Friday, December 14, 2007

Governing Singapore

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore is one place in the world where the population remains permanently content, or they seem to be. As can be seen by the lack of any protests or political demonstrations for the last 40 years. Tomorrow will be just like today. The trains will run as usual. The phones will ring as usual. Your mail will be delivered as usual. Just as the sun will rise tomorrow as usual. Just as the people will go about their work as usual.

Lest you think they are all happy and contented, they are not. They have a litany of grievances from high living costs and lack of social services. But whatever problems they have; they quietly suffer in silence. They will not, like other normal human beings in other countries start societies and political pressure groups to demand change. They appear unable to publicly show their pain.

This subjugated population is exactly what Lee Kuan Yew and his administration wants. This means they can do anything they want with total impunity. There are not going to be any consequences or repercussions to what ever they do. Surely, subdued and submissive Singapore should be any aspiring tyrant's dream.

There are 2 classes of people in Singapore. The rulers and the others who are ruled. Or those who drive and those who are taken for a ride.

The first set of people are the rulers. They are highly educated citizens, selected by Lee Kuan Yew to work for him with a promise and guarantee of almost unlimited amounts of money and a guaranteed future. When I say unlimited amounts of money, I mean exactly that. US$ 2.5 million a year and more. This is the salary of Singapore government ministers.

The downside is, the applicant has to promise to do anything that Lee wants however objectionable, unconscionable. So the particular candidate has to be not only well educated and capable, he also has to be a person who is prepared to compromise his conscience and principles. In other words, he has to be an opportunist, a person who is prepared to do or say anything for the right price. A person who is prepared to act unconscionably, if Lee demands it. A person with malleable principles.

People with a conscience would not want such jobs at any price, but unfortunately there are many who can be bought for the right price. And it is these people who rule the country. They consist of High Court judges who routinely bend and break the law to silence Lee's political opponents; Lee Kuan Yew's defamation lawyers who are willing to say anything in court in defense of their master, however outrageous, however illegal; Lee's bankruptcy office staff who have lots of work making Lee's political opponents bankrupt after the courts have ordered them to pay impossible damages; Lee's police commissioners who willingly breaks the law to arrest and harass his enemies; the crooked newspaper editors; the cruel heads of prisons; all highly paid minions of Lee, ever willing and ready for any dirty work. Since the money happens to be right.

These rulers live in private landed property. In lavish lifestyles. They have money stacked away in Singapore and all over the world. Their lives are protected and comfortable. In return, they have to be Lee Kuan Yew's enforcers and finish off the competition, by fair means and foul.

The other group of people are the ones who are ruled; or in other words, those taken for a ride. Let me call them ordinary people.These people live in government housing, HDB flats, comprising 99% of the population. They cannot afford private landed property like their wealthy rulers. All of them rent their HDB flats from the government on 100 year leases, which contain several clauses giving the government almost absolute right to do anything they want with these properties. This means the poor citizen is completely at the mercy of the government for his housing. If the government so wishes, they can be evicted anytime on to the streets, furniture fittings and all!

The ordinary people do ordinary jobs with normal salaries. Usually just enough for their family's normal upkeep. They may belong to unions in jobs they do, but to call it a union is a misnomer. The unions are all controlled by the government and they have no independent power. The union leaders are in fact working for the employers, not the worker. This may be astonishing but true.

In the event that they may have a grievance, they can complain to their Member of Parliament, but these politicians are really not representative of any citizen. They are afraid of Lee Kuan Yew and their job is to do what he wants. Not what the citizen wants. So the citizen can voice his grievances but whether or not anything is done is entirely up to Lee Kuan Yew and his selected rulers.

The aggrieved citizen can write to the press, but here again, there is no use. The press is owned and controlled by the government. Your letter will not be published by the press. And you cannot go to another newspaper in the country either, because all newspapers are owned and controlled by the government.

This aggrieved citizen will not be able to find any courageous journalist either because there are none in Singapore. In any case, if there ever was a true journalist prepared to tell the truth, he would have lost his job long ago! The newspapers publish propaganda. The news is censored to tow the government line.

You can try if you want to protest, but if you did, you will be arrested. Not only that, you will be fingerprinted, the government's information gathering apparatus would have discovered where you worked, how many children you have and what they do. In a second, your entire life history file would be opened. You may find suddenly that you have lost your job. You may be demoted in your job. Your children would be disadvantaged in their schools. Various negative happenings will occur in your life from then on. And you will know, it is because you had the temerity to protest against Lee Kuan Yew.

History is also a great teacher. You recall JB Jeyaretnam who was repeatedly sued, bankrupted and disbarred and lost everything because he challenged Lee Kuan Yew. You recall Francis Seow who had to escape Singapore for fear of being imprisoned for eternity. You recall Chia Thye Poh who was jailed for 32 years because he went against Lee Kuan Yew. You recall Tan Wah Piow who had to escape to England to avoid arrest. You recall the arrest and torture of 22 civil society activists labelled Marxist conspirators in 1987.

Then a chill goes down the spine of the ordinary citizen. He becomes afraid to question. He fears what befell Chia Thye Poh will befall him. So he lives in fear. He has no choice but to accept his fate. So he endures in silence. He tries to keep a low profile. He does his work. He then goes home to his family. He may complain about many things privately to his wife and family. But what more can he do? Nothing. His monotonous life goes on. While the rulers, the million dollar ministers, rule these ordinary citizens.

This is how it is done in Singapore.

You must have read the book 1984 by Orwell. Singapore is very much like what it is in 1984.

It is not to say that the ordinary citizen has no choice at all. He has. He can if he wants to emigrate and leave for Australia if possible. Many do. But most people prefer to live where they were born. With their friends and family. In familiar surroundings. It is natural. So these people live and endure in silence in Singapore. Then there are others. They do not have the skills to emigrate elsewhere. They have no choice but to stay and suffer in silence.

Then there are others like Dr. Chee Soon Juan who dare to fight whatever the odds. They are only a handful. They stay behind in Singapore. They fight. But they have to pay a very heavy price, with lost jobs, imprisonment and bankruptcy. These are admirable people. Great men and women. But many find it difficult to emulate them. They say the price is too high. These are the silent majority in Singapore. The ordinary citizen who suffers in silence and goes about his daily work quietly.

This is how Lee Kuan Yew governs. This is why, just as the sun rises tomorrow, the MRT train will run tomorrow without fail, and punctually and on time from Dhoby Ghaut to Yisun Central.

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I wrote in Asiaweek in 1997 after the GE 1996 holds true even today.Singaporeans are a soul-less people who have surrendered their souls to LKY and his Govt in return for a roof over their heads, food on the table, and money in the pocket.Yes they are like robots not only without souls but also without "balls" i.e.they are eunuchs...hence their timidity to protest to the PAP Govt to demand democracy and more human rights.But there is light at the end of the tunnel.This light will be brighter with the demise of the supreme dictator LKY who's got 4 million pairs of his citizens' testicles firmly in his hands (with very few exceptions). Have hope, people....I predict his demise anytime before the next GE 2011! Things will change slowly but surely thenceforth...and don't believe his rubbish when he said he will rise from the grave...