Ladies and Gentlemen,
I was reading Singapore's state controlled newspaper the Straits Times article of Dec 18, 2011 headed "Public inquiry to look into MRT (subway train system) breakdowns: PM Lee". The article which also had a video in which Lee Kuan Yew's son whom he appointed Prime Minister was explaining to a bunch of reporters that he was sorry that all these trains have been continously breaking down without fail all over the island and that he was going to hold a public inquiry about it.
During the interview, Lee Kuan Yew's son had initially started out answering questions in English, which by the way I obviously understand, but to a question that was put to him in Mandarin Chinese he suddenly switched to it, and for several questions thereafter continued in Chinese, which language I do not understand, quite obviously since I am an Indian Singaporean by birth and neither my parents, nor myself, did not see the need or the urgency to study it. I had studied Tamil in school as was expected of most immigrants from Southern India like my parents and Mandarin Chinese never came into the equation, for someone like me with a darker compexion rather than yellow, a straight nose, more facial and bodily hair and bigger eyes, features which distinguish Indians from the Chinese.
Watching this video of Lee Kuan Yew's son speaking and turning from one language to another, English to Chinese and back again, creates many difficulties which must be obvious to anyone. First of all, the newspaper that published this video was an English Language newspaper, not a Mandarin newspaper, so why in Heaven's is it using Chinese when it's readership is supposed to be English.
Second, does Lee Kuan Yew's son realize that Singapore consists of not only Mandarin speaking Chinese but also Indians and Malays the vast majority of whom had no idea one way or another what he was saying for half the time in that video in Mandarin Chinese.
Is this not inconveniencing the other sections of Singapore citizens who are not required to understand Mandarin Chinese and even if they could have no desire to embark on that language anyway, who therefore are kept in the dark as to all that he said in Chinese to his Chinese audience in the English newspaper.
To go one step further does this not disenfranchise the entire Malay and Indian community in Singapore, equal citizens under the Constitution, to second class status, because the Chinese including Lee Kuan Yew's son can say anything behind their back?
Third we see this happening only among the Chinese like Lee Kuan Yew's son. However I have never seen this sort of thing happening among the Malays or Indians in Singapore. For instance there has never been a single occasion, to the best of the time I have following these Singaporean curiosities, for K Shanmugam, Lee Kuan Yew's handpicked Tamil Minister for law, suddenly breaking into Tamil for my benefit, since I understand it very well, while speaking to Singapore reporters for a video on the need for law to arrest anyone who dares to accuse Lee's judges of corruption even though we all know they are.
Surely if we are going to be fair to all, the Chinese population of Singapore should equally be inconvenienced occasionally by having to listen to a Tamil speech in the midst of an English one in a Straits times video by or our Tamil Minister for Law K Shanmugam or a Malay Minister to suddenly break into polished Malay, so that the poor Chinese are left wondering what in the world was all that about!
And then again if Lee Kuan Yew's son is going about in Mandarin Chinese, giving instructions and orders about which the Tamil or Malay listener would have no clue about, is he not trying to imply that all you need to know in Singapore is Mandarin Chinese and no other. If so, what about official business? Will the Singapore law courts and their Kangaroo judges now accept legal arguments and court filings in Chinese and what about the numerous Indian lawyers who ply their trade in Lee's courts? Are they now required to take a speed course in Mandarin Chinese language and mannerisms in the event their Chinese opponent suddently breaks into Mandarin? And considering the other races, can an Indian lawyer stand up and address the court in perfect Tamil and would Belinda Ang Saw Ean, Lee Kuan Yew's judge who punished Chee Soon Juan for being a troublemaker in the Singaporean sense, a Chinese woman be comfortable with that?
Frankly the whole thing about language in Singapore, just as you see the arrogance and at the same time stupidity of this one party state dictatorship, simply is skewed, and nonsensical. If English or a perverted form of it that is spoken in Singapore is supposed to be the language of business, then you should say so. And saying it, English newspapers should only have English in it, including their videos, and the Chinese newspapers, which I cannot read and don't intend to, should only be in Chinese.
And Lee Kuan Yew's son should be told that he should stick to English in an English newspaper because we are not interested in his fluency in Mandarin Chinese. After all he is Chinese anyway and knowing it gives him no great credit. If showing off is what he trying to do, then speak to me in Tamil and I will be impressed. Otherwise stick to your English in an English newspaper and don't leave men like us, who are neither Chinese nor have any desire to learn it, nonplussed, flummoxed and waiting for the Chinese portion of the speech to be over. And then wondering what in Heaven's have I missed.
And if you are determined to continue in this unintelligible bilingualism policy, then let us hear Lee Kuan Yew's hand picked Tamil Minister for Law, K Shanmugam break into Tamil once in a while. Surely sauce for the good should also be for the gander.
Attorney at Law
Disbarred from practicing law in Lee's Singapore and refused entry to the island for criticizing Singapore's judiciary.
Actively practicing law in California and in good standing at the California Bar.
Member in good standing as a lawyer in England and Wales (Barrister).
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