The passing on of Mr Lee is no doubt an event of historical significance. The life and legacy of Singapore’s first Prime Minister will be studied for years to come, by scholars and independent researchers, and his rule will be evaluated, revered and critiqued for years to come.
What I find incredibly boggling is the response from some Singaporeans in the immediate aftermath of his death.
See, Mr Lee is a public figure. As such, it is inevitable that there will be Singaporeans who have nothing but rave reviews about his 30 years in power, and Singaporeans who have been supremely unhappy with his rule. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone has a right to express it.
However, this is my problem. Increasingly, there have been articles written by Singaporeans who accuse Mr Lee of restricting freedom of speech, and civil liberties. Honestly, if that’s how you feel, so be it. If that is what you want to remember, you are perfectly entitled to do so. But it is this very same people, who harp on and on about freedom of speech, who mock Singaporeans who are genuinely upset about the death of Mr Lee. It is this same people who appeal to Singaporeans to use their brains. It is also this people who urge Singaporeans to not cast sympathy votes.
This irritates the HELL out of me because firstly, just as you are entitled to go on and on about how LKY isn’t the God that people make him out to be, it is also the entitlement of Singaporeans to show their respect in whichever manner they deem fit. Yes, you do have Singaporeans who do not tolerate a single word of negativity against Mr Lee, and that is of course unacceptable. Live and let live. You have to critique his rule, go ahead. An intelligent writer or analyst would be able to do that without putting down the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others who feel otherwise. If trivialising the emotions of people and equating it to pornography is your idea of freedom of speech, I am not sure I want freedom of speech. It is disgraceful, insulting and uncalled for. Just as how you feel that you have suffered immensely under his rule, there are people who have benefitted and want to show their gratitude for that. Let them do it. (Not that you are in a position to LET anyone do anything in the first place)
In my opinion, the fact that a minority indian girl such as myself has had equal opportunities since I was born is a sign of freedom. The fact that any one who makes unfounded comments against my race or religion will be taken to task is freedom. The fact that I am able to roam the streets free without needing to carry a can of pepper spray or a registered weapon is freedom. The fact that the only thing I need to protect my students from in school is overwhelming stress, instead of armed murderers is freedom. Yes, there are so many other types of freedom that perhaps we should be allowed. Judging by the baseless, vulgar, pointless, derogatory comments on social media, I don’t know if we are ready for all of that. But of course, my humble opinion. You continue to highlight everything that is the problem with Singapore. You are merely being kind enough to provide an alternative perspective.
Then those who are going on and on about how LKY didn’t adhere to western democratic ideals and didn’t accord sufficient importance to civil liberties, in particular freedom of speech. I even saw an article that mentioned how the western world would have spat on our atrocities against human rights and freedom. I just have one question that I need clarified.
Why? Since when is the western ideology the benchmark against which all other political systems are to be measured? What makes one ideology superior to everything else?
And FYI, post 9/11, American has introduced various measures in order to curb terrorism, and these measures include indefinite detention, immunity from judicial review, warrantless searches and continual monitoring of citizens. Free much? I don’t think so. Freedom is relative, and subjected to the needs of the nation. You can argue all you want about individual above community, but when the security of a nation is threatened, you can be sure that a responsible leader will do all he can to ensure the survival of the nation and the safety of the people. I am not defending LKY here. My point is to highlight the fact that I don’t understand the comparison to the west.
Having said all of this, please don’t fear that the rest of us Singaporeans are blind, or stupid, and worry about our ability to make an informed decision come GE. Contrary to your belief, you aren’t the only smart, intelligent, objective one around. Most of the rest of us are able to make an intelligent distinction between grieving for someone who has done us much good, and preparing for the future. We are also not imbeciles who will cast sympathy votes.
Regardless of who one votes for, be it the opposition or the incumbent, there are so many factors to consider.
1) Foreign Policy and International relations.
LKY and his team have raised our international standing and we have positive diplomatic ties with many countries. However, this is not a certainty.
There are no permanent allies, only permanent National Interests.
We need a government capable enough to design foreign policies with foresight, policies that allow us to work with other countries to overcome our limitations and policies that allow us to contribute to the International Community so that we gain recognition.
We need leaders capable of working with regional and international organizations, as well as their counterparts in other countries. Leaders smart and respectable enough to hold their own against much more powerful nations.
2) we need leaders who do not prioritise popularity and leaders who do not kowtow to public opinion. We need leaders who consider the macro and micro implications of their policies and think long term.
We need leaders with the courage to implement policies that are not popular with the people,and leaders who have the humility to withdraw these policies should they stop working.
3) We need leaders who can stand alone on their own merit, and not ride on the glorious legacies left behind by their celebrated predecessors.
4) We need leaders who face their opponents bravely, and head on, instead of resorting to unfounded jibes.
5) We need leaders who engage their people, and take into account their feedback, and at the very least acknowledge it.
6) We need leaders who genuinely care for their people and the survival of the nation.
So yes, rest assured, the rest of Singapore KNOWS how to think too I am sure. Because at the end of the day, it is human instinct to seek survival, and our future is at stake too. Not just yours.