the recent death of Singapore’s Premier, Lee Kuan Yew, I offer some humble
insights and a critique of his achievements and legacy.
Kuan Yew was a visionary, dictator, tactician and shiny kingpin. He
was a political force so fierce that he tamed his country men and
worked his government with all the panache of a circus ringmaster cracking a
into an affluent Chinese family, LKY was a young man going places and his first
port of call was Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge. He studied Law and was
admitted to the bar in the 1950’s. Having studied voraciously and feeling the
pull from his homeland he thought his education would be better served (sushi-style)
on Singaporeans ( snoozing in the
Oriental sunshine was the furthest thing from his mind!).
was a doer and the first thing he did upon returning to Singapore ( still under British rule) was to start up his own political party and challenge the Empire.
The Empire, having relinquished a great many of its colonies by that time,
maintained a stiff upper lip and gave in quietly to independence.
LKY was eventually sworn in as Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959.
to his robust work ethic, he introduced urban renewal, a house building
programme, greater rights for women, educational reform and industrialisation.
Another initiative was the merger with the Federation of Malayasia – but it
proved a bridge too far.
Growing tensions between the Chinese and Malays made
Singapore’s position untenable. LKY withdrew in sadness but was ever more
determined that “Singapore
shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon
the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and
happiness of the people in a most and just equal society."
there were seemingly impenetrable obstacles confronting LKY’s government,
namely that of Singapore’s lack of resources and a limited defence capability.
LKY launched a programme to transform it into a major exporter of finished
goods. He also encouraged foreign
investment and and did his utmost to ensure a rising a standard of living for
was a skilful alchemist and changed Singapore’s fortunes. His primary focus
being on prosperity and less on popularity.
With Incisive thinking and a towering ego (and no challenge from an opposition party !) he birthed an efficiently run country that other island nations could learn a thing
or two from.
As a small islander myself now domiciled in a larger one, I admire
his conviction and courage for stamping out a host of social maladies that hinder economic growth in a number of corrupt and filth ridden
problem I fear is that I have been spoilt and pampered by plain old human
rights. I feel a society is better with them and my sensibilities recoil at the
thought of public floggings. Clean is
good but I balk when it verges on an obsessive, compulsive disorder. LKY’s
regime may be likened to a visit to your uncle’s home where your aunt doesn’t
let you sit on the sofa for fear of creasing the cushions. Excesses can be
wearing to the soul!
"tasteful tyranny" is necessary to combat ignorance and ring in progressive
change. LKY was not a man to wait for ideas to come of age as they did in other First World democracies ((often at the cost of human life).
LKY’s “cruel to be
kind” style of government reaped a rich reward. He was an unapologetic autocrat
and perfectionist. He took Singapore from Third to First world with ruthless
determination and perhaps his way was the only highway.
Singapore is the neat freak of the Indian Ocean and the ultimate stain removal
regime. LKY waged a successful campaign on litter, grime, grease, dust, dirt,
drugs, vulgarity and disrespect. Gum control is what matters here and what you
put into your mouth as much as what comes out of it (spitting/profanity) is a cause for state
concern. Spittle is classified as a toxic substance!
There has never been a need for
a war on terror - blood and human debris are messy - and LKY would have had no
truck with that. Politeness is the order
of the day and, a lack of it together with flagrant disregard of the rules will
attract a public flogging. This is a society where you are named, shamed and
encouraged to report discourtesy. Who wouldn’t welcome a little more civility
from airport check in staff, bank tellers, shopkeepers, tax
inspectors and the like?
presided over a Bonsai kingdom, weeding out dissension and pruning back human
rights (the ones that didn’t fit in with his ideologies!). Vibrant,
out-of-the-box thinking that often gives rise to unique innovation would not be
altogether comfortable in Singapore. Individualism and creativity are a little frowned upon.
Your thoughts are to be kept in check unless you have sought prior permission …....to
may shine like a cubic zirconium in Asia’s crown but this is not a pulsating,
effervescent society. If there were state sponsored lobotomies then Singapore
might be the market leader. However, cyclonic-turbo vacuum cleaners, shears,
strimmers, electric mops, bidets and spitoons would go down a storm.
was the Main Man, both feared and revered. Sweet and sour - he wasn’t
everyone’s cup of (green) tea but he knew a few good tricks on how to build a country.
History will remember LKY's heroic, rigid and gum-slinging style. Current leaders of
chaos (aka third world democracies) please take note of his impressive (and shining)
Labels: World view