Sunday, April 5, 2015

LEE KUAN YEW AND THE STRANGE STORY OF AN ISLAND

…HE CAN NEVER BE APPRECIATED BY SUCH A SMALL GROUP OF SINGAPOREANS AND FORMER SINGAPOREANS FOR HAVING DONE SO MUCH FOR SINGAPORE.
By Mansor Puteh


It is described as a small red dot in the sea of green, whatever that means… It is definitely not the flag of Bangladesh.

It is Singapore being surrounded by Melayu and Muslim countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.


Lee Kuan Yew, founded modern-day Singapore,, or rebranded the country, was said to be crying when the country was evicted out of the Federation of Malaysia by the then prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman who Kuan Yew said was difficult to understand with his courtly style, being a royal from the Kedah Sultanate.

Later-day Malaysian prime minister and critic of Tunku, Mahathir Mohammad was reported to have remarked how Kuan Yew was disappointed with the expulsion of his country from Malaysia as he was eager to be the leader of a larger country, instead of just a small one, Singapore.

Kuan Yew was good in Melayu, being able to speak convincingly in the language and he also encouraged his first son, Hsien Loong to learn the language, for which he is still adept at it till today although he has not been heard to be conversing in it with others.

Other than that Kuan Yew also encouraged his son to learn Russian which he said would be a popular and important international language of the world.

It has not come to that and chances are Russian will never be one anytime soon, or ever.

So Kuan Yew had made a wrong guess and his son is left with whatever memories of the language he had tried to master and was able to converse with, without it ever benefiting him that much or at all.

Hsien Loong mostly keeps in touch with his Melayu by reading the Melayu daily, Berita Harian which sits at his table in his office every morning.

But the Lees were descendants of the Peranakan Chinese, and their parents hailed from Semarant in Jawa, Indonesia and who spoke excellent Melayu which they also encouraged their children to speak in, and Kuan Yew’s children still call their mother, Mak, the Melayu word for mother, instead of Mummy or Ah-Ma or Lau-Bu, in English or Hokkien, their native dialect.

Once in a while he would speak in Melayu in his national day address.

But his father, Kuan Yew, despite not being able to converse much in the language as many allege or said, could communicate well in it with the then President Suharto of Indonesia since Suharto could not speak in English for Kuan Yew to use this language with him.

I have heard an old recording of a speech Kuan Yew made in the early 1965 when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia when he said that ‘Singapura bukan negara Melayu.’ Then he added, ‘Singapura juga bukan negara Cina’ or ‘Singapore is not a Melayu country’ and ‘Singapore is also not a Chinese country’.

What he said was true then but today Singapore has indeed become a ‘negara Cina’, or a Chinese country.

Indonesia learnt the hard way by expelling Suharto to establish the New Order or Ode Baru, which caused Indonesia to be fractured and losing Timor-Timor to be an independent republic, Timor-Leste.

And Indonesia turned for the worse without Suharto but with so much democracy that the majority of the people were not ready to accept or to benefit from, as much as the Arabs are still not sure what democracy means other than to fight with each other with the slightest provocation, and using whatever means to inflict more pain on their own self.

Democracy, or American-style democracy is not suitable for the Arabs; yet, they are still unaware of that, still wanting more democratic space opened for more to inflict more pain on more Arabs.

In Singapore, there is democracy, but not American-style democracy, but Kuan Yew or DAP-style democracy which was established by the person himself which had served well for the development of the Republic of Singapore.

But so few are not happy with it. They want more democratic space opened and made available to all and sundry to create havoc and confusion even until they too have to suffer.

That Singapore is such a small country that is totally dependent on the charity of the others did not mean anything to them.

That Kuan Yew had done so much for them and for Singapore since September 1965 also did not mean anything.

Kuan Yew is lying in the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for quite a while for pneumonia and is being held by a life supporting system to allow him to breathe.

And at the time this is written, his condition is said to be stable and unchanged, whatever that means.

I still remember how he was reported to have said not long ago, that he had signed a ‘pre-medical advice’ which stated that he would not wish to be hook to such a device if his medical condition slipped for the worse.

But somehow his wishes have not been taken seriously by his children or doctors.

And surely, too, his wishes to have his house at 38 Oxley Road demolished so that the whole area could be developed with the real estate value appreciated.

All around his colonial-style bungalow are tall apartment buildings.

The narrow two-lane road that leads from the main road to his house is still like what it was before, but the house has seen little redesigning.

Kuan Yew’s daughter, said her family preferred to live a frugal life.

This is such an understatement since anyone who has a landed house must be someone who is wealthy, when most Singaporeans could only manage to live in high-rise apartments, despite its high price.

So few have landed properties.

But Kuan Yew had his property when Singapore had fewer people and more space.

Surely, the calls by some loyal Singaporeans in the internet who said they would want to have the house retained after the death of Kuan Yew, can and must be considered seriously by the DAP government, which can be turned into a memorial of sorts.

One would not dare to think that Kuan Yew himself would have favored that, and he knew his wishes would also not be heeded by his children and prime minister and the cabinet and the majority of the Singaporeans.

He had to say that just to be himself so no one can say he had agreed to have the house retained which will be unKuan-Yew-like posture.   

My bet is that the house at 38 Oxley Road would be retained to its former glory after Kuan Yew’s death and the people living in the apartment buildings around it would surely not mind seeing the bungalow sitting there, even when its owner is not living in it anymore.

 Singapore will be celebrating its national day on 16 September, 1965, its fiftieth.

And some said if Singapore could not make it alone, it would have to remerge with Malaysia in fifty years.

But this may now seem to be totally unlikely.


Lastly it may not be what Kuan Yew had done to develop his country to be a First World one, but the water that the country still receives for almost free everyday, without which Singapore could be dehydrated long ago, for which the country is not willing to severe its ties to Malaysia by even replacing the Causeway with a proper bridge.   

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