Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew and the Myth of Trade-Offs

Calvin Cheng rebuts critics on Singapore trading freedom for economic success
By Calvin Cheng, Published The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2015

THE Western press has been relentless in trotting out the opinion that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had built Singapore's undeniable economic success while trading off fundamental civil liberties.

Much as I understand that it is in the West's fundamental DNA to assert certain inalienable freedoms, as a Singaporean, I strenuously object that there has been any such trade-off.

Some of my Western friends who have never lived here for any period of time have sometimes self-righteously proclaimed, no doubt after reading the cliches in the media, that they could never live under the "stifling and draconian" laws that we have.

The Same-Old Criticisms of Singapore
* The Lee Kuan Yew Conundrum

My answer to them is simple: Are you the sort to urinate in public when a toilet isn't available, the sort to vandalise public property, the sort that would leave a mess in a public toilet that you share with others? Are you the sort who would throw rubbish on the streets for others to pick up, the sort that would stick gum on train doors or leave them on the floor to dry up into one ugly black scar on the pavement? Are you perhaps a drug smuggler? Because we execute those. Or maybe you molest women? Because we would whip you. Are you the sort that would get drunk and then get into fights and maybe beat up a stranger in the bar? Back home you may get away with it but if you are that sort, then maybe this place isn't for you.

In short, are you a civilised person who wants to live in a civilised society? Because the things you cannot do in Singapore are precisely the sort that civilised people should not do anyway. If you are, you have nothing to fear.

Or maybe like the Western press has kept saying these few days in their commentaries on Mr Lee, you fear that you could be locked up because we do not have freedom of speech?

Do you want to come here and insult other people's race and religion? Maybe these are fundamental freedoms in your country, but in ours, because we have experienced deadly racial riots at the birth of our country, these are a no-no. But then again, why would you want to purposely offend others?

Or maybe you want to tell lies about our public figures, accuse them of corruption when you have no evidence to back them up, or accuse them of stealing, cheating, or all manner of untruths? If so, then be prepared to be sued for libel. Even if Western societies think that you can say these things about your political figures, we don't and we are better for it.

And those political opponents of Mr Lee who have been bankrupted, allegedly because they were such formidable foes? No such thing. Mr J.B. Jeyeratnam and Dr Chee Soon Juan may be the martyrs much adored by the Western press, but have you heard of Mr Chiam See Tong, the longest-serving opposition Member of Parliament who won five consecutive elections against Mr Lee's People's Action Party? Or Mr Low Thia Khiang, who not only won five consecutive general elections, but in the last one in 2011, also led a team that unseated the incumbent Minister for Foreign Affairs and our first female Cabinet minister?

Both these opposition MPs have never been sued, much less bankrupted. In fact, Mr Chiam won several libel lawsuits against Mr Lee's ministers. You would never have heard of them, or have chosen not to, because it doesn't fit the Western narrative that legitimate opposition was stifled by Mr Lee through lawsuits. It doesn't suit your narrative of trade-offs. The fact is that every single opposition politician successfully sued for libel engaged in the type of politics that we do not want, the kind founded on vicious lies being told in the name of political campaigning.

What about detention without trial? Again and again ad nauseam, the Western press has used the example of Operation Cold Store to bolster its narrative of Mr Lee as an autocrat, where 111 left-wing politicians were arrested on suspicion of being communist in 1964.

But what about Operation Demetrius, where in 1971, 342 persons suspected of being involved with the IRA were detained without trial by the British Army? Or closer to the present where thousands have been interred without trial by the United States in Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of being terrorists? Firstly, detention without trial is not something used only by the Singapore Government, but countries need to make their own judgment about applying such laws when they feel their security is threatened and the normal judicial process is inadequate; in the 1960s and 70s, communists inciting armed revolution were Singapore's greatest threat.

Whether those people were indeed communists will be a question no doubt debated endlessly by historians, in the same way as whether the 342 in Northern Ireland were indeed IRA members, or the thousands in Guantanamo Bay were indeed terrorists.

So where is the trade-off? How are we unfree?

I tell you what freedom is.

Freedom is being able to walk on the streets unmolested in the wee hours in the morning, to be able to leave one's door open and not fear that one would be burgled. Freedom is the woman who can ride buses and trains alone; freedom is not having to avoid certain subway stations after night falls. Freedom is knowing our children can go to school without fear of drugs, or being mowed down by some insane person with a gun. Freedom is knowing that we are not bound by our class, our race, our religion, and we can excel for the individuals that we are - the freedom to accomplish. Freedom is living in one of the least corrupt societies in the world, knowing that our ability to get things done is not going to be limited by our ability to pay someone. Freedom is fresh air and clean streets, because nothing is more inimical to our liberty of movement than being trapped at home because of suffocating smog.

These are the freedoms that Singaporeans have, freedoms that were built on the vision and hard work of Mr Lee, our first Prime Minister. And we have all of these, these liberties, while also being one of the richest countries in the world.

There was no trade-off.

Not for us.

The writer is a media entrepreneur and former Nominated MP

And here is the version published by the Western Press themselves. Hopefully more of these freedom of the press...
Posted by Calvin Cheng on Thursday, March 26, 2015

By gum, the West is wrong about Singapore
By Joyce Hooi, The Business Times, 28 Mar 2015

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose

- Me & Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin

IT must be nice to be Western and superior. It must be nice to judge from afar a grieving and poorly understood nation that is often confused with China. As Singapore came to terms this week with the loss of a titan, the country also came under scrutiny, a great deal of which was admiring in a back-handed way.

After Lee Kuan Yew died, The Guardian newspaper devoted an entire article to his policy on chewing gum. Decades of phenomenal GDP growth, the lowest crime rate in the region and top-notch healthcare, and Westerners are still talking about the friggin' chewing gum. This is like being complimented on your English.

The day Mr Lee's body was moved from the Istana to Parliament House, a wire agency article concluded by saying that the proceedings felt "almost too well organised" to some Singaporeans. This is like being told your English sounds - almost - too polished.

And this week, a Telegraph piece called Singapore "proud and prosperous", but could not resist throwing in "somewhat antiseptic". This almost made me regret learning English.

These articles share a churlish and tired subtext, that Singapore is somehow less of a country because it lacks some kind of personality that foreigners expect this part of the world to have.

The Western lexicon for Asia is a funny thing, and I have a real estate agent's relationship with it. When a house is advertised as having "charm", it means that its toilet doesn't work. When a country in this region is lauded for its "charm", it usually means that its people have a touch-and-go relationship with indoor plumbing.

"Quaint" means paddy fields where white-collar jobs should be. "Plenty of character" means the roads are not paved and you get diarrhoea from the ice cubes.

If this is what "charm" is, Singapore does not need it. And if it is handwoven baskets and barefoot children you want to see, go to another country that was not farsighted nor fortunate enough to avoid being charming.

For a long time, Singapore has been denied the gloss treatment other cosmopolitan cities get. Fifth Avenue is worshipped as a glamorous shrine to shopping, but Orchard Road is frequently portrayed as soulless. When outsiders report on Singapore, words like "gleaming" and "spotless" are used as though they were epithets.

Once in New York City, thanks to my dithering, my husband took too long to order a sandwich at Katz's Deli and got snapped at by one of the legendarily ornery servers. "This is Noo Yawk," the server said, as if that explained everything, and it did.

Likewise, this is Singapore. Everyone is in a hurry and they will hold pre-briefings for briefings, a post-briefing after and a break for a cost-benefit analysis. This is Singapore, this is what made it great. This is also why I became a citizen of this country - because I got tired of "charm".

Besides, if anyone has the right to complain about Singapore, it is the Singaporeans. This right, they have exercised as though it were the Second Amendment and they were Americans. According to Mr Lee, the Singaporean is a "champion grumbler". He said this in 1977, so citizens have been practising for at least 38 years.

These days, the complaining is the loudest it has ever been, and some of it doesn't even make sense. Mr Lee's passing has unearthed old chestnuts about the stifling of creativity and freedoms. This grousing was understandable 15 years ago, but who is stopping you from being creative now?

For how long do you intend to blame the spectre of a man before taking responsibility for the limitations of your own mind? What books have you been unable to gain access to, what TV shows have you been unable to BitTorrent and what poorly informed, anonymous comments on the Internet have you been unable to write?

If any party is censorious and forbidding, it is the society we have allowed ourselves to become, one that drives people into hiding in Perth when they've done something we find unacceptable.

Today, the prevailing attitude is miles away from Mr Lee's hard-driving, survivalist one. Now, people want to trade a few percentage points of GDP growth for the balance of work and life, as though work were not part of life. They want a softer approach to this idea of competition or betterment, a more consensual form of governance.

What the people want, the people will eventually get - that is both the beauty and the horror of democracy.

And such has been the earlier success of Singapore that its people have the middle-class wherewithal to demand change, and the government has the resources to provide it.

Like many other migrants, I came here to escape corruption, injustice and water that came out of taps brown in colour. I came here because I understood this to be a place that rewarded industry and ability while tolerating - if not welcoming - extreme dorkiness.

I've had the luxury of being able to mind my own business, largely because the government had minded everyone's. This is not for everyone, I'm sure, and as Singaporeans clamour for more self-determination, they will get it, if only because tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

I have my reservations about what this country will become, but as for how it came to be, my appreciation is unequivocal, without qualification and unreserved. Thank you, Mr Lee, for Singapore. There was nothing more you could have done.

Amid the tributes, some brickbats and questions
Critics hit out at how Mr Lee governed, tackled opponents, curbed freedoms
The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2015

WHILE many political leaders and commentators around the world have lavished praise on Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his record, there have also been voices of criticism and some have raised questions whether the island he built up has outgrown its founder's methods of running the country.

There are also questions on how Singapore's politics will play out in the years ahead, and how orderly its political succession will be.

While hailing the economic transformation that Mr Lee and his team had wrought, several commentators also labelled Singapore an autocratic state, charging that the people's freedoms had had been curbed in the name of progress.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International urged the next generation of leaders to ensure that their era is marked by what it called genuine respect for human rights and ask the same hard questions Mr Lee himself spoke of in 1964, a few months before Singapore's independence.

"Is this an open, or is this a closed, society? Is it a society where men can preach ideas - novel, unorthodox, heresies, to established churches and established governments - where there is a constant contest for men's hearts and minds on the basis of what is right, of what is just, of what is in the national interests, or is it a closed society where the mass media - the newspapers, the journals, publications, TV, radio… are fed with a constant drone of sycophantic support for a particular orthodox political philosophy?..." Amnesty said, quoting from Mr Lee's speech of the time.

In the most trenchant criticism of Mr Lee, Politico magazine ran a feature called The Curse of Lee Kuan Yew. The article, written by Mr Ben Judah, author of a book on Russian President Vladimir Putin, called Mr Lee "a myth, a global idea - an intellectual cult built around the idea that not all autocrats are bad".

Noting that Mr Putin and former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili are admirers of Mr Lee, it added that since the early 2000s, "the cult of Lee Kuan Yew has been an unmitigated disaster in Eastern Europe, where the example set by Singapore's unapologetic autocrat has helped to rehabilitate and legitimise authoritarianism".

Thanks to the "myth of Singapore", Kremlin elites came to believe - for the first time since the 1980s - that there could be a third way between Western liberal democracy, especially following the path of the European Union, and despotic authoritarian rule, Mr Judah said.

The Guardian of London noted that the last parliamentary elections marked the People's Action Party's (PAP) worst performance, even as it got 60 per cent of the vote and all but six of the 87 seats. The Government responded by changing its tone and expanding programmes to help the less well-off. Even so, the gulf between rich and poor remained vast and had fed discontent, along with living costs and immigration. Controls on Internet news sites have been tightened, it noted.

"Change is overdue," said The Guardian. "A growing number of Singaporeans chafe at Lee-style paternalism and seek to assert their rights. Perhaps the country could one day be the model for a new set of Asian values: social and political liberalisation, rather than cash and control, with freedom and equality celebrated alongside stability."

The New York Times echoed the theme in an article called Singapore, The Nation That Lee Kuan Yew Built, Questions Its Direction.

It said the country's increasingly assertive and demanding electorate are calling for a new social contract, a more consultative government and participatory rule-making.

The paper said issues that were unthinkable in Mr Lee's time now cannot be dismissed so easily, including the prospect that the PAP could split into factions, "a possibility that some believe is beginning to take shape".

Mr Bill Emmott, who as former editor of The Economist had several run-ins with the Singapore Government, also pondered how post-Lee politics would evolve, particularly when it came to leadership transition. "The issue is certainly solvable, especially given an excellent education system and high-quality institutions of all kinds. But Lee's own actions suggest that he harboured doubts."

Autocracy in Singapore? Hardly, says writer
In Singapore, I couldn't chew gum. But at least I never feared for my safety
By Sahana Singh, Published The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2015

BETWEEN my early life in India and my current life in the United States, I spent 14 years in paradise: Singapore.

From clean water and crime-free streets to reliable public transportation and easy access to libraries, the Government anticipates all the basic needs to provide its residents a good quality of life and eliminate the stresses that can impede personal progress.

But in the coverage that followed the death of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on Monday, Western media has painted a very different picture.

They describe a crushing autocrat who chained his people and stripped them of basic freedoms. My experience was quite the contrary. Outside of this tiny island utopia, I never felt more free.

When we first arrived and checked into a hotel, I called room service and asked for a jug of filtered water - a standard health precaution. The hotel employee dismissed my concerns: "You can drink water from the tap in your bathroom."

At first, I was horrified by the suggestion. In India, water filters were as common as TV sets and refrigerators in middle- and upper-class homes. But here, I soon discovered, the state maintained a high-quality water treatment process that delivered purified water nationwide. Not only was Singapore's water drinkable straight from the tap, but it always gushed with good pressure, even on the top floors of the tallest buildings. It was my first introduction to a government that works.

In my first days in Singapore, I worried about safely getting around town, especially with a baby. I had never used local trains and feared ending up in a dangerous neighbourhood.

But what would be reasonable fears for a newcomer in most countries were gratuitous in Singapore. Everywhere were street signs and directions in English, clearly marked and intelligently placed, as if invisible planners were anticipating your next question.

There was no litter in Singapore's streets. Every building looked clean and every walkway looked newly washed. The National Library had numerous branches, stocked with wonderful books. With my baby in a stroller, I could go practically anywhere. It was like an India I had always dreamed of: clean, green and hassle-free.

How was this possible? Singapore gained its independence nearly 20 years after India and, yet, the island nation now boasts a remarkably diverse economy, the world's top airline, clean rivers and a thriving trade port - all achieved in just a few decades. The engine behind that transformation was the governance of Lee Kuan Yew, the man whose vision took this little dot of a city-state "from Third World to First".

But not everyone shared my admiration. At the time, a friend of mine from the US told me nothing could make her move to Singapore: "I would hate to live in a country where my freedoms are curtailed," she declared loftily.

I could only laugh. There I was, freer than anytime I had been in my life. I had just found a job I loved. I could go see a movie with friends and return by myself late at night.

I could fall asleep in a taxi, after reeling off my address, and the driver would safely take me home and gently wake me up.

Singapore maintains an efficient - if strict - judicial system, fundamental to living in a low-crime society while practising individual freedom. I had tasted the real freedom that came with security.

Many point to the price Singapore's citizens and residents pay for achieving that security. The Government imposes strict laws with steep fines and punishments for even minor transgressions: Breaching the ban on selling gum can fetch a fine. Vandalising property can lead to caning.

These kinds of sentences may be an affront to American ideals, but in Singapore, like many Asian countries, ensuring the greater good is paramount to self-determination. Americans, it should be noted, also pay a price for the premium they put on individual liberties.

Westerners ridicule Singapore for restrictions on personal expression and protest, but overlook how the nation provides more freedom than some of the most-lauded democracies.

In Singapore, there was no gun culture like America's or neighbourhoods with street gangs to be avoided.

As my daughter grew older, I could easily let her move around the city with no worries about her safety. Around the country, there are plenty of mosques, churches and temples in close proximity, along with Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist national holidays.

The national government is highly transparent and virtually incorruptible, functioning better than some chaotic, so-called democracies.

And yet the world asked why the average Singaporean, who had good schooling, a job, affordable housing, healthcare, childcare and eldercare don't protest from rooftops?

May Singapore never squander the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew.


Britain can learn a lot from Mr Lee and Singapore
By Colin Cram, Published The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2015

IN A genuine outpouring of grief, Singapore had a week's official mourning for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, its visionary prime minister from 1959 to 1990.

He continued to wield great political influence until 2011.

Around 50 years ago, Singapore was little more than an impoverished swampy island with 1.6 million inhabitants and virtually no natural resources.

Now, with a population of 5.5 million, it has been transformed into the envy of the world.

The statistics speak for themselves. Unemployment is just 2 per cent, Singapore is third in the global education league, possibly the world's healthiest nation and 90 per cent of Singaporeans own their own homes, which are mostly government-built.

Crime levels are almost the lowest in the world, it is one of the least corrupt nations and its streets, public transport and public places are clean.

Singapore is also the top country in which to do business.

It has an almost perpetual government Budget surplus of between zero and 20 per cent of gross domestic product and the sixth-highest purchasing power in the world, twice that of Britain.

What a legacy for Mr Lee.

He describes the factors underpinning Singapore's success in his book, From Third World To First, as wealth creation, huge investment in infrastructure, environment and leisure facilities, building quality homes instead of paying benefits and nurturing talent - as well as the Confucian principle that the family should take responsibility for its members.

Wealth creation has focused on attracting investment and supporting local businesses.

It keeps business taxation low, half that of Britain, and gives generous allowances to start-ups.

Unlike Britain, employment laws favour the employer rather than the employee.

Unlike the proliferation of bodies in Britain, one agency, International Enterprise, actively supports the establishment and development of new businesses and helps them become global.

This was deliberate policy in the 1980s to turn Singapore into a financial centre.

With the increasingly booming economies of South-east Asia and China on its doorstep, Singapore is well placed to make itself attractive to investors and it is seizing the opportunity to take advantage of those markets.

Pharma group GlaxoSmithKline is the latest major business to decide to invest in a regional hub and Ila Technologies has just opened the world's largest diamond greenhouse.

In 2013, Singapore spent 30 times more per head of population on infrastructure than Britain.

Recent investments in leisure and tourism have seen the building of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and the two largest climate-controlled greenhouses in the world.

It has just announced plans to spend $740 million to spruce up the civic district.

Singapore is criticised for its tight controls on media and freedom of speech.

Political and social stability in a diverse nation has been seen as vital to economic success and, after some turmoil in the early 1960s and in neighbouring countries in the 1990s, Mr Lee decided that the Western model of press freedom was potentially divisive.

Singapore's Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, has stated recently that the country is investing in the future for its children and grandchildren, while older economies in the West are creating massive debt for them.

As the son of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, he must be a proud guardian of his father's legacy.

Singapore is increasingly visited by British politicians seeking inspiration.

Could this former colony of Britain prove its salvation?


Sceptical? Think about how you have benefited

SOME may ask if we have gone overboard in grieving over Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death. I say that while the response has been exceptional, it is also justifiable.

As a millennial, I never got to witness Mr Lee's live election speeches, did not experience the period of uncertainty when he implemented controversial policies, and never saw him in person.

Yet, I have received so much from his legacy.

Today, I am able to live in one of the world's safest and richest countries, with all my basic needs fulfilled, because of his population policies that ensured sufficient resources for all.

I feel a sense of global membership because of Mr Lee's bilingual policy that exposed me to a wider variety of cultures and to global affairs.

Thanks to Mr Lee's tree-planting initiatives, which earned us the title of "Garden City", I have received compliments about my homeland while travelling overseas.

I can proudly call myself a Singaporean because of Mr Lee's singular obsession with raising Singapore to greater heights.

So, to anyone who feels sceptical over this period of mourning, take a moment to think about how much you have benefited from Mr Lee's legacy.

His contributions were made a long time ago, but their effects have been long lasting, or, perhaps, even everlasting.

His death does not mark an end but, instead, the start of a new chapter for Singapore.

Hence, let us be filled with zeal in continuing the legacy Mr Lee has left for us.

Tay Yu Qing (Miss)
ST Forum, 28 Mar 2015

Singapore lucky to have Mr Lee, says Chiam
His contributions to S'pore outweighed the criticisms made by the opposition
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2015

MR LEE Kuan Yew's contributions to Singapore outweighed the criticisms made by the opposition, said old adversary Chiam See Tong in a touching tribute yesterday afternoon.

"Singapore is very lucky to have Mr Lee as her first Prime Minister," the leader of the Singapore People's Party told reporters, after paying his last respects to Mr Lee, who is lying in state at Parliament House.

Recounting the first time he met Mr Lee, Mr Chiam said he was struck by how stern he was.

"He said, 'Who is this oppositionist?' I don't think he knew me at that time. And he said, 'Mr Chiam, I'll see you in Parliament.'

"But the way he said it, it was as if he said, 'I'll see you in the boxing ring.' "

An emotional Mr Chiam also acknowledged that Mr Lee was a "great debater", but one who never humiliated him, even during their frequent clashes in the House. "In Parliament, he clobbered me. But... I never lost my dignity or decorum."

Looking back into the hall, where several hundred people were filing past Mr Lee's casket, Mr Chiam murmured: "This is where he worked."

Earlier in the hall, Mr Chiam, who celebrated his 80th birthday two weeks ago, got out of his wheelchair and walked slowly towards Mr Lee's casket.

Supported by his wife, Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam, and Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, he climbed a few steps towards the casket to bid Mr Lee a final farewell.

Dr Balakrishnan later said in a Facebook post that Mr Chiam insisted on climbing the steps, although he was physically infirm. "They had mutual respect for each other's integrity, gumption and unflagging passion."

Mr Chiam's daughter Camilla had also accompanied him to Parliament House.

The family were later received by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching, who clasped Mr Chiam's hand throughout the exchange.

Mr Chiam, the longest-serving opposition MP until 2011, had earlier this week penned a heartfelt condolence letter to PM Lee on his father's death.

In the letter, he said the late Mr Lee was to Singapore what former British prime minister Winston Churchill was to his country. "He was there, just as Britain needed Winston Churchill during World War II - always taking a strategic and long-term view of Singapore."

Mr Chiam added: "His absence from our 50th National Day Parade later this year will be particularly poignant to us."

Strict rules still needed for S'pore to thrive

WE HAVE enjoyed 50 years of Singapore with former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Can we stay the same for the next 50?

As a young Singaporean, I am thankful to be living the Lee Kuan Yew dream.

His authoritarian style left many unhappy but was necessary for the survival of an abandoned nation in 1965.

The nation benefited from his hard-handed policies that he had deemed right.

They have shaped Singapore into the First World country we enjoy today - a privilege we cannot take for granted.

Today, we continue to be a vulnerable country with no resources, and we rely on economic activity and strict governance to survive.

Many have praised Mr Lee for his shrewd methods in developing Singapore, yet, such a style may not be accepted today.

In the same way that harsh (and sometimes unpopular) policies have served us for the past 50 years, strict governance is necessary to ensure the survival of Singapore for the next 50 years, as we have no resources or the freedom for inefficient policies.

But in recent times, some Singaporeans have become increasingly complacent and are pushing for liberal policies, which may work in other countries but not here.

As we mourn the death of our great leader, we now have to ask ourselves: Given that we are still a vulnerable state with no resources, should we liberalise and implement populist policies, or should we give up certain rights for the betterment of the country?

Looking forward, we need a leadership similar to Mr Lee's to implement unpopular but necessary policies that will guide us for the next 50 years.

Mr Lee's harsh policies were effective in the past and will continue to be relevant, popular or not.

Without Mr Lee, let us not be complacent and let us see the merit in unpopular policies, so that we can walk home safely at night, not worry about our next meals, have shelter for our families, and be the efficient and prosperous nation the world continues to envy.

Sim Harng Yi
ST Forum, 26 Mar 2015

Tough love from a caring father

THE political system former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew built during his time was a British parliamentary system in form but truly a Confucian order in substance.

In Confucian ideals, the benevolent leader (emperor) is wise and compassionate and possesses the mandate of heaven (overwhelming popular vote).

The people are highly respectful of their leaders, single-minded in their common purpose and deeply loyal to their nation.

The state is administered by an efficient and educated class of mandarins based on meritocracy and incorruptibility.

There is a merchant class that is prosperous and a peasant class, which is harmonious.

Peace and order (lack of chaos) are the foundation of prosperity and progress.

These were ideals for ancient China, and proven in modern Singapore.

Viewed through Western media and its prescribed "universal" moral standards of governance, Mr Lee and his system have often been unfairly portrayed as oppressive, dictatorial and draconian.

In the East, this is wise, compassionate but strict leadership in the best of Confucian traditions.

In an imperfect world of compromises, many of us with Asian roots would value peace and security above freedom of speech and freedom of the press; economic empowerment before political liberation; and country, community and family before self.

Stop judging Singapore and our founding father by Western ideals (of liberal democracy, absolute freedom of speech, and so on) and you will start to appreciate what we really are and the archetypical benevolent leader that Mr Lee truly was.

As Mr Lee once said, he is answerable to no one, except the then two million lives at stake under his watch.

He did not seek to be popular or loved, but merely to serve his comrades to the best of his ability and up to his last breath.

A loving father who cared enough to be strict with his children, so we may grow up to be hard-working and disciplined, well conditioned to succeed and in harmony.

He knew that unlike large countries, we had no endowments to depend on and would, by default, starve to death if we did not have the will, unity and ability to succeed.

Tough love from a caring father - that is the founding father of Singapore that I know, love and revere for eternity.

Charlie Ang Hwa Leong
ST Forum, 26 Mar 2015

Why overseas S'poreans love Singapore

NOT so long ago, the Government wrung its hands over whether Singaporeans who went overseas were stayers or quitters.

Overseas Singaporeans, including myself at the time, responded that we should be seen as "ambassadors" and not "traitors".

The grief that Singaporeans overseas showed over former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death speaks volumes ("Tears flow as S'poreans abroad gather to watch funeral"; Monday, and "Overseas citizens prepare to watch live telecast of funeral"; Sunday).

Overseas Singaporeans do not love or miss Singapore because of laksa or chicken rice.

What they treasure is the vision of Mr Lee and the political will of his team to stamp out corruption, racism and plutocracy, to build a country that is as meritocratic and successful as possible.

Far from being quitters, Singaporeans overseas are, in fact, better placed than most to see the scourge of poor governance.

They know Singapore is a place where they have plenty of liberties, even if these are not part of textbook "democracy".

There are, of course, naysayers.

We all know Mr Lee had a very hard way of dealing with people he felt were bent on destroying his favourite "child", Singapore.

I ask these naysayers to look around and see if they can find the perfect leader, who has done everything right and is appreciated by all segments of society.

Look at the countries who have shaky governing institutions and no rule of law. These countries are ruled by autocrats who hold the factions together with brutality and bribes.

And once these autocrats are gone, the countries descend into factional fighting and worse.

Saying "thank you" is an inadequate way to show our appreciation to Mr Lee. Still, we thank him for the Singapore we (including those living abroad) call home.

Agnes Sng (Ms)
ST Forum, 1 Apr 2015

No problem with 'lack of freedom'

CRITICS of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's policies and contributions have totally missed the point ("Amid the tributes, some brickbats and questions"; last Friday).

Most of us Singaporeans, the silent majority, do not have a problem with the way Mr Lee governed Singapore.

No government is perfect. The policies Mr Lee and his team implemented were for selfless reasons, only for the good of the people.

I greatly admire the courage of our Government in implementing tough policies, as it was its foresight and its strength in not yielding to populist pressure that brought Singapore to our present state.

I have no problems with the banning of chewing gum or other "inhumane restrictions".

I am grateful that I was able to grow up in Singapore, with the emphasis on the importance of education, a roof over my head, and equal opportunity, even though I came from a poor family. What is the use of freedom if I do not even have a roof over my head and a stable livelihood?

Freedom and democracy as defined in the West are not what I desire if it means one group can freely impose its ideals on another. Freedom must be accompanied by maturity and the expectation that all can behave in a responsible way.

But we are all human and have our weaknesses, so it is impossible to expect this level of accountability among us.

Josephine Leow Ting Ting (Ms)
ST Forum, 1 Apr 2015

Silent majority in half a paradise

I AM one of the "silent majority".

I have never written or blogged or Facebooked about national issues. But there's always a time for it.

I mourn the loss of our national giant, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. My heart is saddened as if I have lost someone close to me. At the same time, my heart is bursting with pride at the unprecedented show of gratitude and patriotism.

If there was one good thing that came out of Mr Lee's death, this must be it. Grieving together has enlarged our horizons and our souls.

Once, as I was leaving my exercise class, I remarked that it was extremely humid outside. Quick as lightning, my exercise mate from Hong Kong told me: "Don't complain, Singapore is half a paradise." She is right. And this, in no small part, is due to the work of Mr Lee, who really could not have done more in his life for this nation.

To the "noisy minority" in relentless search of freedom of speech, political freedom and all, the acid test is this: Have you given 50 per cent of your life for this country? How about 25 per cent, 10 per cent or even 5 per cent? If not, why the noise?

There are always places where such freedom can be found. But together with it, there will be freedom to be discriminated against, freedom to be raped, freedom to be mugged, freedom to be shot - complete freedom.

As for me, I am staying put, humidity and all. I am blessed and proud to be a Singaporean.

Loh Lay San (Madam)
ST Forum, 1 Apr 2015

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