April 4, 2016
COMMENT: I do not understand why the view of one person, albiet from the daughter of the late Prime Minister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, should receive our attention, and be the subject of this article titled, Who will end the cult of LKY?
Why should a leader who has done so much for his country not be admired, remembered and honored by his own people for his contributions to the making of a dynamic, modern and successful Singapore. Since when has remembering and honoring a leader of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s stature been regarded as fawning or an attempt to create a personality cult.
There is a already a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles who established Singapore as a British trading outpost in 1819. There should rightly also be one of Mr. Lee. Maybe, Changi should be known as Lee Kuan Yew International Airport. But I understand Mr. Lee has left a will which prevents this from happening.
Fortunately, there is a way out of this bind. A close and respected friend from Singapore told me recently that Singaporeans have wisely chosen to erect a Heroes’ Memorial in honour of Mr. Lee and his colleagues like Goh Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Hon Sui Sen, Eddie Barker, and others.–Din Merican
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew
by Surekha A. Yadav
On March 21, the front page of the Straits Times carried a photograph featuring a stylised portrait of Singapore’s first, now deceased, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The installation formed, out of 4,877 erasers, was 2.3 metres wide and 3.1 metres high and titled Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag.
Now the first question that came to my mind was… why erasers?But other commentators had different reactions, with one woman in particular asking why so much column space was being devoted to a man who was determined not to see his legacy descend into a personality cult.
“I would ask how the time, effort and resources used to prepare these (commemorations, etc) would benefit Singapore and Singaporeans,” she wrote in a lengthy Facebook post criticising the adulation being heaped on our former leader on the first anniversary of his death. The post was widely circulated, but not by the Straits Times, to which she has been a regular contributor and columnist for years.
This is particularly interesting because the woman in question is Dr Lee Wei Ling, the daughter of the man represented by the thousands of erasers.
Dr Lee felt the national daily’s refusal to run her critical piece amounted to censorship and she declared on Facebook that she was effectively ending her relationship with the paper “as the editors there do not allow me freedom of speech.”
So here we have the daughter of Lee Kuan Yew, the effective founder of the modern Singaporean state, telling the newspaper closest to the state off for censoring her criticism of the fawning over her late father, which is happening in the state led by her brother — Lee Hsien Loong.
On one hand, Dr Lee’s point is perfectly coherent; while Lee Kuan Yew imprinted aspects of himself on the nation he effectively engineered, he was no North Korean Kim.
For many years of his rule and influence, we didn’t see giant statues of the man downtown, no LKY international airport or monuments emerged and that strikes me as a very good thing.
The old statesman was even determined to demolish his modest family home to prevent it from becoming a shrine.
On the other, it is a little amusing that a woman of considerable education, success and stature (she is after all the daughter of the first Prime Minister and sister to the current prime minister) feels muffled.
“The editors there do not allow me freedom of speech,” she tellingly says — but have they really offered anyone, bar perhaps our paramount chiefs, freedom of speech since the dawn of the modern nation?
Dr Lee’s father famously said: “You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, and schools.”
This has been the basis of the government’s media policy for decades, and our nation’s dismal positioning on global press freedom indexes is also well known, so it’s hard not to meet a sudden burst of outrage from the pinnacle of privilege without a raised eyebrow.
I’ve now seen Lee Kuan Yew commemorative badges handed out and watched a video of children at a local kindergarten being made to bow to a photo of the former PM — someone has to put a stop to this and maybe Dr Lee is the lady for the job. One way or another, the next Lee family dinner ought to be pretty interesting.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.