Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Farewell to a Matriarch

MM Lee Kuan Yew's wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, had been bedridden for the past two years in a vegetative state and her passing last Saturday came as no surprise. Perhaps God is benevolent in releasing her from her suffering. It must be a very painful experience to MM Lee who is known to be a very loving and caring husband. But then parting is an inevitable life journey. We extend our deepest condolences to MM Lee and his family and to PM Lee Hsien Loong for the loss of his beloved mother.

As a respect of Mrs Lee's sublime character, her humility and her flawless reputation as a dutiful wife and mother, the tributes for her that keep pouring in from local and foreign dignitaries reflect her popularity and dignity. But on such a solemn bereavement of an august figure, there is always the danger of some newspapers going overboard in their adulatory expressions of extolment of the late Mrs Lee which could probably cause her to turn in her grave.

Some newspapers described her as the First Lady. The title is reserved for the wife of a President and Mrs Lee is the wife of a former Prime Minister. The Lianhe Wanbao described her as the "Mother of a Country"(母仪天下). In Chinese the title c ould only be used by an Empress of ancient China. Is the Lianhe Wanbao trying to say that Mrs. Lee is an Empress and by extension MM Lee an Emperor? The competency of the newspaper writer is questionable and for a newspaper of its reputation, making such a crass mistake is unacceptable. The Lianhe Zaobao is on the other hand more rational is describing Mrs Lee as the "Eternalised Mother Model" (母仪足式,懿范长存)。

The Chinese press described Mrs Lee, who was always dressed in cheongsam with short hairdo, as an epitome of Chinese femininism. But the only flaw is that she is a peranakan and was almost non-literate in Chinese. The consensus is that the late First Lady Mrs Ong Teng Cheong more fitted the bill. Mrs Ong's Chinese educational background and her upbringing in a poor Chinese family made her a more unanimous choice as a Cheongsam First Lady. Her cheongsams were usually decorated with orchid motifs and replicas of her cheongsams were sold in renowned boutiques. However this should not detract from Mrs Lee's intrinsic display of the Chineseness in her and the enthusiasm of the Chinese press in portraying her distinct Chineseness should not be faulted.

The late President Ong Teng Cheong was in every respect a People's President but unfortunately his forthrightness in insisting to look into Singapore's reserves brought him into dissension with the PAP Government of the day. By right the late President Ong deserved and should have been given a state funeral upon his death when even lesser dignitaries were given such honours. Even today PAP leaders may still be fuming over the late President Ong's so-called brazenness. Does it show the magnanimity of the PAP leaders? The late President Ong was at one time a PAP leader himself.


Alan Wan said...

What really puzzled me was when it was reported in the main press that her contributions to the country is of equal standing to Goh Keng Swee to deserve a state funeral.

Did she ever held an official post to deserve that honour ? I think it is a real insult to both our beloved Goh Keng Swee and ex-President Ong Teng Cheong.

none said...

In a blog comment someone called her his "state mother", whatever that meant.

I guess he wasn't deadly serious.

Unknown said...

Some lead their life telling and fighting for the 'Truth'. A lot more make a living telling the un-true, 'polishing apple' and twisting history. Can we pause a while in our busy activities and ask are we with the former or the latter. Can we correct ourselves for the benefit of future generation.

Odie said...

Actually if I am not wrong, OTC was supposed to be given a state funeral but the family turned it down, opting for a private funeral instead.