Thursday, December 27, 2007
Lee Kuan Yew's rules Singapore through fear.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the last 40 years of the Lee government of Singapore, his most effective tool for successfully governing has been fear. Today fear lies like a blanket over the entire island republic. In fact it is fear that keeps Lee Kuan Yew comfortably in power and which keeps the country plodding along.
But the one thing that everyone within the island understands is this; Lee will run the country the way he wants. The peoples' duty is to accept what he decides without question. You have to live your life, the way he has decided for you.
And Lee has been highly efficient in ensuring Singaporeans fear and obey his every command. This is how it is done. First, he unashamedly publicizes the fact that Singapore judiciary will break any law or regulation in order to punish any opponent.
In other words, he deliberately wants everyone in Singapore to know that he will use the law as his tool to punish his opponents. That there is no longer the rule of law. Only his wishes matter. And when Singaporeans realize that they are helpless and without recourse to justice if Lee is angered; they realize it is impossible to criticize him, because criticism can only mean utter ruination.
And to prove that he means what he says, he makes examples of his political opponents. He successfully sues, and bankrupts JB Jeyaretnam in the courts in circumstances where the entire population knows that Jeyaretnam did no wrong.
All Jeyaretnam did was nothing more than any other politician in any other country would have done. That is, criticize the opponent. Nothing improper at all. But yet the Singapore courts punish him and bankrupt him.
And the trials and the full details of the case, with photographs of Jeyaretnam, are published in the Singapore media which Lee controls. The signal is very successfully sent to the entire population. And that signal is this. Forget about the rule of law. It does not exist. Lee Kuan Yew is the boss. He orders. You obey.
Another of Lee Kuan Yew's bitter lessons to the Singapore population. Dr. Chee Soon Juan. Dr. Chee had the audacity and temerity, in Lee's eyes, to criticize him. Dr. Chee should now be made an example. He is sued, million dollar damages are awarded in Lee Kuan Yew's courts and he is bankrupted. All this is reported in detail with pictures and verbatim reporting.
It is reported that Dr. Chee is to be sacked from his job as a professor at the National University. His picture is prominently displayed in the press. He is condemned and abused by Lee. He is called a lair a cheat and a criminal. All this is prominently reported in the newspaper.
Even the president of Singapore can be destroyed at will. President Devan Nair was called various names such as a drunk, a womanizer and a flirt; his picture published, spread all over the front pages, defamed and destroyed. The message here from Lee is that even the President of Singapore is not safe from destruction, if Lee so chooses.
Michael Khoo was a former district judge in the Subordinate Courts. His crime was finding JB Jeyaretnam not guilty in one charge. Even though he had done what Lee wanted by convicting him in 2 other charges, Lee was still displeased. What temerity on the judge’s part to acquit on even one charge!
Lee's punishment for the judge was demotion to the post of prosecutor. I understand that Khoo accepted this demotion, meant to be a punishment with great shame. I understand he has since left Singapore government service entirely. Lee's message in this case was this. It does not matter who you are. You may be a judge, but still, if you cross his line, he will punish you.
The moral to remember in Lee's Singapore is this. Lee does not care what the people of Singapore or others may think of the integrity or the credibility of public institutions such as the administration of justice. He does not care if the people think the judges are corrupt as they are clearly shown to be. What is more important to him is that the people should be kept in check. And the best way to do it, as seen by his actions, is through fear. When the people are afraid of you, it is easy to rule them.
And when they are afraid to criticize or question, it is no longer necessary to govern according to their wishes. Their views no longer matter. This way Lee can decide whatever he wants to do, and implement them the next day.
The people are of course permitted to offer their praises, appreciation for government’s policies. That is always welcome. But it is really not important; since one way or another, the government will do whatever they want. And if they wanted praises, since all the media belongs to them, they will make them up if necessary!
You can see the effect of Lee's total disregard for the opinions Singaporeans, by speaking to them. Even by reading the news. For instance, the government may have decided to tear down 20 blocks of HDB flats in Toa Payoh because they are being upgraded. The residents of Toa Payoh by the way were never consulted on their views. Whether or not the residents of Toa Payoh objected or approved the demolition of their flats was totally irrelevant!
The government built a new building near the padang, downtown Singapore which looked like the tropical fruit durian. It is a place where symphony orchestras were to play music. Grandiose plan. Several millions or billions of dollars to build. Singaporeans were not consulted on whether they wanted the durian building, or approved of such expenditure.
Someone in Lee Kuan Yew's government or even Lee Kuan Yew himself must have decided that it was all right to go ahead and spend the money and have this building. Mind you all this is tax payers money. Today we have no idea on what happens in that building or even whether ordinary Singaporeans step within a mile of the place.
Singapore is going to have casinos. The government decided that since their previous ideas of disk drives manufacturing and airports and biotech hubs are all failing, the only way to make money now is to welcome gamblers to Singapore. Singaporeans were never consulted. There was no referendum. In keeping with the PAP philosophy that Singaporeans did not matter, they decided on it and they are being built. At the cost of billions. Singapore taxpayer’s money. But the views of taxpayers are irrelevant.
Recently Mr. Kee Kuan Yew decided he, his son and his collaborators and friends will receive $3 to $4 million each year. The taxpayers consent to this incredible salaries were irrelevant. They would, after all pay themselves this or any other amount. The people's approval did not matter at all.
One can read in the local state controlled press daily that the government has decided on something new. Formula 1 racing is going to be held. New schools dedicated to sports like badminton will be held. Wrestling and rugby were for reasons unknown left out! Why, because the Singaporeans are not strong enough? We will never know the reasons.
Should not the money be spent in a better way? Instead of sports schools, more general education schools and colleges since only 10 to 13 per cent of students in Singapore get tertiary education. Would not the money be much better spent in providing more students with tertiary education than in setting up sports colleges! Such a debate on this issue has not been held and will not be held. It is Singapore we are talking about. The views of the people do not matter. The ones with the brains are all, supposedly, Lee Kuan Yew and his friends. They will do the thinking. They will come up with the ideas. All you have to do is to obey comply and conform like an obedient child.
This sad picture is Singapore. A country run by fear. A carrot for obedience. A stick for opposition. This is Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. Until today. But things appear changing.
If I know this, so do the others in Singapore. They are aware they are living in fear. The young today are more educated, even if a large portion of them do not have tertiary education. Many of them have the Internet. Unlike in the past, when opposition to him in print surely meant utter ruination; today Lee finds it impossible to stop the criticism on the Internet.
Many in Singapore are beginning to hear contrary views to that of Lee Kuan Yew. And as time goes on; many people are finally beginning to say they refuse to live in fear.
This willingness to criticize Lee's repressive policies among the young and better educated is picking momentum and strength. During my visit to Singapore last month, I was pleasantly surprised to see more and more young people coming forward and becoming human rights activists for a better and more democratic Singapore. They are beginning to realize that Lee's threats to ruin people is slowly losing it's punch. People are being emboldened. Many have said, do or die, they will fight this system. Many are aware that only bullies use such fear tactics. And when you stand up to bullies, they turn into cowards.
Slowly but surely Lee's threats are beginning to have less and less effect. The people are finally slowly but surely taken back their power from Lee who had stolen it.
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