LKY chose brains, not fawning followers


May 23, 2015

Phnom Penh

Why Singapore is ahead of Malaysia: LKY chose brains, not fawning followers

by James Sivilingam@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 

Dr Afifuddin OmarOur leaders surrounded themselves with followers, LKY (Lee Kuan Yew) with intellectuals, says UMNO’s Cornell University (Ithaca) educated  Dr. Affifudin Omar.

Former Deputy Finance Minister Dato’ Wira Dr Affifudin, highlighting why Malaysia failed to emulate the success of Singapore, said one reason was that Lee Kuan Yew chose intellectuals, while Malaysian leaders were surrounded by supporters and followers.

Responding to a question posed by an audience member at a forum on new Malaysian leaders, Dr. Affifudin said that comparing Singapore and Malaysia was like comparing apples and oranges.

“Political, cultural and economic backgrounds are different. But since we are talking about leadership, when Singapore left Malaysia under Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP, he held on to Confucius’ principle of valuing knowledge. He surrounded himself with intellectuals, whereas Malaysian leaders surrounded themselves with people who supported them 120%,” he said.

Tun Razak and Zhou EnlaiTun Abdul Razak with China’s Mandarin, Zhou Enlai

Dr. Affifudin recalled that it was not always the case in Malaysia as Tun Abdul Razak Hussein also had a similar approach as Malaysia’s Second Prime Minister.

Dr.Affifudin recalled that Tun Razak needed experts in Asian development, and did not hesitate to hire two professors from Harvard and Cornell universities in the United States, while at the same time looking after his political stability.

“Lee Kuan Yew and Tun Abdul Razak were the same in that they surrounded themselves with the smartest and the brightest,” he said.

Singapore’s small size and the high level of education of the people has helped the republic to advance beyond Malaysia as every programme implemented would reach its public easily.

“Although Lee Kuan Yew exploited the democratic process in ensuring a majority in Parliament, the people accepted it because they knew Lee Kuan Yew was honest in what he was doing. He was a straight talker regarding the development of Singapore. That’s the leadership difference,” he said.

Lee and Dr. MahathirLKY chose Intellectuals, Dr. Mahathir recruited Fawning Followers

Dr.Affifuddin said Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not surround himself with intellectuals, unlike Tun Abdul Razak, and the downward trend had continued since.

“Tun Mahathir, I’m sorry to say it, was doing it all alone. When Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) came in, he tried to do it (surround himself with intellectuals) and was beaten up (kena hentam) for it,” he said.

Dr. Afifuddin had earlier acknowledged that he is still a member of UMNO but had not attended the forum, organised by former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, to defend his party but to seek the truth, in the spirit of brotherhood.

“If my brother makes a mistake, I will question it and call it as it is. If he’s not guilty, I will defend him. I’m not going to defend UMNO. What I’m going to do is say what is wrong and what is right according to my own judgement,” Dr. Afifudin said.

 

Stop flattering Najib, Envoy Zahrain told


April 23, 2015

Stop flattering Najib, Envoy Zahrain told

 by FMT Reporters

He should stick to diplomacy and stay out of politics, says Khairuddin Abu Hassan.

Zahrain Hashim khairuddin abu hassanPETALING JAYA: A former UMNO official has denounced the Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia, Zahrain Hashim, for issuing a public statement in defence of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s allegedly lavish lifestyle.

“He has crossed the line that separates diplomacy from politics in his eagerness to flatter Najib,” said Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who was recently sacked from his position as Vice Chairman of the Batu Kawan UMNO division.

Zahrain, in an interview with Utusan Malaysia, reacted to a magazine article about the spending habits of Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, by implying that they could afford an expensive lifestyle because the Prime Minister is of upper-class birth.

Khairuddin said in a press statement today that Zahrain seemed oblivious of the current political developments in the country and the moral issues being raised in connection with questions regarding Najib’s suitability as Prime Minister and Umno President.

“Perhaps Zahrain is forgetful,” he said. “Recently, Najib’s brothers issued a statement defending their father, former prime minister Tun Razak Hussein, from any insinuation that he accumulated wealth during his tenure.”

The statement from Najib’s brothers came after the New York Times quoted the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as saying: “Neither any money spent on travel, nor any jewellery purchases, nor the alleged contents of any safes are unusual for a person of the Prime Minister’s position, responsibilities and legacy family assets.” The PMO’s statement was a response to questions about Rosmah’s spending.

“Even if the Prime Minister comes from a noble family with a lot of money,” Khairuddin said, “he must, if he wants to be an effective and successful leader, display a moderate lifestlye. That would be more in keeping with Malay culture. The Malays look highly upon people of high birth who live moderately.

“Unfortunately, some UMNO leaders have forgotten this. They love to exhibit a lavish lifestyle. Such ostentation has invited all kinds of negative perceptions among the rakyat.”

Khairuddin reminded Zahrain that he used to be a member of PKR, whose leaders would often criticise UMNO leaders for their extravagance.

“I hope Dato Seri Zahrain would focus only on his responsibilities as our Ambassador to Indonesia and restrain himself from getting involved in Malaysia’s domestic politics,” he said.

Khairuddin also took issue with Zahrain’s insinuation that one of former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s son, Mokhzani, got rich by taking advantage of his father’s position. He said Mahathir’s children found success after decades of hard work. “They did not become rich in their youth,” he added.

Khairuddin, who shot to fame with his Police and MACC reports against 1MDB, is seen as aligned to Mahathir’s camp. He has become a frequent critic of the Najib administration, occasionally releasing press statements in his individual capacity.

In today’s statement, he referred to the current political battle between Mahathir and Najib, claiming that the ex-premier’s criticisms were motivated by a sincere wish to ensure that voters would continue to support UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

TEMPO stands firm on the Najib-Rosmah Article


April 23, 2015

COMMENT: You cannot expect TEMPO, a respected magazine in Indonesia, to stand down on its article on Najib-Rosmah’s lavish spending habits. 

The magazine is known since the days of Goenawan Mohamad to be fiercely independent and thorough in its reporting. I feel sorry for our Ambassador to Indonesia Dato Seri Zahrain Hashim  who has to defend our first couple, now in Bandung to  attend the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Asia- Africa Conference.

Goenawan (right) is the founder and editor of Tempo (“Time”) magazine in Indonesia, which wasGoenawan M of Tempo twice forcibly closed by the Suharto‘s New Order administration because of its vocal criticism of the authoritarian regime. In 1999, Mohamad was named International Editor of the Year by World Press Review magazine. In 1998, he was one of four winners of the CPJ International Press Freedom Awards, and in 2006 he received the Dan David Prize award. The World Press Review awarded him its International Editor of the Year Award in 1999 (wikipedia).

It is fortunate that TEMPO did not report on the missing rm27billion in 1MDB.  Read http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/296182  –Din Merican

TEMPO stands firm on the Najib-Rosmah Article

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Purwanto SetiadiIndonesia’s premier current affairs magazine Tempo is standing by their article on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor’s lavish lifestyle entitled ‘Hidup mewah sang perdana menteri’.Tempo senior editor, Purwanto Setiadi (left), said the magazine believes its sources for the story and although from secondary means, they (the sources) were vetted carefully before the said article was published.

“Like previously, we choose our sources (of the news) carefully. As of today, we believe in the source which was used,” he said when contacted by Malaysiakini.

Purwanto, who is the magazine’s editor for international news, was commenting on Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Mohamed Hashim’s statement that he wanted to meet Tempo editors to correct alleged misconceptions contained in the article. Purwanto, who is also on Tempo‘s editorial board,  pointed out their article had also quoted the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as dismissing the sources for the article as used by Tempo.

However, Purwanto said if Zahrain or the Malaysian government had other versions, Tempo was open to publishing it.

Step-son’s luxury properties

Zahrain, Purwanto added, was welcome to visit the magazine’s office again, his second visit after a recent one. “It is an honour if he comes occasionally,” said the senior editor.

Tempo had reported on the lavish lifestyle of Najib and Rosmah in a special issue following the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Asia- Africa Conference currently being held in Banding, Indonesia for which Najib flew in today to attend. The write-up touched on Rosmah’s (centre above) penchant for luxury handbags and jewellery, and Najib’s step-son Riza Aziz’s wealth used to purchase luxury properties in the US. The article also mentioned Rosmah’s RM1,200 hairdo expense.

Lee Kuan Yew’s Legacy: His Impact on Singapore–Malaysia Relations


April 6, 2015

RSISNo. 080/2015 dated 6 April 2015

Lee Kuan Yew’s Legacy: His Impact on Singapore–Malaysia Relations

By David Han Guo Xiong

Synopsis


The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy on Singapore –Malaysia relations will continue to have an impact on the diplomatic ties of these two countries. In particular his insights on the shared geography, history, culture, and the regional and geopolitical contexts for both Singapore and Malaysia will endure for many years to come.

Commentary

Kuan Yew and Dr. MTHE PASSING of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew marks the end of an era in the relations between Singapore and Malaysia. But his legacy will continue to shape the republic’s foreign policy towards its immediate neighbour, and his views will still be an important lens through which to understand their bilateral ties.

For Mr Lee, the shared realities of geography, history, culture, and the wider regional and geopolitical contexts would continue to underpin Singapore’s relations with Malaysia. Indeed, at the core of his view on Singapore’s policy towards Malaysia is the over-riding concern of the republic’s continued survival as a nation; the preservation of its territorial integrity; and economic prosperity, vis-à-vis its larger northern neighbour.

Fundamentals of Singapore–Malaysia relations

The story of Lee Kuan Yew’s political career is almost synonymous and inextricably tied with the history of Singapore–Malaysia relations. Right from the start, when he became the first Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959, he was already aware that Malaya – as Malaysia was then known – was a crucial hinterland for the economic survival of Singapore. By virtue of geographical proximity and shared colonial history, the economic, social and cultural dynamics of both countries were deeply intertwined. Mr Lee understood that for Singapore to survive economically, Singapore must merge with Malaya, which it did when Malaysia was formed in 1963.

However, the merger was short-lived and ended when Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9, 1965. The key reason for the split was that Mr Lee’s vision for a “Malaysian Malaysia” which championed multiracialism was incompatible with the race-based policies and communal politics in Malaysia which favoured the bumiputras.

For the past 50 years, though the issue of race and ethnicity has surfaced on a few occasions, it has not severely damaged Singapore–Malaysia ties. Overall, both Singapore and Malaysia have exercised much restraint and sensitivity towards one another on the subject of race and ethnicity.

After separation, Singapore successfully overcame its economic woes and transformed itself into the prosperous city state it is today. Although Malaysia did not remain the hinterland for Singapore due to the separation, Mr Lee’s insight on the close economic interdependence of the two immediate neighbours is still valid. Singapore’s largest trading partner is Malaysia and good economic cooperation is vital to both countries. The ongoing Iskandar development project is a testament to the strong economic links of both countries. Singapore and Malaysia also cooperate widely in other areas such as tourism, education, environmental issues, culture, and so on.

Managing bilateral issues

To be sure there have been contentious disputes over the past five decades. These include the problem of water supply; the withdrawal of contributions of Malaysian workers from the Central Provident Fund (CPF); ownership of Malayan Railway (KTM) land and Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) issues; bridge replacement for the Causeway; and the question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca. Nevertheless, Mr Lee’s pragmatism, which is also shared by Malaysia, has been the key to overcoming the periodic tensions which arose in the past and may likely continue in the future.

The current excellent relations between Singapore and Malaysia under the leadership of Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak is a clear indicator that cordial relations based on rationality and pragmatic interest will prevail over emotional and irrational attachment to narrow ethnic or communal agendas in the  future.

As both Singapore and Malaysia are close neighbours, regional dynamics have been crucial factors for the foreign policies of both nations. For Mr Lee, a peaceful and stable Southeast Asia, characterised by cordial economic and diplomatic cooperation amongst Southeast Asian states without interfering in each other’s internal affairs, was vital for Singapore’s sovereignty and survival. Accordingly Mr Lee contributed significantly to the development of ASEAN so that ASEAN countries can work together towards regional goals in the ASEAN Way.

Singapore, Malaysia in the ASEAN context

Similarly, Malaysia has always recognised the importance of ASEAN for regional stability which would be conducive for advancing the national interests of Malaysia. It is also in the context of ASEAN that both Malaysia and Singapore can seek to improve their bilateral ties. Such similarities in viewpoint should continue to form a common ground for cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia, and for furthering the interests of ASEAN as a whole.

On broader geopolitical issues, Mr Lee saw that while competition between the United States and China is inevitable, conflict is not. He held the view that the US should help China to transit into the international community in the spirit of cooperation.

Indeed, peaceful and good ties between China and the US without major conflicts would benefit Singapore’s economic development and survival. Singapore has strong economic ties with China, while it also maintains close military and economic relations with the US. Singapore’s cooperative and hedging behaviour is motivated by its desire for both China and the US to maintain peaceful ties, and not for Singapore to be forced to choose sides.

Likewise, Malaysia also shares broadly similar strategic concerns with Singapore. Malaysia too has strong economic relations with China, and close military ties with the US. Good China-US ties would serve the interests of Malaysia as well. Given these overlaps, Singapore and Malaysia can work together, within the context of ASEAN, to engage both Beijing and Washington to enhance mutual understanding and peaceful cooperation in the Southeast Asian region.

Continued relevance of Lee’s views on bilateral ties

Lee Kuan Yew’s views of relations between Singapore and Malaysia would continue to be relevant though not the key factor that shapes relations between Singapore and Malaysia.

The leadership of both countries should be mindful that the shared geography, history, culture, and regional and geopolitical contexts would always be crucial components that shape Singapore–Malaysian relations. A pragmatic and realistic outlook should consistently undergird and drive peaceful and constructive relations of the two countries, and not allow issues coloured by historical baggage or narrow domestic interests to hinder the relations of the two close neighbours.

David Han Guo Xiong is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Click HERE to read this commentary online.

Nanyang Technological University
Block S4, Level B4, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798

Kamil Jaafar’s Tribute to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew


March 26, 2015

READ THIS:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/03/lee-kuan-yews-singapore

It is an impressive record of achievements.–Din Merican

Kamil Jaafar’s Tribute to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

by Tan Sri Kamil Jaafar*

Singapore’s first Prime Minister transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World country. And he took all steps to protect the country from outside threats.

AMONG the leaders of our region for whom, for different reasons, I have great respect and even admiration, are the late President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, President Sukarno of Indonesia, and King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew  also falls into this category of leaders of our time, and his passing away is certainly a loss for the region.

This was a man who transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World country. In his dealings with the world at large, he was truly a remarkable statesman.

The British, in their military wisdom, created fortress Singapore, but soon found out that their guns were pointing the wrong way. Lee, in his time, also created fortress Singapore. Only this time, the guns are pointing the right way. Johor.

It is understandable that he took this position as, in his mind, the geopolitical realities indicated that the threat could come from Malaysia and, by extension, from Indonesia. Being surrounded by a Malay world could, in time, lead to instances of instability that would threaten the young nation of Singapore.

This is the siege mentality that the former Foreign Ministry secretary-general, Tan Sri Kadir Mohamad, mentions in his book, Malaysia-Singapore Fifty Years of Contentions.

This siege mentality led Lee to state to the Malaysian Chief of Armed Forces in 1990 that “… he would not hesitate to move his troops if in any future Malaysian Government, such as one controlled by the Islamic Opposition Party, should ever threaten to cut off the island’s water supply …”

The mutual suspicion and mutual mistrust led to this uneasy and testy relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. From Malaysia’s standpoint, we never entertained any aggressive intentions towards Singapore. There were never any reasons for Malaysia to do that.

We have already removed several irritants in our bilateral relations. There is still unfinished business to tackle but I believe we can now sort things out in ways that would work for the benefit of both countries.

We already made a good start in putting ASEAN as a basis of a constructive and meaningful relationship. I do not think we will want to destroy what we have built through hard work and sweat.

Lee and Deng

Finally, we cannot forget that it was Lee, looking at the geopolitical realities of the time, who advised China’s Deng Xiaoping in 1980 that having the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) radio station broadcasting from Chinese soil “… was not a good indicator of China’s warming relationship with ASEAN”.

Deng subsequently told the CPM leader, Chin Peng, to transfer the  station out of China. It was moved to Thailand. For that we can be thankful to Lee Kuan Yew.

Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar is a former Wisma Putra secretary-general (1989-1996) and former counsellor at the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore (1968). The views expressed are his own.

The Passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew


March 23, 2015

Our sincere condolences to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his family, my friends and associates and the people of Singapore on the passing of  Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore. In our view, Mr. Lee now belongs in the pantheon of great world leaders. Mr Lee made it possible for Singapore to be the model of good governance and multiculturalism.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Lee Kuan Yew Obituary

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/22/lee-kuan-yew

The founding Prime Minister of an independent Singapore, he sought to encourage prosperity through ensuring a dominant role for the state.
Lee-Kuan-YewAs first Prime Minister of Singapore, serving for three decades until 1990, and a continuing cabinet presence for the two that followed, Lee Kuan Yew, who has died aged 91, was a man whose story reflected his times. A relentless nation-builder like Tito, an instantly identifiable symbol like Haile Selassie, Lee also had a third dimension, especially in western eyes – statesman, philosopher king, embodiment of the wisdom of the east.

Lee’s role in and articulation of events from the Pacific war and the Japanese occupation of Singapore till leaving politics completely in 2011 made him a pivotal figure of the modern world. To many he became the embodiment of the orderly transition of a region from western dominance to neo-Confucian success. Yet experience had taught him to be a pessimist, which drove him to work harder, to be more ruthless.

Lee himself may not have changed the world outside little Singapore very much. Indeed, his greatest apparent achievement, the creation of a viable independent state, was the outcome of his biggest failure – Singapore’s expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, two years after the organisation’s inception. His first vision of Singapore’s future, as part of a multicultural Malaysia, may prove in time to have been the correct one, but he can be at least partly judged by the achievement of his second vision for Singapore, the prosperous, prickly and obsessively hygienic city state.

He did not create modern Singapore’s prosperity. The city state thrived naturally in a region of economic growth and rapid development of world trade. However, he certainly created the image of the state in his own likeness.

Being liked was not part of his agenda. A combination of high intelligence and unswervable determination were Lee’s characteristics, and he transferred them, at least superficially, to modern Singapore. Without him, it may in time go a different way, more reflective of its multiracial background and potentially precarious existence. But while he was alive few dared think, let alone put forward, alternative visions.
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Lee has been described as many things. To Chinese, particularly during his days fighting Chinese chauvinism in the name of a multiracial Singapore identity, the Cambridge-educated lawyer brought up to believe in English education if not in British institutions, Lee was a “banana” – yellow on the outside, white inside. However, later in life, as Chinese identity and Confucian attitudes emphasising education, discipline and hierarchy became more important, he would be criticised for presenting himself as a fount of wisdom, a convincing articulator of modern Asia to western audiences, while actually behaving with all the intolerance of a Chinese emperor. At his worst, he could combine imperial hauteur with extraordinarily petty spite, relishing the destruction of irritating but unthreatening critics. At his best, he had an incisive mind and clear political judgment. For an avowed elitist, he had a remarkable ability to talk to a crowd.

Born in Singapore, Lee was the eldest son of Lee Chin Koon and Chua Jim Neo, members of a comfortably off but not rich Straits Chinese family. The Straits Chinese were those who had been settled in the region for many years, losing much of their Chinese identity both to the language and institutions of their British rulers, and to the Malays, their neighbours whose tongue was the lingua franca of south-east Asia.

The young Harry, as Yew was known in the English-language environment of the time, came first in Malaya in the Senior Cambridge exams (the equivalent of A-levels) of 1939 and was destined to go to Britain to study law. But the second world war intervened and he had to go to the local Raffles College instead, where he acquired some basic economics, and met his future wife, Kwa Geok Choo. The delay in going to Britain was but a minor inconvenience compared with the sudden and humiliating British surrender of Singapore in February 1942. Lee described his own initial humiliation at the hands of Japanese troops as “the single most important event of my life”.

Little is known of his actual role during the occupation, other than that he learned Japanese (he had a remarkable facility for languages), worked for Domei, the Japanese news agency, and may in the latter days of the war been of help to the British. The obscurity with which this period has been shrouded subsequently gave rise to much speculation about his relationships with the British and the Japanese. But he saw enough of British failures not to want to ape them, and enough of Japanese brutality – mostly directed against the recent migrant Chinese than against the more compromising Straits Chinese – to resent them. As he later wrote, he emerged from the war “determined that no one – neither the Japanese nor the British – had the right to push and kick us around”.

Combining drive with connections, he got himself to Britain in 1946 to study at the London School of Economics. But deciding he needed to aim higher, he talked his way into Fitzwilliam Hall, Cambridge, and graduated in 1949 with a starred first in law. His wife-to-be, whom he married the following year, also got a first.

It was also during this time that he began to develop ambitions beyond returning home to a prosperous legal career. He recognised that the British could not recreate the comfortable, colonial Singapore of prewar days. Nationalism, socialism and communism were in the air. In a speech in 1950 to the Malayan Forum in London, he said: “The choice lies between a communist republic of Malaya and a Malaya within the British Commonwealth led by people who, despite their opposition to imperialism, still share certain ideals in common with the Commonwealth … if we [the returning students] do not give leadership, it will come from the other ranks of society.” Malaya, he noted prophetically, could be either “another Palestine or another Switzerland”.

Even before returning to Singapore, Lee had identified the strands necessary to make a successful politician with the aim of securing an independent, non-communist Malaya. The first was a commitment to greater social justice and income distribution. This was part of the ethos of the time, both in Britain, where Lee was involved with the Labour party, and with such exemplars of independence and social democracy as Nehru’s India. But it was also necessary politics. Lee believed that without a commitment to both anti-imperialism and socialism, radicals would win control of the freedom struggle.

The other element in Lee’s equation was multiracialism, which he saw as necessary to prevent Malaya from dissolving into war between two nationalisms, a Chinese one which was communist in sympathy and a Malay one which tended to be exclusive and feudal.

Back in Singapore, Lee the lawyer and Lee the politician were soon inseparable as he took up the cases of trade unionists, radicals and nationalists. Being from the British-educated Chinese elite, he had to work all the harder at being a leader to dialect-speaking Chinese and Indian union firebrands. His energy and application were prodigious, and he added fluency in Mandarin and Hokkien and passable Malay and even Tamil to his roster of languages.

He was the driving force behind the creation of the People’s Action party (PAP) in 1954, including within it people sympathetic to the communist insurgency, then at its height in the Malayan peninsular. The PAP adhered to constitutionalism while Lee acted for those detained under the Internal Security Act.

Lee’s fortunes as a politician benefited from his bravura courtroom performances. It was this very success with juries that made him critical of the jury system. Judges were less easily swayed by emotion, and were appointed by the government. Once in power, Lee abolished juries.

Despite his advocacy on behalf of leftists and nationalists, there were those who believed he connived to ensure that the left faction did not get the upper hand in the PAP. The party, which had been seen as the main agent of constitutional development in Singapore, swept aside more conservative forces to win the 1959 election by a large margin. Lee became chief minister of a self-governing state within the Commonwealth, promoting social reform but retaining political detention without trial.

His principal objective became to achieve, in co-operation with the Malayan prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, independence through merger with a somewhat suspicious Malaya – which had been independent since 1957 – plus the territories of Sarawak and Sabah to form Malaysia. The PAP was divided on this and other issues and formally split in 1961, the left faction forming the Barisan Sosialis. However, the merger proposal was approved in a referendum.

Lee further solidified his position by mass detentions, including those of prominent Barisan leaders. Though he justified the detentions by reference to the lingering communist threat and Indonesia’s avowed opposition to Malaysia, they came to symbolise Lee’s authoritarian tendencies. With the Barisan decapitated, he won the 1963 election and the Barisan never recovered.

While unification made sense to the moderate majority of Singaporeans and Malayans, it soon ran into problems. Chief among them was the reluctance of the hyperactive Lee to play second fiddle to a Kuala Lumpur-based federal government led by the relaxed, aristocratic tunku, or prince. Lee insisted on the PAP trying to win seats in the peninsula itself, in the process setting itself up as the party more likely to protect Chinese interests than the Malaysian Chinese Association, the conservative Chinese element of the tunku’s ruling alliance. Lee made speeches which many regarded as racially inflammatory. Some Malays wanted him arrested. In the end, the tunku decided in August 1965 that the only way out was for Singapore to leave the federation.

One vision had failed. Now Lee redoubled his efforts to create a new vision – of a republic of Singapore with its own identity and national interests that could hold its own among potentially hostile neighbours. Malaysia and Singapore still needed each other. The Indonesian policy of confrontation ended with the downfall of Sukarno in 1966. However, times were difficult, exacerbated by British military withdrawal, which created additional problems of finding jobs for a rapidly expanding population.

The first 10 years after the expulsion from Malaysia saw Lee forge the society that is modern Singapore. It could have been done differently. Colonial Hong Kong, so similar in many ways, prospered as well without the guidance of a “philosopher king” or a “Moses”, as Lee was to be later described. Nonetheless, Lee was very much in charge of the new Singapore and thus deserves the credit, and the blame.

The ingredients included a dominant role for the state. This combined aspects of social democracy, for example in major efforts to improve health and public housing, with “the mandarins know best” attitudes to social and economic activity.

Foreign capital was relied upon to create jobs. This was a pragmatic recognition from the beginning that Singapore lacked the capital and know how to create industries. Meanwhile its entrepot role was, by definition, dependent on the services it could provide to foreigners.

Nationalism was fostered too, which meant infusing an opportunistic, multiracial commercial hub with a Singapore identity, sense of pride, citizenship and separateness. It meant having strong armed forces, a Swiss-style national service and international assertiveness.

For Lee, western notions of liberal democracy, free association, independent trade unions, juries and other aspects of the separation of powers might have proved an obstacle to achieving these nation-building goals. Yet he was well aware that the British had left behind some democratic expectations, and in order to compete economically, Singapore had to present itself to the outside world as a reasonably open as well as competently run state.

Some government intervention in the economy was simply pragmatic. But much of it had political overtones. The state, for example, created what is now the largest commercial bank, the Development Bank of Singapore, though there was never any lack of private ones. Its forced savings scheme was a colonial-era provident fund that was used to generate savings that helped give Singapore the best infrastructure in Asia. The scheme gave the government control over far more money than it needed, thus enabling it to dictate not only the pattern of investment but housing and consumer spending. The nation amassed huge foreign reserves, which underpinned its growth, reflected in a currency that was as strong as the German mark.

Emphasis on education, especially in science, helped Singapore develop as a base for multinationals. Lee’s government was very successful in identifying and fostering growth industries, whether it was the Asiadollar money market in the late 60s, oil exploration, production and refinery services in the 70s, or electronics in the 90s. However, critics – and even some government loyalists – noted a decline in the entrepreneurial spirit. Educated Singaporeans did not create enterprises: they went to work, very efficiently, for ones already created by foreigners, or the government. The administration was both extraordinarily pedantic and uncorrupt. Yet part of Singapore’s prosperity rested on it providing a safe haven for money made corruptly in neighbouring countries, smuggling or drug trafficking.

Intellectually, Lee recognised the importance of money-making. Money brought power. Yet he exhibited the kind of distaste for businessmen common among Chinese mandarins, socialists and intellectuals. Thus Singapore’s indigenous capitalists were kept on a short leash. From time to time prominent examples were made of “misbehaviour”.

For all its potential shortcomings, for all its dependence on the growth of neighbours, the rise of Japan and latterly of China, the reality is that for four decades from 1970 Singapore delivered economic growth rates almost as good as any in booming east Asia. There have been few hiccups. Thanks to the prosperity of its oil-producing neighbours, Singapore rode the oil crises easily. The mid-80s recession necessitated some minor policy adjustments, but generally, once the mould had been established, Singapore’s economic progress was as unruffled as its politics.

Internationally, Lee played a key role in the development of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). At first he had been somewhat suspicious, fearing it could become a vehicle for Indonesian domination, or an expression of pan-Malay identity. However, he soon embraced it as an anti-communist buffer which linked countries with formal ties to the US (Thailand and Philippines) to the anti-communist but “neutral” Indonesia and Malaysia. Anti-communism cemented Singapore’s ties with the US when it badly needed implied protection as well as investment. With ties to Washington and Beijing, Lee helped to ensure that Asean participated fully in the cold war to force Vietnam out of Cambodia.

In practice, politics seldom stood in the way of business opportunities. After all, Singapore was commerce (not ideology) in action. But once the Soviet empire had collapsed, foreign policy emphasis changed to a wholehearted pursuit of economic goals. Again, Singapore was quick to see the advantages of turning ASEAN attention to trade, providing a new raison d’etre for the group. Freer trade was not just good for Singapore but for the region’s ethnic Chinese business community, many of whom saw Singapore as their spiritual home and salted away profits there.

In social as in economic affairs, Lee tried to shape society to an extent attempted perhaps only by Mao Zedong in recent times. What began in the early years as a voluntary family-planning campaign ended up with the state trying to influence marriage choices and “enhance” Singapore’s genetic quality by encouraging graduates to reproduce among themselves. Myriad rules, taxes, incentives and exhortations confronted the citizen. The result was an orderly society, but only marginally freer of crime than Hong Kong. It was a society where people were afraid to speak out. Lee the great debater was now the winner by default, whether in parliament or the courts.

While continuing with parliamentary elections, Lee muzzled the press, international as well as local, and stamped hard on opponents of the PAP. Opposition politicians were hounded by legal actions – often for libel, which Lee invariably won – and bankrupted. Social workers were branded as communists and detained till they confessed, often after coercive treatment.

Quite why Lee, revered as the father of the nation, found it necessary to use such sledgehammers was not clear. In the 50s, the communists were real and ruthless. But as time went on, real threats vanished. Yet the unrelenting ambition did not, and Lee was unable to change his self-image as a political streetfighter, the gang boss who forever had to prove his ruthlessness. Beyond that, he had a sense of insecurity about the future of Singapore after he was gone. Partly this was a sense that society would go soft with success, or, like the Malays, surrender to the easy languor of the tropics. The younger generation knew only success and the cultivation of wealth.

He, with his recollections of Japanese occupation, the expulsion from Malaysia, the potential threat from Indonesia, always imagined the worst. Singapore could not afford gentlemanly disagreements or real debates. The leaders led, and that was it.

Increasingly, there was only one leader. Comrades from the heroic anti-colonial days retired, drifted away or were pushed out – in the case of President Devan Nair in 1985, after a humiliating allegation of alcoholism that he contested. New blood was brought into the PAP, but increasingly it became a tightknit elite. It retained an effective command structure but the mass base eroded.

The so-called second generation had no real political experience but was full of intellectual accomplishment. Goh Chok Tong, who succeeded Lee as prime minister in 1990, was a competent and well-liked bureaucrat, but Lee remained in cabinet as senior minister. In 2004, Lee’s eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, became prime minister, and his father “minister mentor”. He resigned from that cabinet position in May 2011 following an electoral setback when the PAP share of the vote fell to its lowest level since independence. He then took no further part in public life.

Goh had been unable to deliver the “kinder, gentler” Singapore that had been expected. The force of Lee’s personality, the moral authority that he commanded, left him the arbiter of anything he cared about. Like a Mao in miniature, he seemed both to enjoy and have contempt for the adulation that surrounded him. Never a tolerant man, he began to show some of the symptoms of age. International acclaim added to his convictions of his own brilliance and righteousness.

Some saw excesses of personal power, not just in his treatment of opponents but in the rapid promotion of his sons. The Singapore courts silenced a string of suggestions of dynastic politics.

With Goh and Hsien Loong minding day-to-day affairs, Lee was free to devote his energies to the world. He saw in the economic success of East Asia the triumph of “Confucian values”: discipline, order, respect for education and authority over western values of individualism, liberalism and democracy. He even succeeded for a while in promoting Singapore as the centre of “Asian values”. Lee was especially heartened by China’s economic success, defended its political repression and criticised Taiwan’s new-found democracy. China’s success fitted not only with his own philosophy but with the increasing emphasis in Singapore on its predominantly Chinese, as distinct from multiracial, character.

Ethnic prejudice lurked just under Lee’s image of technocratic rationalism. He combined assumptions about Chinese cultural supremacy with belief in genetic theories which influenced social policy in Singapore. But if Lee’s actions were sometimes driven by gut instinct, his head was more often the winner, particularly in international affairs. He could set aside his underlying distaste for America, with its crude culture and populist politics, and his Chinese ethnic sentiments to deliver masterly analyses of regional and global affairs. Only occasionally did he let prejudices get in the way of Singapore’s national interest – which, he clearly saw, lay with keeping US forces in the region.

Perhaps only he could succeed in making oppressive Singapore the main Asian critic of the US commitment to human rights and personal freedoms while ensuring that Singapore remained a key to the strategic plans of American military and multinationals alike.

Mostly – though not always – he could guard his tongue sufficiently to keep his Malay neighbours co-operative. His sheer length of service gave him a regional prestige that only Suharto could match, and his successors would not inherit. Suharto, with 180 million people and a vast archipelago to rule, had a big stage, while Lee gave every sign of regarding Singapore – with a population of 5 million in 700 square kilometres – as far too small for his talents.

Indeed, it was far too small. Its size accounted for his obsession that its every detail, down to choice of roadside trees, fit with his plans or prejudices, as well as his eagerness to advise larger countries on how to run their affairs.

Because of his background and early life, he could operate and dominate in many different milieus, but was totally at home in none of them. That perhaps accounted for his ruthlessness. He had permanent interests, not permanent friends. In sum, always a leader rather than a fullower, he set his own agenda.

Kwa Geok Choo died in October 2010, and Lee is survived by their two sons and a daughter. Lee Hsien Loong continues to be Prime Minister; his brother, Lee Hsien Yang, is chairman of the civil aviation authority; and their sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, is director of the national neuroscience institute.

• Lee Kuan Yew, statesman, born 16 September 1923; died 23 March 2015

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The World will miss Lee Kuan Yew–A Tribute

By Henry A. Kissinger March 23 at 3:43 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-world-will-miss-lee-kuan-yew/2015/03/23/80867914-d172-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html

Henry A. Kissinger was Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977.

lky-kissingerTwo Brilliant Global Strategists

Lee Kuan Yew was a great man. And he was a close personal friend, a fact that I consider one of the great blessings of my life. A world needing to distill order from incipient chaos will miss his leadership.

Lee emerged onto the international stage as the founding father of the state of Singapore, then a city of about 1 million. He developed into a world statesman who acted as a kind of conscience to leaders around the globe.

Fate initially seemed not to have provided him a canvas on which to achieve more than modest local success. In the first phase of decolonization, Singapore emerged as a part of Malaya. It was cut loose because of tensions between Singapore’s largely Chinese population and the Malay majority and, above all, to teach the fractious city a lesson of dependency. Malaya undoubtedly expected that reality would cure Singapore of its independent spirit.

But great men become such through visions beyond material calculations. Lee defied conventional wisdom by opting for statehood. The choice reflected a deep faith in the virtues of his people. He asserted that a city located on a sandbar with nary an economic resource to draw upon, and whose major industry as a colonial naval base had disappeared, could nevertheless thrive and achieve international stature by building on its principal asset: the intelligence, industry and dedication of its people.

Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore and co-founder of the People’s Action Party, has died at age 91. Lee led Singapore’s rise from British tropical outpost to global trade and financial center. (Reuters)

A great leader takes his or her society from where it is to where it has never been — indeed, where it as yet cannot imagine being. By insisting on quality education, by suppressing corruption and by basing governance on merit, Lee and his colleagues raised the annual per capita income of their population from $500 at the time of independence in 1965 to roughly $55,000 today. In a generation, Singapore became an international financial center, the leading intellectual metropolis of Southeast Asia, the location of the region’s major hospitals and a favored site for conferences on international affairs. It did so by adhering to an extraordinary pragmatism: by opening careers to the best talents and encouraging them to adopt the best practices from all over the world.

Superior performance was one component of that achievement. Superior leadership was even more important. As the decades went by, it was moving — and inspirational — to see Lee, in material terms the mayor of a medium-size city, bestride the international scene as a mentor of global strategic order. A visit by Lee to Washington was a kind of national event. A presidential conversation was nearly automatic; eminent members of the Cabinet and Congress would seek meetings. They did so not to hear of Singapore’s national problems; Lee rarely, if ever, lobbied policymakers for assistance. His theme was the indispensable U.S. contribution to the defense and growth of a peaceful world. His interlocutors attended not to be petitioned but to learn from one of the truly profound global thinkers of our time.

This process started for me when Lee visited Harvard in 1967 shortly after becoming prime minister of an independent Singapore. Lee began a meeting with the senior faculty of the School of Public Administration (now the Kennedy School) by inviting comments on the Vietnam War. The faculty, of which I was one dissenting member, was divided primarily on the question of whether President Lyndon Johnson was a war criminal or a psychopath. Lee responded, “You make me sick” — not because he embraced war in a personal sense but because the independence and prosperity of his country depended on the fortitude, unity and resolve of the United States. Singapore was not asking the United States to do something that Singapore would not undertake to the maximum of its ability. But U.S. leadership was needed to supplement and create a framework for order in the world.

Lee elaborated on these themes in the hundreds of encounters I had with him during international conferences, study groups, board meetings, face-to-face discussions and visits at each other’s homes over 45 years. He did not exhort; he was never emotional; he was not a Cold Warrior; he was a pilgrim in quest of world order and responsible leadership. He understood the relevance of China and its looming potential and often contributed to the enlightenment of the world on this subject. But in the end, he insisted that without the United States there could be no stability.

Lee’s domestic methods fell short of the prescriptions of current U.S. constitutional theory. But so, in fairness, did the democracy of Thomas Jefferson’s time, with its limited franchise, property qualifications for voting and slavery. This is not the occasion to debate what other options were available. Had Singapore chosen the road of its critics, it might well have collapsed among its ethnic groups, as the example of Syria teaches today. Whether the structures essential for the early decades of Singapore’s independent existence were unnecessarily prolonged can be the subject of another discussion.

I began this eulogy by mentioning my friendship with Lee. He was not a man of many sentimental words. And he nearly always spoke of substantive matters. But one could sense his attachment. A conversation with Lee, whose life was devoted to service and who spent so much of his time on joint explorations, was a vote of confidence that sustained one’s sense of purpose.

The great tragedy of Lee’s life was that his beloved wife was felled by a stroke that left her a prisoner in her body, unable to communicate or receive communication. Through all that time, Lee sat by her bedside in the evening reading to her. He had faith that she understood despite the evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps this was Lee Kuan Yew’s role in his era. He had the same hope for our world. He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous. But many of us heard him and will never forget him.

President Barack Obama’s Malaysia Problem


March 15, 2015

President Barack Obama’s Malaysia Problem

 

John R. Malott2Former US Ambassador to Malaysia John R. Malott

A former US Ambassador tells why he initiated a petition to free Anwar Ibrahim

 If Not Us, Then Who?

I have always believed that the promotion of democracy and political freedom must be an essential part of American foreign policy. It does not mean that we should sacrifice our other national interests in any country. But to paraphrase Barack Obama’s rhetorical style: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

If America does not stand up for the principles upon which it was founded, then who will? How can we as Americans claim those rights for ourselves, while standing by indifferently as they are denied to others? Are we not prepared to work and sacrifice so that the blessings of liberty are brought to all of God’s children?

America has to stand on the right side of history. It must always stand for the principles that define America’s very existence and which have distinguished it from other nations. It must support those people around the world who believe in the same values that we do, and who only want – today — the same freedoms that we have enjoyed for over two centuries.

So that is why I wrote the petition – as a wakeup call to Obama and his White House. America has to be true to its principles. Convincing Najib to release Anwar and carry out his long-promised reforms is just as important to America’s interests as the TPP, combating ISIS, or anything else that is on the Administration’s “wish list” with Malaysia.

America needs to make Anwar’s freedom, and indeed the freedom of all Malaysians, of all races and religions and political orientation, a priority in its policy towards Malaysia.

If we don’t, then how can we call ourselves Americans?

Malaysia’s Youth Are the Future

In Malaysia’s last two general elections, the voting pattern was clear. The youth of Malaysia have cast their lot with the democratic opposition. And Malaysia’s young people are the future.

A recent survey by the Merdeka Center, an independent polling organization in Malaysia, found that one out of two Malaysians want the political “old guard” to retire and pass the torch to a new and younger generation.

So the two key questions are this. Are America’s policies aligned with the aspirations of the next generation in Malaysia? And when the next generation comes to power, what will they think of us?

Najib and Obama in HawaiiGolfing Buddies–Is Obama obligated to Malaysia’s Najib?

Looking at comments on Malaysia’s various news websites, it is clear that the new generation is skeptical of America. While their parents were conditioned by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed and others to look at the US in Third World terms – as an imperialist nation – the younger generation’s view is different. They think that America is simply and selfishly pursuing its own interests at their expense – and that given a choice between the TPP and democracy in Malaysia, for example, America will choose the TPP every time, so its companies can profit.

This is not knee-jerk anti-Americanism among Malaysia’s next generation. Rather, their views are reinforced by hearing visiting senior Obama Administration officials talk about the importance of concluding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or cooperating to combat ISIS – but not hearing anything about democracy and political freedom. Unless we change our policy, they will remember the pictures of Obama golfing with Najib, at a time when the Leader of the Opposition – the man who 53 percent of Malaysians and almost 70 percent of Malaysia’s young people voted for — was about to face his final legal reckoning and head to prison.

Crossing the 100,000 Mark

So I wrote the petition on February 10 and placed it on the “We, the People” website.It is very rare for any petition on the White House website to reach the magical number of 100,000 signatures. Of the over 141,000 petitions that have been filed since Obama became President in 2009, only 162 of them — about 1/10th of 1 percent — have ever obtained the required number of signatures.   

As of this writing, the petition now has about 114,000 signatures, so we have won, so to speak. The White House is now required to send us a response.

There also was a counter-petition, reportedly launched by UMNO “cyber troopers.” It was pulled from the White House website when it was discovered that the great majority of its signatures – over 60,000 — were fraudulent, generated by a disposable email website that appropriately is called “slipry.net.

When the counter-petition was put back up, those 60,000-plus signatures had been removed. A number of Malaysians commented, ‘phantom voters, phantom signatures. That’s how UMNO tries to stay in power.’ The attempt to defraud the White House became a major embarrassment for Najib’s party and supporters. 

As for the Future…

I am not holding my breath that there will be a sudden “eureka” moment for Obama and his policy towards Malaysia. The White House petition, now so very successful, is just the first of many steps that need to be taken in the United States and around the world to make sure that Najib and the UMNO regime know that the world is watching, and that the con game of the International Good Najib and the Domestic Bad Najib is over. 

The day will come when the world understands that there is only one Najib, and that he leads one of most repressive, racist, and corrupt regimes in Asia. And when that day comes, then hopefully we all will be wearing yellow.    

John R. Malott is a former US career diplomat and was Ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 1998