4 Apr 2007

Singapore: Lee-Fearing Nation

medium_LKY_untold_story.2.jpgSpotted on SingaporeRebel.

"Ordinary people do not fear the Internal Security Act as much as they fear that if they voice criticisms against the government they will be punished in ways that can directly affect their livelihoods. Shopkeepers and taxi-drivers worry their licences will be revoked, and businessmen whether big or small, have the same apprehension. Civil servants fear their independent views on public matters will deprive them of promotions or get them transfers to insignificant ministries or the ultimate punishment - loss of employment. The press fears. The police fears. The ISD (Internal Security Department) fears. The army fears. The PAP MPs fear. And the ministers fear...Everyone fears Lee."
- T.S. Selvan, author and former ISD officer

"Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I'm meaningless."
- Lee Kuan Yew, Oct 6, 1997

Singapore : The Ultimate Island : Lee Kuan Yew's Untold Story
Lee's Legacy

Opinions of Lee in the country are many. More often than not they are a curiously alternating vocabulary of praise and criticism. As his talents and gifts are many and unusual, so are some of his defects. They tell on the way people view him when in their different moods. When people are angry, they forget his merits, and when are happy, they ignore his faults. He then becomes the only barrier between man and chaos. He is glorified to a point where it is said that since God has forgotten to endow the country with any natural resources, he redresses the oversight by giving Lee to the country.

Some are genuinely caught in a moral dilemma because as they condemn of some of his shortcomings they cannot easily overlook his outstanding contributions to their material well-being. He has not been a mindless despot like some of the Third World politicians. Some, however thankful they are, still find it hard to morally excuse him for treating his political opponents with an almost neurotic disapproval and condemnation. He is accused of binding everyone to his system while he himself stays out of it. Even the Godless think he plays God. But they do not say whether God is a dictator.

But what is the long and short of it? Where does Lee stand? Curiously, what will Lee himself think of his role as he continues to lead his flock? Will he be chuffed by his admirers' adulations? Will he be stung like Prometheus by the diatribes of his critics? Or does he have his hopes pinned on history's final judgement?

To look back. When the British finally left the island, the migrants invested Lee with the power of sovereignty and they expected this sovereignty to be used in their rights and interests. The migrants did not wish the bossy and holier-than-thou colonial type authority. That phase was over. It was time, the migrants rightly thought, to belong and identify, to participate and be counted. It was in recognition of this right that the Sahib had also returned the island to the people.

Lee took over. Democratic politics immediately became an irredeemable sin; a political perversion. An Easterner by upbringing and a Westerner by education, a Machiavellian by instincts and a Zarathustran by genes, he at once concluded that a state could neither be run on Judeo-Christian virtues nor by any airy-fairy Western liberal exhalations. He sought authority in the way the East and governments of all larger states had been ruled before the British, American and French revolutions. Lee must have also picked up some handy habits from his early partnership with the communists. Communism, which believes that the state is a divine idea, subsumes the complexities of human experience under a rigid collectivist and monolithic order - one single will, one single state, one single party rule. More importantly, the communists' faith in the grave philosophy of the end justifying the means became a lethal weapon in Lee's hands. Not to forget, once in power, the communists do not capitulate; they want to rule forever.

to continue reading or comment