Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A peek into the life of Chee Soon Juan

Jeanette Tan,  Mon, Feb 27, 2012 (source: Yahoo)

Every morning, Chee Soon Juan drives his three children to school in his 19-year-old maroon Nissan, the exact model of which he has trouble recalling.

He tells Yahoo! Singapore he still has a car now because it has long been paid for, along with his three-room flat located in one of the oldest estates of Singapore.

There, the secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) spends his mornings at an old desktop computer in the family's shared study, responding to emails, and writing articles, commentaries or books.

Apart from running the SDP, writing, selling and carting his books to bookstores and searching for the occasional foreign university research fellowship, Chee doesn't draw a salary from anywhere.

"I've long left my profession, which is in psychology," said the former National University of Singapore lecturer, who was dismissed and sued in 1993 by then-department head S Vasoo. His loss of the suit later compelled him and his wife to sell and move out of their Jalan Pemimpin house and into his current home.

Asked how he could devote himself purely to politics even with three young mouths to feed, Chee responded, "It's really difficult to commit to both (teaching psychology and politics)... either you get in the whole hog or not at all."

Chee was declared bankrupt in February 2006, after losing two defamation lawsuits to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and being slapped with a hefty $500,000 bill in damages. Because of this, he is unable to stand for elections or travel out of the country without written permission from his official assignee.

More surprising, however, is the fact that despite his circumstances, his wife of 20 years, Huang Chih Mei, doesn't work either. She told Yahoo! Singapore she experienced drawing a full-time salary for a grand total of a week in her life thus far, at a marketing research company.

"After a few days, I felt I didn't like it... It didn't just involve research and data harvesting, but also meeting clients, presentations, socialising," she explained, sharing that even the nature of the research work she did was more commercially-driven than academic, which is what she preferred. After witnessing her successful boss emerge from a messy divorce, the PhD holder became convinced she didn't want that kind of life.

Perhaps, notes Huang, the fact that both her and Chee's relatives are essentially self-sufficient is one that brings relief to them both.

"They (her relatives) don't depend on me, so we have the kind of freedom... we just take care of ourselves," she says, explaining that her parents back in Taiwan are settling down to their retirement with the proceeds of real estate investments her father made in the past, for instance.

Living the simple life

Because neither Chee nor his wife work, the family lives a life that is, well, just about as simple as it can get for that of a beleaguered opposition party politician.

The children — 13-year-old An Lyn, nine-year-old E Lyn and seven-year-old Shaw Hur — are discouraged from playing video or computer games. So instead they make frequent trips to the library, taking out up to six books each time. None of them have smart phones either, says Chee, who himself brandishes a third-generation Nokia — one of those that have coloured screens but lack wireless or GPRS signal receptors.

"As much as possible I want them to get out, see stuff, watch things, listen and talk to people instead of it being just you and that console or that phone," he added. "If you have the time to pick up a phone and fiddle with it, you also have the time to pick up a book and read it."

The Chee children all play the piano as well, having started from between the ages of five and six, spending an hour each practicing in the evenings on a black vertical piano, crammed into the small bedroom that squeezes two double beds together so all five of the Chees can sleep side by side.

After the children return from school in the afternoon, it's straight to the party offices at Jalan Gelenggang, near the Sembawang Hills estate, where Chee meets members of the SDP cadre to discuss the issues of the day. As that goes underway, An Lyn, E Lyn and Shaw Hur sit in their designated "corner" of two tables in the office and do their homework.

Asked if they pick up on what elapses during those meetings, nine-year-old E Lyn says, "I'm not so interested in what he talks about, but sometimes I'm in the room and he talks about something, and I can hear him so sometimes I know what he's about to do."

When asked what her father does, she says, "I know he's a psychologist. But I don't really know what a psychologist is."

Her older sister An Lyn is more politically-savvy than most 13-year-olds, however. She is not only interested in what her father does with the SDP, with Chee professing his oldest daughter to be "an expert" on the concept of democracy, but also says she plans to get involved in politics when she is older.

"I probably would want to do it (politics) next time, before I find a job," she shares. "I don't think many people get to do this, actually!"

For better or for worse?

If one were to think of opposition politicians in Singapore who have had it hard, Chee's name would most likely be the first to come to mind.

Having been jailed more than 10 times ("I've lost count," he says) in the past decade, one might wonder how the rest of his family has handled it.

Instead of being bitter, Huang says she has always been content playing the supporting role in Chee's life.

"I feel that if it's our role to play in life — like you play the lead, I play the supporting (role) — then I will do my part well, and I will try to do my best," she shared.

As their children were very young during the times Chee was jailed, the impact on them was muted.

When asked what it was like and how she felt when her father was jailed, An Lyn mainly said, "I guess I missed him a bit… I can't really remember!"

But Chee acknowledges his activism has played a part in shaping the family's lifestyle.
"For better or worse, but I tend to be biased, and think it's for the better. You make do with what you have — adverse conditions can also be used to teach, so in that sense I don't look back and say whether it's good or bad, but what you make of it. That's the important thing," he said.

"Materially, this is a small place," he said, gesturing around his simply-decorated flat. "I don't have this huge backyard (the kids) can romp around in, (or do) the things that richer families do, but still, you find your own life's pleasures that, in various ways, don't have to take a lot of finances to find that kind of reward or happiness."

Chee is also upfront with his children about why they have to live under certain constraints.
Every time the Chee children leave with Huang for a trip to Taiwan to visit Huang's parents, Chee usually has to explain to them why he is unable to join them.

"I'll tell them I'm bankrupt because I was sued, in very simple terms, and they come around and understand. They know and accept it," he says. "I don't hide it from them, it's not like it's a shameful thing. It's how you deal with it. They understand."

Despite what he has been through, Chee said it was every single experience that has made him the person he is.

"Some (decisions) turn out to be the worst ones ever in life, (and) you look back and say, why did I do it in a certain way, but if you didn't do it, you wouldn't learn from it.

"So in a sense you don't look back and regret because you'll find they were very valuable teaching moments, if you will… This is who you are… and if you do learn from it, you become that much better for it," he said.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Price of Freedom: Francis Khoo Kah Siang, alleged Euro-communist, on BBC, 1978

The late Francis Khoo Kah Siang (23 October 1947 - 20 November 2011), with John Tusa, managing director of BBC World Service from 1986 to 1993, on BBC TV in 1978.

Related: Remembering Francis Khoo Kah Siang

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why PAP ‘old guards’ are not our founding fathers

by Ng Kok Lim (source1, source2)

Dear Straits Times, ESM Goh and Mr Palmer,

I refer to the following Straits Times reports:

  • He worked for Singapore all his life – 4 Feb 2012
  • No ‘dumb cow’ but a vocal critic in the House – 4 Feb 2012
  • PAP founding chairman dies – 4 Feb 2012
  • PAP pioneers remember a fighter – 4 Feb 2012
  • What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye? – 4 Feb 2012
  • Dr Toh ‘of a generation of warriors and builders’ – 6 Feb 2012
  • Minute of silence for late Dr Toh – 15 Feb 2012

  • It is heartening to learn that Dr Toh was the veneer of strength behind his more illustrious colleague Mr Lee Kuan Yew; how he exuded intellectual independence rarely seen in parliament these days and how he truly cared for the people. He embodied all that Singaporeans want in our leaders: strong but not bullying, intellectual rather than just scholarly but above all: truly caring.

    The reports referred to Dr Toh as one of Singapore’s founding fathers who struggled for Singapore’s independence and who manoeuvred against the ‘communists’. Dr Toh’s struggle against supposed ‘communists’ wasn’t a struggle for independence but a struggle for power instead. A struggle for independence has to be against some foreign power whose rule we want to overthrow. We can therefore either speak of independence struggle against British rule before 1963 or against Malaysian rule between 1963 and 1965. Dr Toh and his colleagues didn’t struggle against British rule but used British might instead to wipe out political foes and received power from the British. They also didn’t struggle against Malaysian rule but actively courted Malaysian rule instead. Independence fell onto our laps when we were kicked out of Malaysia by Tunku Abdul Rahman. Is the act of founding one of merely receiving independence or one of fighting for independence? To regard founding simply as receiving independence is to cheapen what founding means. India’s founding for example is more closely associated with Mohandas Ghandi, the leader of their independence movement than with Nehru, their first prime minister. Our founding should similarly be more closely associated with those who fought for our independence than those who merely inherited independence. Several books regard anti-colonialism amongst the local populace as the fundamental reason why Britain granted us self-rule:

  • To defuse hostile sentiments against colonial rule, the colonial government had to accept constitution reformation in 1954 to grant Singapore greater internal self-government [1].
  • The people’s vehement desire for self-government was why Britain had to grant early self-government in order to gain the people’s acquiescence to govern them [2].
  • The trade union movement bore Singapore out of colonialism and into statehood [3].
  • There is little doubt that the exodus of British capital and activity due to strikes and unrest hastened the relinquishing of control over internal affairs [4].

  • It was thus the ordinary workers and students, the so-called ‘leftists’ or ‘pro-communists’ who fought for our independence through trade union and student movements. There was nothing particularly communist about these movements which were driven by genuine worker grievances [5] and discrimination against the Chinese educated [6]. Throughout the world today, there are still people who demonstrate against work place and social injustices such as the 2011 Batam demonstrations for fair wage and the 2011 ethnic Indian demonstrations in Malaysia.

    At that time, many strikes began peacefully but turned violent only because employers hired secret society members to break up strikes which led to scuffles or they were triggered by the police using water cannons to disperse picketers [3]. Even David Marshall didn’t think they were communists but Chinese chauvinists instead [7]. The Malayan Communist Party itself admitted that they had no control over the rioters and even criticised the rioters for being overly militant [8]. The MCP had been outlawed in 1948 and their Singapore operation had been badly crippled by the Special Branch in 1949 so that subsequent riots weren’t communist led but arose out of the spontaneous boiling over of hatred accumulated through years of suffering social injustice.

    As we remember the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, let us not forget that these so-called ‘leftists’ were the ones who resisted the Japanese invasion and who fought a guerrilla warfare with the Japanese throughout the years of Japanese Occupation. They were our true patriots who laid down their lives for Singapore compared to some of the PAP ‘old guards’ who worked for the Japanese instead. Should our founding fathers be those who fought the Japanese or those who worked for the Japanese?

    It is interesting to note that the so-called leftists included luminaries like Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye who contributed much to Singapore education and philanthropy. The former was branded as a communist, prevented from returning to Singapore and forced to live out the rest of his life in China [9]. The latter was stripped of his citizenship and forced to live out his life in Malaysia [10]. How to believe these were hard core communists all out to ruin Singapore? They were businessmen who would have continued to contribute to Singapore’s prosperity had they not been persecuted.

    Many Singaporeans are grateful to the PAP ‘old guards’ and regard them as our founding fathers because they believe the ‘old guards’ took us from Third World to First. The following books suggest that Singapore wasn’t Third World when PAP took over in 1959:

  • In 1960, Singapore’s per capita GDP was $1,330, which gave the country a middle-income status [11].
  • Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy. The King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century. A fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911. Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s. In Aug 1967, speaking to American businessmen in Chicago, Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged that we were already a metropolis [12].
  • Unemployment in 1960 was estimated to be 4.9% [13]

  • The following book suggests that our progress was simply a matter of continuing our colonial tradition of free market adaptation:

  • Development through multinationals required no more than what Singapore had always done historically – respond to changes in the international economy and in foreigner requirements. Accepting foreign enterprise is a continuation of a long tradition of adaptability (since colonial times) [14].

  • The following books suggest that resourcefulness of people, favourable global conditions and luck played a part too:

  • According to the Winsemius Mission: resourcefulness of her people, active industrial promotion by government and close cooperation between employers and labour will allow Singapore to successfully carry out its proposed programme [15].
  • Until 1973, growth was made possible by an expanding world economy unfettered by trade and investment restrictions, supported by trade liberalisation in developed countries that was sparked off by the Kennedy Round of multilateral trade negotiations in the Sixties. Singapore was also given access to industrialised markets under the Generalised System of Preferences [16].
  • Some of Singapore’s economic success must be attributed to luck. For example, it benefited from the oil exploration boom in the region in the early 1970s. Singapore’s leaders were guided by the counsel of the eminent Dutch economist, Dr Albert Winsemius who was struck by the often informally acquired skills of Singapore labourers whom he watched undertaking effective repair jobs with simple tools [17].

  • The following books suggest the indispensability of Dr Winsemius to Singapore’s development:

  • Dr Winsemius and I.F. Tang made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961 [18].
  • With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy [19].
  • The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB [20].

  • The following books suggest that the PAP ‘old guards’ foolishly chose import substitution first but were forced to switch to export industrialisation only when we were kicked out of Malaysia:

  • Singapore at first adopted the industrialisation policy of import substitution, followed after 1966 by the export of labour intensive manufactured goods [21].
  • Singapore’s industrialisation strategy was originally dependent on policies of import substitution within the Malaysian common market, but the attainment of political independence in 1965 led to export industrialisation [22].

  • Import substitution was adopted in the early 1960s in anticipation of the Malayan common market. However, Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 dashing the hopes of the common market, hence an export strategy was promoted instead [23].

    Thus, our development was in accordance to Dr Winsemius and his team’s plans, we avoided the mistake of import substitution only because we were kicked out of Malaysia, we had resourceful people, favourable global conditions, good luck and were merely continuing the good, old colonial tradition of free market adaptation. Thus, many factors contributed to our progress; the notion of the PAP ‘old guards’ singularly dragging us from Third World to First is false.

    Finally, we must also consider the deplorable manner with which the PAP dealt with its political opponents and ask ourselves if these are what we expect of our founding fathers. When PAP detained Barisan leaders during Operation Cold Store for alleged connection to the Brunei anti-Malaysia revolt, the British Commissioner Lord Selkirk and his deputy Philip Moore believed the Barisan had intended to work within constitutional means. Subsequent British investigations found little evidence of the allegation for which Barisan leaders had been detained. Yet, by the time the Barisan leaders were released, the election was over [24]. The operation thus appears politically motivated and lacking in scruple. When David Marshall tried to visit the detainees, he found appalling conditions worse than that experienced by those who were detained in Malaysia and worse than anything ever experienced under the colonial government [25]. How can we associate such cruel methods with our founding fathers?

    The PAP also cracked down on unions for union fund misuse when the funds were used to support families of striking workers and detained union leaders but weren’t properly documented due to poor accounting practices then. One example is Jamit Singh who was charged with misappropriating funds in 1962, jailed and then banished to Malaya. Jamit protested by saying that helping people is a matter of heart, not keeping records. Deputy public prosecutor, Francis Seow subsequently admitted that the trial was intended to reduce Singh’s capacity for ‘political mischief’ [26]. Again, how can we associate such cruel methods with our founding fathers?

    Worst of all are the experiences of Chia Thye Poh and Lim Hock Siew who were locked away / confined for 32 and 18 years respectively. To say that Dr Toh’s service to the nation is at great sacrifice to his career and prospects is to trivialise the sacrifices of those whose best years were taken away from them without ever being tried or convicted.

    In conclusion, there is hardly any good reason to regard the PAP ‘old guards’ as our founding fathers. They inherited rather than fought for our independence and were followers too albeit of Dr Winsemius’ plans. Above all, they were guilty of perpetuating injustices unbefitting of founding fathers.

    Thank you


    Ng Kok Lim

    [1] Derek Heng, Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Singapore in Global History, Page 220
    [2] Karl Hack, Defence and decolonisation in Southeast Asia, page 224
    [3] Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 11
    [4] Chris J Dixon, South East Asia in the world economy, Page 144
    [5] Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 11
    At that time, workers worked 12 to 14 hours a day with only two days leave during Chinese New Year. Of the 1955 strikes, half were sympathy strikes while subsequent ones were mostly economic in nature. The strikes brought about an increase in pay, sick pay and two weeks’ annual leave for workers. Various ordnances between 1955 and 1957 gave workers eight-hour work day and Sunday off, something we take for granted today. The unions sought to address genuine workers’ grievances and to restore their rights and dignity.
    The National Service ruling angered Chinese Middle School students because they were compelled to defend the same British order that had discriminated against them and in which they saw no future. Largely, the Chinese who felt that they were not treated as equals by the British did not feel obliged to serve the colonial government.
    [7] Carl A. Trocki, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Page 127
    [8] C C Chin, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 3
    [9] Robin Ramcharan, Forging a Singaporean statehood, 1965-1995: the contribution of Japan, Page 111
    [10] Edwin Lee, Singapore: the unexpected nation, Page 296
    [11] Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, Page 166
    [12] Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26
    [13] Philip Nalliah Pillai, State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Page 29
    [14] W. G. Huff, The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, Page 36
    [15] R. P. Le Blanc, Singapore. the Socio-Economic Development of a City-State: 1960-1980, Page 14
    [16] R. P. Le Blanc, Singapore. the Socio-Economic Development of a City-State: 1960-1980, Page 22
    [17] Diane K. Mauzy / Robert Stephen Milne, Singapore politics under the People’s Action Party, Page 66
    [18] Ngiam Tong Dow / Simon Tay, A Mandarin and the making of public policy: reflections, Page 66
    [19] Philip Nalliah Pillai, State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Page 30
    [20] Danny M Leipziger, Lessons from East Asia, Page 240
    [21] Jacques Charmes, In-service training: five Asian experiences, Bernard Salomé, Page 21
    [22] Robert Fitzgerald, The Competitive advantages of Far Eastern business, Page 55
    [23] Eddie C. Y. Kuo / Chee Meng Loh / K. S. Raman, Information technology and Singapore society, Page 87
    [24] Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Page 218
    [25] Carl A. Trocki, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Page 121
    [26] Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Page 218-219

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Lee Kuan Yew before and after gaining power



    “But we either believe in democracy or we do not. If we do, then, we must say categorically, without qualification, that no restraint from any democratic processes, other than by the ordinary law of the land, should be allowed. If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, April 27, 1955

    “If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law – if that is not what we have always cried out against in Fascist states – then what is it?. If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies – even those who do not subscribe to our views – as much constitutional rights as you concede yourself.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955

    “If we say that we believe in democracy, if we say that the fabric of a democratic society is one which allows for the free play of idea. Then, in the name of all the gods, give that free play a chance to work within the constitutional framework.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Oct 4, 1956

    “Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love – it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

    “You attack only those whom your Special Branch can definitely say are communists. Then you attack those whom your Special Branch says are aiding communists. Then finally, when you have gone that far, you attack all who oppose you.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

    “Repression can only go up to a point. When it becomes too acute, the instruments of repression, namely the army and the police, have been proved time and time again in history to have turned their guns on their masters.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, May 5, 1959

    “These powers will not be allowed to be used against political opponents within the system who compete for the right to work the system. That is fundamental and basic or the powers will have destroyed the purpose for which they were forged.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew speaking in Parliament on the Preservation of Public Security Act, a precursor to the ISA, Oct 14, 1959

    “I pointed to an article with bold headlines reporting that the police had refused to allow the PAP to hold a rally at Empress Place , and then to the last paragraph where in small type it added the meeting would take place where we were now. I compared this with a prominent report about an SPA rally. This was flagrant bias.”
    - Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew commenting on the Straits Times, 1959.



    “We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two. We will regret the time lost if we do not now take the first tentative steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, 1967

    “I make no apologies that the PAP is the Government and the Government is the PAP.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, Petir, 1982

    “One-man-one-vote is a most difficult form of government.. Results can be erratic.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, Dec 19 1984

    “We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, 1986

    “I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters- who your neighbor is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”
    - Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987

    “It is not the practice, nor will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I’ve got to prove everything against them in a court of law or [produce] evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence of a court of law.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, 1988

    “I’m not intellectually convinced that one-man-one-vote is the best. We practice it because that’s what the British bequeathed us.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, 1994

    “Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, The Man and His Ideas, 1997

    “They say people can think for themselves? Do you honestly believe that the chap who can’t pass primary six knows the consequence of his choice when he answers a question viscerally, on language, culture and religion? But we knew the consequences. We would starve, we would have race riots. We would disintegrate.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

    “If we had considered them serious political figures, we would not have kept them politically alive for so long. We could have bankrupted them earlier.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew on political opposition, Straits Times, Sept 14 2003

    “If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.”
    - Lee Kuan Yew evoking the ghost of Deng Xiaoping whilst endorsing the Tiananmen Square massacre, Straits Times, Aug 17, 2004

    “Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it”
    - Lee Kuan Yew on what would happen if a profligate opposition government touched Singapore ’s vast monetary reserves, Straits Times, Sept 16 2006

    “Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don’t understand this”
    - Lee Kuan Yew on the results of the 2006 election

    Related: here

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Remembering Dr Toh Chin Chye, by Dr Wong Wee Nam

    Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 6, 2012 (source)

    I cannot forget his kind gesture. It was the morning after the 1997 General Election. I had come back at 2 am after the results had been announced that my team had lost. I went straight to bed. At 8 am, the phone rang and woke me up. At the other end was the familiar voice of Dr Toh Chin Chye.

    For the next 45 minutes, he consoled me, gave a lot of encouraging words, and suggested some ideas for the way forward.

    It was really thoughtful of him. After all, who was I that the founding chairman of the PAP should call me up and console me? It further confirmed my impression of him — a very down-to-earth man, with no airs. When he shared an opinion, he would do so as an equal and not as a hectoring lecturer. This is quite unlike many minions of the party whom I know who have always boasted that they could give me tuition on how to fight elections.

    When I was in primary school, I had already heard of Dr Toh Chin Chye. This was because he was representing Rochor, a constituency adjacent to the place I grew up. Furthermore, there was the epic battle between him and the chairman of Barisan Sosialis, Dr Lee Siew Choh, where he won by a mere 89 votes. This had generated a lot of discussions in coffeeshops.

    However, it was not until I went to University and he became the Vice-Chancellor that we met. When he was first posted to the University, there was some disquiet amongst the university community. Why was a minister of the ruling party, especially a party that had introduced the suitability certificate, sent to be the head of the University?

    His appointment prompted me to write an article to the student’s satirical newspaper, The Yakkity Yak. After the publication, I had expected a call from the university administration but none came. Dr Toh was not as intolerant as we thought he would be. The fact that he had even put up with the rebellious Professor Enright said a lot about him.

    Once, a madcap student ran round the corridor below the Administration block and bumped into Dr Toh who was walking to his office. The diminutive Dr Toh was sent flying down with a crash. The student’s face turned green. However, Dr Toh just got up, picked up his briefcase, nodded to the student and carried on walking. He might have been stern but he accepted people.

    In subsequent meetings with him, I found him to be a very open and forthright person. He would not evade difficult and embarrassing questions and would give straight and honest answers on politics, policies, his government’s authoritarianism and even his working relationship with his colleagues. Never did he try to impose his arguments on others by speaking down to them.

    Thus he would not blindly defend any position but would want you to see the difficulty of a position. He would then go on to explore the problem patiently, sometimes taking more than half an hour to do so and explain the rationale behind his thinking. It was not tiresome to listen to him because his thoughts were clear and his reasoning logical.

    In my experience with him, there was not the short fuse that he was reputed to have. Even when he had to put someone down, he did so with finesse. Once, a friend asked him what it would be like to meet Lee Kuan Yew. Dr Toh in his soft voice gently told him, “Lee Kuan Yew doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” In the course of the conversation, this friend had clearly irritated him by his inconsistencies and flip-flopping of opinions.

    His reading of people was uncanny. There was one occasion I had lunch with him and two other friends to tap his expertise on contesting the 1997 General Election. Towards the end of the lunch, he turned to the most vocal celebrity and told him straight, “The other two have already teed off and you still have not put your ball down.”

    People often commented that Dr Toh was a bitter man after he left the PAP and that was why he often spoke out against them. As far as I know, he did not come across to me as such a person. To me, he had never attacked any of his old comrades and when he spoke out against certain policies, it was not because he was bitter but because he sincerely felt they were, in principle, wrong. And he would go at length to explain why.

    Neither did he run down those political opponents of the PAP like J.B. Jeyaretnam and Dr Chee Soon Juan. To him, they had every right to be in politics. He also had great admiration for the late Lim Chin Siong. The moment he started speaking, Dr Toh recalled, the crowd would go into frenzy. That was Lim’s impressive oratorical skill.

    Thus when he went round meeting politicians of all shades and colours, his intention was not to overthrow or inflict vengeance on a party he had founded. Politics was in his blood and he just loved and enjoyed a good political discussion with anyone.

    To Dr Toh, politics is about principles and should not be personal. For him, it was not that we were of different political persuasions but that we were speaking with different voices for Singapore. It is this that reminds us of the founding spirit of Singapore.

    In my years of association with him, I found him a storehouse of political wisdom.

    “To be a politician, you must think and feel like a businessman.”

    “When you corner a person, give him a way out. Even a rat will turn and bite you if there is no way to run,” are some of the political gems.

    I once paid him a visit and he printed a copy of an article from a Fish Farm Forum for me. The article had nothing to do with the fishing industry but was a critical analysis of the ministerial salary when it was first introduced. That is Dr Toh for you — keeping abreast and always willing to share.

    He might be a national leader but he could be very comfortable on the ground. He once went to a friend’s office to taste his wine. My friend told him that he should not have gone there because the office was an abattoir and the stench was terrible. He told my friend it was alright and it was good to try and taste wine in any surroundings.

    Dr Toh Chin Chye might have been a stern man but he was a nice person. This is a man who is known to be calm under critical conditions. We should be thankful to him for his great captaincy, especially during the turbulent times with Malaysia.

    Dr Toh, may you rest in peace.

    Toh Chin Chye and Lee Kuan Yew were cut from the same cloth

    Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 6, 2012 (source)

    With the passing away of Dr Toh Chin Chye, many have come forward to express gratitude for his immense contribution to the country. Some from the opposition and the civil society also have expressed their admiration for him.

    Mr Chiam See Tong for example paid tribute to him saying, "I admire Dr Toh for how he fought for the independence of Singapore from the British, and then helped our country to move forward after our separation from Malaysia. He was the epitome of dedication to and sacrifice for public service, and will be remembered as one of Singapore’s key founding fathers."

    Think Centre, a human rights NGO said, " The Singapore that we and future generations know in history, whom live comfortably in and runs efficiently of today and tomorrow, could not have materialised without Dr Toh Chin Chye's dare to challenge and progressive spirit and doing", in paying tribute to Dr Toh.

    Even the Singapore Democratic Party, which is rarely sympathetic with anything PAP, expressed their condolences to the family of Dr Toh Chin Chye.

    But while we remember and appreciate Dr Toh for his many contributions to the nation, we must not forget that he was only human, which means that there were shades of grey which must be talked about, in remembering the man.

    For example, in 1974, when Dr Toh was the Vice-Chancellor of Singapore University, immigration officers accompanied by riot police conducted a pre-dawn raid at the university's campus, detaining and deporting six students who were active in the University's student union.

    This action was in contrast to what Dr Toh said in his national day message on 3 August 1987, to his constituents in Rochore.

    In his message, Dr Toh lamented that after 30 years, Singapore could still not tolerate dissenting voice. In recalling that he was a dissident once with some others in the PAP, he said that he worked 'hand-in-hand' with the communists and the Marxists.

    When he said that he himself had read Marx, it warranted a reply from Lim Boon Heng, who said, "As far as I know, the young Dr Toh never advocated a Marxist state, nor the classless society", because that statement by Dr Toh, seemed to imply that he was sympathetic to the alleged Marxist Conspirators (or perhaps even believed that they were no conspirators) , who were detained by the government of Singapore in may 1987.

    Another noteworthy incident is, in September 1979, Dr Toh advocated that schizophrenics be sterilised, as he said that that was the only way to prevent schizophrenia from being inherited.

    Being an academic, Dr Toh had probably referred to the studies of Gottesman and Shields and Heston to come to the conclusion that there is a genetic link for schizophrenia, and because he believed in improving the genetic composition of the population, he advocated it.

    The Singapore Medical Association was swift in cautioning against this advocacy for sterilisation by Dr Toh. SMA said that sterilisation for schizophrenics should be voluntary and that they should not be cajoled or coaxed into it.

    A prominent psychiatrist also spoke up against this proposed initiative of Dr Toh saying that the degree of schizophrenia varied from case to case and that there had been cases where the patients had totally recovered. To deny anyone the opportunity of fathering or mothering a child is in itself an added 'burden' which could increase the schizophrenics' suffering, the psychiatrist cautioned, and added, "to deny these people the right to father is not right".

    But Dr Toh was not the only one from his generation of leaders to hold to this belief of improving the gene pool of Singaporeans by discouraging reproduction by persons presumed genetic defects, or of having inheritable undesirable traits.

    Mr Lee Kuan Yew too held to this belief. And this belief was the reason for the anti-natalist 'Stop at Two' policy of the PAP government in the early 60s and 70s; and the Graduate Mothers' Scheme, mooted in 1984.

    This belief in the superior gene pool also gives rise to the belief in racial superiority.

    Speaking at a Chinese New Year celebration, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had said, Singaporeans should accept immigrants or " the population of Chinese Singaporeans in the next generation, 18 to 20 years, will half".

    One need not be surprised that Mr Lee said this because Mr Lee's belief in racial superiority is not new:

    "Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development." – Mr Lee Kuan Yew (27 December 1967)

    History tells us that there were at least two occasions where Mr Lee wanted to resign as Prime Minister, and that Dr Toh could have chosen to become the PM if he had wanted to.

    Would we have seen a different Lee Kuan Yew and a different Toh Chin Chye if the roles had been reversed and Lee Kuan Yew was made to step down from the cabinet earlier for the political renewal process, instead of Dr Toh?

    It was Lee Kuan Yew after all who had said as an opposition leader in 1956:

    "Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they're conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict."

    One must not forget that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Dr Toh Chin Chye were cut from the same cloth, in trying to lionise Dr Toh Chin Chye.