Thursday, February 26, 2015

The problems for the Peoples Action Party after Lee Kuan Yew

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Both the local and throughout the international media are replete with the big Singapore news of the day, Lee Kuan Yew aged 91 or whichever is the correct number in the island's secretive state controlled news is seriously ill with pneumonia in hospital under life support. He has been there for 22 days!

You can take judicial notice of the fact that he is dying just by looking at any of his recent pictures. What you see is the image of a corpse, albeit a breathing one, at least up till now. Surely there is not long to go. If you are a betting man, you will win nothing betting on his demise. And that is that.

The question is what happens to his party PAP's Singapore island.

Throughout the 50 years of it's entire history, the island has been governed by one man, the now dying Lee himself. Although he handed over the reigns during the past 20 years or so, first to Goh Chock Tong, although his tenure was intended only as a seat warmer for the real intended beneficiary, Lee Kuan Yew's son, who as planned took over some 10 years ago.

But the style of government whether it was Goh Chock Tong or Lee's son, as at present, it was always the style of Lee himself.

And Lee Kuan Yew's style or the Singapore model of governance was the Stalinist style, which is, you- listen- to- me- or- else. Although there is the Constitution, the requirement of rule of law and free and fair elections, these were nothing but niceties to him, all thrown out the window. None of this existed in reality.

He used to warn workers not to strike or they will be jailed. Students were not allowed to agitate or else they would be expelled. Workers were not allowed to criticize him or else they would lose their jobs and so on. Since the people were all afraid to lose their jobs, their livelihoods and their savings through bankruptcy, they all obeyed. Therefore was calm and quiet and fear across the island for the last 50 years.

And this Kim Jong Un style of government was copied to the letter by first Goh Chock Tong and later by his son, whom he placed as Prime Minister. They too felt an entitlement to the right to warn the workers not to agitate or else; the students to behave or else, and as expected everyone behaved out of a mortal fear of life and limb. But there is one important point here. While his handpicked Stalins and Mugabes were strutting around bullying their poor citizens, Lee who first thought of this style of governance, was still alive. And that made the difference.

As there is no doubt that his Prime Minister son intends to continue threatening his citizens into submission like his father did, question is, will it work even when the father is dead, which by all account will happen either today or tomorrow?

I think not. I think it will not work. And this is why. Although his father is undoubtedly a dictator, he is a dictator whom many held with some respect and awe. After all, he fought the Communists in the 1950s, he cleared the slums, he built the government flats where the fast majority of the people live. So although the man is a dictator, he his a dictator who has achieved some undeniable success.

To put it another way, when Ronald Reagan was asked why he was going around supporting Latin American dictators like Samoza of Nicaragua, he said "Samoza may be a son of a bitch. But at least he is our son of a bitch." So in the dying Lee's case, he may have been a dictator, but he was a dictator who undoubtedly did some good work.

But what about his son? Who the Hell is he? Did he fight the Communists? Did he move the mountain? Or did he do anything for that matter? The answer unfortunately for him is Zero.

The people know that he is simply there because of his father, period. So after his father's death, if he goes strutting around like a prize rooster, telling workers not to agitate or be thrown in jail, will they listen? If he tells the students to be quiet or be punished, will they listen?

We may have listened to the man who fought the Communists and moved the mountains, but who the Hell is this stupid son of his to tell us how to live, how to spit and why we shouldn't make noise in HDB flats. He is simply a handpicked son, no more no less, lucky enough to be born to his father, placed there by his father, a man who has not even won a single real election, which were all rigged by his father. He simply has no merit whatsoever. And why should anyone listen to person like him pontificating over us?

I reckon this poor clueless son of his is going to have a hard time behaving like his father once he is gone. And the problem is not just with this son of his, but with the entire government.

Every single Minister, Member of Parliament were all handpicked highly paid minions with powers to order and insult any citizen to obey or be punished.

As I said, it may be one thing for Lee Kuan Yew to behave like that, it is quite another for these minions of his to do the same. I don't think the people would put up with it anymore once the father has gone.

And if the people don't listen, then what happens? Do they call out the riot police to round up all of you and throw you in the can? And will that solve the problem? I think not.

I think Lee Kuan Yew's death is going to be a catastrophe for Singapore which was entirely of his own making.

For all the wisdom and the foresight attributed to him, he failed to realize that that the Stalinist style of government, may have worked for one man, himself. But the circumstances that existed in the 1950s and 1960s do not exist now, with these handpicked minions who run around obeying orders or to be giving orders.

Lee's failure was the inability to realize that for a stable and peaceful society, there has to be leaders, I mean real leaders whom the people respect and whom they represent, and these leaders must be accepted by the people.

By simply deputizing scholars into instant Ministers with powers to order you around, as is what happens now, to terrorize their people,  is not the way to govern for 2 reasons.

Firstly these handpicked instant Ministers themselves, when Lee Kuan Yew is no longer there, would not have the confidence to be strutting around and giving orders and secondly the people will simply not listen to these characters who have no legitimacy whatsoever other than the sole qualification of having been selected by the erstwhile Lee.

To put it another way, why should I listen to someone simply because he has a double first honors from Cambridge?

Other than the ability to pass exams in school, what else can he do? Nothing, as far as I know. In fact I may have never even heard of this man before who is now telling me how to spit, how to walk and what I should think, just because he has a Cambridge degree.

I hope you see the point I am trying to make. This you-listen-to-me-or-else style of government by these politicians whom we had never heard before is simply not going to work. They have no legitimacy to be giving orders, they know it and I know it.

So then what? I suppose disobedience, protests, street protests, Malays protesting, Indians protesting, HDB tenants protesting, workers protesting, and simply chaos.

Civil society unfortunately does not exist in that island. There is no respect for the law (no rule of law), there is no respect for the elections (elections are rigged) and there is no respect for the civil service (they are not independent). Above all that there is no free speech, no right to assembly and you have a defamation of character regime dispensed by Kangaroo Courts.

The government's only way to stay in power in the post Lee Kuan Yew Singapore is repression, repression and more repression, simply because you have a system of government that the people simply cannot respect. And where there is repression, there is always resistance. That is the primordial  law of nature that holds true in dictatorial regimes.

Well what is the answer? Can you now introduce civil society in an instant? Can you introduce an independent judiciary and free and fair elections? You can but you cannot do this overnight. Singaporeans have been brainwashed to accept their slavish lives and to suddenly expect people to think with their heads will not happen.

Singapore is going to be a ship without a heading. I hope eventually it will find it's true bearings. But by that time, for a tiny island like that with a even tinier population, no bigger than that perhaps a Pacific island atoll, it is probably too late.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts about M Ravi's suspension?

Anonymous said...

Hello Gopalan Nair. I have only just discovered your blog, and have only read a handful of articles, starting with this one. It will probably be my last time here, but before I go, I just want to leave my 2 cents as a young citizen of age 20+, currently an undergraduate. You will have to forgive me for remaining anonymous, because I cannot be bothered to log in, so you'll just have to take my word for who I am.

I will first say this, I am a citizen who aspires one day for improvement to come to Singapore's political scene. I have seen what the government is capable of, and yet I have also learnt to question their reasons and read between the lines. Of all the things I find of greatest insult, it is the government's seeming distrust of Singaporeans themselves to have a greater say (and by say, I don't mean dialogue, I mean effect) in the public sphere. Sometimes, when they explain their reasons for their policies, it feels like they think we're... stupid, like as if they've forgotten that it is their very own citizens who work as accountants, or businessmen, or professionals, that we Singaporeans are capable of examining the effects of the government's policies on the ground and evaluating for ourselves if it makes sense or not.

So just like you, I one day hope to see change in Singapore. But I also hope that that change will not be led by individuals such as yourself. Your blog entry not only holds no respect for the government (which I don't much care for), but it holds no respect for the people either. Your blog is no different from the PAP in that it holds contempt for us. Sure, you may describe it as sympathy, but it all tastes bitter to me, just with a different bite. I am sick of hearing that Singaporeans are weak because we do not protest, because we do not riot. You may view it as a logical step, but that is an egocentric way of thinking. Perhaps if there is no street protest in Singapore, it is not because we are weak, but because we ourselves consider it ineffective and think there are better, more effective ways; greater returns for a lot less picket signs and molotovs. You can accuse me of being blind, you can accuse me of being brainwashed, but that too is disrespecting the very people you are trying to persuade. And your arguments are weak and superficial. I will not bother explaining why simply because they are so, and to have to explain would be sad. If Singapore's charge were to be led by such tabloid-like arguments, there will be no true improvement in Singapore. Change? Perhaps. Your comments will surely light up the hearts of the less insightful, but I wish for my fellow Singaporeans to become more aware, more critically thinking, not more blinded by emotion. The PAP thrives on putting down emotionally charged opposition with no clear thinking, and in doing so only appear stronger to the public, and I for one do not need such individuals to be fattening up their reputation. (part 1; cont’d)

Anonymous said...

(cont’d; part 2) I guess what I am saying is, part of the reason for the lack of truly diverse voices in Singapore is due to the past actions of the government, part of it is due to the, admittedly, conditioned apathy of the people (one which we are slowly beginning to shed). But importantly, part of it is due to the opposition. Because there is no solid opposition, no opposition that can duel with the government in ways with wit and dexterity, no opposition that can seemingly earn their own credit without positioning themselves as mere foil to the ruling party. Perhaps I am being judgmental, but when I read your blog article, I was reminded why I am just as unlikely to vote for the opposition, as I am hesitant to vote for the PAP. At the end of the day, if I have to vote between hot air and a hammer, I'd rather pick the hammer, or if the hammer is really detestable, cast a blank vote, and there will be no progress because I know that if I don’t vote for anything, there will always be people to vote for the hammer. And I’m not voting for the hot air.

One day, Singapore will be reclaimed by more critical and aware Singaporeans, and we will bring about an improved society, not by blind consensus, but by a meaningful synthesis of diverse, informed and compassionate beliefs and views. But this evolution (I do not wish for a revolution, that's an irresponsible word outsiders get to throw around freely without consequence to their own lives), this evolution will be brought about by the coming generations, no matter how slowly it takes. As long as it is consistent, backed by our own principles that we have come to develop ourselves and uphold, and not so weak as to fall back upon tabloid-like language like in your blog entries.

Singapore will change, but not by the hands of individuals like you. By ours.

P.s.: Reply if you must, outsider (not foreigner, outsider, I make a distinction), but I will not be back to read your reply. There's no need to approve of my comments either. This message if for you.

JAs said...

TOTALLY AGREE with the 2 part ANONYMOUS above!!!

Some of what you write is pure nonsense anad a hatred for singapore and its people. Sure i too hate the pap and lee, but you are too EXTREME to take seriously!!

Unknown said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not find your comments "excessive", or merely "out of hatred", anger yes, but then again, a lot of Singaporeans are disgusted at why PAP, supposedly voted in by the people to serve the people, have to have the highest leader pay in the world, beating the US president by 4 times. It is grossly unacceptable.

I thank you for your articles and your reminders of how bad things are in Singapore. Yes, it is real bad.