Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Singapore's handicap

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is not something I am happy to say. Singaporeans are by and large a people without any courage or conviction. They are a people who are easily frightened, a people incapable of facing a challenge and risk for the sake of a cause. A safe and secure life takes precedence over principle or integrity. Men such as Gandhi, Mandela, Allende or Moussadeq are not held in high regard. Instead it is money that matters. How it is earned is inconsequential. There is no great desire for learning. Any book learning is pursued solely for the purpose of getting a job with good pay. Once that is done, there is no longer any interest in learning. No one in Singapore for instance would, to take an extreme example, be interested in the history of the potato! Just for the sake of it and nothing else!

I am qualified than most to make this assessment. I have lived about half my life in Singapore, as a child and a lawyer in active politics, and the other half in Germany, England and California. Not only having interacted with the people in these countries, my work as an immigration lawyer exposes me to people from across the world.

Most other people are not like Singaporeans. The examples are obvious.

Singapore is a totalitarian dictatorship with the press, judiciary, the police, the unions, the civil service, and every other organ of power controlled by the government. The people know this. In any other country, any other person, any Englishman, any German, any American, any Indian, any Australian or any whatever. Anyone else would have taken objection to this wholesale control over their lives by Lee Kuan Yew and his friends. Not a single Singaporean except for a handful of men such as Dr. Chee Soon Juan dare to object to any of this.

Some time ago, Lee Kuan Yew arrested 22 civic minded citizens who were openly critical of his administration. He falsely labelled them Marxists and jailed them under the Internal Security Act without trial. The people of course were aware of the gross injustice against them. Yet no one dared to openly challenge Lee Kuan Yew or his government.

Since 1959, over the last 40 years, Lee Kuan Yew has systematically stripped the citizen's human rights; silencing the press, corrupting the judiciary, corrupting the police force, arresting innocent people and charging them with imaginary crimes; this went on over the last 40 years. Yet Singaporeans were afraid to question any of this.

It is not just cowardly fear that cuts across the Singapore population. It is also a a pathetic lack of integrity. Take Dr. Chee Soon Juan's repeated arrests and prosecution by this government on false charges. Every Singaporean knows this is all wrong. That Dr. Chee is innocent. That Dr. Chee is a man of conviction, a man who suffers for the well being of his fellow citizens. Dr. Chee Soon Juan need not get involved in any of this and stick his neck out. Yet except for a handful of people in this island of 4.5 million, no one dares to offer a hand to help him. They totally ignore him. They are prepared to let him suffer while they go about their own business. This sort of behaviour is not just fear, it is a disgraceful lack of integrity.

Before Dr. Chee there was the late JB Jeyaretnam. At least for 30 years, Lee Kuan Yew abused the law and his courts to punish and impoverish him. It was not just one case of misuse of the law. It was a series of shameful cases over a period of about 3 decades. Again, except for a handful of brave men and women, the entire population of Singapore just stood by minding their own business.

Today, Lee Kuan Yew and his friends strut around the island doing anything they want anytime they want. They pay themselves millions of dollars which they call a salary. They siphon off any amount of money from the coffers anytime they want. They simply do anything they want, regardless of any law or the constitution. Lately they have made any form of protest illegal and punishable with imprisonment. Yet the vast majority of Singaporeans have nothing to say about anything. They are afraid. They cannot resist. They are, to use the words of Mrs. Slocum of the TV Comedy "Are You Being Served", "weak as water".

This is not just fear or cowardice. It is also a lack of integrity, principles or conviction. Only a man with poor morals would stands aside and watch his fellow man being bullied. These poor human qualities cut across all generations of society in that island. Parents advice their children from a young age not to question those in government for their own safety and careers. A good Singaporean child is one that accepts anything his superiors throw at him. The way to success is to obediently tow the line and the hope is that your superior will appreciate and reward you. It does not matter whether your superior happens to be Adolf Hitler. Just tow the line, and keep towing the line and do as you are told.

This is the sort of people who succeed in that island. Lee's newspaper men put out his propaganda, his Attorney General goes out arresting innocent critics for punishment, his judges like Belinda Ang Saw Ean willingly distort the law to humor the dictator, his legal prosecutors tell any lie necessary to put away the detractors. These are a bunch of cowardly opportunists who will do anything to survive. Yet most Singaporeans do not appear to find any fault with them. In Singapore, it is merely a way to make a living.

Had this sort of thing gone on in India, Pakistan, Australia, Norway or any other country in the world, the people would have been up in arms. No Lee Kuan Yew would have managed to survive a single day anywhere else.

Yet he struts around like a prize peacock in his island of cowards totally devoid of any human qualities. It is a sad country, a sad people.

Singapore's propaganda machine, the state controlled newspaper puts out daily articles extolling how great the country is and how successful it would be. But truly, when you have an entire country that is not only devoid of any courage but also of any conviction, waiting for their superiors to tell them what next, success in today's world has to be difficult.

This is Singapore's handicap.

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

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Anonymous said...

Singaporeans are every filthy politician's dream voters.

Anonymous said...

And may I add, having been a Singaporean for the past 40 years and a past deputy chairman of a university's Malaysian and Singaporean Society.

We Singaporeans are totally capable of backstabbing our own kind. In the pursue to better at exams results, we will do all kinds of things to stop our countrymen from achieving the best; doing COWARDLY dirty things like deleting the competitors' assignments/project files; stealing or damaging the computers; sending out false information; hiding library books esp during open-book exams.

Anonymous said...

Find Other Great Resources

"Toe the Line," NOT "Tow the Line"

by Tina Blue
August 14, 2003

I saw it again today, this time in a comment on an article on a political website. It referred to reporters who mindlessly "tow the administration's line."

Um, that should be "toe the line."

A lot of people who don't know the origin of the phrase picture someone pulling a rope, cord, or some other "line"--"tow the line"--as a way of working for whomever the "line" belongs to. Thus, if the administration has a "line"--i.e., a "party line"--then those who side with the administration help to pull it ("tow" it) along.


The phrase "toe the line" is equivalent to "toe the mark," both of which mean to conform to a rule or a standard. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002; ed. by Glynnis Chantrell) says, "The idiom toe the line from an athletics analogy originated in the early 19th century" (514).

The specific sport referred to is foot-racing, where the competitors must keep their feet behind a "line" or on a "mark" at the start of the race--as in "On your mark, get set,

So one who "toes the line" is one who does not allow his foot to stray over the line. In other words, one who does not stray beyond a rigidly defined boundary.