What my mother Lim Soon Hing said about LKY?
My mother said that the day LKY dies Singapore will die with him because he loved Singapore so much that he will hug Singapore to the grave:(
Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore he built
I didn’t take things for granted; therefore I do appreciate all the physical aspects I see in Singapore. After Mr. Lee Kuan Yew took over leadership the new Singapore was not something that anyone can pluck from thin air and made it happened, on top of it within such short span of time – 25 years? It was only through a belief with a passion that he had that has made Singapore successful most of the time, even though at a very heavy price of losing our roots, culture, principle and belief system. Nevertheless, I am still grateful and thankful that Singapore got a strong man like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to set the path right for all of us economically, if not, we will not make it, what more to the world stage. Now lies the only question, how effective this system is going to be, to help us succeed beyond the 21st century? And my greatest concern is that can we find an able leader in the near future who can rule with a mind and heart as well?
The urge to keep on searching for knowledge and the need to seek for freedom of self-expression had brought me to write to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. That was the only way I could let out all my doubts and fears for Singapore and I hope that he could hear from an ordinary person first hand and maybe he could understand and help us to excel by giving us some space to breathe. I did not ask much from this man, except for a clean and green city as a child because the intangible should be achieved by us. He had realized my dream of a clean and green city; I was so thankful that I had penned a poem for him of my appreciation of his work for us.
Back in the fifties
Lion City is not like today
Poor are the people
Terrible conditions in those days
Dirty is the streets
When out poured the rain?
Wish I had one
To let it no all not remain
Always dream in my mind
To solve all changes today
Fairy God-Mother there is none
But only the lion they say
My dreams are only fulfilled
When leader he became one day
My love and respect for him
For what he makes our city famous today
Sincerity with honesty he possess
I saw on a speech day
Tiny as I was
I understand all he said
The pain and struggle in him
Has made Lion City a special place to stay
Nothing we can offer
Except for our words of praise
What more can you ask from any man today?
I have great admiration for him
For this man is magic
He had made my dream stay
Same feelings I hope you all have
Let’s not his works go to waste
We have to thank him
For proud people we are today
– I am a very proud Singaporean – Sunflower Chong 1983
What Really Needed To Be Remade – The System Or The Party?
In Singapore when the Government lost votes during an election, then they will start to listen just a little to the people. Is that the way to go in our Nation Building? Or now because of economic survival, as proven the old system is not working well or cracking, then they are willing to open up just a little for us to think and only in the area of economics. In this manner how far can we go as a people and nation?
Let me share with you what Mr. Augustine Tan has written to the Forum in regards to ‘Monet, dons and political economy” (Straits Times 7 August 2003) and I hope the Government will listen to what he got to say.
Monet, Dons And Political Economy
I refer to Dr. Andy Ho’s perceptive column, “Monet’s lessons for NTU dons” (Straits Times 5 Aug 2003), and the recent controversy about jobs going to foreign workers. I am reminded of an earlier controversy involving dons in the early 1960s, viz. The Enright incident. At his augural lecture, the late Professor D.J. Enright described the PAP government’s nation-building efforts as producing a ‘sarong culture’.
The Government’s response then, as now, was robust. The students organized a rally on campus. Professor Tommy Koh was one of the speakers. I also spoke up, appealing for academic responsibility to society and for magnanimity on the part of the Government. To everybody’s credit, especially the government’s, the storm blew over and Prof Enright remained at the University of Singapore. Singapore went on to develop a robust economy, with a strong national identity undergirded by multiracial harmony.
It is interesting that the Nanyang Technological university (NTU) incident is occurring at a time when the Government is promoting diversity in order to encourage creativity – deemed crucial for the next stage of Singapore’s economic development. Intellectual ferment is necessary and research should be industry – and policy-oriented but we encounter the inevitable OB markers – mostly undefined until you are in the hazards.
It would be a pity if academics retreat to their ivory tower. Already the incentive system at our universities discourages industry – relevant and policy research: few care to do such research nowadays. Professors Tan Khee Giap and Chen Kang have steadfastly pursued policy research and forecasts, which have won them public, acclaim though not academic recognition.
They should be encouraged to continue doing so. Many questions have been raised about statistics published by ministries. There are real misgivings about our foreign-talent policy. When economic growth is robust, there is plenty of elbow room and people have no time to gripe. When growth is anemic, discrimination at the workplace will become more obvious and frustrations will grow. I wish the Government could hear what people are saying privately.
I was fantasizing recently about a speech I would make if I were still in Parliament. However, it shall remain fantasy because I no longer have parliamentary immunity. I do not wish to be castrated, albeit with surgical precision.
Augustine H.H. Tan
(MP for Whampoa for 21 years until 1991)
This is how we should remake Singapore with the intellectual taking their rightful place like what the Dons from NTU had done in the survey about the jobs going to foreign workers? Instead, the Government pounded on them like a lion with its sharp claws, ever ready to attack. One minute they say that no issue is out of bound and then next minute the Government change their mind. What’s wrong with them I wondered? All these decades we were treated like a product or robot and our job was to produce what the system wanted. In the process of Remaking Singapore, the Government is doing it externally, just like the upgrading of the HDB flats. Now the people of Singapore wanted more by demanding it in a civil way and this should be encouraged instead it was otherwise. The people had shown the maturity, therefore the Government should listen and try to accommodate not for the sake of accommodating but more so because that is the right way for Singapore forward to be the new renaissance city’
We need to tune the brain to think positive and challenge oneself against all odds. We cannot afford to have the next generation with this kind of attitude and mentality that they don’t need to think and take responsibility for Singapore’s future because when they don’t think they wouldn’t be able to feel and if they have no feeling they are not connected to their soul? How could we build a great nation without souls? I hated when the Government drummed into the people mind that we needed to survive like living is a toll for humanity. The Government constant catch phrase is to ‘catch up’ in order for Singapore to survive. Very sad to say that our way of catching up with others is not by nurturing the minds of the people, instead the Government believed by opening up our economy is the only way for Singapore to survive and we have been doing it for almost 40 years. Isn’t it time to change course if we do not want to Remake Singapore again? Let me share with you the views from a young Singaporean Jonathan Koh who got doubt about the Government intention in Remaking Singapore?
Chua Lee Hoong (“Use your Brain!” ST, 19 June 2003) was correct in asserting that the ultimate aim of our Government is, and any change that results from the whole Remaking Singapore process will be due to, “economic survival.” So far so good. Almost at least. Who could disagree that economic prosperity is important? However, a question needs to be raised here. That is, should the “ultimate” aim of a person’s life and our Government’s policies be to merely maximize our economic prosperity?
Whether this should be the case or not, it is the case. As Miss Chua wrote, the Remaking Singapore Committee (RSC) isn’t about “making Singapore kinder and gentler, or more gracious, or less stressful – except insofar as these will aid Singapore’s long-term survival.” Indeed, as she had also pointed out, the Remaking Singapore Committee (RSC) – and the political and social policy changes recommended by it – is secondary to the Economic Review Committee (ERC). All this means that the government will only take into serious consideration implementing those recommendations that will promote the economy.
So far, discussions have worked out like this: Since the economy is of utmost priority, only those social and political changes that will result in a more prosperous economy will be implemented. This can be seen in Trade and Information Minister George Yeo’s dismissal of a five-day workweek for civil servants. The Remaking Singapore Committee (RSC) had recommended such a policy as it felt people needed to have balance in their lives – and have space and time for other pursuits in life – rather than working all the time. Unfortunately, balance in life among Singaporeans is not something the government wants to cultivate in its citizens as this may harm our economic prosperity and competitiveness. Here, economic aims are placed above social aims. It is no big wonder that Singapore boasts one of the highest rates in terms of those migrating overseas. It also doesn’t surprise me that many of my friends plan to stay on in Australia after their studies, as life is more relaxing and enjoyable here.
One wonders why we’ve wasted the time and effort of the many people involved in the Remaking Singapore Committee (RSC). Are its recommendations given a serious thought? Was the five-day workweek proposal ever seriously discussed and considered? Probably not, judging from the quick rebuttal by Mr. Yeo. Perhaps the much talked about OB markers apply here. Maybe we should have told those involved in the Remaking Singapore Committee (RSC) that there’s one OB marker for them to observe: Recommendations that do not ultimately bolster our economy are out of bounce so don’t waste your time. Yes, that means social and political policies that may have a chance of hindering economic growth is out of the question. A kinder, gentler, less stressful Singapore and Singaporean? No thanks. It’s all about the economy, stupid.
This is the reason why political control by Singapore Government is slowly loosening up. It’s not because the Government is starting to listen to us and suddenly wants to give us our political liberties to satisfy our demands. But rather, conventional belief is that the market needs to take more control and have its say. Power needs to – and the current Singapore government position is that it will make sure that it will – gradually move from the state to the market. There is no alternative, so we’re often told if a country wants to keep in tune with the global economy. Restrictions have got to go so that self-interested freedom may be allowed to reign for the common economic good of the nation. Again, it’s about the economy.
Admittedly, increasing political freedom granted to us by the Government – even if done so in the name of promoting our economy – is definitely something desirable. Indeed, such would be popular with the people. After all, we’re a nation yearning to have a greater say in our lives. We constantly hear of Singaporeans complaining that the Government sets too many rules, controls us too much and imposes too many limits upon our freedom. The fact that the Government is changing in this area is good. Less state and authoritarian control in political matters are good for the people and democracy. Less state control in economic matters – accompanied by the power given to the market – is also good, but only to a certain extent. What do I mean by only to a certain extent? I’m afraid that Singaporeans equate freedom in the political realm with freedom in the economic realm. When we’re told that we should learn not to expect the government to help us all the time, many of us think, “Yes, that’s what we’ve been waiting for. We want our freedom and independence.” We equate such expectations with increasing political freedom and liberty, and think that such freedoms are given in the economic realm – that is, leaving it all up to the market – should be just as good as the freedom we so long for in the political realm. But leaving it all to the market, contrary to pro-capitalistic globalization advocates, is not all that desirable. The truth is that pure capitalism and globalization has resulted in increasing inequalities. Such an economic and global system produces winners, but also losers. And it is understood that the losers aren’t always those who have not worked hard enough. Indeed, the game of meritocracy doesn’t always work fairly or justly in this global economy. As the 1999 Human Development Report states, “When the market goes too far in dominating social and political outcomes, the opportunities and rewards of economic globalization spread unequally and inequitably – concentrating power and wealth in a select group of people, nations, and corporations, marginalizing the others.”
What is thus urgently needed in this age of increasing globalization and resulting inequalities isn’t for the Government to let go of its responsibilities and let the invisible hand of the market dictate our economy in the name of meritocracy and freedom. Indeed, we shouldn’t allow prosperity and the economy to be our only or ultimate aim. Social solidarity is needed, as much as prosperity. We need to show compassion to those who lose out in this global economy. The call is not to move towards market fundamentalism (with its emphasis on individual responsibility, but lack of compassionate welfare for the poor) in reaction to forms of statism (with its emphasis on communalism and solidarity, but lack of incentives to inspire growth). We still need our Government active in the economic realm – especially as it relates to the losers. A balance is called for that takes into account, on the one hand, the importance of incentives and markets to inspire entrepreneurship and economic prosperity and yet on the other hand, the importance of compassion and social solidarity and so provide welfare for the poor and other losers.
Should economic prosperity be the ultimate aim of our remade Singapore? If so, then let us continue in placing our economic aims above that of our social aims, as we’re doing now. However, if we continue as such, then we are no different from the unmade Singapore. After all, our values and aims remain the same. It’s just the way to get there that is being remade. My vision of a remade Singapore is one in which values matter. Yes, I do want a kinder, gentler and more gracious Singapore. Yet I do not believe that such social aims are inconsistent or need to be subordinated to economic aims. A balance needs to be sought. That may mean some sacrifice on both sides. The idea of a purely value-full Singapore may need to be tempered by the realism of the need for economic survival or prosperity. But the opposite is true too: the goal of economic survival alone is barren and sterile without the youthful exuberance that idealism brings.
Is Patience a Virtue or a Setback for a Young Nation like Singapore?
Dr. Tan Chi Chiu said that patience is a virtue and he said that we must, therefore, be patient, continue to engage and be expectant. Haven’t Singaporeans been waiting patiently for almost 40 years for more political openness, so how long more is the PAP government going to make the people wait? I expected for positive change until my neck almost grown like the ‘giraffe’. Isn’t 38 years long enough for the Government to have some trust in the people? (I am not asking for myself but more so for all the intellectuals people as they lacked the courage to speak up for they got much to lose while I got nothing to lose because I got nothing to my name except gut, confidence, and determination. But they are the ones with much to offer to Singapore if only they got the gut, confident in themselves.) Why must the Government snap our wings when the people desire are to fly and as high as possible and as far as we can in every aspect of our life? This should be the first mindset change from the Government in the Remaking Singapore to allow the people to excel without telling the people where they wanted us to excel in? Therefore, the Government got to go to the root cause of the problems (Just like the Palestinian and Israel conflicts) and find out why Singaporeans can’t think out of a box and too afraid to speak up or even to give ideas and suggestions to the Government?
I strongly believe once Singaporeans acquired the understanding that “To free your mind, is to free your soul”- Sunflower Chong, Singaporeans will raise up where revolutionary ideas will sprout out from this tiny little red dot that we could be proud of. (The CPF system and the yellow boxes that others countries have adopted were one good example.) I am not afraid to lose money and time in pursuit of my dreams and aspirations for the people, whereby we have no fear to fight for a stronger and freer Singapore where all our minds are free to explore and roam because I am confident that I will never lose my richness in my heart and mind. If the Government is really serious to Remake Singapore, firstly they must give the people the opportunity to Learn and Grow? Let our Vision speak to the world, the foreign firms can do the skill work but for heaven sake allows the creative ideas to come from the souls of the people – this is the first step in nation building. If the Government doesn’t give the people the opportunity to participate how could the people ever learn and grow? On the other hand, they expect the people to excel to give pride to Singapore, how? I am so confused in trying to understand the need of the PAP Government for Singapore?
Justin Ker Ruixin a passionate Singaporean who wrote ‘No Choice But To Survive’ from Pittsburgh, US in regards to Remaking Singapore was trying to tell us that it is important for Singapore to have creative thinkers and visionaries. He said that in Singapore, society would be exciting, percolating with new ideas, discoveries, and debate. In that permutation of the future, it will not be about having products ‘Made in Singapore’, but rather having products with the label ‘Created in Singapore’. After reading what he got to say about Singapore’s future, I hope the Government knows what steps they must take to get Singapore to be a new renaissance city?
No Choice But To Survive
I enjoyed Sumiko Tan’s article, Is There A future For Singapore? (August 17, 03), and felt heartened – albeit worried – by her conclusion that what lies in Singaporeans’ own actions.
As a soon-to-be university graduate, unemployment and economic malaise await my return home to Singapore. But increasingly, I find myself feeling confident about Singapore’s future, if only because we have no choice but to survive: The harsh simplicity of this fact has been, and I suspect will be a sea change in our economic and social landscapes, in our attitudes and ethos as we respond and adapt.
The old ‘through train’ from top 10 school to middle management has already atrophied, and we are quickly learning that mere competence is insufficient to prevent capital and job flight. A case in point is Singapore’s attempts to develop an animation industry. Currently, Japanese and American animators create the script, characters and draw a few of the important frames. The incomplete animation is then sent to South Korea, where the filler scenes are drawn in, for half the cost of an animation entirely drawn in Japan or the United States.
Major animation shows like Spirited Away and The Simpsons are produced in this way. But before we can even compete with Korea, Singapore has already been undercut by the Philippines in terms of both output and cost. Singapore needs to be one creating the original story arc, the new product itself. We cannot survive by drawing fillers. This analogy applies to the IT, manufacturing and financial services industries. Imagine if we citizens took the lead.
In Singapore, society will be exciting, percolating with new ideas, discoveries, and debate. In that permutation of the future, it will not be about having products ‘Made in Singapore’, but rather having products with the label ‘Created in Singapore’. This recession might force someone out of his comfort zone, to direct a movie, to seek his riches in Ho Chi Minh City, the meaning of life in Phnom Penh, to create a new computer program, a book or an entire untapped industry.
How do we get there? I think the journey has already begun, with the university graduate hawkers, and all those who are doing something they never planned, searching for their own niche and enterprise. It may be a more useful question to ask: What will this society become as a result of their actions? This recession may perhaps be the ultimate Remaking Singapore Committee yet.
The Government must Listen and Support the people aspirations as this is what nation building is all about – ‘About The People As A Nation and Not About PAP Survival As A Party’. Singaporeans would like to see Singapore not so much as an economy first but more as a culture and community. Without a strong foundation as a nation, our economic strength can be broken easily. Singapore got a lot of great talents but unfortunately, under such an environment they will not give the opportunity to excel like in the case of Mr. Kuo Pao Kun. His vision to integrate cultures is a great vision but unfortunately, it cannot be measured by dollar and cent, but only by an intangible term like building human understanding, tolerance to reach harmony for the world. It was very sad for me to watch when he called upon the audience to share our folk songs and most of us just looked at him because there was not much we could offer in this area. I beg the Government to hear us that we want to create a Singapore that everyone will be proud of and others around the world can’t wait to come here to play a part in making it happen.
Almost 40 years of nation building the people felt lost and confused and we need the new campaign to stitch a piece of cloth to remind us that we are the fabrics of the nation? If the PAP government came out with these ideas as nation building it is only a facade change or a touch up like the upgrading of the HDB flats? Instead of piling the foundation in the heart, soul, and mind of the citizens by giving the people more respect, trust and say the Government is calling for the people participation to stitch a piece of cloth and this is nation building? As a Singaporean, I am really worried and concerned indeed. For example, my ex-husband had decided everything on his own how our life should be and when he asked me what we should order for dinner, I answered back with contempt, “Since you have made all the decision why should you bothered to ask me what we should eat! I don’t care less? It is a very long story and I could write a book about it but to cut the story short I decided to leave him after he bit me for not respecting me as his partner in life! But he said that he loved me that was why he bit me; just like the PAP Government, they loved the people so much that they can’t let go because they need to protect us to give us a good life by not opening the ‘Political Doors’? What is a good life when you do not have the freedom to speak your mind?
If Remaking Singapore is to be successful, I strongly believe the Government first step is to have the courage and confidence to open up the society politically? To have a vibrant Singapore, politically awareness and interest is part of the process. In short, to be interested to be interesting, so do we want to have an interesting Singapore where all minds are free to speak up without fear? How could Singapore be interesting if politics is still a taboos subject? Thus, we must go to the core of our problem and find out why Singaporeans could not think out of a box and the people got to wait for the Government to give them permission to think out of the box! I strongly believe when you love Singapore you will go the mile to get your message across with the hope that the Government will hear us. If they don’t hear, No problem la, it is not the end of the world for me? They who refused to listen got much to lose while I got a lot to gain, as I don’t need to spend any more money on R&D because developing Great Architecture needs R&D too? Well, then I will get back to basis like most Singaporeans. Nevertheless, I should come forward to contribute and make a difference in whatever way I know how to reach the ears of the Government that things got to change if we want Singapore to be relevant to the future’s world?
All I can say is that if Mr. Lee Kuan Yew really believed this is a period that we need all these mavericks, I have the answer for him – ‘Open Up The Society Politically’ because that is what a democratic society held dearly as a belief? We need to fight for a more level playing field. For such an outcome to occur, a political system and bureaucracy that are responsive to the evolving needs of the citizenry are important causal factors. The leveling of the playing field should also involve the enlargement of public space for non-partisan discourse on issues of public interest. For important advances to occur in this evolution, restrictions placed on civil-society organizations, especially those imposed but overly restrictive legislation, should be relaxed, if not removed. Has the Remaking Singapore Committee included all these in their provision?
In political say or freedom of self-expression, we still got a long way to go to get our voice heard, but nevertheless, Singaporeans should not give up to convince the Government to give us the space to develop in this area. I believe Mr. Koshy had hit it on the nail by saying that a thinking citizenry will certainly be more of a challenge to govern, therefore the Government still refuse to open up the society politically because they are not prepared to take this challenge, which is vital for Singapore success if we wanted to excel and not just survive. Mr. Thomas Koshy had written to the forum and I hope the Government will listen to what he got to say?
Why Have OB Markers?
I refer to the Insight article on OB markers revisited (ST, 21 June 03). What concerns me are the consequences of having out – of bounds, or OB, markers.
In such an environment, is it any surprise that there is a stifling of an entrepreneurial drive? The idea that some things cannot be challenged is surely not the mentality of a risk-taker.
Sterility and lack of creativity are surely tied to the decision to tell people what they can and can’t think about. Not to mention a feeling of being an alien in one’s place of abode. Are apathy and lack of awareness among the public not clearly linked to being told what one can or cannot think about? After all, if you are not interested in what I have to say about the most important of issues, why should I bother saying anything at all? Shall I limit my comments to bus-fare hikes and the new train line? Indeed, these are the sorts of discussions, which engage the nation presently. Is a lack of social cohesion a surprise? Avoiding public discussion of what is considered explosive issues only means that the society never gets a chance to grow in understanding. How long are people supposed to be protected from their own supposed irrationality?
The idea that one should not think about some things because otherwise there will be trouble stems from a patronizing view of the mass of society. Maybe it is valid. I really can’t say I know. But again, not discussing things openly does not mean that people don’t have opinions. It does not mean that issues will go away. All it means is that there is an artificial environment of people living beside each other but not with each other.
Strange ideas grow in strength because they are not challenged in open discussion. For what is not aired in open discussion will be whispered among like-thinking people in corridors. Woeful it will be when somehow these ideas gain momentum despite attempts to control the ideas that can be circulated. When I think about the basis for a belief in the need for OB markers, what comes to mind is a father with a brood of children who aren’t really able to think straight and make the right choices. So the father draws lines and says, thus far but no further.
Whether this is a true portrayal of Singapore society, I cannot say. I do know that I am not a child and have little interest in discussing things when treated like one. As for the rest of the society, as long as the father goes on treating them as children, he can only expect that they will behave like children. To treat them as children and then expect them to be creative entrepreneurial individuals with passionate opinions on issues seems misguided to me.
Sensitive Debates Have To Be Handled With Care But…No Issue Is Really Out Of Bounds
We refer to the letter, “Why have OB markers?” by Mr. Thomas Koshy (ST, 26 June 03). We agree with Mr. Koshy when he says, “avoiding public discussion of what is considered explosive issues only means that society never gets a chance to grow in understanding”.
Singaporeans, we believe, should not shrink from speaking up on issues of concern to them. Government leaders, we think, should also temper their responses to these comments if they are made in goodwill and in the interest of furthering public discourse. Indeed, our sense that we have already made considerable progress along this road, with more and more people speaking up, as reflected in the letters to this newspaper. Mr. Koshy, however, seems to have misunderstood our position on the out-of-bounds, or OB markers when he said that it amounts to telling people what they can and cannot think about.
Every society or community recognizes some issues as being especially sensitive, need to be handled with care, lest public debate throws up more heat than light. In Singapore, these are mainly to do with race, language, and religion. Even in the United States, such discussions are handled with considerable caution, sometimes descending into political correctness.
However, exercising care on how and when to address an issue does not mean that it cannot be talked or even thought about, as Mr. Koshy suggests. In fact, in recent years, rather than avoiding such potentially explosive issues, we have increasingly discussed them publicly as we evolved and matured as a society. And this growing openness was meant precisely to give our society the opportunity to grow in understanding of the complexities and sensitivities of our multi-cultural nation.
There are also issues which anyone is free to raise, but which they cannot expect the Government to remain silent on. These are issues, which are of national importance or have to do with the right of the Government to run the country. In a democracy, these issues should be thoroughly debated, with the final test of which path to take is the vote. Citizens expect their government to defend its positions, which must be up to public scrutiny. A government that does not defend its position does not deserve to remain in power.
In an important sense then, other than these considerations, no issue is out of bounds. These considerations exist in one form or another in all societies. Thus we do not see why they should be impediments to entrepreneurship or creativity in Singapore. The Government has said that this is the sort of society it seeks to foster, hence the remaking. But, ultimately, whether Singaporeans speak up or are creative or entrepreneurial depends on them taking up the challenge of doing so. We should do so.
Dr Tan Chi Chiu
Remaking Singapore Committee
Bury The Term ‘OB Markers’
The Mere Tossing About Of The Phrase is A Damper On Discussion. Why Talk About OB Markers When No Issue Is Really Out Of Bounds? Discussion Of Any Issue Is Fair Game Although Participants Would Do Well To Recognise That Some Issues Are Sensitive.
MY THANKS to the Remaking Singapore Committee for the reply, “No issue is really out of bounds” (ST, 1 July 03) The first thought that came to my mind upon reading the reply is that perhaps it is time to bury the term ‘OB markers’. The mere tossing about of the phrase is a damper on the discussion. Why talk about OB markers when no issue is really out of bounds? If I do not misunderstand the position stated by the committee, it is that discussion of any issue is fair game although participants would do well to recognize that some issues are sensitive and they should be especially cautious when talking about these. And, of course, the Government may rebut views, robustly if necessary.
This would clarify one thing at least. That nobody will be told to join a political party before making a comment on any particular issue. And that is as it should be. In a democracy, every citizen is part of the political process and Singaporeans have to make political decisions every time there is an election. There is no doubt that political issues are discussed by the citizenry and there is no reason why public discussion of political issues should be only within the domain of political parties. The concerned citizen does well to publicly say his piece as well so that the whole of the populace has the benefit of reasoned arguments. Equally, there is no reason why the Government should not make its position on issues clear as well.
Again, if I do not misunderstand the position of the committee, the only difference big P politics and small P politics is that the former will get more scrutiny and perhaps more robust responses from the Government. Still, anybody is free to discuss either big P or small P politics. So if the Singaporean position is a liberal as all that, why the fear factor? The same memories of how the political opposition is all but crushed or, as was stated in the article on Dr. Catherine Lim (“Chastised once, but writer stands by her views”; ST June 21) bullied, come to mind. After all, what sticks in the mind is how dissentients of the Government have suffered ill fortunes. And much of the populace may not even go further to look into whether the Government is in the right or not. Analysis stops at dissent is doomed.
My own opinion is that even as the Government ponders regulation of quasi-monopoly businesses, which have grown to the extent that they stifle competition, the same enlightened view should temper the treatment of dissentient views in a political landscape where the government party is so dominant. Times have changed and a firm hand is less important now than it was a couple of decades ago. Of course, much also lies in the hands of the people for it is as much the people who ostracise vocal dissentients for fear of being guilty by association, as is evident from the experience related by Dr. Kevin Tan.
At the end of the day, while the enabling statement may go some way to wipe out the fear factor, action speaks louder than words. To eliminate the fear factor, my suggestion would be that this newspaper, with its resources and its stable of sharp minds, take the lead by openly and objectively looking critically at contentious issues. Let the nation see that public pronouncement of views that criticize government policy does not invite a slap on the wrist. Let the journalists be among the community champions that Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan has spoken of (“Now search for remaking champions”; ST July 3)
Naturally, reader contributions will follow on the heels of such articles with arguments for and against. The discussion will be lively and people will grow to appreciate good arguments rather than fear them just because they are not in line with the government stand. Still, elimination of the fear factor is not enough. Apathy is as much a cause of the sterility in public discussion. After all, even a fire band like Dr. Kevin Tan has had his spirits dimmed not by OB markers but by the apathy of those around him.
I myself have never suffered from a fear of reprisal, but rather have felt that the Government is not really interested in hearing alternative views. Time and time again I have watched discussions played out with the predictable outcome of affirmation of the Government’s position. No doubt the leadership must lead, not follow, but on policies, which have no right or wrong position, the voice of the people must be a strong factor in determining the direction to steer in. Yet too often, this voice seems to be treated more like an irritant to be reasoned away.
Often times the people are not convinced by the arguments of the Government and so grow in their belief that it is not worth speaking up even when there is something worth saying. The present debate over CPF usage demonstrates this. I agree with the committee that much has changed for the better in the time that I have grown from child to adult. Much more will change if Singapore is to become a mature society.
A thinking citizenry will certainly be more of a challenge to govern, just as any teacher knows it is a greater challenge to teach a questioning student. However, with greater challenges come greater reward and a Singapore that the world will look at as not only an economic but also social miracle.
Does The Government Know What They Want For The People And From The People?
Instead of going to the root cause of our problems, the Government pushed the responsibility to the people during this economic downturn and said that the people are ‘on their own’. Secondly, they got to think for themselves and not to be too dependent on the Government for ‘hand-outs’, and thirdly, we are to be self-reliant and have lower expectations. Is this fair to the people at large and is this the spirit in nation building? Is that the attitude of the PAP government to govern a country by telling the people that they could not do anymore for the people and ask them to fend for themselves when all these decades all they wanted is for us to rely on them even our thinking?
The review had written a great paper that I hope the Government got the chance to read it and had a better understanding of the whole situation into the relationship between Government and the people. It will help open their eyes to the true fact of life in Singapore. All these decades the Government carried the attitude that they don’t need anyone, but why now the sudden change of mind? And it is only the recent years that there seemed to be some open discussions because they lost votes in the election. Do we always have to arrive at such a situation before the Government could let go of control just a little? Isn’t it belittler the people’s intellect? Most of the time it was just a show that the Government was prepared to listen but not necessary to accept.
From The Review
It seems that with the recent economic down turn, the Government along with the Straits Times (its pet mascot) have taken pleasure in taking pot-shots at the
very people who are under its care. If Budget 2003 was a slap in the face from the PAP, then the latest article from Ms Chua Lee Hoong in the 5 March 2003 issue of the Straits Times must surely be a follow-up kick in the groin. The basic thrust of Ms Chua’s long-winded and tedious article is that during this difficult period:
- a) Singaporeans are ‘on their own’;
- b) We should not depend on the government for ‘hand-outs’, ‘freebies’; and
- c) We are to be self-reliant and have lower expectations.
Ms Chua referred to a ‘nascent Singaporean addiction to handouts’, I can only conclude that this addiction has been inculcated and inherited from the million dollar remuneration packages afforded to PAP Ministers. As they say….’like father like son’, though in this case, the ‘son’ (being Singapore citizens) might take stiff offense in the comparison, and rightly so. Singaporeans are not asking for free ‘handouts’ here. What we are asking for are jobs, everyone in the private sector puts in their full 12-hour day and more.
Speaking in defense of all Singaporeans, the allegations of ‘handouts’ are all the more inappropriate when we consider that Singapore is not a welfare state, unlike the US and UK. Can Ms Chua please clarify what she means by ‘handouts’? In a state bereft of social welfare, there is no room for free riders in the private sector. The qualifier here is the private sector. The sad ironical twist to this is that whilst ministerial salaries are pegged to the best of the private sector, they are also insulated from market forces. Life is good when you can have your cake and eat it.
This is fact unless you are part of the Ruling Elite, life is not easy in Singapore. No Work equals No Income, literally. It’s that simple, no rocket science is needed to understand this very harsh reality. Basically, if I do not work, I do not eat. At least that is the unspoken law in the private sector. And how can it be otherwise if Singapore Inc is to endure as a viable going concern, the impetus for growth has always been from the private sector as it is inextricably intertwined with the ebb and flow of the international free market.
But in recent decades, additional to the challenges of an increasingly competitive free market, private companies and workers alike have also had to contend with meddlesome government interventions. These come in all shapes and forms, from archaic laws and policies drafted in some ivory towers to lumbering State Owned Entities and Giant Loss Making Companies.
In one-way or another, they have all added to the burden of an already difficult work and living environment.
Indeed if life is so rosy here in Singapore and Singaporeans have only to wait ‘by the river for roast ducks to fly into their mouths’, why are people leaving this little island? Why are birth rates falling? Why is unemployment on the rise? Why are fresh graduates unable to find work? These questions are greeted by a muted silence from our leaders that is deafening. The bottom line is that these signs are indicative that living conditions and quality of life are fast deteriorating.
Perhaps by ‘handouts’ Ms Chua may be referring to the Economic Restructuring Shares that the government ‘handed out’ co-incidentally during an election year. Give us all a break here; Singaporeans just want the chance to earn an honest day’s wage. So I think the PAP has maxed out whatever PR mileage they can from the ERS.
But then again, perhaps Ms Chua and the PAP are of the view that jobs are the equivalent of ‘handouts’. After all, slaves are ‘given’ jobs by their masters, and this is a privilege, not an entitlement so it’s argued. But taking this analogy to its final conclusion, the master here is unable to provide the slave with any suitable jobs. This is a failing on the master, and not on the slave.
Make no mistake, in the current recession what is on top of the wish list of average Singaporeans is JOBS and decent jobs at that. The average Singaporean does not expect freebies; we will work and earn honest days living. But have the PAP ministers taken to look out of their ivory towers off late?
Unemployment rates are soaring and fresh graduates, as well as seasoned workers alike, are unable to find employment in their chosen professions. And having graduates (and MBA holders) working as hawkers and cab drivers is not an ideal arrangement. From a purely economic perspective, there is tremendous wastage as costs and resources have been spent training these graduates and their skills should be put to good use.
Indeed this issue was explored in-depth in a previous issue (22 Jan 2003 EDUCATION & UNEMPLOYMENT: SUBSTANCE OVER FORM PLEASE) of Singapore Review.
The government has called upon Singaporeans to lower expectations and accept lower wages and longer work hours. These are already harsh, on-going realities in the private sector. Ms Chua has also quoted DPM Lee: “In DPM Lee’s words: “We must shake free of our old mindsets, and adjust our positions to better face a changed world order…” These words would be more credible if Singapore’s leaders practice what they preach. Whilst the average Singaporean is ‘adjusting’ to retrenchments, unemployment, pay cuts, and working longer hours for less, Singapore’s Ruling Elite continue with their million dollar salaries, blissfully unaware of the harsh realities faced by its citizens.
A good leader leads by example and not merely by lip service, so perhaps it’s time Singapore leaders descended from the ivory towers and put their money where their mouths are. Otherwise, they will have a huge credibility problem with the masses. If a leader calls on the people to be less choosy, to accept lower salaries and work longer hours, he must first lead the way by example. Otherwise, he has no right to call up over others to undertake a task that he himself is unable to endure.
If anything, one gets the notion that the Government is abandoning its citizens in this hour of need. The call to be ‘self-reliant’ translates into an admission that this government is unable to provide any satisfactory answers to lead the country out of the current economic recession. This admission in itself is forgivable as we recognize that our leaders are all mortal human beings and not God.
But what is unacceptable is the fact that these are amongst the HIGHEST PAID MINISTERS in the world, raking in annual salaries well in excess of a million dollars per annum. In the past, such handsome salaries have been ‘justified’ on the merits that they were required to attract Singapore’s ‘best and brightest’ and ensure world-class performance. But looking at the dismal state of the economy, it is massively difficult to see what constitutes ‘world-class performance’.
Ms Chua has mentioned, “The Government’s protective umbrella is shrinking in size”. There are many who are trying to reconcile her statement with realities of life in the private sector. Many are of the view that the Government has no business in the private sector, and view the dominance of the GLCs in a negative manner. The GLC threat has even been formally tabled as an issue to be addressed by the US and is a major concern of US firms doing business here. If this is an example of the Government’s ‘protective umbrella’, then I’ll take my chances with the elements any time. The odds are far better.
Fortunately, the average man on the street has seen through the veil and the general consensus is that the latest Budget 2003 is not the right medicine that will cure the economic malaise that is present in the economy. It is a mere placebo. Singaporeans recognize that latest budget leaves many issues unresolved. If this is a product from ‘Singapore best and brightest’ who are also amongst the most highly paid ministers in the world, then it is bad news for the city-state as the one solitary statement that is obvious from the budget is that the current leaders lack the mantle to lead the country out of the doldrums of the current recession.
‘Inadequate’ was the polite understatement used by US investment bank Morgan Stanley in describing Budget 2003 when it announced on Monday, March 3, 2003, it was lowering its 2003 growth forecast for Singapore, saying last week’s budget for the year to March 2004 offered a little stimulus for the economy. ”The F2003 (financial year 2003) budget in our view will not offer much cyclical support to the fragile domestic economy and the Singapore market,” the bank’s economist Daniel Lian said in a report.” “The F2003 budget is not an expansionary budget…we believe the lack of meaningful fiscal support to the real economy augurs poorly for the growth outlook.” What is even more disappointing is that Budget 2003 follows closely after a release of an equally disappointing ERC report, which was already criticized for its lack of substance and originality.
The ERC report touched on nurturing private entrepreneurs. Singapore seems to be the only country where entrepreneurs need to be nurtured through a ministry of entrepreneurship. Would it not make more sense if the Government just left enterprising Singaporeans to do what all good entrepreneurs do best? Generate ideas and wealth in an innovative society? Instead, the Government insists on keeping the citizens in a political straightjacket just so that it can satisfy its obsession to control society, and then sets up a ministry to encourage creativity! So, by all means, please take back that umbrella and should it!!
All eyes are now backing to the US economy, which is the only hope for domestic recovery. After all, it is clear that our million dollar ministers /leaders do not have the answers for the problem.
Ms Chua has also stated that we (‘these educated types’) should be less concerned with ‘what new grant can be invented or how much more to be given to the needy’, and focus instead on ‘how best to ensure that jobs stay in Singapore, how to bring new jobs here, and how to propel the economy to that higher level where Singaporeans can still enjoy the incomes they are used to, together with the assurance of steady employment.’ Begging your pardon, but this seems to fall within the job description of our million dollar ministers. But if the PAP is willing to pay us SGD1.6 mio a year as basic salary, I am sure there are many in the private sector who would be ready, willing and able to take up her challenge.
What a great contrast there is between the bona fide opposition articles and insightful discussions in the New York Times, and the propaganda ridden poems of love and political tributes of adulation in the Straits Times, between Maureen Dowd and Chua Lee Hoong.
Well, how like the local press to always blame Singaporeans, never the Government. But hey, when you are in such squeaky-clean PAP outfits of virgin white, it wouldn’t do to have even a speck of dirt on it, hence the need for convenient fall guys, all 4 million of them. For those that are into propaganda literature, Ms Chua’s article will be a good read for you.
Oh yes, about the roast ducks that Ms Chua has sighted, which fly on their own volition into her mouth, these particular species do not thrive in the private sector, they are native only within GLCs, State Owned Enterprises and on breeding grounds of the PAP. I certainly have not been privileged enough to sight these mystical creatures, let alone taste their succulent flesh. But I am sure Ms Chua, being employed in SPH, is in a unique position to give us a first-hand account of this dish.
Well, indirectly the Government was telling the people to lower their expectations in life? This could be a double edge sword, why? In order for us to excel, we must have high expectations, as it is the expectation that is the driving force that pushes us to achieve and thus excel. “A creature without memory cannot discover the past: one without expectation cannot conceive a future.” – George Santayana So by asking the people to change their mindset by lowering their standard is indirectly telling them not to expect too much out of themselves and the nation and life in general. What kind of message was the Government sent to the people at large? Being demoralized do you think that they are willing to give their best to the nation? Then we can forget about S21 where everyone counts.
The Government might not be worried because there are always foreign talents in their mind, but I’m very worried for my children’s children to be raised in such an environment where the people is only a number? This kind of attitude from the Government definitely looked irresponsible and does not look like they are working together with the people to create a nation with heart soul and character? Money has been used as a yardstick to make Singapore all these 40 odd years or should I say, “Money has been the tool for nation building” instead of the heart, soul, and character? Now naturally to Remake Singapore the first step the Government could think was to cut salaries thus cut cost to rescue the economy, instead of instilling the belief and spirit in the people. The moral of the people are very low at the present with a lost feeling that there is ‘No Hope For The People and Future’. The PAP Government legacy is to take care of the people, but the recent actions don’t match what they preached? Is that why the Government was trying to push the responsibility to the people and said that we are not thinking or we were not doing our part to improve Singapore image? What do the Government really wants from the people?
The heart, mind, and soul will not go away if we pile the right foundation for the nation? The heart, mind, and soul are the true assets that will bring Singapore back to life and that was how the older generation had built Singapore from nothing. So how had it happened that we got to use the money to make everything now work in Singapore? What has happened to the old-fashioned values like the love of learning, dedication, and job satisfaction; have they all been replaced by monetary gain? In the last millennium, the greatest advances and achievements came from men who were underpaid and overworked. Their reward was the satisfaction of their emotional and spiritual desires and not their desire for money. This millennium, is money the only incentive for great advances and achievements? Don’t you agree that there is a deterioration of values in many aspects of our life due to the so-called progress and now globalization?
Unfortunately, Money Seemed To Be The Tool For Nation Building?
“Is Money the root of all evil” – Sunflower Chong
Singapore belongs to Singaporeans and we got a stake in her future and we just cannot allow the Government to confused us anymore, instead, we should question their every action – Are they piling the right foundation in the heart soul and mind of its citizens? I got doubts after this experience with the Singapore Story survey conducted by NUS. Why is the Government using the money for our nation building? If it was not, why for the Singapore Story survey we got paid to give our opinion about Singapore? Allow me to share this personal experience with you when the Government conducted the surveys for ‘Singapore Story’.
We Were Paid To Speak
We were roped in at Suntec City venue and the first thing they told us was that there would be a free dinner in Federal Hotel at Scott road and $50 for our trouble to attend this survey session. I went out of curiosity because I wanted to know why the Government was so generous and how these bunch of intellects from NUS will conduct this exercise. To my disappointment, I felt so sorry for the sad state affairs of the attitude of the authority. I felt like I was in a classroom feeling definitely uncomfortable because the human touch was not there. The feeling he gave to me was that he got to do his job and he will follow religiously. I refused the $50 he said that I was entitled. As a true Singaporean I can’t accept it because my conscience told me so and as a citizen it is my duty to come forward to give my honest views about my country and in fact I must thank the Government for such a great meal besides having another refreshment in the meeting room, so how could I accept the $50 cash. The poor and needy need it more than me; moreover, they can’t use the money to buy me to say good things about the Government? To accept it was an insult to me and was like bribery for my words. When I kept insisting that I would not accept it he won’t hear of it because it was regulation, since when I wondered? He asked me to sign on the dotted line, but I refused.
To think about it what an irony because when we give our views openly, we were going to jail if the Government does not like what they hear, and now we were paid to said something about the country and we were assured that we will not end up like Mr. Tang Liang Hong because when the professor brought out a recorder to tape what we got to say about Singapore success story, suddenly nobody dare to speak, it was so amazing to watch the people as fear is still part of them. I asked the others why they were there, they said, “Why not, free food and $50 to take home.” Where got Hope for Singapore? The Money culture must be eliminated straight away in nation building because we can only build Singapore through our love, if not it will not work for Singapore in the long haul. I saw the future looked bleak for Singapore. In my sad and teary eyes with a sorrowful heart, I cried for Singapore like Mr. Kao Pun Kun did all these years in his struggle to integrate cultures and make art part of living.
Government Pay For Survey To Find Out Why No Civic Society?
PM Goh Chok Tong was curious why there was no civic society in Singapore; therefore the Government goes about solving the problem by money. Just like the most giant of a state exercise to make Singapore more of a home rather than a mere hotel resulted in the Government spending huge sums of money conducting a survey to find out what’s happening to civic and social consciousness in Singapore. If Singapore is a hotel, the Government must ask this question, “Who had created such an attitude among the people?” Anyway, a report called Singapore 21 was the outcome. The Government is very good in starting new projects, but midway you hear nothing from it. What happened to S21 now or the so-called Singapore New Renaissance City? Where are the civic societies? If there is none, we must ask ourselves why not in a democratic society? If we do have civic societies, it is again the work of the Government and it is Government money that is holding all things together. Is that truly building a strong foundation for the people or the Government?
How great would it be if life were so simple that we could solve everything with money? Don’t you know that the human race is the most complex and difficult creatures to handle? Singapore lacks Humanlogists, Creative Thinkers, and Visionaries as these talents involved human understanding, but we do have a lot of skill and learned people waiting to be told what to do next.
Pay To Achieve Goal 2010
All along the Government had wondered why sporting standards have fallen so badly. Or what’s worse, the non-existence of a sports culture. And for them to solve this problem will be the usual way, pay a consultant to make it right. Money can’t buy great athletes for Singapore no matter how much the Government can pay them because the nature of our people just lacks belief and passion in life. And worse of all the mentality of the Government is that they expected result right away. And sport is not driven by money but by the love of the game. Therefore, this will be the first mindset change that the Government got to work on as fact reveal that after invested so much money into sports development, did we get a winner of world standard? Of course not and If we did they were standing around the region and achieve by foreign talents and we used the money to buy them. Is that nation-building or name building? Do you know what I heard when I was in Malaysia, “Even to climb a mountain they needed a Malaysia to do so.” I don’t know where to put my pride, maybe this is how all the born Singaporeans are feeling. This country doesn’t seem to belong to us anymore because born Singaporeans are not talented enough so the PAP Government under the leadership of PM Goh got to go round the world to look for foreigner talents to replace us or take our place.
I often wondered who was this smart alec who had initiated such a proposal to use the money to develop talents? We just can’t copy from the West, because it is a different story, environment, and culture altogether. We must understand our environment and think of our people, then we can come out with the right formula to make it works for us and not borrow it lot stock and barrel from the West. For example in the field for football, in Brazil, you don’t need permission or license to kick a ball and the kids can kick the ball anywhere even on the roadside pavement from morning to night. Do you think we could do it here in Singapore when we can’t even walk on the grass? In Denmark, football clubs are the main source of fields. There are more than 1,600 clubs in Denmark, with the number of fields double that. Singapore has 133, of which schools have 105 while the Singapore sports council oversees 28 – 12 of them used by S-League clubs. Since schools have the majority of fields, it made sense to try and get football played regularly at the school level. But that proved difficult.
Unless Singapore approaches football the same way it builds its world-class airport, unless the same professionalism and conviction are put into football, the dream of reaching the World Cup Finals in 2010 will be just that – a dream.
This was what Mr. Poulsen said, “Professionally, Singapore football is not there yet. In Singapore, when a goal is set to build an airport or an MRT line and making it the world’s best, it will be done. Even if you are behind, you get a few more machines, work longer hours and you can still make it.” “Goal 2010 is a project about human beings, their ups and downs, their emotions and more importantly, their mindsets – getting them believe in the target and to be educated on how to get there,” he said. And it is changing the mentality of Singaporeans, getting them to see football as a professional sport that will be the stumbling block on the road to 2010. So do you get it, my fellow citizens? Even to hand a piece of a flyer is against the law, so how to cultivate a civic society in Singapore? It was really shocking for me to find it out on WHD 2003 that you were not allowed to talk to the students at the school gate.
After almost forty years of non-interruption ruling, you just can’t blame the PAP Government for having such an attitude, as the human factor never came into the picture; this means they lack human understanding, as they understood money is the power. This is the PAP Government greatest weakness; therefore it is hard for Singapore 21 to succeed as the people they put in charge lack the human touch even in People Association as my personal experiences with them told me. (You know what my daughter told me, “Mama they are so business like they don’t even smile. To me it is normal but for my daughter it was a shocker for her to witness such attitude.)
How great it would be if life is so simple, just snap your finger and things get done the way you wanted it? The Government often forgets we are not living in the 60s where most of us were lost as we were not educated. Doesn’t the Government know that the human races are the most complex and difficult creatures to handle? But if they know how to use their heart to rule that’s a different picture altogether? We will have a brighter and happier people all year round and most of all we don’t need to Remake Singapore? It seems that the worst thing that happens in humanity is complacency, ignorance, and denial. Our greatest stumbling block is the Government fixed mindset hence dampened the people spirit and morale due to their short-sightedness. It is very sad for the people because Singapore environment is not conducive to nurture the people to help them develop further.
In a Capitalist world, Success is equated with money, this means nobody would chase ideal anymore, because it is a waste of time, as it does not bring in the revenue. If we allow money to take center stage in whatever we do, we would lose our sense of identity thus ‘The Consciousness’ and the purpose of living because money will replace God? In the spiritual world the very idea that you want to strive to be a good human being, you are already a successful person; therefore you don’t need the paper qualification to give you your self-worth thus self-confidence.
In my younger days, my teachers told us that the future world, which is the Capitalist world without paper qualifications we will amount to nothing and cannot go far. I definitely could not accept this statement because of a belief and passion it is the most powerful tools one can ever own, in actual fact, they are the real driving force for our true success. I set out my life to prove this theory right. I told my teachers that when you are driven and got a vision we are the masters of our destiny and money can never take over our sanity. Most of my life I was very disturbed how the negative influences from the West that has been changing our values system and through the power of their media they had influenced our way of thinking and thus change our belief system and way of life? We must fight back and dare to challenge instead of accepting it readily; we must be in control of our mind and not the other way round where our life is dictated by the power of money?
This is no doubt a difficult period Singapore is going through as a nation? The Government gave the impression that they felt unsure which direction they should take to enable Singapore to excel and be relevant to the world. Is it a wake-up call for all Singaporeans, as we have been too good for far too long taking everything for granted? The Government got to ask themselves why after all these decades of careful and meticulous planning, yet Singaporeans seemed to be constantly catching up with the others? What is wrong with the system or shall I say what is really wrong with all our brains? Or it is time to listen to the people at large for a change?
Most Singaporeans who qualify to enter the system had been structured, therefore lost the spontaneity, common sense and intuition. Next, they have been transformed through the process without their realization, thus loss of self of who they are, their identity. As long as they are still in the system they can find themselves since the system had created the identity for them with THAT piece of paper qualification. But once out of the system, they are lost souls, because they don’t know who they are outside of this box! This means loss of self-confidence and this has hindered their capability to think or to have any opinions or ideas, so do you still think that these people could think out of a box even if the Government gave them the permission to do so?
Moreover, in the Capitalist world you live for yourself, therefore you only move your ‘ass’ when you are paid to do the job, if not you will not be bothered to use your brain. In the spiritual world, your work is not measured by money but by how great the ideas can serve and uplift society. In short, it is our soul that had spoken through our consciousness. In a spiritual world your conscious drive you to excel as your intuition or six senses send a message to your brain and inform you of a future’s problem, thus your brain act on it and that is how all my creative ideas came about. The need to solve a problem or to create an awareness; propelled me to act without hesitation.
Therefore, in regards to our contributions whatever it may be, in ideas forms or social aspects whether the Government approves or doesn’t, it’s not important, but what’s important is that as true or good citizens we must play a part in the development of Singapore’s future? In time to come, maybe the Government will see the light, as the facts on the ground will speak for itself. If we refuse to play our part, when the thing has gone wrong with Singapore don’t blame the Government, instead, we should blame ourselves for not voicing our disapproval and be proactive. Migrating to other land is not the solution. We must not be living half a life; instead, we must strive to be productive for the good of humanity and not just for our pockets. Maybe someone out there needs a soul like us, our job is to be true to ourselves and we must not change to suit others or like what the Government is doing – change our belief and principle just for the sake of economy.
My philosophy in life is that got money or no money we must try to be happy and if we could achieve it I believe we are the winner in life. So whether the Government is willing to listen to me or not, or whether they will accept my ideas or not, is secondary? The primary is that I should bring out my vision in the open with the hope that it will inspire some souls in the position of power to take some actions. That was my main objective as a true citizen of Singapore who cares and willing to give. If souls are what the people wanted Singapore to have, then Singaporeans got to strive for it on our own in whatever way we know how to stay sane to keep us balanced in this constrained environment. Or the other choice is to wait for a better Government who is willing to listen to us wholeheartedly and make arts part of living for the people.
Success is equated with achieving paper qualifications and not striving to be a good human being. Maybe we must change this belief too in Remaking Singapore. If Singapore is to succeed to be a great nation and be the brain and soul of the world, the Government must treat every Singaporeans, including the young ones as equal partners if not at least as partners in nation building. Instead of having a narrow mindset that those who disagreed with the Government’s policy as the enemy, the PAP government should have more faith in the people because Singapore belongs to all Singaporeans; we are responsible citizens just like the PAP government. What made them think that we are untrustworthy, incompetence, unreliable and irresponsible citizens? The Government must not fear the people, instead should be patient and listen even to the ordinary people more often. Why? People like us are prepared to sacrifice for a higher ideal and most importantly we dare to speak with true honesty. We are down to earth and very connected to our soul thus in touch with nature and reality. We do not have any hidden agenda except working tirelessly for the good of Singapore and its people welfare, thus we know what we got to do to make Singapore proud of us. On the contrary, the elitists are the one that has stagnant Singapore growth by not coming forward to voice out their disagreement for fear of reprisal. (They are too comfortable in their ‘Ivory Tower’ that changes on the ground will not be beneficial for them.)
To my great surprise, I discovered that under great stress and pressure I could be the best performer as I became very much alive or energies. I guessed it must be the challenge instinct that is in my blood or due to my strong genes from my mother side. (It will be so great if we could be accepted for what we are and who we are then my struggle would be much easier?) What I discovered through this amazing journey was that the more the people took advantage of me the greater will be my achievement because my pride took over and I always love a good challenge especially intellectually. For example, they said that I was crazy to want buildings to talk to one another, so I showed them how to bring out all these aspirations in architectural form. My ex-husband said that the building industry is very ‘dirty’ and I challenge myself to win projects through my wits and intellect. My parents, teachers and the intellectuals told me that ‘Peace is Not Possible’ I set out to prove them wrong. (I think this one is a tall order for me to achieve nevertheless I must not give up as God will show me the way as usual.)
The saddest part of this whole episode was that along the journey I had lost all my family and friends because they can’t understand why I still needed to support this ‘arrogant government’ by giving ideas and along the way spend so much money to bring out all these visions. Everyone who knew me said that I was intelligence and they wanted me either to further my study or go into business to make something out for myself and both I rejected because I wanted my succeed through my belief and passion and thus everyone around me will feel God’s presence that has been the guiding force to help me on my path of success. What intrigued me most in my lifelong journey was the discovery of my creative talents that was forced out by my burning desire to find a solution to the problems and the need to change society mindset. I am very upset when I hear intellectuals complaining and belittle the Government behind their back. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had sacrificed the entire nation at the expense of the people at large just for the few percentage of elitists to rise up to take Singapore to greater heights, the least they could do is to give back by supporting and assisting the Government in whatever way to build a better Singapore for the future generation. But what have they done so far besides advising people like me not to be naïve that the Government will listen to small people like us?
If Singapore is all about money then the Government cannot expect that the people will be loyal and dedicated to the Government or the country? If Singapore is about family then the Government must set the priority right for the people and country? (Singapore had been controlling by one man with such a tied fist, so how can we expect him to have the confidence to allow more political freedom? Singapore got the highest pay ministers in the world because as declared by Mr. Lee Kuan Yew that this group of ministers are the best you can get, for this reason, their pay got to match with our GDP to give us better more good years. Are we going to have better more good years? When I see no more old folks cleaning the toilets and at hawkers centers then I believe things are improving for the better for the people? Not meant for the book.)
Why the Government never listened to the people until it was too late like the warning was given by the people that the Government should not just focus on the MNC instead must help the SME? And similarly, many people from different quarters had already openly told the PAP Government that the way they had planned the economy was not realistic because the Government had pushed the land price so high but they refused to listen until it was too late because the high standard of living is making us less competitive. The Government can cut another cost to bring the expenditure down for the investors but to bring the land price down Singapore will be in trouble. In the long run, the ordinary people will suffer, as the standard of living in Singapore is too high for them to make ends meet. Our economy as said by many who knew Singapore that it is an economy created by the PAP Government, as it was a planned economy and not a market economy. I want to know whether this time around will the Government listen to the people and open up the society politically for greater ideas to flow? It is not because we want to grab power but if we don’t take this road great consequence will follow for the future generation?
After what had happened during this recent crisis, has the Government finally decided how Singapore should be run – Democratic or Confucianist? If Democratic than ‘Politics’ is non-negotiable? And if is still under Confucianist influences, we can forget about Remaking Singapore? Why waste the people precious time and energy in dialogue sessions when they are not sincere and honest about their intentions? All these decades we just survive because that was how the system turned the minds of the people to survive instead to excel? Can’t blame the leadership because they came from that turbulence era and they could not get over the trauma of the past that was why constantly we were reminded to catch up if not others will catch up with us? But unfortunately, that was the wrong way to build a nation. They installed the ‘Fear Syndrome’ into the minds of every Singaporeans all these decades, for example when Malaysia catch up on the economic front, immediately our leaders will make a comparison that if we don’t work harder we will never catch up and we got to go back to Malaysia? Is that the way to push the people to excel? It is not working harder than the Government got to drum at us; it is work hard and smart because by working hard you are just surviving, but working hard and smart will give you the edge and the opportunity to excel, especially smart in building good relationship across the causeway will be a good start! (I guessed the leaders at both sides of the causeway love to play this game called ‘Yo-Yo’ and this get us anywhere but keep both of them ALIVE everywhere?)
The Government got to go to the roots to replant whatever needed to be replanted, fix whatever needed to be fixed, change whatever is needed to be changed if Remaking Singapore is going to be a true success. The Government must ask what is needed to cultivate healthy roots for Singaporeans to blossom? I really doubted that the people can have a say on how Singapore should be run or which direction we should take in order for us to excel to be the new Renaissance city? Therefore, I don’t see how effective the Remaking Singapore is going to be? But no matter what my heart still goes to the group of older leaders who had sacrificed their lives for all of us. Allowed me to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Toh Chin Chye, Mr. Ong Pang Boon, Mr. Jek Yuen Tong, Mr. Hon Sui Sen, Mr. A W Barker, Mr. Deven Nair, Mr.Rajaratnam, Mr …. for their total dedication to creating a free Singapore. I would also like to take this opportunity to bring you back to the past to share with the younger generation how very blessed they are compared to us at those times? Instead of constantly complaining about their parents they should be proactive to strive for a freer Singapore by making the right choice and that is to speak up constructively? Singapore can’t wait anymore as silent can be an unseen sword pierce through the soul of our beloved Singapore.
What did my mother say?
In those days my mother was very upset with the intellectuals that she often said, “Or See Or Ng Chute, Do Yu Cu Lee Kuan Yew. Sing Ga Por Yan Mou Gui Yun!” My mother said that when the people cannot shit, they would even go and tell Lee Kuan Yew. In short, she said that the Singaporeans were useless because they don’t use their brain to think for themselves. To her what was the point to study when what they study they do not know how to apply it in real life, instead got to run to their parents or the Government! In those days my mother constantly said, “Clever what is the use, those clever people cannot do anything. The cleverer they are, the more they are afraid to open their mouth. They are afraid to say the wrong thing and afraid to make mistakes, so clever for what?” My mother said that what Singapore needed were people with the gut, confidence, and determination to succeed and not that piece of paper qualification. She named the paper qualifications ‘toilet paper’ and I asked her why it was so? She said that what was the point of having those paper qualifications when they could not apply what they had learnt or even to make simply a decision. She said that Singapore lacks creative thinkers and visionaries, but we do have a lot of skill and learned people waiting to be told what they should do next?
At one of the Singapore 21 dialogue at Suntec City, DPM Lee Hsien Loong asked the audiences to give their suggestions for Singapore to the Government and one of the university students stand up and asked DPM Lee, “What do you want us to do?” Can you imagine how we felt when we heard such a question thrown back to him? My daughter and I flipped off and we were too embarrassed by it because foreigners were there too. This showed that the NUS student did not have a mind of his own. This is precisely what I was trying to say that the Fear Syndrome had already been so ingrained deep in our blood that it will not be easy to change the mindset of the people in Singapore unless the Government gives permission and assurance to the people that nothing will happen to them like in the middle of the night ISA will come knocking at their door. Even now at the recent political talk at NUS a young Singaporeans still talk of fear because she wanted to set up a website involving some political intonation but she was afraid of the consequences.
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is a self-proclaimed pragmatist and a very proud one too. My mother said, “How can we all go in one direction (The pragmatic path)? Someone must walk the other path (spiritual path), so if a mistake is made, at least we don’t drown altogether to the open sea.” My mother felt that the system should allow some to walk on the spiritual path that means taking the road in ‘Arts Developments’ seriously to nurture our souls. (In the Chinese educated school they still do the Chinese calligraphy called ‘Tai Ka and Seow Ka.) If in the event the pragmatic path does not work for the nation, then we could depend on the other path to survive and thus excel.
In the early 60s, I often heard my mother complaining that the Western ideology of Capitalism was going to destroy us as an individual and thus the whole nation eventually because it was very detrimental to the soul. The Chinese expression, ‘Mo Yan Ching”, this to be translated ‘No Human Feelings’, she said that if that was the case in a Capitalist system, where got hope for Humanity! What my mother most afraid of is Capitalism, which will take over our soul because it does not, has a human face; it will rob us blind, as the rule of the game in the capitalist world is that the winner takes all. She exclaimed, “Tim Yong Tuck, Cum Ngo Teh Mei Ngo Ser.” In literal translation – how can, then we will die of hunger? She believed Capitalism has no room for compassion because they only look at the numbers. She believed if allowed capitalism to take center stage in our life then the day will come whereby those who were left at the margin will fight back by killing those they felt had taken advantage of them due to their ignorance. My mother said that these people would not leave the rich alone to enjoy a good life; instead, they will get back with vengeance, as the unfairness act must be rectified? And this prophecy had come true especially today, as Sept 11 is a good example how the terrorists can take back at you when fairness act is not here to stay.
My mother said that we must not get suck in and believed that the Western culture of greed is good, healthy and their right, instead she said that it was a sin, because there were people with no house to live and the rich got so many houses left empty and they got to spend a lot of money to maintain it. This means it was a waste of money, which could be put to better used. Where is the fairness in society, she often wondered? She said that this means the clever will take advantage of the stupid, the big will eat the small and the rich will become richer, while the poor will be poorer? She continued to condemn the Capitalist system and said, “Was it their right to take advantage of our weaknesses because they were smarter than us, or were they more cunning than us, by asking us to open up when we were not ready? She said that we got so much catch-up work to do, for an instant in languages and many others area. Everything we got to learn from scratch, so how could we catch up with them? Why don’t they learn Chinese if they wanted to come to this part of the world? Why must we follow them and by the time we catch up, then they will change another new rule, this means forever we will be doing catching game. This must stop and we must nurture our people to think and to be creative and innovative.
My mother said that how could we in Asia embraced Capitalism lock stock and barrel without questioning the social implications this kind of a system will bring to our society, which is caring, kind and considerate even how poor we were, we still care for one another especially our immediate family. She said that in Confucius philosophy, we were supposed to look after the unfortunate and poor in society. The clever must help the stupid, the big must not bully the small, the young must respect the elder and the rich got a responsibility to look after the unfortunate and poor in society.
My mother not only talk, she did the walk too. My father said that my mother greatest flaw instead of goodness, was her kindness and caring for others. She cared for others out of the expense of the family. As a young child, I cannot help but admired her inner beauty, the willingness to help others even at the expense of her personal and family happiness. For example, she rented a room from our two-room rented flat in Prince Philip Avenue to a single parent with two sons. The elder son Mr. Tham Yew Fang was working for HDB. His younger brother was studying in Chung Chen High School and his mother worked in an army barracks. She was able to stay in our place because a mutual friend came begging to my mother constantly to pity this single parent with two sons to support and they had nowhere else to go. My father was adamant that she should not rent out a room, as the apartment was very small, moreover, we had already 9 members in the family and my sister was already quite grown up and my father thought this new environment was not saved for her. (But my parents never once had a single thought for my safety, as they consider me an ugly duckling.) Furthermore, from time to time the relatives from Malaysia will come for visits, therefore my father said that it was not advisable to rent out the room since we were not short of money.
But my mother heart was very soft and overridden every decision my father had made on behalf of the family. She cannot say no to the people who came knocking at our door for help and in kinds or in hard cash my mother always help others. This family was supposed to stay for maybe a year, but they left after 5 years and during these five years, while I slept under the bed of my parents I kept hearing my father asking my mother to get them out. Once my father was so mad that he threatened my mother that he would chase them out of the house himself. My mother said that he couldn’t do that because Mr. Tham Yew Fang who worked in HDB will kick all of us out of our house, what an irony? Because of this, both my parent relationship was getting from bad to worse and my father didn’t like to come back to a house that was not a home. But my mother never understood, because her desire to help others blinded her sense of judgment and happiness.
Another kindness my mother did was when my father became the manager for Tan Chong Motors in the early 60s, (It was not easy times then and many people were out of jobs.) Mr. Leong Hong Kee family were very poor with many siblings and the elder sister didn’t have her Sec 4 certificate and thus not difficult to get a job. As usual, when all my mothers’ friends knew that my father worked in Tan Chong Motor, they came knocking at our door for help. My mother got to see the sobbing; begging and crying for help, as getting a job for one in the family will save the entire family. Again sleeping under the bed of my parents I heard the negotiating and begging from my mother to my father. My mother argument was that it was our duty to help the unfortunate when we were well off. But my father said that we were not well off and said that one day my mother will get him into trouble and thus out of a job. My father said that Leong Hong Kee’s sister was not qualified, how could my mother expect him to employ her. But my mother said that it was his duty to help others in need and since he was the manager no one will question or can override him. It went on and on and when finally my father gave in and this was when my mother will give her to him. Was that what life was all about in getting one’s way, I often wondered as a young child? (No wondered I did that to my ex-husband too, he doesn’t allow me to chase my dream, I don’t give sex to him. What an exchange, what a family, my mother was always negotiating for others at the expense of her own happiness. This was not the first case and the last case, subsequently my father got to employ another three more to the company.)
When our whole family visited our relatives in Malaysia, we were all so excited because my mother bought new clothes for all of us. But when the minute we enter Malaysia, all the children got to take off all our new clothing and when we arrived at the relative’s house, all our clothes were given to them. (Tears kept flowing from our eyes; it was really a sad sight because we were not from a rich family as we got to wear hand me down clothing and those that were given to us by others.) So the intention to put on the new cloth was to pass the Malaysia custom so that we were not taxed. We were obviously very upset and angry with our mother. My father did not like it at all, but there was nothing he could do and he often said that my mother was always complaining that the family had no money, but she always got things to give away. There were times we really disliked our mother, instead of seeing her in a different light and understand her generosity we behave otherwise. (Just like my mother I got no money for my children but I will always find the money for my dream. The greatest excuse I gave was that what I am doing is good for humanity, so the sacrifices and money spent is worth every penny. Only after I realize my dream then I will think for my family and myself.)
My mother believed strongly that Asians must fight back by maintaining our roots, cultures, and identity. We must not emulate the Western lifestyles of greed, instead, we must adopt a simple lifestyle and easy-going manner which make life enjoyable and not stressful. That has much, spend less; say little, so much. I always remembered what my mother said in Cantonese, “Joe Toll Ng Pa Say, Gig Pa Mo Tuck Joe”. This means, ‘Do a lot not afraid to die, most afraid no work to do’. (I guessed this line fitted the scenario now in Singapore –the SARS and the economic downturn.) She continued to say, ”Joe Toll, Hock Toll”, this means the more you do the more you learn. She believed you will never lose out in the process, but instead, you got everything to gain. What she was trying to say was that we must not be calculative; we might lose out in life. I think her philosophy in life is about giving and also about giving oneself to society.
But her greatest philosophy in life is – Let others take advantage of you, but we should not take advantage of others. When others borrowed money from you, if it was not returned back, my mother said that our thinking should be that at least we got money to lend to others that showed we were still in good shape. In short, count our blessing, instead of building up the anger and felt cheated, she said that we should channel our lost as giving it to charity. I never failed to follow her advised, for that reason I did not sue Permasteelisa instead watch how this philosophy will work for me. Well, so far this philosophy that I had embraced had helped me succeeded in life, especially spiritually. Letting others take advantage of me so that I will succeed in life is a very deep philosophy that only when you experienced it then you could understand the powerful positive effect it had in your life.
Now, do you know why the world is getting more and more heartless? This is because of the society’s lack human values due to Capitalism. It is all ‘Money Talk’; therefore we have lost all ‘Human Feelings’– caring for one another and ‘Human Values’ – respecting each other rights. For example, the parents must not think that they got the right over their children, just because they are their children – Personal Value. Instead, they must respect the right of their children, because they don’t own them, the children just came out from them – Human Value.
Similarly, the teacher must respect the right of the student, just like in the case of my daughter at Ngee Ann Poly, instead of informing her of their decision that they will not allow her to claim her prize, they never discussed with her as though they had earned the prize or she did not exist. They did not give her any respect because they felt she did not have the right. This was because they didn’t treat her as a human being, but just a number in the Poly – Personal Value. But if they had told her of their decision, this means they respect her right – Human Value.
From what we can gather from the above, the authority only uses these Asian values or Confucianism as a pretext for their own benefit that is to control us to obedience and submission! We should not buy it anymore! To hell with tradition if it is going to stifle our individual creativity and space and worst robbed us of our opportunity to excel! We the people with a mind of our own must fight back by walking the Middle Road. My smart uneducated down to earth mother argument was that the Capitalists system use the money to buy happiness and whatever their hand can get hold of. And when they evaluated a situation, they only looked at the bottom lines and will not allow any feeling or attachment or social implications to blind their judgment when they made a decision. It is what I wanted that count and not that what I wanted can hurt others or the whole world it cannot be done, this they don’t care a damn just like the war in Iraq because they do not have ‘The Consciousness’.
She cried out loud about the cold hardiness of such an attitude, because only the vulnerable ones will lose out and who was going to take care of the unfortunate and poor in society. She said that the society would degenerate to cold less and heartless one, whereby each will be for him and her. For this reason, you witnessed the cold feeling of most people from the Capitalist world. The spiritual aspects were not in the equation and so it does not count. The soullessness and the lack of consideration shown to others are not the things that a well-balanced society would encourage and tolerate. It is good to remember that an unbalanced society is always the cause of decline, which leads to immorality. Is that what we wanted for Singapore?
I was very much influenced by my mother at a very young age. She was a very wise woman with a lot of common sense because she said that we should not limit our choices and potentials when we could have the pragmatic and the spiritual paths to give us the balance, thus the best in life. One size does not fit all, two minds are better than one, therefore she strongly believed that the Government got to cater the system that will fit if possible everyone because she believed all of us are assets for our country. (But deep down she knew it was wishful thinking as the Government was very concerned about the rice bowl instead of nurturing the people’s talent to bring Singapore to greater heights. Moreover, the advisers that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has are all foreigners and their advice to him was to allow Singapore to be the service center for the Western products.) She was afraid that the pragmatic path that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew took might not work for the people in the long run and the country will lose out in the long run if the Government failed to maximize the people potentials, because she believed the Malays from our neighboring countries will catch up with us one fine day. She believed that the role of the middleman would be gone one fine day when our neighbor catches up with us. She said that when that happened what will happen to Singapore as the system had created only good followers and not leaders? In Cantonese expression, she said, “Kum, thai kai wee jum lok swee loi!” This means then all of us will be drowned, loi!
At those times my mother was not happy when the RTS bought programs from Taiwan and Hong Kong, especially paying high fees for the singers to perform on our TV station. (When one of the singers from Taiwan got involved with one of our minister my mother said that it served them right.) My mother thought that the Government was not smart because they were not nurturing the local talents; instead, she said that it was so sad that the Government had no faith in the people, therefore how could Singaporeans get the opportunity to rise up when the leadership has no faith in the people at large. So wise of her but unfortunately she was not the prime minister and many a time my father teased her and he said, “If you are so clever how come you are not the prime minister of Singapore?” My mother shouted back, ”Because I got to look after all your seven children.”
She was very wise and confident of herself and she did not allow her lack of education hindered her views about life and in world affairs. Armed with nothing, except anchoring onto God’s love and thus filled my soul with true love for humanity, I set out to conquer the world with my ideology. I had never failed to emulate my mother, the only difference is that I work towards my belief to make my view heard and if possible realized it. I had realized in a pragmatic society everyone objective is to make money but mine is to make a different and if possible make history – revolutionary ideas. In my state of mind as a woman my job is to serve my husband and children, therefore if I do not have anything new to offer to the world I better shut my mouth and be a good wife and mother but when I do have something to contribute to the betterment of the society then it is my duty as a responsible citizen to do so as the ideas that I have are God gifts to me to give it back to society. I will not allow anyone or no one can stop me no matter how hard they tried! I will flow against the tide not because I chose or love to but because it was necessary to go into research on life in order to make a breakthrough for the good of humanity.
I had learnt from my mother that it is very important to be humble and compassionate and to keep my brain alive with lots of common sense so that when the day comes that the Government is ready to open up politically, at least my brain will be alive and kicking and who knows hopefully the Government might need a brain like mine to serve Singapore without a paper qualification. Even if they don’t require such a brain because my ideas could not show the bottom line that the money will be pouring in for Singapore, I should not lose hope and stop thinking for Singapore’s sake. We must always think positively and do not let this rigid system destroy our confidence and self-worth just because the Government does not need our talents now. I have great hope that one day they will need people like us but if they don’t the world still need this kind of people with a heart who cares. (For this reason, I am writing all my thoughts and true feeling with great passion and at the same time with a touch of anxiety to expect the unexpected.)
What I am trying to achieve in my life is to explore the unknown, thus I walk the spiritual path with the hope to make a breakthrough and to discover a better way of life for humanity. I was not willing to conform to society or be structure by the rigid system not because I was smarter than the others, but I find the path offered is not as exciting as finding my own path. God gives us a brain to think and a heart to feel, why not use them wisely and we will be on top of the world and that was the way I felt then and even now. Maybe the way I think was indirectly shaped by my mother who often screamed at us, “You think I’m Lee Kuan Yew, I got to think for you ah! Why God give you a brain, is to think, so go Use Your Brain, you stupid!” This so-called perfect system is doing more harm than good to our souls because I believed due to the way we were brought up or being structure through the rigid system the people do not question or more appropriate dare not to question, thus there is no need for us to think.