Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fear, distrust, helplessness and boredom the hallmarks of Singaporean society

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was born in Singapore and spent a great part of my adult life in Singapore. I practiced law in Singapore. I was also deeply involved in Singapore society being part of Singaporean politics from the 1980s to 1990s in the opposition Singapore Workers Party, contested 2 general elections in 1984 and 1991. I could therefore confidently say that I understand Lee Kuan Yew's totalitarian island of Singapore.

The main problem with the island of Singapore is this. The Lee family first by Lee Kuan Yew Senior who has died and now by his son, whom the deceased father placed as Prime Minister want to ensure that they alone will rule that island forever. And in order to do so, every criticism, every obstacle, every opposition against them has to be rooted out and destroyed, for fear of being toppled.

As a result firstly, the legal system and the judiciary has to be completely purged of any opposition  whatsoever. Judges are carefully selected not for their legal ability, independence or competence at law, but by a total guarantee that they will always punish anyone who is seem to be against the rulers. For decades now, a long line of citizens who have shown the courage to stand up against them have been jailed fined and bankrupted. The first was JB Jeyaretnam a lawyer who stood against Lee at the elections. He was repeatedly fined in amounts clearly totaling over 1.5 million dollars, jailed and repeatedly bankrupted. He has since died. The same fate befell Chee Soon Juan except he is till alive. And then there was a string of bloggers, artists and even a cartoonist who have all suffered the same fate.

When this regime orders their Kangaroo judges to go after their opponents they do this with full publicity in the state controlled press. Lest you may think there is an independent press, beside the state controlled one, as well in the island, you are wrong. The entire press and media in the island is state controlled, period.

They give this periodic lynching of their opponents full publicity in the island principally because they want to teach a lesson to every other Singaporean not to be so stupid as these characters in standing up for the truth. And their purpose works very well. Today the island is virtually without anyone who dares to speak. Their purpose of intimidating the entire citizenry has been a total success.

It is a strange society rather like Alice in Wonderland. Characteristics such as heroism, courage and standing up to the truth and against tyrants are not considered virtues in Singapore island. They are looked upon as stupid and criminals. On the other hand praising their leaders as great men, even though you know they are corrupt are considered virtues worthy of high office!

And then you have the lawyers in the island, a totally intimidated lot. Although by their training they are aware that every single bit of the Constitution and human rights are simply ignored, they dare not do anything least their backsides too are on the line. They willingly accept the breaches of the law, go through the motions of being a lawyer and like a hypocrite, collect their fees and go quietly home.

It is true the island has a Constitution. It is also true that it is a worthless piece of paper good enough only perhaps in the toilet. There are provisions in it for freedom of speech expression assembly and the rule of law. But every one of these fundamental rights have been abrogated by the requirement of police permits which by the way are never given. So in effect Singaporeans  do not have any rights at all.

What is worst of all is the corruption by these rulers. Each of them pay themselves officially $3 million a year which they conveniently call a salary. Even Obama, the President of the United States does not get that much. As if such theft on such a grand scale is not enough, they pay themselves an equal amount in secret which they call yearly bonuses, directors fees and sometimes straight embezzlement. The people of Singapore island are well aware of this corruption by their leaders. Yet if you dared to utter one syllable about it, you are immediately sued and brought before the Kangaroo judges who are ordered to impose a penalty of perhaps a million dollars which they know you do not have. Once you are made a bankrupt, you are prevented from running a business, obtaining a passport or even getting a job. The only reason why I can write this in safety is because I live in California United States. To sue me, they would have to do it here before US Federal Courts. And I believe they  are not confident of the outcome if they did.

So what then happens to a man who grows up in such a society? Firstly he has no respect for the government, the entire political system and is overwhelmed with fear as to what will happen to him if he speaks his mind.

Such a society can only create a stupid society, because only a stupid people would live a life where it is better not to think too much and better to simply obey. As a result, Singapore's model citizen is a quiet individual, who passes his exams in school, finds a job, works hard to please his master, does everything his master wants in the hope to be promoted to a higher level, a better pay and better career. And so goes the hierarchy. In this higher position, if he has a superior above him, he will do the same with the hope of the same better prospects. Those below him will try to please him and in this manner the society goes on. Silence, total obedience and a complete lack of individual thinking are the hallmarks of a model citizen in Lee Kuan Yew's creation of Singapore island.

And while our model citizen quietly carries on in his lifelong pursuit of pleasing his master, in himself, he has no respect whatsoever  for his rulers and the entire system, which he considers no better than crooks and bullies. He knows that Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew's son of the Lee family is corrupt and so are all his cronies and minions. But he is helpless to do anything about it. He can't say anything either. So he suffers in silence.

He knows his judges are a bunch of Kangaroos who shamelessly do the bidding of their masters. He has no respect for them nor the entire legal system which he knows are as afraid of the rulers as he is. Yet he can do nothing about it and simply remains quiet. As far as possible he stays away from the courts.

He knows that he has no rights at all. He knows that the Constitution is just a piece of toilet paper. Yet there is nothing he can do and he suffers in silence.

Those who can manage to leave the country do. In fact as many as two thousand Singaporeans leave the island for settlement abroad each year and the numbers continue to climb. The reason for this is the fact that increasing numbers of Singaporeans are aware of how the people live in democratic countries. They are allowed to speak and they do not have to live in fear and this fact continues to draw thousands upon thousands abroad.

The question is, can such an island such as this where people have to live such miserable lives in fear succeed? I think not. One has to respect one's country to do one's best in it. One has to know that the state would not use unfair means to punish you. One has to have confidence in one's judges. One has to know that their rulers are not corrupt thieves. This is not the case in the island of Singapore.

A Californian, unlike the ordinary Singapore islander, has a sense of confidence about him. He respects his state institutions. He respects his judicial system and believes that he will get justice if his cause is right. He has freedom of speech and expression and knows that he will not be sued, arrested and bankrupted if he criticized the government. He also knows that his picture will not be sprawled across the daily newspapers on a daily basis simply because he was critical of his rulers. He knows that he will not be victimized by the entire state apparatus and everyone in the state just because he is seen as a critic. In this heathy society of free ideas and expression and respect, he has a reason to do his best and advance himself. He respects his country. He is judged by his ideas and his competence, not by his loyalty to the corrupt rulers. In the end, he knows that if he tries hard the sky is the limit, not because Lee Kuan Yew's son appreciates him.

Which is why I am certain that the island of Singapore has run out of ideas for any improvement. What is holding them back is the mentality of their own citizens. And other countries are catching up fast and they are being left behind. For instance, they have the Singapore port authority which they flaunt to be the busiest. It is no longer so today. Malaysian and Mainland Chinese ports have overtaken and Singapore would slide even further behind. In fact they are far more efficient than Singapore's.

Then they used to proclaim Singapore Airlines as number one. Today it is no longer so. It is now fourth and sliding further behind. It has really nothing to offer which others cannot. Once they used to insult Singapore women flight attendants by advertising the slogan "Fly the Singapore girl" as if they were sex objects to be "ridden". With all the complaints from around the world (not by the Singapore flight attendants themselves who are naturally helpless and intimidated) they have stopped insulting the feminine race. Today Emirates flight attendants are far more attractive and younger than any of these ethnic Chinese anorexic half starved Singapore women.

That is why the Singaporean workforce which has the lowest productivity in any workforce in the world will continue to slide downwards. They have no motivation except to be recognized by the rulers and rewarded for their loyalty. There is no incentive to excel in their work since excellence is not the yardstick for advancement but obedience to the regime. In such a society you will never get independent thinking nor confidence to do one's best because that itself may be dangerous and result in your imprisonment, being sued and bankruptcy. In Lee's society it is far better to keep your mouth shut and do as you are told in silence. You don't want to be another JB Jeyaretam or Chee Soon Juan or the long list of other citizens who thought they have a right to their own minds and had their pictures published in the state controlled press.

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

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