Saturday, October 17, 2009

A lesson in humility at the feet of the Chinese Premier

There are people who are born with humility and there are people who acquire humility as they progress in life and become matured. Humility comes as a second nature to the modest Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao . His latest display of humility was centered around a small mistake concerning rocks. Many people would not have noticed it, but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao felt the need to publicly apologise for it .
His public apology was given prominent publicity in our local Chinese paper Lianhe Zao Bao on 14th October 2009. The Straits Times picked it up and published it on 17th October. Premier Wen was on a visit to a middle school to celebrate Teacher's Day and mixed up his rock types in his talk with the students in an informal meeting. He immediately apologised in a letter to Xinhua News Agency the next day and the news disseminated by Xinhua captured the hearts and respect of the Chinese people. Premier Wen is affectionately known as the People's Prime Minister in China.
This is where our eminent Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew can take a leaf out of Premier Wen's book on humility. Singapore has no comparison with China in size, population and world renown. When the late David Marshall, when he was Singapore's Chief Minister, could sit at the feet of his political idol, the late Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to imbibe political wisdom from him, there is no reason why MM Lee could not benefit by sitting at the feet of Chinese Premier Wen to learn humility from him. MM Lee will certainly endear himself to sceptical Sinagaporeans by becoming a more modest and caring person.
So far it is known humiliy is not his forte. He has never been known to apologisae for his mistakes. Two glaring examples in the past can be cited to show such a character flaw in him. The first occasion was when he made a scurrilous attack on my reputation at the Select Committee Hearings on the Legal Profession Act (Amendment Bill) on 9th October 1988. He knew it was an unfounded vicious attack but made no attempt at correction or apology. He could have been sued for libel but for obvious reasons it would have been an exercise in futility with heavy financial loss to me, especially when he was then the Prime Minister.
The second occasion was on 30th September 1998 when a lengthy poignant letter by Ms Tan Siok Choo, daughter of the late Tun Tan Siew Sin, former Malaysian Finance Minister, was published by the Straits Times in which she refuted, by remarkable patient reasoning, the disparaging remarks made by MM Lee against her late father in his memoirs. In particular she was able to rebut cogently the allegation that her late father had harboured covetous ambitions of becoming Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister.
The most decent thing, in the mind of right thinking Singaporeans, was for MM Lee to make a sincere apology for the damage and anguish he had cost Ms Tan by his disparaging remarks about her late father. But then his courage deserted him and he resorted to getting his press secretary to give a reply, a rather feeble one, which was neither here nor there and contained no apology.
MM Lee has quoted the Chinese proverb "When the coffin is closed you will have the verdict."
Future historians will find his lack of humility a factor which they cannot ignore and MM Lee may find his quotation prophetic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well

My blog posting "An Unconscionable Injustice" has generated considerable interest, very much more than I had expected, on the injustice done to my reputation in the political book "Men in White". The matter has now been amicably settled with the authors publishing a note of correction and apology in the Straits Times on 16-10-09 which I find it difficult not to accept gracefully as a vindication of my reputation. I must specially mention Mr. Richard Lim, one of the authors, as the person who worked earnestly and assiduously to find a solution to the problem that would be fair to me. I think I owe him a sense of gratitude for his altruistic spirit.

The manager of the blog "Temasek Review" has displayed exceptional camaraderie spirit in his dramatic presentation in support of my cause of seeking justice to vindicate my reputation. That he was doing all this out of an altruistic desire of righteousness was very much in evident. His blog has a very wide readership, both local and foreign, and the favourable comments which came from his readers were overwhelming. They could not have been without any impact on the people higher up.

I must offer my apologies for not being able to thank each and every one of the readers of his and my blogs who contributed striking comments and thank them sincerely for their exemplary show of support, which I will always remember.

I have indicated to Mr. Richard Lim that I will treat this matter as closed and so it will be.

Last but not least, I must not forget to express my gratitude to my former colleague and buddy Teoh Kah Chay for drawing my attention to the libellous references about me in the book "Men in White"; otherwise I would still be none the wiser for it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Unconscionable Injustice

Occasionally, there can happen to an unsuspecting person an underbelly attack on his reputation from not entirely unexpected quarter.

Quite frankly, I am baffled by the motive of the ebullient authors of the overhyped political book "Men in White" in giving me unflattering mention in it. Whilst it is purported to give an objective history of the PAP struggle I wonder what have I got to do with the intra-party struggle. Anyway, in page 441 of the book the ambitious authors made the following unverified disparaging statement about me under the sub heading "Another Foreign Hand" : "But in 1971, after a police raid on his (Francis Seow's) woman friend's apartment, he used his influence and friendship with the then director of the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau, Yoong Siew Wah, to have the four officers who had conducted the raid sacked. The attorney-general Tan Boon Teik intervened to reinstate the four officers. Seow was allowed to resign rather than have his actions investigated because of his track record in the Legal Service. Yoong was also asked to quit."

On 28-9-09 I wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Press Holdings drawing his attention to this disparaging statement about me and requesting that a correction be made in his newspaper. I explained that the CPIB was duty-bound to investigate all formal complaints. Mr. Francis Seow made a formal complaint and CPIB carried out investigations of the four detectives. The investigation papers were sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Police who made the decision to dismiss the detectives. There was a prima facie case against the detectives. There was no question that I was asked to quit. I was appointed Director of Internal Security Department following my CPIB stint.

My letter was passed to Mr. Richard Lim, one of the three authors of the book. Mr. Lim replied on 1 October that the material for the disparaging statement was taken from a speech made by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Select Committee Hearing of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill which was published in the Straits Times on 10 October 1986 of which a copy was attached.

It did not come as a surprise to me as the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was like a god to some people and the accuracy of his denigration of a person's reputation was invariably taken at its face value. That he made the disparaging statement about me in the heat of the moment without regard to its accuracy in his heated exchange with a cool-headed eloquent Francis Seow at the Select Committee Hearing could not be ruled out. He is not unknown to have behaved erratically with venom in his speech when highly agitated. He was obviously so infuriated by Mr. Francis Seow's biting taunts that it escaped his normally lucid mind that I was not boarded out but appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint. It was subsequently pointed out to him but humility is not his forte and he has not been known as one to apologise for his mistakes. Mr. Richard Lim, one of the authors, has assured me that he would add a line after the sentence that I was also asked to quit to indicate that I was actually appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint in his next and future editions of the book in order to be fair to me.

It was reported that the then attorney-general Mr. Tan Boon Teik intervened to have the four detectives reinstated. Very gallant of him. He must have read the CPIB file on the investigations and could not have missed that the dismissal of the four detectives was made by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. How the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was given the impression that I had the four detectives unlawfully dismissed is something I would like to get to the bottom of.

Mr. Francis Seow was the solicitor-general at the time when I was director CPIB. He had overall supervision of CPIB investigation files sent to his department for final direction. That I should have had a cordial relation with Mr. Francis Seow was natural in human relationship development. For the then PM Lee Kuan Yew or for that matter the attorney-general Mr. Tan Booin Teik to give a sinister connotation to such a relationship seemed to raise doubt as to the soundness of the detractors' mind. Why should the affinity between Mr. Francis Seow and me be seen as something unwholesome?

The most decent thing for the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to do now is to undo the harm he has caused me and to restore my reputation. But will he?