Saturday, August 24, 2013

Singapore's false sense of calm extracted through threats intimidation and repression

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore's state controlled newspaper Straits Times of Aug 23, 2013 has the story "PM Lee describes being unashamed and thick skinned as elements key to online resilience".

He says "one must not be ashamed of doing what is right and one must be thick skinned". Please see

Very wise words indeed, but Lee Kuan Yew's son is once again not telling the whole truth, is he?

For one thing, the newspaper here, like all others in his island, are all state controlled. Which means of course he can order them to come running to him anytime he wants and write anything he wants. This report is not so much a news report but rather more like a notice put out in a company news bulletin board intended to inform it's workers. 

Second, he conveniently fails to mention that criticism of him, within his island is not only muted, it is entirely anonymous. No one in his right mind would dare to openly criticize him, his father, his government or anyone associated with him simply because any such criticism is illegal and the offender liable to arrest.

The only reason I, Gopalan Nair, can do this is because I am writing from California, and obviously he is not so confident in winning a lawsuit against me here.

Throughout it's history, anyone who criticizes him is immediately either sued for defamation, brought before his Kangaroo courts whose job is to destroy his critics. The victim is promptly found liable and slapped with million dollar damages and bankrupted. Alternatively he is arrested, charged and convicted of sedition or some other law and imprisoned.

Despite the great danger of open criticism, the fact that Lee's son still concedes in this report that there is a sizeable number of people who want him out, is clear evidence that opposition to his rule is far more widespread than appears. 

If despite the terrible dangers one still finds so many of it's citizens willing to criticize, can you imagine how many more would openly vent their anger if they could do so without fear of arrest?

Lee Kuan Yew's son is deluding himself if he thinks his island is peaceful and calm. If there is peace and calm, it's peace and calm not because it's citizens are happy but because they are not allowed to openly protest. Singapore uses defamation laws, contempt of court laws, sedition laws and a litany of other laws to prevent any open criticism against their rule.

As the old adage goes, just because the water is calm, does not mean there are no crocodiles.

Singaporeans have a great deal to be unhappy about. About their lack of freedoms. About their lack of a free press. About their inability to criticize. About their unattainable housing needs which has become simply unaffordable. About racial discrimination. No possibility of car ownership. Jobs going to foreigners. The island being flooded by foreigners.

You have a groundswell of dissatisfaction only waiting for the right moment to explode, and that moment is soon to come.

Singaporeans will not be content to live under Lee's son when 90 year old Lee Kuan Yew, in failing health, dies. Singapore is not Syria where Bashar al Assad takes over when his father Hafiz al Assad dies. Syria never had a British constitutional parliamentary tradition unlike Singapore.

Neither is it a Chinese dynasty where the job of emperor goes to his son when he dies.

Lee Kuan Yew's son should realize very clearly that his government is simply illegitimate. He came to power, not by free and fair elections but through his father rigging it by disqualifying and destroying all political opponents and subsequently appointing him Prime Minister. He lacks not only moral but also legal authority to rule.

If Singaporeans are simply going to accept his government upon his father's death, this would mean their accepting an illegitimate government to carry on passing over control from one dictator to another. I don't think Singaporeans are going to allow this.

I think not only Lee Kuan Yew's son the prime Minister but the entire island should brace themselves for some very unsettling times the moment Lee senior dies, which is going to be very soon. If Lee's son feels complacent and confident now, he should realize he is on thin ice. Island wide dissatisfaction against his government and policies is only waiting for the right time to explode into more open and sustained protests and demonstrations. You are going to see thousands who have been denied jobs by the recently arrived foreign workers taking to the streets. And many others with their grievances are going to join in.

If Singapore is calm today, it is a false calm extracted through threats, intimidation and repression. It cannot last. Once Lee Kuan Yew dies, Singaporeans would no longer be constrained to take this repression lying down. Then you are going to see the real fireworks. And with the fireworks this small tiny island with a miniscule population reliant on foreign investment may entirely unravel. This is a real scenario very likely to happen.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 4375


Irene Puah Siew Hoon said...

It seems to me that LKY's brain has long been dysfunctional. He will, I hope. soon be pronounced brain dead.

Anonymous said...

LKY was fortunate that there was no Internet and blogs that questioned and challenged his decisions.

But a different story for his son. LHL failures and incompetence is being critiqued and there is not a thing LKY can do for his son.

The Internet - the bane of despots like LKY.