Every day I am reminded of how many things were left undone. Thirty years ago they provided that no drugs be put on the market which were unsafe for hogs and for cattle. We want to take the radical step of doing the same for human beings. Anyone who says that Woodrow Wilson, as great a President as he was, and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, that they did it all and we have nothing left to do now, is wrong.
One dollar, one vote
When it comes to setting policy, the views of businesses and the rich seem to count for more
GOVERNMENT of the people, by the people and for the people was Abraham Lincoln’s famous mantra. But which people? Do governments respond to the concerns of the average voter or do they merely cater to a privileged elite?
On the face of things, governments have catered largely to the common man over the past few years, at least in the realm of finance. Europe is limiting bankers’ bonuses and discussing a financial-transactions tax that will apply in 11 EU members. In America, Congress passed the blizzard of regulations collectively known as the Dodd-Frank act, which has prompted a lot of grumbling on Wall Street (even though financial-industry lobbyists were heavily involved in the process). Most importantly, regulators throughout the rich world have agreed to higher capital ratios for banks, which will not only make them safer but should (in the long run) limit some of the pay packages that have caused such disquiet.
Yet a new paper* from Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University suggests such moments are rare, in America at least. They use statistical analysis to work out who most influences policy, and the results are depressing for those who believe in democracy. The authors conclude that “Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions: they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.” Those with the biggest influence are the economic elites (defined as those in the top 10% by earning power) and interest groups representing business. By contrast, “mass-based” interest groups such as trade unions have little or no impact.
The authors arrived at this stark conclusion by examining 1,779 surveys of American opinion on policy issues taken between 1981 and 2002. In each case, the surveys had established the income level of respondents. For the views of special-interest groups, the authors used lobbies ranked as powerful in Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” lists plus a further ten industries that spent heavily on lobbying.
In cases where a proposed policy change had low support among the wealthy (one in five in favour), the policy was adopted about 18% of the time. When four in five wealthy people supported a plan, the prospects for adoption rose to 45%. In contrast, it did not matter whether a policy change was backed by the vast majority, or only a tiny minority, of those on average incomes; its chances of adoption were around 30% either way. Business-interest groups, however, were much more successful in getting their way (a similar success rate to the wealthy).
The research does not necessarily show that the average voter is losing out; as it happens, the views of the wealthy and those on average earnings are closely linked (although there is a negative correlation between the views of citizens and business-interest groups).
But the analysis backs up earlier work by Larry Bartels of Princeton, author of a book called “Unequal Democracy”, and the general thesis of the late political scientist, Mancur Olson, that government can be in hock to special interests. This may be truer in America than elsewhere since its campaign-finance laws are so liberal: $6 billion was spent on the 2012 elections. This system forces candidates to spend much of their time raising money from the wealthy and from business. Even if no direct quid pro quos are involved, candidates may simply absorb the views of the better-off by osmosis.
The danger is of a vicious cycle in which politicians adopt policies that favour the better-off; this gives the wealthy more money with which to lobby politicians, which leads to more favourable legislation and so on. The surge in inequality over the last 30 years could perhaps be attributed, in part, to this process.
The flurry of new regulations notwithstanding, many people believe that Wall Street has done rather better than Main Street out of the crisis, even though it was the source of the problem. The Tea Party movement was at first fuelled by resentment of the bank bail-outs of 2008. In Europe, the rise of populist parties may owe something to the same factor.
The risk in the long run is that the excessive influence of the better-off may prompt an overreaction. If resentment grows strong enough to propel populists to power, they may push through policies that are bad not just for the financial sector, but for the economy as a whole.
Workers’ Party (WP) secretary general, Low Thia Khiang, has paid a glowing tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister who passed away earlier this week.
At a specially convened session of Parliament to recognise Mr Lee’s 60 years of life work in helping build the nation, Mr Low described the former as “an extraordinary political leader born out of that turbulent and uncertain era.”
Mr Lee had “traversed among the big countries and promoted Singapore’s values to them and the potential benefits that Singapore could provide.”
“He had won the respect of the leaders of these major powers,” Mr Low said. “Without his efforts, our economy could not have been successful and Singapore could not have achieved its status and its living space today.”
However, Mr Low also tampered his accolades with a word a caution – that Singapore’s progress was achieved on the back of sacrifices made.
“I don’t think that the PAP one-party rule is the key to Singapore’s fast economic development, and strong social cohesion,” Mr Low said. “This is because many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making; and our society has paid the price for it.
“This is why Mr Lee is also a controversial figure in some people’s eyes. He crafted policies based on the situation then, and made rational judgment out of the interests of the country.”
This nonetheless does not mean that the choice and the implementation of policies should just be based on purely pragmatic considerations.
“[It] should also take into consideration human nature and their sensitivity,” Mr Low explained. “Only by doing so can we avoid hurting people’s feelings and creating resentment. If accumulated over a long time, that resentment could become a potential political crisis and affect people’s unity and their identification with the country.”
Mr Low’s remarks seemed to have sparked a mini-rebuttal from one of Mr Lee’s parliamentary colleagues.
indraneeIndranee Rajah, an MP in the late Mr Lee’s constituency of Tanjong Pagar, seemed to have taken umbrage at Mr Low’s remarks about how “many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making.”
“It was not people who were sacrificed but the things which would have made us a lesser people, a lesser country than we are today,” she said, without mentioning Mr Low or his speech.
Singapore gave up “laziness, corruption, division, hatred of other races”, she added.
“The other kind of sacrifice we were asked to make, was to set aside divisions and animosity in the interest of national unity,” Ms Indranee said.
She seemed to have misunderstood what “sacrifice” means which, basically, is to give up one good for a greater one.
And most would agree that laziness, corruption, division, hatred, animosity are not “good”, and indeed these are things to be eradicated, not sacrificed.
Channel Newsasia also picked up Mr Low’s point just minutes after he had delivered his speech in the House.
Studio guest, Devadas Krishnadas, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Future-Moves Group, was asked for his views.
He said Mr Low was not wrong in what he said because “the initial decades of independence saw a trade-off being made between individual freedoms and political space”, among other things.
“But what I think is not controversial is that those sacrifices paid off,” Mr Devadas said, without elaborating.
“And the recognition that sacrifices had to be made is being given today through the Pioneer Generation Package,” he explained.
“A very tangible $8 billion that recognises that that generation did the most and perhaps got the least [out of the] progress of Singapore because by the time we became far more affluent than when we started they [were coming] to the end of their working lives.”
Mr Devadas said that Mr Lee never denied that sacrifices had been made.
“It’s in his books and in his speeches and I think to his credit he was always upfront with saying that there’s a price to be paid, and if we elect to enjoy present pleasures without paying that price, then we have the certainty of paying a higher price in the future,” he said.
Both Ms Indranee and Mr Devadas seemed to have missed completely what Mr Low was driving at, which was a deeper and more profound point – that while Mr Lee had had to make and take decisions based on pragmatic considerations at the time, governance cannot be based just on pragmatism alone.
Because if it were, and if governance was devoid of humaneness or compassion, this will lead to resentment which in turn could break society apart.
This was the point Mr Low was making, and it is an entirely valid and serious point.
This was the point Mr Low was making, and it is an entirely valid and serious point.
While he did not mention specific incidents or names, one would guess that Mr Low was referring to (perhaps at least in part) the political detainees whom Mr Lee had incarcerated under the Internal Security Act (ISA), some of whom had spent decades in detention, without ever being formally charged in a court of law, let alone be allowed to defend themselves in open trial.
To sugar-coat such serious matters by saying it was instead “laziness” and “divisions” which we were asked to sacrifice, and that we are somehow making up for the sacrifices through the Pioneer Generation Package now (even though we have been prosperous many years ago), is to wholly ignore the other side of the Singapore story – the sacrifices of those, besides the victors, who had also played their part in the building of our nation.
Indeed, it is also to do Mr Lee a great discredit to try and whitewash what he himself had openly admitted.
In his book, “Lee Kuan Yew – The Crucial Years”, author Alex Josey quoted Mr Lee [emphasis added by this writer]:
“There were moments in 1964 and in 1965 when we felt that perhaps we were going the way of so many other places in the world.”
“We have departed in quite a number of material aspects, in very material fields, from the principles of justice, and the liberty of the individual.”
“620 criminal detainees… 100 of whom are murderers, kidnappers and armed robbers.”
“To let them out would be to run the very grave risk of undermining the whole social fabric.”
“[There were 620 criminal law supervisees, men] on whom the due process of law were unable to place even an iota of evidence.”
“[Lee admitted that all this was true.] We have had to adjust, to temporarily deviate from ideas and norms. This is a heavy price. We have over a hundred political detainees, men against whom we are unable to prove anything in a court of law… Your life and this dinner would not be what they are if my colleagues and I had decided to play it according to the rules of the game.
“So let us always remember that the price we have had to pay in order to maintain normal standards in the relationship between man and man, man and authority, citizen and citizen, citizen and authority is the detention of the 620 men and women under the Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Ordinance. But it is an expression of an idea when we say Temporary Provisions.”
So, to conclude, Mr Low perhaps was saying that those days of “temporarily deviat[ing] from ideas and norms” are over, and that government today should be more humane, wiser, and open, to prevent the disintegration of society because of seething resentment which could result from the iron-fist method of rule.
And indeed, this is a timely reminder to all of us – that while we express gratitude and respect for Mr Lee at this time, it is also important to see the many facets of the man in perspective, and learn also from his mistakes, and not just from his successes.
Workers’ Party secretary-general, Low Thia Khiang, was criticized for his speech in a special session of Parliament dedicated to commemorating the late Lee Kuan Yew.
In the middle of his speech, Mr Low questioned whether “PAP one-party rule is the key to Singapore’s fast economic development, strong social cohesion and the unitedness.”
He then pointed out that “many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making; and our society has paid the price for it,” and explained: “This is why Mr Lee is also a controversial figure in some people’s eyes.”
(Contrary to reports by AFP, he did not directly call Mr Lee a controversial figure).
Viewers criticised him for making political comments at a time when the nation was still grieving for the loss of their founding father.
Commenting on Facebook, John Amos Tan wrote: “Very disappointed at his speech. Wrong time and wrong topic.”
Mr Low had also pointed out that the PAP’s success in building the nation, while undeniable, has come at a price. He said, “many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making; and our society has paid the price for it.”
Viewers criticised Mr Low for trying to score political points during a eulogy and expressed their disappointment at his failure to give Mr Lee enough credit.
“Very sad. The Opposition refuses to acknowledge all the good things that Lee Kuan Yew has done,” said Ibrahim Hassan.
However, some also praised Mr Low for speaking up for Singaporeans, pointing out that parliament should be a place where different perspectives are challenged.
“The parliament is not a memorial service hall. A parliament speech does not have to be a eulogy singing only praises. Kudos to Low Thia Khiang for daring to speak up and provide a balanced perspective. Time to move on from an era of fear of speaking up and challenging the ruling party,” said David Wong.
Almost two thirds of Mr Low’s speech was dedicated to praising Mr Lee’s achievements. Mr Low credited Mr Lee for making Singapore the prosperous and safe nation that it is today.
Mr Low said: “This is the main reason why Singapore can leap from the Third World to the First World within one generation. The success arose not just from Mr Lee’s extraordinary fighting spirit and his tenacity, but also from his sincerity.”
Towards the end of his speech, he credited Mr Lee for Singapore’s social cohesion despite its diverse population. “Singapore today is united regardless of race, language and religion. This is an achievement that is not possible without Mr Lee,” he said.
At the end of his speech, Mr Low said: “My deepest respect goes to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.”
Singapore’s daily newspaper TODAY misquoted Mr Low as saying: “Mr Lee did what was right, but silencing opposition has risked disconnecting Singaporeans from their own society.” Mr Low did not make this statement.
It has since apologised and corrected the mistake.
Low Thia Khiang is currently the leader of the Workers’ Party (WP).
The WP currently holds 7 out of 86 seats in a PAP-dominated Parliament.
The PAP, People’s Action Party, is Singapore’s ruling party. It has been in power since 1959.
Lee Kuan Yew was the Prime Minister for 31 years from 1959 to 1990. He stepped down thereafter and took up an advisory role in Cabinet.
He left Cabinet in 2011 after the PAP received its lowest share of the total vote, at 60%.
Mr Lee passed away on March 23. He was 91.
His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has declared a seven-day period of mourning.
The PAP government has also revoked the right to demonstrate and hold protests at Hong Lim Park, the only place where Singaporeans may freely do so.
The Straits Times and TODAY paper have also warned users that during this time of mourning, insensitive remarks will be removed and users may be banned.
This comes amid a series of efforts by the government and the government-linked media to set the tone for remembering Lee Kuan Yew.
Experts have also noted that the PAP has largely succeeded in constructing a dominant narrative which it has used as a tool for nation building.
A flurry of articles commemorating Lee Kuan Yew’s life and legacy have been published, reaffirming that narrative.
The full transcript of Mr Low’s speech can be found here.
SINGAPORE - Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the political divide filled Parliament on Thursday in a special session honouring the Republic's first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away on March 23 at the age of 91.
The solemn session was especially poignant with a bouquet of white flowers placed on Mr Lee's empty seat in the House. Most of the MPs were dressed in black and white during this period of mourning.
One speech that differentiated itself from others was by Mr Low Thia Khiang, secretary-general of the Workers' Party, who said that Mr Lee was a "controversial figure in some people's eyes" as many Singaporeans were "sacrificed" during the period of nation-building.
"I do not think that a one-party governance is crucial for the economic prosperity of Singapore, and neither is it key to maintain social cohesion and national unity," Mr Low said in his Mandarin speech.
"In the process of nation-building, some Singaporeans were sacrificed, and our society has paid a price for it," he added, causing a mild stir in the chamber.
However, Mr Low acknowledged Mr Lee's contribution to the nation, and said that he was largely responsible for Singapore's prosperity.
Here are the speeches from other Members of Parliament:
Full speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen:
Today this House mourns the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Mr Lee was our longest serving and most illustrious member. When Mr Lee was admitted to Singapore General Hospital a few weeks ago for pneumonia, Singaporeans from all walks of life, watched anxiously, increasingly worried as his condition worsened.
Paying your last respects at Parliament House
Mr Lee Kuan Yew makes last trip to Parliament
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew
Istana guard: "For one last time, 'MM coming'"
Despite the outpouring of deep wishes and fervent prayers - elderly men and women with arthritic joints knelt and prostrated themselves for his recovery - Mr Lee's chair sits empty today. His loss is deeply felt. A nation cries out in mourning. No one moved Singapore as Mr Lee did - not in life, sickness or death. We in this House, together with all Singaporeans here and abroad, weep that Mr Lee is no longer among us.
Why this deep sorrow for one man? Why do tears flow uncontrollably for thousands on his passing and memory?
Simply put, Singapore would not be what it is today without Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He was that bright night star that guided us all, an impoverished and fearful nation through independence. He envisioned, then drove Singapore to become a success story - as he promised, from "mudflats to a thriving metropolis"1 that countries all over have sought to emulate. Today, Singaporeans hold their passports with confidence and pride.
Mr Lee's vision and tenacity rallied and energised a nation to overcome seemingly unsurmountable odds. He coaxed, pushed Singaporeans to do what was difficult, but ultimately right and good for their long term interests. With his powers of persuasion, his clarity and confidence became ours, the people's - the mark of a great leader.
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2
Click on thumbnail to view photos. Source:
Straits Times, Berita Harian
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 0
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 1
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 2
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 3
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 4
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 5
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 6
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House: Day 2 - 7
Mr Lee is no longer with us, but I believe as many do here, that each generation will discover anew his wisdom in building the sturdy foundations of a thriving Singapore. His life is like a treasure chest. Each visit through his many deeds and words reveals pearls of wisdom and nuggets of sound advice, as I found for this eulogy.
For such a monumental life, any eulogy will fall short and I seek your pardon. But to honour his memory and remind us what his life stood for, I propose to capture the essence of Mr Lee through his speeches - the very words he used in this Parliament.
Even at the dawn of his political career, Mr Lee identified closely with the hopes and aspirations of common Singaporeans. In his first election in 1955, he told the voters of Tanjong Pagar, that out of 25 divisions, he wanted to represent "workers, wage earners and small traders, not wealthy merchants or landlords." This was why he "chose Tanjong Pagar, not Tanglin".
The residents of Tanjong Pagar believed and trusted him and elected him by a handsome margin. Astonishingly, Mr Lee would be returned as their MP for 13 subsequent elections. He would serve as MP for Tanjong Pagar for 60 years from 1955 to 2015, and is the only MP that Tanjong Pagar has ever had. I doubt this record will ever be broken in our Parliamentary history.
But Mr Lee and his Government did not get re-elected time and time again because they dispensed sweet words. Indeed, Mr Lee would often warn voters against silver-tongued politicians offering empty promises. He gained a fearsome reputation as one who eschewed the easier, more popular but ultimately wrong paths, as he recounted in his book, Hard Truths.
Flattery fell flat on him as did lofty but pretentious ideals. For Mr Lee, the acid test for any idea or proposal was how it would make Singapore stronger. If it weakened this country's foundations, he would reject it, even if it was politically incorrect to say so and attracted widespread criticism.
If it would make Singapore better, then no obstacles, no preconceived notions, no preset habits were too deeply entrenched to uproot or overcome. Indeed, he would attack these hindrances squarely and vigorously, to improve our circumstances. That was the Lee Kuan Yew the world knew and respected throughout his political life.
In 1968, an MP asked in Parliament, how the British withdrawal would impact Singapore. Mr Lee told Singaporeans plainly that the British bases made up 20 per cent of the GNP and tens of thousands of jobs would be lost.
To overcome this drastic impact, Singaporeans would have "to adapt and adjust, without any whimpering or wringing of hands, as a way of life which they have been accustomed to over 30 years comes to an end."
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House
Click on thumbnail to view photos. Source:
The Straits Times, AFP, AsiaOne readers
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 0
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 1
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 2
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 3
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 4
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 5
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 6
Singaporeans pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House - 7
When another MP followed and asked if economic aid from the British could ease the effects of the pull-out, Mr Lee's quick and unequivocal rejoinder was that any aid should "not make us dependent on perpetual injections of aid from the outside", that "…we cannot change our attitude to life, that the world does not owe us a living and that we cannot live by the begging bowl... The best way of meeting the problem is to go about it quietly and intelligently discussing our problems in a low key and with as little fuss and bother as possible."
There was steel in the tone of these replies but Mr Lee revealed later in 1999 that he knew how serious the problem really was.
He said: "1968 to 1971… were critical years for our young republic. We knew we either made it or we would fail. We worked hard, we worked smart, and most important we worked as a team. By the time the British withdrew in Oct 1971, we had avoided massive unemployment..."
"With as little fuss as possible" in those critical years would mean a fundamental overhaul of what Singaporeans had indeed become accustomed to but could not afford. To stop the rot, Mr Lee rooted out corruption, and attacked the malaise that afflicted our society and economy. What followed would re-make the work environment, industrial relations, schools, skills upgrading, productivity, defence and security - ridding Singapore of unsavoury, unproductive and unsustainable habits and customs inherited from its past.
A slew of legislative reforms followed in this House. Amendments were made to Employment, Industrial Relations, and Trade Unions Acts that put an end to the disruptive labour strikes. Bills were passed to build technical training institutes, forerunners of today's ITE, Polytechnics and Universities to educate and upgrade the skills of the workforce. Work hours were extended and the number of public holidays slashed. None of these bills was popular.
We in Government and as MPs on the ground know how difficult it is to carry unpopular policies, even if they are right. Why did Mr Lee and his Government choose to persuade Singaporeans to do, again and again, what was necessary but painful? Mr Lee himself provided us the answer. He said in 1968 in this House, "If we were a soft community, then the temptation would be to leave things alone and hope for the best.
Then, only good fortune can save us from the unpleasantness which reason and logic tell us is ahead of us. But we are not an easy-going people. We cannot help thinking, calculating and planning for tomorrow, for next week, for next month, for next year, for the next generation. And it is because we have restless minds, forever probing and testing, seeking new and better solutions to old and new problems, that we have never been, and I trust never shall be, tried and found wanting."
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapo....0x64GTze.dpuf
Note: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own and do not represent any organisation, the editorial team and/or the editor.
The following has been sent to us by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. The reader was sitting in the Stranger’s Gallery at Parliament yesterday and was infuriated at Mr. Low’s speech.
low thia khiang
In his speech at the Special Parliament Session yesterday (see below), Low was one of 11 MPs scheduled to speak. Beginning his speech by complimenting Mr Lee Kuan Yew as an extraordinary political leader, Low went on to talk about how Mr. Lee built the little island up from scratch, and how there was significant progress in Singapore and Singaporean’s lives.
But in between his speech, he craftily sneaked in his criticisms of Mr Lee, 119 words to be exact, to attack Mr Lee for sacrificing Singaporeans during the process of nation building and that he did not take into account human nature and sensitivity.
To most of us, these accusations will seem odd, as we are now witnessing thousands of Singaporeans queuing up to pay their last respects to their founding father. If there was sacrifice, one would imagine that the people readily sacrificed for what they know is the larger purpose of survival, and not because of political beliefs. If there was sacrifice, and it was against humanity, would we see people voluntarily lining up for 8 hours to just say a simple “thank you”?
For sure Low knows this. He is too shrewd to think that parliamentary immunity protects politicians from public opinion. So who was he speaking to?
One possibility is that there is ground unhappiness that the WP is slowly looking too much like their compatriots in white. Local Singaporean blogger Mr. Brown once posted a picture of WP leaders with a caption like, if you stare at the picture long enough, blue looks like white, riding on the black/gold, blue/white dress buzz at that time. This must have gotten into some of the party’s supporters.
Remember how the PAP came about in 1961? The original PAP was infiltrated by communists with the intention of seizing power and creating a red Singapore in support of the growing communist movement at that time. The communists agitated for violence and industrial unrests, to prevent Malaysia from forming. Unable to contain the factions, the PAP split into Barisan Socialis and PAP. The unions that formed much of the political architecture also split because of this, forming the Singapore Association of Trade Unions and NTUC. The Barisan-SATU alliance continued the agenda of violent and unrest, whilst the PAP-NTUC, with less than 20 unions out of the more than 100 unions at that time, focused on economic development and jobs.
(The Barisan also wore white-on-white – familiar?)
Over time, the smaller PAP-NTUC alliance progressed, whilst the Barisan-SATU group, which held most of the ground, dwindled. So what happened to Barisan eventually? It folded into the WP in 1988.
workers party logo
(Barisan Socialis isn’t dead – members folded into the Worker’s Party)
So could it be that Low, the wily politician was playing his chess pieces on this occasion? Dedicating most of his speech to praising Mr Lee, he sneaked in 119 words to also run him down so that at his own party caucus, he can look at his cadres and say, “see, I’ve got balls to scold him even as he laid in his coffin what”.
Whatever it is, I join the rest of my Singaporeans and pay my utmost respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. For us, he gave his life and his greatness is beyond any form of politicking or provocation. Every single blade of grass, every single building, every single Singaporean’s life, we have benefited from his sacrifice.
This is the truest definition of the word sacrifice.
The following is Mr. Low’s speech in full, from Parliamentary records:
“The founding Prime Minister was an extraordinary political leader born out of (a) turbulent and uncertain era. Singapore at that time was a small island and an unnoticeable city. Economically, it relied on entrepreneurial trade. Militarily, it relied on the protection from the British troops.
When Singapore was forced to leave Malaysia, I don’t think many would have believed that Singapore could survive on its own, not to mention to have imagined our achievements today. We all know that during that period the country was to be rebuilt from scratch, and there was high unemployment rate. Our neighbours were not particular friendly either.
To survive we must have a global vision, attract foreign investments and become part of the international market. However this could put Singapore in danger of becoming big countries’ vessel and the pawn in the international political arena which can be sacrificed at any time.
These internal and external challenges were a great test for Mr Lee. With outstanding wisdom and courage, he traversed among the big countries and promoted Singapore’s values to them and the potential benefits that Singapore can provide. He had won the respect of the leaders of these major powers. Without his efforts, our economy could not have been successful and Singapore could not have achieved its status and a living space today.
For a small country to survive, besides a strong military defence, the political space is the key to maintain national interest and survival. In Singapore, fighting for independence and continuous political struggle awakened Singaporeans’ political awareness. In the process of political movements and fighting together, consensus was forged between the people and Mr Lee, as well as a common direction and mutual trust. This is the main reason why Singapore can leap from third world to first world within one generation.
The success arose not just from Mr Lee’s extraordinary fighting spirit and tenacity, but also from his sincerity. However, I don’t think that the PAP one party rule is the key to Singapore’s fast economic development, strong social cohesion and unitedness. This is because many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making and our society has paid a price for it.
This is why Mr Lee is also a controversial figure in some people’s eyes. He crafted policies based on the situation then, and made rational judgements out of the interests of the country, however the choice and implementation of policies is not just a rational decision, it should also take into consideration human nature and the sensitivity. Only by doing so, can we avoid hurting people’s feelings, and creating resentment. If accumulated over a long time the resentment could become a potential political crisis and affect people’s unity and their identification with the country.
From my dealings with Mr Lee in Parliament, I don’t think he was an autocrat who didn’t listen. If you have strong reasons and tight arguments, and can win him over in a thought through policy debate, I think he will consider your views.
I also know he was someone who hated empty-talking because he thought time was precious and there were too many things to do.
Singapore is a multiracial society and every race has its own language and culture. In the early years of nation building everyone hoped to maintain their advantages in this new country. How to manage the various conflicts of interest, unite people and build a national identity was a tremendous challenge.
Countries with similar situations as we were in the early days are still facing the same social conflict brought about by multiracialism, multiculturalism. Some even face the danger of disintegration. Singapore today is united regardless of race, language and religion. This is an achievement that is not possible without Mr Lee. My deepest respect goes to founding prime minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”