Saturday, February 23, 2008

An excellent question from Edwin Soh which requires a full answer.

Sat 2/23/2008 1:45 AM

Mr. Gopalan Nair

I have read your blog webpage,, and it provided me with some intriguing views on our government. From our history textbooks and media, MM Lee Kuan Yew has been portrayed as a wise man who knows whats best for Singapore, and there is certainly no denying MM Lee Kuan Yew's contributions to Singapore, making Singapore a modern and global city it is today.

But what I wish to ask you is this, if Singapore would do to go through a normal political process where political parties battle it out on a even playing field, instead of the PAP-dominated political elections it is today, would that Singapore be as or more successful than the present-day Singapore?

Your sincerely,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Above I have posted an excellent question raised by Edwin Soh which was Emailed to me; a question that deserves a blog post by itself.

This is the perennial question asked over and over again during the last 40 years of Singapore's history. Could Singapore have achieved the success you see; (that is, if you consider Singapore a success in the first place); without Lee Kuan Yew and his authoritarian government?

As for me, there can only be one answer. Singapore has not achieved any success at all under Lee Kuan Yew. Just because Lee has turned Singapore into a concrete and glass jungle instead of the original natural green one; is not success at all.

In fact Lee has seriously damaged the country, its civil society, its civil institutions and turned Singaporeans into a mindless bunch of sheep unable to think for themselves. Lee has permanently destroyed the ability of Singapore to achieve greatness.

So in answer to Edwin Soh, firstly Singapore is not a "modern and global city" as he claims; it could have been a much greater, more respected, more human place had it not been for the dictator Lee Kuan Yew.

What does Mr. Soh mean by a modern global city? Is it is the skyscrapers at the waterfront in downtown Singapore? If it is, those modern skyscrapers were built by a handful of government connected companies which houses numerous headquarters of foreign companies. The profits from the sale and leases of these modern buildings are pocketed by Lee Kuan Yew, his family members and supporters; a very small portion of Singapore’s population. As for the tenants of these modern buildings, they are all foreigners representing their foreign companies.

As for the ordinary Singaporean, there is nothing for him to benefit from those skyscrapers, be they modern or global. As for the regular Singapore Joe Bloke, it makes no difference whether the buildings were there or not, international or otherwise; since he does not benefit by their presence in any way. To the average Ah Kow, Ahmad or Samy, they are nothing more than white elephants.

Mr. Soh also calls it an international city? Is it really international? Yes, Singapore Airlines flies all over the world giving employment to half starved (because they are so skinny) air hostesses who are paid $3,000.00 or so a year. But they travel the world because they serve food to passengers on board aircraft, no more than waitresses in the sky? As for pilots, most of them are Malaysians anyway and they just fly planes. Singapore Airlines does not make Singapore a global or international city?

As for international trading, all of it is done by a handful of government connected companies with the blessing of Lee Kuan Yew, in the situation of "You scratch my back and I scratch yours"; similar to the situation in Burma where a handful of companies connected with the military junta trade internationally. The rest of the Burmese or Singapore populations have nothing international about them. They may have gone to Bangkok for a holiday but that does not make them international.

Let me now come to the crux of it. The high rise buildings that you see at Raffles Place do not make Singapore an international city. The average Singaporean is a hawker selling mee goreng or laksa at Boon Keng Food Court. The rest of them are civil servants dutifully doing whatever Lee Kuan Yew wants them to do and quietly going home. They have no knowledge of history, no literature, no interest in politics. They are nothing more than automatons. Not the type you normally find in an international city.

What Lee has done over 4o years is this. By instilling fear in everyone, he has managed to build up this concrete jungle at downtown Singapore and invited foreign companies to have their South East Asia headquarters in them; because Singapore has good infra structure, good telephones, transport and cleanliness, not forgetting an unquestioning and compliant workforce. In past years he was able to invite foreign manufacturing but since labor costs have gone up, all these jobs have gone to Indonesia.

In fact what Lee Kuan Yew has done is to destroy Singapore. Singapore with no natural resources has only its people to rely upon, whose minds Lee has permanently destroyed. He has turned ordinary thinking people into robots, a people who are only able to carry out orders but unable to think independently. And he has managed to do this through fear and greed. In fact he has turned an entire section of the population into a population from suffering political schizophrenia, from split personality.

You must have heard of Judge Belinda Ang's shameful judicial judgment in the case of Lee Kuan Yew vs. Dr. Chee Soon Juan in a recent defamation of character action where she found Dr. Chee guilty of defaming Lee merely for what he had written in his political newspaper, the Singapore Democrat, criticizing the government on their handling of the National Kidney Foundation's corrupt activities; in the run up to the 2006 national elections.

Everyone including Judge Belinda Ang herself, knows that there was nothing defamatory about Dr. Chee's article; nothing more than the exercise of free speech guaranteed under the constitution.

But yet this judge finds it necessary to please Lee Kuan Yew by distorting and abusing the law to find Lee's political opponent, Dr. Chee, guilty. She does this because she is required to do it; otherwise she will lose her job. What is more, by abusing the law to please her master Lee, she is amply rewarded by bribes of several million dollars. So it is convenient for her to abuse the law. So she does it.

But outwardly, if confronted with an explanation, she would swear on her grandmother's grave that she is as upright, honest and principled as the statue of Stamford Raffles itself; that stands on Singapore Square!

In other words she leads a double life. Outwardly pleasing her master Lee Kuan Yew by destroying Dr. Chee through the law; but privately knowing that she is doing nothing more than prostituting her profession, her calling and her oath of office as a judge! Shame on her.

But is not only Judge Belinda Ang that suffers from this political schizophrenia, this shameful double life, this lack of integrity. Lee Kuan Yew has managed to turn the entire civil service, the entire judiciary, almost the entire population into living this shameful double life. One life for the outside where it is all praise for Lee and his modern Singapore. The other privately for himself, kicking himself in shame; as he has to stoop so low to make a living in Singapore.

Other than these masses that live such desperate lives, such as that of this disgraced judge, Belinda Ang, there are those others who are educated with skills and talents; who are not prepared to live such disgraceful lives at any cost.

It is this large section of the population that form the Singapore Diaspora; hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans who just cannot stand the sight of Lee Kuan Yew and his minions. They have packed up and left for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Sweden. It is these who are the best and most talented of Singaporeans. And unlike the likes of Judge Belinda Ang who will say or do anything for the right price, what I mean is unprincipled souls; the Singaporeans who leave are the upright educated human beings with principles, with honor, with pride; who refuse to dance whenever Lee demands it.

And by the destruction of the minds of Singaporeans who have chosen to remain and driving out the best and most able from Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew has not modernized Singapore, he has destroyed it. Those remaining in Singapore, the likes of Judge Belinda Ang, who is prepared to say that 2 and 2 make 5 anytime; are not the kind of people that can advance a country to greatness. The best have already left the country for good.

And the loss of educated capable Singaporeans is especially damaging to a small country like Singapore with only 3 million people; as the huge numbers of Singaporeans leaving Singapore is disproportionately damaging.

We are seeing hundreds of thousands of capable Singaporeans leaving a small island with a small population of 3 million. The damage that Lee is doing to Singapore by forcing such large numbers out; is debilitating to the very existence of the country.

So to the question, could Singapore have done better without Lee, I would say, of course. At least any other leader would not caused incurable damage to the minds of ordinary Singaporeans like Lee has done.

Second, Lee Kuan Yew has given a bad name to the country internationally. And the bad name means loss of investment opportunities, loss of trade opportunities and loss of prestige.

Take Australia for instance. The mention of Australia is synonymous with the rule of law, honest government, an independent judiciary, human rights, a free press, and freedom of speech and expression. With these perceived qualities, foreigners are prepared to settle in the country, invest in it, trade in it and have children in it.

Singapore on the other hand is known internationally as a place that hangs petty drug mules; beats prisoners with a stick in their backsides until they become bloody, sometimes causing death; where judges like Judge Belinda Ang will happily abuse the law to eliminate Lee Kuan Yew's opponents; where there is no rule of law at all; where there are no civil liberties at all; and where all newspapers are owned and controlled by the government as in North Korea.

This bad name that Singapore has, makes it uncompetitive. Foreigners have no respect for Singapore or its leaders whom they consider a bunch of bullies. Unlike respected countries like Australia, this means a lack of competitiveness; a lack of investments; a lack of trade and the world calling it nothing more than an Alice in Wonderland with the death penalty.

So Mr. Edwin Soh, this is what I respectfully say. Lee was and is bad for Singapore. And what is worse, he is 85 years old and is going to die. And when he dies his son will have an even harder time to keep the place going since we all know that he is nothing more than a fixture, placed there by Lee, his father.

And Lee's major failure is his inability to ensure a strong civil society with strong organs of government. Today in Singapore there are none. Everyone and everything takes the cue from Lee senior, through fear. And when he dies there will be a vacuum, disorder and uncertainty just as is the case when all other dictatorships fall.

As for the office units in the concrete jungle in the waterfront, they too will become empty when the world finally realizes to what extent Singapore has sunk under Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Thank you Mr. Edwin Soh.

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


Anonymous said...

Dear Gopalan,

When Edwin Soh use words like modern and global city, followed by the word success, I wonder where he get these words from ... the political propaganda machinery?

(No offence to Edwin, just that I was once like him)

Because I believed the similar lies told to me, I have an Aussie lecturer who taught me to think independently to solve problems within an organisation. I use the same set of thinking to Singapore as an organisation and I came to realise that a lot of things do not add up.

Trust the Aussies who teach Marketing, they will sell you a dead horse. But nothing beats the marketing LKY put up. The outward first world facade of Singapore is too perfect, everything is too efficient. There are a lot of energy, but the energy seems to move in one direction. Singpapore is like a perfect factory, with a first-class production line. And success is narrowly defined in financial and economic numbers.

But if we are living in a truly modern and global city, I would first expect a melting pot of people who arrive from all over the world, I would expect a totally imperfect organic living city, where tradition stand side by side with innovation, successful buildings alongside decaying buildings, but always with spots of urban renewal, where there are creative energy, and destructive energy. There are comformists and there are rebels. Alternative views are tolerated because no one has the answer on what the correct way to the future. I expect a lot of debate, people who contribute diverse ideas out of good intention. There are the odd or weird people who decided to do things differently. There are people who are passionate about their beliefs and want to change the world. But there are also failures who are given the dignity to live within the society and not as outcasts.

But for all these to happen, you have mentioned about the basic criterias

- the rule of law - no one is above the law, especially human beings

- an honest government whose politicans are open to public scrutiny and who are not afraid to apologise for past mistakes, even if the intentions of the policies at that time are for the good of the people.

- an independent judiciary

- an independent central bank

- respect for human rights and institution to uphold human rights

- a free and independent press, whose reporters are empowered to investigate without fear of reprisals from the investigated. At the same time, there are independent institutions to check on the power of the press.

- freedom of speech and expression where whistleblowers are protected by law, alternative views are valued.

But these are the very things which I was taught are dirty and only for barbaric countries. These things will disrupt the comfortable life I had in Singapore. I feel like I am betraying the countryman by quitting the place.

Finally, I realise how blissful ignorance is. Lies were so sweet.

And now, I am writing this comment, and think, what took me so long to regain my life. I should have left long ago. I am no difference from a North Korean escapee, esp it is my mind which is imprisoned.

Gopalan Nair said...

Dear James Tan,

No one could have said it better than you did. I thank you.

Gopalan Nair

Anonymous said...

The problem wih Edwin Soh's questions are the terms "modern", "world class" and "successful". Edwin is very superficial. I do not blame him, because he is a very good example of a product of the Singapore regime.

Singapore is but a business centre. The government prostitutes itself to arrest foreign businesses. But, one cannot live a life in Singapore. Living and business are separate matters.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous,

This is in reference to your comment that Edwin Soh is "superficial". Please note that I will not allow any personal attacks on Mr. Edwin Soh. He has asked a very good question which has enabled me to write this blog post. Kindly note that any attempts at ad hominum attacks on any commenter cannot be accepted.

Furthermore, please note that Edwin did not post his question to this blog. His question was sent by EMail which I lifted to this post. I did not have his consent to do this but I assmed since it was sent to me, I had that consent.

So please no personal attacks. Second, we do not know whether he resides in Singapore.

I have posted your comment because you have made a good point. Singapore is a palce to do business. Not to live.

Gopalan Nair

Anonymous said...

My post on Edwin was not intended as a personal attack. My apologies if my post came across that way.

Anonymous said...

My answer to him is that Singapore is meant to be a success story, with or without Lee Kuan Yew. Sir Stamford Raffles would not have chosen Singapore if he did not think likewise. Neither will the Chinese and Indians who migrated here 150 years ago. Singapore is already a thriving trading centre before its independence. Nobody associate Hong Kong's success to any one man. To say Lee is solely responsible for Singapore's success is a mockery and humiliation to the other Singaporeans who helped build it.

Anonymous said...

ding ding ding... we have a winner!

Excellent remark Muhamad. I would say the person that will be remembered fondly in the history of Singapore is the person that frees the country from the lee's bondage. The one who manages to make it an economic powerhouse while INCLUDING the freedoms of the people will be the true modern success story. lee has chosen imprint Singaporeans with the notion that economic success comes with a price and took the easy way out as perhaps any self preserving man would. No success story here, just selfishness. When you consider how Japan and South Korea managed to become and remain economic powerhouses while being a free democratic country, you realize what success really is. Mind you Japan lost a war and still brought itself back to glory. Korea was literally ripped in half and brought itself back to glory... where are these monumental events in Singapore's history?

The one that can lead Singapore and lead its people to freedom as well... now that would be a success worthy of mentioning. History books would only mention lee's name as a failure who ruled by fear, not as an educated free man who led by will, conviction, strength, courage, and honor.

Furthermore, hehe, I am already laughing at what history will write about junior as a leader. I truly see no leadership qualities in this man except for as we all know being harry's son. And many many Singaporeans and others in the world see the same thing. In my opinion no success story here... unless you are a lee.

KiWeTO said...

Hong Kong is a world class city; it didn't take an authoritarian government to bring it to where it is today - a sister city to Singapore in terms of modernity, facing similar issues with education. And it isn't even independent.

Could SG have evolved into a 'modernistic' city without the heavyhandedness?

He asks if it could. I ask why it couldn't?

It was already a trading port of some note. It had a whole legacy of british rule that left viable systems of government. Political infighting may have delayed the process, but at the end of the day, politicians have always shown that they can band together to grow a pie instead of fighting over a shrinking pie.

So, the question is a fallacy. SG would have developed. perhaps not as fast. but definitely much more human than the cold, souless city that many of us now inhabit.

Will SG change? we can only hope that human creativity will overcome any and all obstacles legalistic systems want to impose on it.


Gopalan Nair said...

Hello kiweto,
And I would add one more thing to what you said. It may have grown a little slower like you said, but it would have resulted in robust civil pillars of society that will allow for smooth transition from one government to another.

Unlike in Singapore where with the death of LKY I bet you, there will be chaos, uncertianity and panic.

This is always the case when dictatorships fall.

Gopalan Nair

Anonymous said...

I have just read the above blog and comments. I cannot help but comment on the politics of Singapore although politics is the least of my interest. However, I think no matter how hard Singaporeans try to ignore Singapore politics, it just comes back staring at their face, and this is due thanks to its notoriety and utter nonsense.

The Parliamentary system in Singapore, I believe, is one of elected democracy. Regarding democracy, Abraham Lincoln said that:

“Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Yet, it is clear that in Singapore the people have no say. The Singapore government acts as if it owns the people of Singapore. Singapore is therefore tantamount to a military in disguise, or a “monarchy” in disguise, no prizes for guessing who the “monarch” is.

In this context, Singapore cannot be seen as a “success”.

Ceddie O’Hotch