Thum Ping Tjin Says Political System Started By LKY Creates “Climate Of Fear”
Interview of Thum Ping Tjin about Oxley Lee family feud 21 June 2017
I came from New Town Secondary School the only school that was bi-lingual and our school has the most students. From such an environment I live life and I learn life and I grow very fast and what I cannot forget was from left right and center the teachers and students especially the Chinese educated ones had many question marks on LKY’s true agenda:(
May I dare to say LKY’s legacy is ‘Broken Families’ starting from his own family and not only broken families but broken institutions too just like the recent SOTA affair the principal and the staff cannot get along and trust me this is not the only one:( Since I had been going around the Ministries in the late 80’s the feeling I received is NO COMMUNICATIONS because there is no dialogue only ONE WAY TRAFFIC since Singapore is run like a Corporation means ONE VOICE and the voice of the boss. When you are traveling on a one-way traffic you will end up against the wall and this is what we are witnessing now! So LHL’s government has to come out with a drastic measure to get back control and all they only know is to sue and LHL is using the law to catch his nephew for saying something that he does not agree!
I JUST RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE ON MY WHATSAPP (15/6/2017)
From tmr 16/9/2017 on wards there are new communication regulations.
All calls are recorded.
All phone call recordings saved.
Whatsapp is monitored.
Twitter is monitored.
All social media and forums are monitored.
Inform those who do not know.
Your devices are connected to ministry systems.
Take care not to send unnecessary messages.
Inform your children, relatives, and friends about this to take care.
Don’t forward any posts or videos etc., you receive regarding politics/present situation about Government/ PM etc.
Police have put out a notification termed…Cyber Crime… and action will be taken… just delete…
Inform your friends & others, too.
Writing or forwarding any msg on any political & religious debate is an offense now… arrest without a warrant…
This is serious, please let it be known to all our group admin can be in deep trouble.
A GREAT NATION needs an Open Society before it can Flourish
“The most beautiful of all works of art is the construction of true political freedom.” – Unknown
‘Political Openness’ is very necessary to create a Great Nation. These are the 10 Qualities of a Great Nation;
7) VALUE OF LIFE
Political Openness is a must and is one mistake we cannot afford to make as a nation if we want Singapore to excel beyond our imagination. If only the Government understood the Power of the Soul in remaking Singapore and the first thing they must do is opened the political doors so the people can rise up to enable Singapore to excel through our individual talents.
Deep down in my heart, I know that the whole exercise of dialogue sessions is only cosmetic like the use of the state flag, bungee jumping or bar top dancing. All of these “cosmetic” changes are not important for me, as I don’t see how constructive they are going to be in developing the hearts, souls, and minds of the citizenry and building a stronger, freer Singapore. We must always stand firm in our principles and beliefs because that makes us who we are. Most importantly, we must not allow this setback, the fixed mentality of the Government to stagnate our creative juices and personal growth.
If you are a visionary nothing can stop you? For creativity to excel nothing should stop your passion and drive because great creativity arrives from the need to solve problems and not to make money or to seek fame and it could not be exchanged for money because it is the belief and passion that drive the creativity and not otherwise. When you are driven, you got a vision the soul will do the talking and walking, in short, your soul take over. When you adopt this mentality that if we are not paid then we don’t think and we don’t do, then you will never go far because you are depriving your brain the opportunity to explore the unknown and you will never know the real You! Just because we know that the Government will not accept our ideas then we don’t bother to give our best, this means us stagnant our potential growth so how could we excel? Why do we allow the system to do that to us? If we allow the system to take over our minds then we will never be able to find out how far we can go in life to discover our true potential, and true self what we are made of?
I’m not interested in forming a political group or joining the opposition parties, but as a young child I was very interested in politics and until now politics still excite me because Politic is an art to making the impossible possible. The fact that I dare to challenge, dare to be different, dare, to be honest, and dare to bring truth to my life should be encouraged but these actions were seen as rebellious in the eyes of the Government and people, thus I had frightened everyone around me, especially my family and friends.
Those who knew me called me a ‘Goner’ or ‘Gone case’ including my family and they said that I would not be able to raise my children well with the kind of thinking I have like Save the World and my mother will tell me to save my sanity first! The society equates a good parent as someone who stays at home and watches over their children besides providing all the financial aspects of life but never in nurturing their mind and soul. In the eyes of society I had already failed to be a good wife, I managed to escape from my family to be an air hostess at the age of 18 and live in Belgium and thus managed to escape the Singapore rigid system that I felt trapped as an individual and can you imagine of all men, I got married to one that I couldn’t breathe the free fresh air when I was with him – Can Die Faster, so better come back to Singapore to fight it out by trying to influence the Government fix mindset through my proposals.
Don’t you agreed with me if got to die better die here in Singapore than in the Middle East, not worth it lah! Much better off to die this way fighting for my cause rather than letting my ex-husband bit me to death because I wanted to realize my dream for my people to help them to have the courage to speak up, and I have to make the bold step in asking for a change in a constructive manner through my proposals. Indirectly I am speaking with the government through my proposals whether they will listen or not I have to leave it to God.
I cannot afford to fail to be a good mother. To me, a good mother does not mean just to be a provider but must also provide their spiritual needs because parent and children relationship is about the soul, therefore it will be their soul that I will touch that will give happiness and meaning to their life. I will do my very utmost to raise them well, that means to raise them with love for them to love the world because we have only one world belonging to all. Teach them how to share and care at a young age, if not how you expect them to grow up and know how to share and care for this one world. Tell them to put on the shoes of others, (I have learned this value from my teacher after watching this movie ‘To kill a Mockingbird’.) before they could understand them well. The best gift every parent can give to the world is to raise his or her children well, this means to raise them with love and compassion.
Both of my children are like a twin. They are much closed and care a lot of each other. (Gabby first love is Greta and Greta’s first love is always Gabby. My first love is God, Singapore, Gabby, Greta and everybody – humanity and this means the world.) I am as happy for Greta as she has found her anchor and that is God present in her life. She has not embraced a religion but she embraces LOVE for humanity. “Insomuch as love grows in you so in your beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul” – St Augustine. This is most important than embracing a religion, as the love for humanity will be her first step into His House. May God be with my beloved daughter and son till the end of the tide?
Many people felt sorry for me because in their eyes how sad for me to come to this stage where I had not arrived from where I had started? They said that I had wasted my life chasing an empty voice because in their eyes I didn’t realize my dream yet. Well, I don’t see it their way because it is the journey that counts and not the destination and only by going after the dream then can I find the answer. I never forget what my teacher had told us DONT WASTE YOUR LIFE CHASING AFTER MATERIALISTIC PURSUE GO CHASE YOUR RAINBOW, YOU HAVE ONLY ONE LIFE AND NOT NINE LIKE THE CAT! And the last parting word goes write your book of life. I was very touched by her words because we are ordinary students, yet she thought highly of us that she believes we could write our own book. I have made a vow not to fail her thus my school.
In conclusion, I strongly believe I was chosen to bring out the vision of World Harmony Day; the builder will be someone else and my job is to continue to work hard for the good of humanity. When my son was about 13 or 14 years old I told him about this dream of mine and that I at the end of this dream I will have to die. He said, “Mama, you are so selfish.” I asked him why he said that he replied, “If you die then what about Gabby and Greta?” It just hit me so hard that I almost got an electric shock! With a serious tone beyond his age, he said, “It is not that you got to die but this dream is not realistic to bring the world in harmony it is close to impossible.”
Isn’t Singapore a democratic society? If it is this means we got every right to speak up when we see things not going right and not wait till it was too late that we got to Remake Singapore again, why? Because this time around I’m afraid that there will be nothing left to be remade, instead for Singapore to excel beyond our imagination the people need to Retake SINGAPORE in a subtle manner, (which mean not a threat to anyone especially the government) for Singapore to reach its goal to be the new renaissance city that the Government has aspired for.
There is a need to teach the youth to think about international issues, serious issues and most importantly to think for themselves so that they can speak their mind with confidence, if we want a vibrant Singapore where we could be proud of whom we are; we need to pile the right foundation for the people when we are in the process of Remaking Singapore? Young Singaporeans especially should first and foremost start being more reflective. Change starts from within the individual. The individual looks around sees that there is something sorely lacking in society and will or will not seek to change it. Young Singaporeans must have the drive. Or another case would be such that young Singaporeans know the problems of this society but they simply adopt an attitude of apathy OR fear OR both. This ‘bo-chup’ mentality is VERY prevalent in this nation and it is worrying. Maybe in the remaking Singapore “Students should be given choices and responsibility for their own education” – Elizabeth Schulz.
I strongly believe it is high time for the Government to modify the system to a two-way traffic with a left turn and a right turn and if possible can turn everywhere as long as we could come out with great ideas to solve our problem, instead of just wanting the people to be loyal, faithful and thankful to the PAP government, (likes S21 objectives) which is not possible at all? Most importantly, the government must open up the society politically, if not we can forget about being the new renaissance city because the people minds will remain shut or half shut due to fear? Is this what we really want for Singapore? Is it not the time for us to define what is the meaning of our life and at the same time to redefine Confucianism and Success?I do have my doubt in the sincerity of the Government in Remaking Singapore, like many others, why? If the Government is really serious about Remaking Singapore all they got to do is to open up the political doors and allow the people to have their say in how they want Singapore to be run? This was what Mr. Janades Devan said, “Singapore doesn’t have the same capacious view of talent. The Government not only monopolizes talents of the traditional variety by sweeping great numbers of them, via the scholarship route, into government and allied services, it monopolizes the very definition of talent.” So how are we going to overcome this dilemma?
I do have my doubt in the sincerity of the Government in Remaking Singapore, like many others, why? If the Government is really serious about Remaking Singapore all they got to do is to open up the political doors and allow the people to have their say in how they want Singapore to be run? This was what Mr. Janades Devan said, “Singapore doesn’t have the same capacious view of talent. The Government not only monopolizes talents of the traditional variety by sweeping great numbers of them, via the scholarship route, into government and allied services, it monopolizes the very definition of talent.” So how are we going to overcome this dilemma?
I am a very proud Singaporean even as a young child, and still am because I refused to be sold by the idea that we Asians cannot think. Deep from the bottom of my heart I know that we Asians are just as good or even better if only we are given the opportunity by the Government to prove our worth and to instill in us the courage, confident and foresight to believe in ourselves to charter our own course, even how poor or backwards we might be? You see I don’t have any paper qualification but this does not discourage me from thinking, in fact otherwise because I know strong belief and deep passion are the real force for success? As long as we do not judge the book by its cover, instead go deeper into the feelings of others, I believe we will be able to feel the inner strength of every human and I feel the great strength and talents in all of us Singaporeans even those without paper qualifications because with a heart of love for the nation we could do wonders for our people and country. What Singaporeans lacked is gut, confidence, and determination to succeed because they have allowed fear to stagnant their imagination to reach for the impossible?
When I touched on the topics of politics with Mr. Kao Pun Kun, he told me that he was an artist and not a politician so he preferred not to talk on this subject. I was quite disappointed but I fully understand where he came from after hearing his sad story of imprisonment by the government due to his struggle to make art part of living, especially when he wanted to promote performing arts as a medium to help build stronger and freer Singaporeans with healthy minds and love for Singapore. He was a true Singaporean at heart. It was such a shame that Singapore had treated him badly by putting him in jail just because he strives for Art to be part of living.
As for me, in order to get the frustrations out of my system when I felt something is wrong because the longer it stays in my brain I might get cancer if not stress, I needed an outlet so am compelled to write to appease my soul. “Peace in mind is harmony within”- Sunflower Chong. I needed to speak up if not I wouldn’t have my peace as my spiritual partner will be unhappy – ‘My Soul’. Thus, I am working very hard on my proposals to convince the Government that LOVE is the key or the Magic to get us to be a great nation with a magnanimous heart and most importantly the Government got to live and let live for the sake of the future generation by letting go of control over the minds of the people, thus we need to reform education and open up the society because true art could only excel in a free environment.
But whom am I in the first place without any paper qualifications and status in society wanted to reach out to the Government to change their mindset and also the mindset of the people that they should be responsible for Singapore’s future and not just the Government? I told myself that I must not give up to change the mindset of the people and to influence the Government, as my cause was my belief and had become my mission and this great passion that I possessed drove me to push myself beyond my limit. With all my shortcomings, I knew that I needed to rally the intellectual communities for their support with the hope that they shared my grand vision for Singapore thus will help me to engage the respective authorities in further dialogue especially in regards – How to cultivate great IDEAS in a constraint environment like Singapore?
I met an American, Ms. Kelly Nelson at the Substation during Mr. David Marshall first talk since he was back from France. At the forum, Mr. Marshall wondered why we were so afraid to speak our mind and he encouraged us to do so? Deep from the bottom of our heart, we can’t wait to express our views and anxiety for Singapore’s future. Ms. Nelson invited me for dinner and she shared her interesting paper “Two Countries Diverge in Development” that she had written for the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly – 20 July 1992 and highlighted the vulnerability of Singapore if the PAP government refused to open up the society politically. Maybe after reading Ms. Nelson’s article, the Government will have a better understanding why ordinary Singaporean like me is so concerned for Singapore’s future if the PAP Government still refuse to open up politically?
The Government must not make another mistake again, instead they must be prepared for the inevitable the political issues, which were taboo all these decades cannot be put on the back burner anymore, instead must be encouraged and let it be a natural process of Nation Building and this is how we as a nation should remake Singapore!
Two Countries Diverge In Development
Political development and economic development don’t necessarily follow parallel paths, as seen in China in 1989 and most recently in Thailand. Nevertheless, many countries in Asia are changing their economic policy-making processes in order to provide greater participation for their populations. The pluralist character of economic policy-making found in the West may soon be more the norm in Asia as the region moves toward greater political freedoms and democracy, thus enhancing the stability, security, and potential for future growth of these dynamic economies.
The policy-making structures in Taiwan and Singapore – two prime examples of successful Asian economic development – have been evolving to meet new domestic and international considerations. As Taiwan has achieved greater levels of economic development, the state’s ability to repress political development has weakened. Rapid changes since 1986 allowing greater political freedoms – including the establishment of a legal opposition party to the Kuomintang –are evidence that Taiwan is moving toward greater political participation. Singapore, however, is still lagging in the area of political participation, despite its high level of economic development.
In both Taiwan and Singapore, the state has taken the lead in the economic policy-making process. For both, economic performance has been central to their political legitimation. There are, nonetheless, fundamental differences in their development policies.
Singapore’s development strategy has had strong international aspect, with a reliance on joint ventures and foreign participation that has resulted in a relatively weak domestic manufacturing sector. Taiwan has relied more on the strength of its state and has stressed state ownership coupled with joint ventures, which has resulted in a strengthening of local firms. Though both have open foreign investment climates, Taiwan has placed more emphasis on linking multinational companies to local firms and has directed investment into targeted sectors of the economy, while Singapore has relied more, though not totally, on free-market forces.
The dominance of the state in beginning Taiwan’s economic development is undisputed. When Kuomintang transferred the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan in 1949, they found no domestic power base to either challenge their new regime or participate in economic policy-making. The strong role of the Taiwan state and the business community can be attributed to the historical antipathy between the minority mainland Chinese who have dominated state agencies and the majority Taiwanese who have made up the business class.
This lack of strong institutional links between the private sector and the state limited the implementation of development strategies that encouraged participation from the private sector; other factors inhibiting the participation of local businesses were the export-led development policies and the encouragement of foreign investment pursued by the state. These policies constrained the growth of a domestic industry, because of the need to compete on an international level.
To counteract these negative variables, the state undertook several measures in the early stages of Taiwan’s development to promote growth in the private sector in an effort to achieve political stability and legitimation. Policies such as the land reform program strengthened the development of local businesses and entrepreneurs who would later contribute to economic policy formulation and implementation.
The business community responded by establishing an umbrella organization, the China National Association of Industry and Commerce, to serve as one of the first policy networks between the state apparatus and the business community. High-level government officials involved in economic policy developed a close working relationship with the association, enabling it to function as a bridge between the government and the business community. This close relationship allowed the local business community to expand and contribute to Taiwan’s economic policy-making.
As Taiwan has developed economically, there has been a corresponding push for political reform as business leaders increased in number and stature, they began to request more participation in the policy-making process. The distinction between control of the government by Mainland Chinese and the ethnic Taiwanese influence in the economy also has changed, as more Taiwanese have moved into the government apparatus. This internal shift in power has forced the Kuomintang to be more responsive to public demands and has led to an increase in participation in political and economic decision-making.
Although the Singaporean state has played an equally strong role in developing the city-state’s economic development strategies, the strong character of the state frequently has been ignored. This view of the Singaporean state as having a less influential role in development than the Taiwanese state stems primarily from the fact that the Singaporean government has allowed a greater degree of international involvement in the country and relied more on free-market mechanisms. The fact that the state adopted policies that allowed a greater degree of foreign control than in Taiwan led some observers to conclude that foreign interests have more power than the state. The importance of international actors in Singapore’s economy is, however, second to the power of the state. The People’s Action party maintains primary control over economic policy-making.
Unlike the Taiwan state’s efforts to incorporate local businesses into the policy-making process, the Singaporean state’s attempts to encourage its indigenous firms’ considerable tension between local firms and their foreign competition – a result of the favoritism shown the latter by the state. Local capital is, therefore, limited largely to investment in the service and real estate sectors, or joint ventures and other arrangements with foreign companies. Local firms are further inhibited by their small size (averaging around 50 workers per company, versus the average of more than 100 for foreign firms) and their relative lack of technology and experience.
“Thus, although the Singaporean state has been extremely successful in bringing economic advantages to its people, the business community has been poorly represented in both the economic and political policy-making processes. Singapore’s failure to incorporate the private sector into the public policy process could have detrimental effects on the country’s stability and future growth.
The lack of political representation could be particularly dangerous if an economic crisis or downturn should occur. Such an event could ignite underlying discontent with the status quo – as seen in neighboring Asian states. Although Singapore has been extremely successful in developing economically, it undoubtedly could benefit from greater political participation in both the economic and political policy-making processes.”
The lack of political representation could be particularly dangerous if an economic crisis or downturn should occur. Such an event could ignite underlying discontent with the status quo – as seen in neighboring Asian states. Although Singapore has been extremely successful in developing economically, it undoubtedly could benefit from greater political participation in both the economic and political policy-making processes.”
Ms. Kelly Nelson
Nation building is about cultivating the heart, soul, and mind of the citizen and by making art part of living it will bring the nation to greater heights and thus could make us proud as Singaporeans and this was what the people are striving for. Whereas, the Government focus and objective is for Singapore to be Singapore Inc, a ‘Moneymaking Machine’: without room for compassion and mistakes. Because of this different factors, the relationship between the Government and the people were so distant, like strangers? We were ‘Two Worlds Apart’ not even ‘Siamese Twin’ and this had disturbed me a lot that I had lost sleep over it. Through the midst of all the happenings in the political scene in the 80s and 90’s, I felt a greater force was pushing my every thought that compelled me to speak my mind without any reservation. All these years I had been crying in silent and now I am crying out loud in the open because our life just can’t go on in this manner by allowing our ignorant, arrogance and money to dictate the meaning of our life. On 14 November 1993, I picked up the courage to write in regards to the great divide between the Government and the people.
SOUL – SEARCHING
Man realizes time
Is it wise to define?
Though progress is a necessity of our time
Yet, why have human values fall behind?
The so-called ‘progresses
Only brought us confusion and stress
Why the Government is going backwards and forwards with lectures
Can’t blame the people for losing Hope for the future?
Why are we still confused and lost?
Who is constantly confusing our thoughts?
After three decades of money making,
Is it not the time for the Government and people to soul-searching?
-What is wrong with our so-called ‘perfect system’? – Sunflower Chong 1983
Speaking Aloud – Speaking About Soul
“Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell
If there is anything that is constant in Singapore, it is change and change and change. Have Singaporeans changed for the better? I can say yes and no because it depends on what kind of changes we are talking about, material or spiritual. If the changes are only materials ones, why is it so? If there is lack of spiritual and mental enrichment, what contributed to it? Is it the system or its people?
In a cosmopolitan society of racially diverse people, with multi-cultural and multi-religious backgrounds, it is imperative for us to change constantly to reach our goal of excellence. In the last 30 years, Singapore has witnessed significant changes, which can be seen in our economic and physical infrastructure. This has been, in no small measure, the product of Singapore’s fine political leadership. Our records – the busiest port, the best airport, the finest and most advanced telecommunication system epitomize our economic success. The tallest hotel – in short, we always try to be NUMERO UNO. But, what have all these achievements brought us so far – a secure lifestyle or an enriched lifestyle?
As I see it, in striving for economic excellence, we dropped ethnic lessons in our education system and stressed only capitalistic values, self-interest and profit-motives. This has created a competitive society with less compassion. This means the changes have not only altered the fundamental ways in which we live, they have also changed our belief system and the way we think. We only think of making money, the recent rush for Telecom shares says it all. This seems to be our way of life; therefore I can say despite all these years of progress these changes have brought us only material comforts instead of fulfillment and enrichment of our soul and mind.
Have we ever asked ourselves if there is much more to life? Is quality of life measured only by economic achievements and material gains, or by spiritual and mental well-being as well? The sea is vast, so is our heart, should we limit our choices? Through my observations, I realize that at the height of our so-called success, we are producing Singaporeans without spirit and values. For example, most salespeople are indifferent. They carry on ‘I don’t care’ attitude because they lack pride and joy in their profession. What’s important for them at the end of the day is only the pay cheque and not self-motivation in improving themselves.
Why do most Singaporeans just let their life pass by without any ‘higher purpose’ and accomplishment? Do they lack drive and energy or is something missing in their lives? How did this happen? How I wish Singaporeans understand life is not just taking but giving and most importantly, it is to give a part of our heart in whatever we want to do and achieve. Sometimes I wonder has the path of our progress left us impoverished as people – lacking in heart, soul, and character. How do we achieve a balance, and can we do it alone or should we do it together, which means Government and people?
In the early years of nation-building, the Government’s strict style to pursue economic growth in order to establish a stable society was acceptable. Today, the needs of the maturing population have changed, (Singaporeans want room for individual development) which compels us to ask – is the Government’s management style going on the right path in terms of nurturing people with heart, soul, and character?
There seems to be a misunderstanding between the Government and people. (The decrease of votes for the PAP at every election is proof) Our people lack faith in the Government and vice versa. There is a need for positive feeling towards our political leadership if we hope to secure a good life with a sense of fulfillment and recognition for every citizen. Because the needs of a maturing population have changed, I believed Singaporeans want room for individual development, which they feel deprived of in particular the artists who wanted to be free to voice their thoughts and beliefs, because art is a form of expression, revealing an idea, an insight and a vision, which should be translated into a mission.
Changing ideologies of the Government and changing needs of the people have constituted a shift in the social environment and if neglected, could result in undesirable consequences. Now, how are we going to bridge the gap between the Government and people to reach a better understanding and appreciation of one another?
Ruling by an iron hand, you can only go so far, but ruling with love, compassion by understanding the people’s needs the Government is piling the foundation for the country, as it is the love that will bind us together as one heart, one people and one nation.
I sincerely believe there is a need for the Government and people to put away all fear (if there is still any) and develop complete trust and confidence in each other because ultimately, it has to be the entire country taking responsibility and working in partnership with the Government. The Government should play an educating role instead of a paternalistic role. By doing so, the people will appreciate the Government better and will support the Government all the way. The Government must carry a ‘big heart’ and open their minds to the influence of human development – human beings can be sensitive, unreasonable and difficult. Government policies, whether big or small, immediate or future, should be explained in detail to the people in order to avoid any misunderstanding.
The Government must put themselves in the shoes of the ordinary people if they really want to reach out to them. Most importantly, they must not give the impression to the people that it is ’Money Government’ – that money is the only answer to solve all our problems (many still think that the Government is always out to rip off its citizens – especially the COE). Also, they must be willing to listen to the problems, frustrations, and aspirations of all Singaporeans.
Singaporeans being ‘Kiasu’ people, the public needs assurance that there should be no repercussions to anyone who speaks up, particularly those who have a different opinion or belief from the Government. A good Government is one that listens and tries to understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people, besides providing and taking care of their basic needs. By listening then will you learn and after learning then you can take action to make the matter right. Learning is not a one-way traffic, similarly to listening.
If we do not set our priorities right, by instilling our strong values and allowing everyone to develop an independent mind, then I am afraid we might have more to lose than to gain, because creative thinking arrives only when one dares to speak their mind with confidence. This is the first step to creating a great nation. Do not forget – the true foundation of a nation is stability in the hearts and minds of its citizens. When values and positive thinking fortify the foundation, we are building true assets for our country.
It is high time for Singaporeans to come forward as thinking citizens and do not expect the Government to be at the beck and call. Instead, we should support the Government in whatever way we can to make this community a more humane one. The people must develop positive feelings towards our political leadership if they hope to secure a good life with a sense of fulfillment and recognition. Everyone must be prepared to make changes in our behavior and attitudes. We need to be civic-minded and cultivate an appreciation for the arts, with the knowledge and understanding that true art is one heart reaching for another heart. “There is only one language, the language of the heart, where we will unite as one, thanks to God Almighty” – Sunflower Chong. Art has spiritual power that will influence our thinking in creating universal language in spirituality.
We need to recognize the importance of arts to society because art is an expression of the soul and is a necessary ingredient to nurture and cultivate individuals as they seek unity. It sharpens our conscience to value – giving instead of taking; therefore it can help build a foundation with heart, soul, and character in every citizen. I urge all artists to persevere in their pursuit of excellence in their field and continue to make personal sacrifices for the sake of perpetuating art on a national level. The Government is already taking steps to establish art as part of life by planning for the Art Center and Asian Museum, why don’t we work closely with them to enable Singapore to have the best, instead of complaining and demanding as usual.
To create a vibrant and caring society, it is vital to instill political awareness in all Singaporeans. The minute you cut politics out of the people, you are in fact cutting the flow of blood to the heart. (Especially for me) Without politics and art, it is like being without fresh air and water. Gradually, the people will die a slow death and will not live but just exist. (it is already happening right in front of our eyes and the Government still could not see it, until it is too late.) In short, we should not just exist; we must learn how to LIVE a meaningful life if not being alive has no purpose. Art is an ideology with the power to change the course of history, thus both politics and arts pursue the same end – which is to enrich the lives of others.
The Government’s vision is to build a secure and stable life for the people. Now I believe we need a greater vision beyond 2000 to reach our excellence towards unity. The question that remains to be answered is how we can achieve it and the goal of making art one of the cornerstones of nation-building and inculcate an appreciation for the art from an early age. After years of searching and questioning, I am now convinced that the answer lies in the important roles that the Art Center, Asian Museum, and National Library can play. These are architectural landmarks but they are the ‘hardware’ that provide the framework for the right ‘software’ for the people.
I strongly believe that architecture can be a powerful tool to instill the qualities of heart soul and character in our society because art and architecture are the roots of our cultural heritage. Why do I say so? A great building that house the Art acts as a home for their offspring and as parents guiding the children during their growing years. The music, painting, sculptures are offspring of architecture. This means a building with a great concept will mold society to develop a generous character, which will help us to change our attitude in life in a positive way.
The Government has an ambitious plan in the pipeline to build an Art Center, Asian Museum and National Library for the people and I hope they will spend more time in understanding the need to create ‘soul’ in buildings for it to ‘breathe life’ into the people. At the same time, arts education should be introduced to complement other academic subjects. If we do not introduce art education, we will make a mockery of ourselves as the first country with a great Art Center but without arts education to support our aspirations. With both opportunities of arts education and the enjoyment of art in its myriad forms, Singaporeans will become more enriched.
Observing our leaders’ continual sacrifices for the nation has inspired my deep passion. When I was eight years old, I saw Mr. Lee Kuan Yew proclaimed all of us as Singaporeans, (speaking in Hokkien at Delta wet market) since that day I have felt a change in me with a certain pride of our new identity. I wanted to be a proud Singaporean, therefore, I had made a commitment to support him to develop our Singaporean identity no matter what it would cost me because to achieve our goal of excellence towards unity, every Singaporean should and must come forward to contribute in whatever way they can to make Singapore prime example for others to follow.
But before we can strive to as a great nation, we must realize economics is taking while art is giving. Therefore, we must try to achieve a balance to create harmony and cultivate compassion. The question that remains to be answered is how we can achieve the goal of making art one of the pillars of nation building and inculcate an appreciation for the art from an early age.
‘Speaking Aloud – Speaking About Soul,’ revealed my honest feeling in regards to my concerns, worries and aspirations for Singapore’s future and especially the great divide between the Government and people because with such great divide we can’t build a nation what more if we want Singapore to strive to be a great nation? In those days, the Government often said that we have changed; I really wondered have we changed for the better?
Hence, I took this opportunity to show Ms. Nelson my paper ‘Speaking Aloud – Speaking about Soul ‘along with the Singapore Art Center and National Library proposals and she said, “It is great, you should send it to the Straits Times because these feelings should be read by all Singaporeans!” I did send my paper to Straits Times; as usual, it was not published, instead, I faxed it to the varies Government bodies and anyone that crosses my path. So do you know now why they call me a ‘Seow Chow Boh’?
When I show my paper and works to my friends and many intellectuals, instead of giving me the support like what Ms. Nelson did most of them were afraid of me because they said that I was too POLITICAL as though it was a crime to think politically? The intellectual locals and foreign lecturers from NUS and NTU that I had met at the substation were either afraid ‘For Me’ or ‘Of I’, when I asked for their opinions and assistants to polish my draft, instead they called me a ‘Walking-Time Bomb’. They can’t help me to edit my paper because they were afraid to be implicated in case I was called up by ISA; instead, I was warned by them to be careful of my own sake. Well someone got to push the boundary a little bit further, right! They said that I was very naïve and gullible, didn’t I know that we cannot give our views openly in regard to the ‘weaknesses’ of the Government? So say whom I really wondered? They said that the Government was very proud people and will not admit their mistakes even if there was one made nor will they feel the need to apologize if one was made? Instead, they told me that the people must accept the rigid system as it is and leave our destiny to fate. They reminded me of the ‘Lingam’ case (he escaped from Singapore) when he spoke out about the PAP Government.
Ms. Nelson concerned for Singapore was justified. Being an American she understood that active participation in public issues is a constitutionally entrenched right. She said that mutual respect and tolerance and good civic practices are born out of public debate and active citizenship also allows for consensus building on important issues. Civil society is, by the way, a society of the people, where the people work together and lead each other. Where supposedly the people have more autonomy from the Government. Theatre, the performing art is also another important voice in civil society. It seeks to change society through performance. Civil society functions on a community level, by the people for the people, and not via government ruling. Therefore, the demise of civil-society groups is detrimental to Singapore political evolution. For civil society to work, people have to be very proactive. People should speak up. People should act. She said that what I was doing is a good example of civil society. Volunteerism is another powerful form of civil society.
She said that ‘Political Thinking’ and ‘Art’ are very much lacking in Singapore society, which are necessary ingredients to make the creative minds work. I believed the system should promote the art; encourage people to learn for the education sake and not economics’ sake. People here study to make a living and not to learn this kills the joy and essence of learning. Promote subjects which nurture, albeit being difficult to score – subjects like literature, philosophy, and drama in secondary schools. Take away the focus on the results and people will start showing interest. Singapore education system is too result oriented. A friend of my daughter who is a teacher said that the reasons why so many people close their minds on subjects like these because they are afraid to fail. They fear that these subjects would hinder their paths to great results. They deemed these subjects impractical and uneconomical. She said that this MUST change if Singapore is to succeed?
Unfortunately, in Singapore art is separated from living because the Government does not realize that art is the core of economic success and the secret key to nation building. Therefore, Ms. Nelson was surprised to meet a Singaporean like me with so much spirit, passion and drive in striving for art to be a way of life especially when she knew that in Singapore context it was an uphill battle for anyone to embark on this struggle. (Look at what had happened to Mr. Kao Pun Kun for striving to develop and integrate cultures?) She asked me, “How long can you go on in this manner without anyone especially the intellectuals from society to support your cause that Art and Great Architecture got roles to play in nation building to uplift the morale and spirit of the people and that the English Language must be the medium spoken for all in public when you are with different races, if Singapore is going to be the brain and soul of the world?”
Ms. Nelson also wondered how I was going to achieve this goal to get the government to see the need to start an Arts School to enable Singapore to be the center to develop revolutionary minds. I told her if there is a will there is a way because God will show me the path to Singapore enlightenment through our soul? I told her our soul would shine with passion for Singapore through our works because it is the true light and shining armor for Singapore.
Mr. Polunin from NTU was concerned that my passion might not last or burnout, therefore he had written to Mr. Janadas Devan to rally for his assistance in my struggle to make Singapore a ‘soulful’ society.
27 November 1993
Dear Mr. Devan,
Sunflower asked me to send the enclosed on to you. She seems sincere, committed and is without doubt passionate about a cause that I am also enthusiastic about – Namely to Encourage Artistic Sensitivity and Enthusiasm (and Pride) among Singaporeans.
Sunflower has probably gone as far as she can in pushing her library proposal through official channels. I feel that what is now needed is a public debate (the press followed by a forum, papers) to enlarge the corpus of support and momentum.
While I welcome Sunflower’s energy and passion in justly passionless (except for money) Singapore – and no way do I want to discourage it, because it is rare and needed – I do at the same time have my reservations. I wondered how far she could go. Beyond developing public momentum, not much further – if we are talking about a National Monument (the library). I would prefer to see her energy channeled towards an expression of the Substation concept (informal, experimental, fumbling, approachable, and inspirational). I’ve talked to her about the concept of a Substation II, which might be a meeting place (library, music, natural food restaurant usually locally made crockery (pots) & utensils) with performing musicians, a resident painter or sculptor or potter etc. If, as she says, she wants to spend money – this concept would be more feasible and could go ahead without the need of institutional bureaucrat support.
I mention this more manageable idea in case it strikes a chord with you – and you, who have clearly impressed Sunflower, might redirect her energy. Yes, keep conceding for the National Library but make a concrete investment in Substation II.
With Sunflower’s drive – we are probably due to meet in the future. I look forward to it.
Sad to say that life passes most of us by without a challenge, not for lack of trying but lack of recognition for our contributions because what we were contributing might not be in line with what the Government wanted as their focus must first produce the bottom line, this is our main problem! Mr. Kuo Pao Kun’s struggle is one fine example. The Government can’t envisage the future with love through the arts, as they are men with pragmatic minds only! What to do my fellow Singaporeans, cry alone lah? Yes, I have shed many tears alone for Singapore and even in front of the top civil servants from Singapore Art Center (SAC) to the stage that no more tears left and now I got to write to have a closure to appease my soul.
As a layperson, I see nothing wrong if the people wish to engage in political dialogue and discussions. I believe it is a healthy dose of medicine for our brain to keep us alive mentally, emotionally and thus spirituality? Wasn’t that the way Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was brought up especially in the 50s & 60s? We must be positive in our thinking, instead of accepting the negativity like most Singaporeans had done for most of their life as fear is like a jacket that they got to put it on before they step out of the door.
Life should not be stressful instead should be filled with joy for the love of living then creativity will blossom and babies plentiful. Doesn’t the Government know that ‘the soul is the true being’ thus is the driving force for creative minds to excel that kept us alive spiritually? With a strong belief and passion, we will excel beyond our wildest imagination and might even help us make a breakthrough or conquer the world figuratively speaking.