I respect Mr. LKY that is for sure. For his tenacity, vision, frugality and ability to make things happen. Reading about the red box nearly brought me to tears to hear about his dedication and frugality. I would be a hypocrite to say that his works means nothing to me, when I have enjoyed my life as a typical middle-class Singaporean, writing about this in my nice comfortable room and enjoying the fruits of our progress throughout the coming 50 years; be it clean water, safe city, effective public transport system, greenery throughout and all the creature comforts that we have that some of our neighboring countries clamor for.
At the same time, I do have to acknowledge that it is not a bed of roses for everyone. To me, it would be most disrespect to “over-praise” his achievements without understanding how they came about and what we have been led to believe over the years. Indeed, I hear once too often many Singaporeans ranting off how LKY took a fishing village and made it Singapore we have today. This is not just disrespectful because they are misrepresenting him and his works but a bit too ignorant of the conditions and life of Singapore in 1965.
Some people thinks that that LKY does not deserve the credit to be the father of Singapore, because not all the work was done by him, I beg to differ. I see his relation to Singapore as how I see Steve Jobs is to Apple. After Steve left Apple, the company went downhill and only revive after Steve was reinstated. Steve didn’t “design” the ipod or iphone, but his vision of what his wants to happen made it happen. Steve was a visionary and ruthless at it, which is why Apple can be so successful and so is LKY. I have no doubts that without LKY visions, charisma, drive and ruthless, I would not have enjoyed much of Singapore as I enjoyed as I grew up in this tiny island.
Many people also criticized him for this ruthlessness and political manipulation starting from Mr. Lim Chin Siong and, of course, many other victims since. All I can say is that I believe Mr. Lee had a vision of what he wanted Singapore to be and he would stop at nothing to prevent that from failing. Without getting Mr. Lim out of the way, LKY could not gain control of PAP and did what he did, and it is indeed unfortunate that he was just better at political manipulation than the next person. And I have no doubts that he was really concerned about Singapore, Singaporean and its survival and this has occupied his mind since the day that his took office. It is around his vision that he did what he thought was the best for Singapore and Singaporeans, i.e. that that PAP was the best party for Singapore and everything must be done to ensure that PAP is and continues to be majority and controlling party because it was the best for Singapore. To its end, many political tools were enacted to ensure the success of PAP, which, I believe, to LKY was the best for the survival of Singapore.
Regarding the climate of political fear and prosecution, it is hard to say what would have happened if we had full democracy from the birth of the nation. Would we still have a Singapore like this or would we still be under-develop with politician fighting in parliament? But because we cannot turn the clock and experiment with an alternative Singapore, it would not be fair to say what would have been better at that point in time. Personally, I wished that everyone had at least a fair and just trial and we know that everything is not what it seems according to what Straits Times or our government in power would say.
Just as the slave system helped built America, the Japanese occupation resulted in a rise of independent South East Asia or the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima stopped Japaneses occupation or that Nazi Germany’s cruel medical experiments brought some new medical insights to the medical world. The reason why airplanes are so safe is also because of the number of air plane disasters over the years that resulted in safer and safer air planes. In many ways, we are all beneficiary of some form of injustice, cruel and deaths; the same can be said about the old man and the rise of Singapore. However, knowing what we know now, would we want to see a repeated of all those forms of death, injustice and cruelty? We cannot turn back the clock, but we can jolly well learn from history and use our new insights and wisdom to make a better world without those historical requisites.
Some people commented that a true leader is prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the whole. I call it a bluff because only if you are willing to sacrifice yourself, your family, children and life for that leader, then you are qualified to say something like that. Also it is my observation that who supported or are indifferent about LKY and PAP’s persecution of political enemies and political gerrymandering are the ones who never had to experience the repression and fear of being on the wrong side of the political divide or the wrong side of law, e.g. 377a. But what is most interested is that folks, not all, impacted by those agenda are not necessarily just an angry bunch of folks ready for revenge. Many of them are even more driven to make a difference to the lives of people around them, to help them, to care for them, especially those persecuted wrongly, discriminated or without a voice.
The old man and his island. The father of Singapore, I salute you for all that you have done, the good and bad, for your dedication, tireless hard work and perseverance of making Singapore a worthy place to be and to stay. For putting Singapore on the map when our size only occupy an alphabet in the maps and for making everyone else wished that they had had a leader such as you in their country.
Thank you and farewell.