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.