Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Geriatric in Pomposity

In the normal course of logic, when a person grows old he or she becomes more circumspect in speech and behaviour. But then sometimes there is an exception to this logic when you find a geriatric behaving pompously and bombastically and expecting his preachings to be accorded a regal reception. There are many Chinese sayings to portray such highfalutin individuals but suffice it to quote just one or two: All are too mean for his notice (目空一切) and Conceited and egoistic (自高自大).

In fact having made one gaffe after another in his comments on world as well as local affairs which were embarrassing, to say the least, to his prime minister son as well as to the Government, one would have thought that the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew would simmer down and retire gracefully to a quiet affluent life to the relief of sceptical Singaporeans. But unfortunately this was not to be the case and his latest gaffe was to humiliate a PhD student of the Nanyang Technological University at a forum. Miss Joan Sim, who probably adored the former MM for what she thought was an inimitable eminent politician and statesman, naively asked him an innocent question about social cohesiveness. Instead of answering the question, the former MM baffled his audience by hubristically urging the PhD student, who is single, to stop wasting her time on her doctorate and find a boyfriend instead. That the surprised audience was shocked by his crass remarks could well be imagined, but the normally sedate Miss Sim could well have been knocked over with a feather from shock. Will Miss Sim still harbour any illusion of the former MM as a humane fatherly figure after this deplorable incident?

The President of the Association for Action and Research (AWARE) Ms Nicole Tan showed admirable courage in attacking the former MM Lee Kuan Yew's comments claiming that it "perpetuates sexist stereotype" and "belittling single women". She also slammed the PAP Government for not "walking the talk". For her adverse remarks against the former MM and the PAP Government, it would not be a surprise if the plucky Ms Nicole Tan finds her presidency being challenged. The netizens are equally critical of the former MM.

It should be well known by now that the highfalutin former MM takes a delight in bullying university students, especially NTU students, (Miss Sim's case is an example) and yet NTUSU and other student organisations seem to enjoy the antics of this blustering octogenarian. This is a fascinating phenomenon and one cannot help associating it with masochism. Does the former MM have a high opinion of university graduates whom he described as "educated but not bright"?

The question that is uppermost on everyone's mind is why does not PM Lee Hsien Loong do something to curb his father's impetuousity. The answer may be found in the saying that a leopard cannot change its spots. Then there is the question of filial piety towards the father which may inhibit any altruistic desire to act.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did the former Minister Mentor really say it?

Whatever his strong point, the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is not known to be a person who is judicious with his words. There is a Chinese saying aptly fitting him: His mouth never chooses kind words (口不择言). He thinks he is more sagacious than the famous Chinese sage Confucius. But the narcissistic Lee Kuan Yew's booboos in his utterances have become his trademark.

It is hard to believe that the US embassy cable, leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, reporting the former Minister Mentor characterising Islam as a "venomous religion" during a 2008 meeting with visiting US senator Hilary Clinton is not authentic. The US diplomat reporting it was obviously present at the meeting and it was a first-hand report of the proceedings. Unless we believe that the US diplomat was an irresponsible officer who had an ulterior motive in misreporting the offending words used by the former Minister Mentor, there could be no dispute as to the accuracy of the report. Anyway, senator Hilary Clinton would have noticed it if she thought it was misreported.

Could the fact that it was not recorded in the Foreign Affairs Ministry notes of the meeting be conclusive proof that the offending words were not used by the former Minister Mentor? There could be many plausible explanations for the omission of the offending words from the record. Could it be the prescient discretion of a conscientious officer who could forsee a political furore over this offending term in the future? So we have now to decide the probability between the US embassy version of the meeting where the offending words "venomous religion" were used and the former Minister Mentor's version in which he vehemently denied ever using such offensive words.

To refresh the memory of Singaporeans, perhaps it should be remembered that our former Minister Mentor is not immune to making booboos from time to time. His famous "flash in the pan" in describing the black American candidate Mr Barack Obama when he contended the American presidential election in 2008 was Lee's biggest gaffe. Lee Kuan Yew was rooting for the white American candidate Mr John McCain and considered the election of a black American President to be apocalyptic. He had to eat his words and humbled himself when he met President Barack Obama in2009. President Obama showed that he was a figure of magnanimity.

Another of his booboos occurred in 2009 in which he made deleterious comments in the National Geographic magazine portraying Singaporeans as less hard-driving and hard-striving so that it became necessary for the Singapore Government to bring in Chinese immigrants as a counter-measure. Needless to say Singaporeans were infuriated by his disparaging comments which showed up his political insensitivity.

His next gaffe was his disparaging comments on the Singapore Malays/Muslims in his much-hyped book "Lee Kuan Yew : Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going". He commented that other communities have easier integration than Muslims because they tend to be "distinct and separate". This caused an uproar in the Malay/Muslim community with the Association of Malay Professionals (AMP) making a scathing attack on the Minister Mentor. There was concern that this Malay anger had affected Malay support of the PAP in the Aljunied GRC which was won by the Workers' Party in the May 2011 General Election.

Finally, should the former Minister Mentor find himself having nothing better to do than delivering his so-called pearls of wisdom to gullible audiences, there is a pretty comical suggestion that he could busy himself by becoming a stand-up comedian to entertain the kids. They will be extremely delighted and will regard him as their idol.