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.
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.
(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.”