Saturday, September 18, 2010

A critique of MM Lee Kuan Yew's interview

There is a Chinese saying:When a person is about to die, his/her words are kind (人之将死,其言也善)。

What does one make of the MM Lee Kuan Yew's interview with The New York Times' Seth Mydans coming just before his 87th birthday? Was it the ramble of a man on whom the above Chinese saying is a prophetic indicator? There was an absence of his usual pompous and bombastic style as he narrated his life experiences and philosophy to his astute interviewer.

As expected the public reactions are mixed. There are some who are nostalgic of the so-called progress and prosperity Lee Kuan Yew was supposed to have brought to Singapore. These are the ones who see only the angel in him and are prepared to overlook his iniquities. The number could be quite considerable but not the netizens.

Then there are those who hold contrary views, some very vitriolic. There was an acrimonious critic who sent a very caustic open letter via his email from overseas which is believed to be widely distributed and pulled no punches in his ferocious assailment of Lee Kuan Yew arising out of his New York Times interview. Quite co-incidentally, he also predicted that Lee Kuan Yew was nearing his death judging by the interview he gave. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was not spared the critic's venom who described his appointment as Prime Minister as a design by his father to perpetuate a dynasty. He predicted that PM Lee would find himself rudderless once his father, who acts as his eminence grise, was gone.

What is MM Lee's motive in telling the public about his so-called attentive care of his wife when she is already in a vegetative state? Is he trying to gain public sympathy for his so-called spousal plight? Madam Kwa Geok Choo, to all intents and purposes, is no longer in a position to respond to any human stimulation in any form and his so-called affectionate consolatory whispers to her every night stretch the imagination. MM Lee probably wants people to remember him as a deeply affectionate husband and gentleman. Does he realise that there are people who wonder why he is prolonging the sufferings of a wife in her present vegetative state with no hope of resuscitation? Would not that be more cruel than to allow her soul to be released? Somehow it does not seem compos mentis for MM Lee to leave his wife in her vegetative state and go jetting around to places, like Paris for example, ostensibly to conduct business of the State, including mesmerising gullible world audienses with his pearls of wisdom.

There was a momentary display of compunction when MM Lee admitted that he was not saying that everything he did was right but then he qualified it by saying that everything he did was for an honourable purpose without elaborating. The word honourable here is very subjective. He dismissed criticisms by Western reporters as rubbish and added that they were not the ones who may write the obituaries offering the final verdict on his actions. He concluded by quoting a Chinese proverb:Do not judge a man until his coffin is closed (盖棺定论).

It is appropriate here to reproduce a quote by a Lee Kuan Yew aficionado: Will his name be etched in the hallowed halls of pantheons or a fallen sufferer of hubristic iconoclasm.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Is this an impetuous or knee-jerk reaction?

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) had already decided to stop its shuttle bus services to the heartland areas at 11 pm on Sunday 12-9-10 and the directive from the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) for both the RWS and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) to stop their services abruptly in the early Friday afternoon is mind-boggling. The decision appeared to have been made impetuously by the CRA as it gives the public the impression of fluster at the top (including the MCYS Minister) over what adverse effect this problem could have on the PAP's election prospects if left doing nothing about it. There was apparently no thinking through on what consequences such abrupt stoppage of the shuttle services could have on the heartlanders, the bus operators and the fate of the hundreds of staff (including drivers) who will become jobless. Almost all the buses were newly bought with banking loans and the owners are now in a fix as to what to do with their buses and how they are going to service their loans.

Long before RWS was opened, the company had already planned to include shuttle bus services to the IR. This was with a view to encouraging car owners to use the shuttle services to the IR, thus not contributing to traffic congestion. The other objective is to provide free transport services to heartlander families to visit the IR as a form of requittal to society. There are amenities like the Universal Studios theme park, numerous shops and food outlets in RWS for the enjoyment of the families. They make it a family outing taking advantage of the convenience of the shuttle bus services. Now a so-called benevolent government has with a stroke of the pen deprived these deserving families of the enjoyment of the attractive amenities in RWS. Does the PAP government believe that such impetuous action will endear it to these families?

Is it logical to contend that prospective gamblers would take advantage of the free shuttle bus services to visit the casinos which would save them only a few dollars when a hefty $100 entry fee does not present any deterrence? They would still be visiting the casinos even without the free shuttle bus services. So just because of some misplaced notion on the part of the relevant authorities, heartlanders are deprived of the means of bringing their families on enjoyable outings to RWS.

Perhaps it may occur to our enterprising functionaries that depriving would-be gamblers of the free means of trnasport would not deter them from visiting casinos. There are already measures in place such as education to rehabilitate Singaporean gamblers to get them to eschew their gambling habits. Maybe the answer is to re-inforce these measures with more innovative ideas and not to look for fall guys to justify some bizarre action. Anyway, inveterate gamblers are a lost cause.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rambling Thought

From time to time we get to see retired prime ministers making pompous pronouncements to justify the sinecures they presently occupy. So it should not come as a surprise when Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong made what he called his momentous pronouncement that "we're victims of our own success". He said Singaporeans were constantly belly-aching about carpark. housing, crowded public transport and so on. He urged Singaporeans (probably with tongue-in-cheek) to put their woes in perspective and think of the poor.

Indeed, are we the victims of our own success? We ask SM Goh to so some soul-searching and say candidly if we are not instead the victims of so-called PAP success. Any right-thinking Singaporean will know that our housing, unemployment and public transport woes are the result of mismanagement of its immigration policy by the PAP government. The unrestrained influx of immigrants from China and India is accepted as the cause of the rising prices of HDB housing, the overcrowding in the MRT and buses and the deprivation of jobs to Singaporeans. There are still extensive caustic criticisms of the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech although he tried very hard to appease Singaporeans on the government's indiscriminate immigration policy. So what logic is SM Goh using in trying to attribute these woes as "victim of our success"? Singaporeans are not as naive or daft as he tries to make them out to be.

Recently SM Goh coined a new 5 C's namely career, comfort, children, considerateness and charity and urged Singaporeans to adopt them in place of the original 5 C's which included condominium, cars and credit-cards. There have been comments that SM Goh was not far-sighted enough and had overlooked an equally important but detractive 5-Cs namely conceit, covetousness, cunning, cowardice and contemptibility which he should consider urging Singaporeans to avoid.

There is reason for these commentators to coin this 5 C's for avoidance. It would not be wrong to say that Singaporeans were sometimes referred to as "Ugly Singaporeans" by foreigners abroad, and probably here.This could not have nothing to do with the obnoxious behaviour of some pompous Singaporeans who were pushy and brazen when overseas. They were more confined to the elite or well-heeled class who would unabashedly flaunt either their expertise or their opulence to an unreceptive audience. Of course we have not descended to the level of the "Ugly Americans" but this should not be taken as a source of pride considering the connotation of the disparaging term. Does not SM Goh consider this novel 5 C's proposed by the commentators as something worthy of adoption by Singaporeans? If nothing else, it will have the effect in the long run of retrieving the reputation of Singaporeans.