Art must be part of living
“Arts is an ideology with the power to change the course of history. Arts must be part of living.” – Sunflower Chong
This book dedicated to my father Chong Chow Chiap who had edited the paper on Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew.
People said that I have a ‘Love – Hate’ relationship with LKY
When I escaped back from the Middle East in 1983 from my ex-Lebanese husband, I had written a book My Lifelong Dream with poems and my ex-schoolmate said, “Sun Wah are you, Lee Kuan Yew?’ I asked Ker Ern what did he meant by this remark? He said that who will want to read the book because I am not LKY and moreover it is a book putting my thoughts on how life should be and how Singapore should strive forward. He said, “Are you trying to start a new religion?” He told me that I must be out of my mind to try to unite all religions; I might end up in prison. Maybe I would but I don’t care!
I never wanted to be anyone except to be myself and this ME wanted to do a lot for Singapore because Lee Kuan Yew has inspired me. The people who know me said that I have a love hate relationship with this man Lee Kuan Yew. Why? When you were from a poor family in the 50s and 60s, you will understand why we thought so highly of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew even to the stage that he was our savior sent from heaven. At those times we were only concerned of the rice bowl and not the foods for the souls. That idea did not exist till after our stomachs were quite full in the late 70s and especially in the 80s. (Maybe Mr. Lee Kuan Yew should starve all of us so we will not ask too much from him!)
In the 60s, at a very young age, I knew that this man Lee Kuan Yew was going to change all our lives for the better? But obviously, my mother influenced me too.
When election days arrived she will shout to the neighbors, “Ah Soh, this man is going to change our life, we must all vote for him. “ She continued, “Not important that he speaks English, he looks sincere and his face tells me that he will fulfill what he has promised to the people. He is our only hope we must give him the chance to prove to us.” That was what my mother said to the neighbors and all of them believed in my mother and thus made sure that their spouses voted for PAP too.
There were quarrel and fight between them because most of their husband did not like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as he was English educated. The women were more pragmatic and they made the most decision in the family especially when the education of the children were concerned. In our family, only my two elder’s brothers went to Chinese school because my father insisted that his sons must be educated in Chinese. The frenzy too caught up with me in those times although I was too young to vote or even understood what was going on. When Mr. Lee Kuan Yew name was mentioned, everyone got excited as though some magic is in the air, thus he was my hope to change not only my life but also the life of the people.
I came from a very poor family of nine including my father and mother and you got nothing but cling on to hope in those hard and difficult times. This simple naïve dreamer name ‘Sun Wah’ that’s me, saw the strength in Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to build a better tomorrow for all of us and I kept on believing in him, so naturally I loved, admired and respected him in those wonder years as he had delivered what he had promised to the people but he had never promised us food for the soul. Singaporeans heart is without a soul; I put the responsibility on our parents and teachers, not Mr. Lee Kuan Yew personally.
Our failure is that we do not question the system. Through the years we learn how to accept it and in time to come we drink it like a cup of tea and we became what the system wanted us to be. Instead of working hard to reveal its flaws in a diplomatic or subtle way thus help to enlighten the Government, most of us just gave up trying. If we had been pro-active, I believed we don’t need to remake Singapore now because to remake and fix a machine is easy but you are talking about remaking human beings and our way of life. Well, can’t blame the Government way of thinking as they had been fixing us all these while, no wonder we have been known as robots for such a long time! It even had a great joke about Singaporeans being the best robots, even better than the Japanese ones.
My Greatest Fear!
What happened in the Middle East can happen to Singapore too! In the late70s, my Lebanese ex-husband often said that what happened to his country can also happen to our fragile Singapore because we are a multiracial, multireligious and multicultural society. He said that if Lebanon with one race and the country can be broken up into pieces due to religious conflicts, this is a sign that human conflicts had no barriers. He said that what held Singapore together is Fear – “Lee Kuan Yew”. My ex-husband wondered who will hold Singapore together when LKY leaves this world.
I can never forget what my classmate said to me during my secondary school days, “Sun Wah why are you thinking so much for Singapore?” My classmate Chow Kim Seng said, “We got Lee Kuan Yew to think for us, why we should be thinking?” The way he talked as though Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is immortal. So I answered back, “What if he dies because he can’t live forever then what will happen to Singapore?” Can this be one of the reasons why Singapore students were apathy? Through this conversation, I had learned the new word ‘Immortal’ from my teacher. She always smiled at me when she saw me so worked up with Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s future and I questioned to myself why the teachers didn’t care.
In the early 80’s I was so upset with the rumors that Lee Kuan Yew had passed away that triggered me to pen this poem WHAT IF HE DIES? With the help of my father Chong Chow Chiap who did not like Lee Kuan Yew at all.
WHAT IF HE DIES?
Rumors have it that he dies like a bombshell dropping from the sky
What will happen to Singapore, if he really dies?
Roadside rubbish will stack sky high
Mind you! This is only the first sign
Stock market plunged to the bottom
This is a sight not to be forgotten
Property value will go a downward trend
Our money will be drenched
Scarcely have you found anyone dares risk to buy anything
Because this is the time they will run away with everything
Stability starts to shake
Foreign investors will hold their money tight
Unemployment will be a big sign
We are bound to live a miserable life
True facts will reveal
Rumors mongers spread these lies
We are wise
Let us help him to help us to have a happy life!
– Let us change Singapore when he is still alive! – Sunflower Chong
My ex-husband George Youssef Habib told me that great leader creates more leaders but in the case of Singapore we have only obedient followers, this means people without characters and cannot think even for himself or herself, so how can the country excel and go beyond? My mother often said, “How could we depend on this bunch of elitists to protect Singapore?” My ex-husband said that Singapore does not have any strong leaders because the Singapore system only produced robots – Total Obedient. He said the problem lied in the system because it stressed the power of money as ‘god’ that could buy everything and solve all our problems. The human factors are secondary to the stage of no importance in such a rigid system. The system demeans the value of the people intellect! He said that was why Singaporeans do not think except when it concerned MONEY.