all it took was a Guardian newspaper blog post to set of a chain of events leading to Murdoch's scandals revealed. That is the power of a blog.

Also, it is a pity that Murdoch has to face this sort of questioning at his age, just a pity that the Murdochs are not under oaths in the Commons Select Committee hearing - so they were able to do some acting. Humble man? My foot.

Lee Kuan Yew is not too old for his public image to be tarnish either. Nothing is implausible anymore in this age.