Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, 91 years old, who ran the island from 1959 mainly by himself, never mind any Parliament, and later through the proxy of his handpicked Goh Chock Tong and later still of his own son, smacking of nepotism, has just died leaving his son wondering what to do next, poor fellow.
If the son has managed to strut around the tiny island so far as the Prime Minister, it is only because others feared the fact that his father Lee Kuan Yew was around, no more no less.
It is true that within a span of just 50 years, Lee Kuan Yew has managed to transform the island from just another South East Asian sea port into a bustling metropolis replete with towering skyscrapers, and managed to invite large numbers of foreign companies to do business there. As a result he has managed to provide jobs not only for the tiny population of Singaporeans but also the huge influx of foreigners who came because they couldn't find jobs in their own countries.
As for the bustling skyscrapers, now since Lee Kuan Yew is dead, we will know very soon whether will be termed into empty towers with no one in them.
All very good so far. But the big question is, does all this have any durability beyond Lee Kuan Yew himself? Will there be stability henceforth and will the foreigners who have come seeking profit remain in the island, now since he has gone?
From, what I know of Singapore, which is as good as anyone else, having been born there, educated there and imprisoned by Lee for questioning the impartiality of his Kangaroo judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean who sent one of his critics, Chee Soon Juan, to jail and bankrupted him through the ever dreaded defamation lawsuit, Singapore has no chance of continuing the way it has with Lee Kuan Yew.
This is why.
Skyscrapers and foreign investors are all very fine. But what a country needs is a civil society of institutions that will endure beyond any dictator, which Lee was undoubtedly one. You need the rule of law, you need a government that the people respect, you need leaders that are not corrupt and beyond all this, most importantly you need a Constitution which protects the people's rights. Absent these fundamental foundations, no country can expect to remain stable and united, least of all a tiny island such as this with a tiny population totally reliant on foreign capital.
Unfortunately for the people of Singapore, despite all that Lee Kuan Yew had done in building the skyscrapers and the economy, he failed to realize the need for stable civil institutions to take the island from his government to the next.
Singapore does not have the rule of law, the government has amply and repeatedly made this known since 1970s. The law is used by the government as a political tool to silence dissent and the people know this very well as has been the case beginning with JB Jeyaretnam, a late opposition politician who was repeatedly sued, jailed and driven into bankruptcy until he died in 2008. And then we have Chee Soon Juan another of his critics who has suffered the same fate, once holding a highly respective and well paid career as a university professor but now reduced to hawking his books on the street to make a living.
And then we have Tang Liang Hong, a multi millionaire lawyer who was driven into exile to avoid arrest and torture because he questioned the corruption of Lee Kuan Yew and his family when they were given discounts by a developer of a property called Jade Mansions. Even I was arrested and jailed in 2008 when I was briefly in Singapore as a result of a blog I wrote criticizing the same judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean for misusing her judicial office to please Lee Kuan Yew by sending his critic Chee to jail and bankruptcy.
There is no question that the people of Singapore have no faith in their judiciary. They live in fear of the government, and are fully aware that they can be put away any time through the Kangaroo Courts.
The average Singaporean has no faith in their government. Firstly they consider each and every government politician from Lee Kuan Yew's son, the Prime Minister and every single cabinet minister thoroughly corrupt to the core. In fact they are so corrupt they would have put Mobutu of the Congo to shame. If you did not know, Lee Kuan Yew's son, and Lee Kuan Yew himself throughout his life and every single minister in government receives a salary of no less than $3.7 million a year. This is not all they take. In addition every year they pay themselves as much as 6 or even 7 months salary in bonuses. In other words each and every one of these ministers pay themselves millions. They are the highest paid politicians in the world.
There is a word for this and it is called corruption. But the problem is, the moment you accuse them of corruption, in comes the Kangaroo Courts and you are either jailed or bankrupted. As a result, through fear, it is literally taboo to use this word.
Secondly there is absolutely no transparency in government. Unlike in democracies where policies are debated before implementation, they simply decide and publish it the next day in the state controlled press. By the way all newspapers and the entire press is state controlled. As a result the people live in fear of the Kangaroo courts and simply accept anything thrown at them.
Although in paper there is such a document as the Constitution, in reality it is totally ignored. There is no freedom of speech because the article in the Constitution which guarantees it carries a rider that a government license is required for speaking.
There is no freedom of assembly in the same fashion. There is no right of peaceful protest in the same fashion and the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act requires all newspapers to be licensed and controlled by the government.
Elections are a farce. What happens is this. Scholars who have been sent abroad to study in Western Universities are co-opted into the government upon return, and fielded at elections under circumstances where it is impossible for them to lose, because the residents are threatened to vote for them and other dirty tactics such as suing them for defamation in the Kangaroo courts.
After they have won they are immediately made ministers with a commission to not only make laws but to pontificate over you. The problem is, these men have no moral or in fact legal authority to rule over you. Firstly you never voted for them because the elections were rigged and secondly they are no leaders by any stretch of the imagination, their only qualification is having passed their school exams.
Question is what happens now. Their style of governance so far has been for Lee Kuan Yew's son to tell his people what to do through their state controlled newspapers and television; and the people are expected to obey. So far they have accepted it firstly through fear and secondly because his father was alive. But in truth he, the son, does not instill confidence in anyone, not even among his own party members. If they have listened to him so far, it can only be attributed to his father's presence. With his father dead, I doubt whether anyone is going to pay any attention to him.
And then you have the equally disgusting bootlickers appointed Ministers, every one of them being paid millions. The people know they serve him only because of the millions and have no interest in politics were it not for the money.
In other words what Loong (Lee Kuan Yew's son) and his ministers lack is credibility. And without credibility it is hard for them to have their way. The days when you could simply intimidate your way through is long gone.
If Lee Kuan Yew's son and his ministers are going to carry on the same what they did by treating their people as irrelevant and simply telling them what to do, I suspect this sort of thing is not going to work anymore. It may have worked while Lee Kuan Yew is alive but now that he is no more, it is unlikely that the people will take this lying down.
So what is the looming scenario? The people are going to demand their CPF since for most Singaporeans this and their government-owned 99 year lease apartments are their only asset. If the government refuses to pay now, the people may openly protest and if the government responds the only way they know with force, then the situation will become ugly and there would be mass protests and demonstrations. They could also demonstrations against racial discrimination against the Malays and Indians, against the unlimited entry of immigrants and the lack of Constitutional rights.
There may also be mass exodus of migration abroad for settlement.
If there is going to be instability, there will be mass outflow of capital by foreign companies. When that happens the Singapore dollar will collapse followed by the collapse of the entire economy.
The reason for this gloomy prospect is because there are no civil institutions in place that can allow for smooth transition from one government to another. The people have no respect for their government institutions just as the government treats their people as cattle.
Singapore is an island ruled by fear, not through mutual respect where the ministers live in opulence with million dollar salaries while nearly half the population who live in the one and two room apartments live below the poverty line.
The most likely scenario now is the people demanding their CPF (retirement funds) now because they have no faith that the government will honor their promise to pay. If they refuse there is likely to be island wide instability and chaos.
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525