View Full Version : LEE KWAN YEW, Father of Modern Singapore, 1924-2015

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:39 PM
Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore into prosperity over 30-year rule, dies at 91

By William Branigin March 22

Lee Kuan Yew, whose efficient but often heavy-handed leadership helped transform Singapore from a chaotic British colonial backwater into one of the world’s most prosperous and orderly states, died March 23 in a Singapore hospital. He was 91.

Mr. Lee had been hospitalized with pneumonia since February. The prime minister’s office announced the death.

As prime minister from 1959 to 1990, Mr. Lee ushered Singapore through independence from Britain, a merger and subsequent breakup with neighboring Malaysia, and a period of explosive racial tensions before turning the Southeast Asian city-state into one of the region’s economic “tigers.” By the time he stepped down after 31 years at the helm, he was the longest-serving prime minister in the world.

Mr. Lee then held senior advisory posts in the cabinets of two of his successors, including his eldest son, until he resigned in May 2011. In all, he spent 52 years in government, presiding over Singapore’s rise as one of the globe’s leading financial centers and busiest ports, with GDP per capita ranked third in the world. Even after relinquishing power, he maintained outsize influence, sought for his counsel on matters ranging from how to achieve political stability and economic growth to ways of dealing with China.

His bluntness sometimes got him into trouble, notably when he lectured other countries publicly or when his private comments to U.S. officials became public. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by the anti-privacy group WikiLeaks, Mr. Lee in 2007 said dealing with Burma’s military junta was like “talking to dead people.” In 2009, in another leaked cable, he apparently called North Korean officials “psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.”

Scarred by deadly race riots that rocked Singapore in the 1960s, Mr. Lee took far-reaching steps to tamp down racial and religious tensions among the teeming island state’s Chinese, Malay and Indian populations. He imposed integration, instituting strict rules to ensure that Singaporeans of different backgrounds lived, studied and worked together.

A British-educated lawyer by training, Mr. Lee ran a government that was widely regarded as farsighted, honest and efficient, but it also could be overbearing and patronizing. The result was a tidy, law-abiding country, but one that visitors often described as regimented, sterile and dull.

Critics also charged that Mr. Lee’s administration permitted detention without charge or trial, censored the press, harassed political opponents and turned a blind eye to police mistreatment of suspects.

Some Singaporeans complained that the avowedly “paternalistic” government treated them like children, forbidding private citizens to own home satellite dishes, fining and humiliating people caught failing to flush public toilets, and even imposing a nationwide ban on chewing gum.

When a BBC reporter once suggested to him that allowing people to chew gum could help spur creativity, Mr. Lee retorted: “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”

Mr. Lee steadfastly defended his tough approach to political opponents, arguing that it was imperative in a country such as Singapore, with its ethnic Chinese majority and sizable Malay and Indian minorities.

“Nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul-de-sac,” he was quoted as saying in “Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas,” a 1997 biography. “If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.”

Harry Lee Kuan Yew was born Sept. 16, 1923, in Singapore, then a British colony, where his great-grandfather had emigrated from China’s Guangdong province in 1862. His father, Lee Chin Koon, was a storekeeper and worked for Shell Oil as a depot manager. His mother, Chua Jim Neo, was the daughter of a wealthy businessman and became a renowned cooking teacher.

For the first three decades of his life, Mr. Lee was known mostly as Harry Lee, but he dropped the Anglicized first name as his political career blossomed.

He studied at Raffles College in Singapore, but his higher education plans were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II and the Japanese invasion of Singapore. Mr. Lee learned to speak Japanese and found work as a translator and editor for the occupiers’ propaganda department.

The 1942-1945 occupation had a profound impact on the young Mr. Lee, who recalled in his memoirs being slapped and forced to kneel for failing to bow to a Japanese soldier. He and other young Singaporeans “emerged determined that no one — neither Japanese nor British — had the right to push and kick us around,” he said later. “We determined that we could govern ourselves.”

The occupation also drove home lessons about raw power and the effectiveness of harsh punishment in deterring crime, he wrote in his memoirs.

After the war, Mr. Lee earned a law degree from the University of Cambridge, where he courted Kwa Geok Choo, a fellow law student he had met in Singapore. They married secretly in London in 1947, then again more formally in 1950 after returning to Singapore, where they set up a law practice together.

The couple had two sons — Lee Hsien Loong, who became prime minister in 2004, and Lee Hsien Yang, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore since 2009 — and a daughter, Lee Wei Ling, who heads the National Neuroscience Institute. They survive, along with seven grandchildren. Kwa died in 2010 at 89.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:41 PM
^^^ (Cont'd)

In 1954, Mr. Lee and a group of other British-educated Singaporeans formed the People’s Action Party (PAP) as a populist, socialist organization seeking independence from Britain, which had reoccupied its colony after the war. The following year, he won a legislative seat that he would continue to hold for more than five decades. He became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959, presiding over a government that was autonomous except in defense and foreign affairs.

In 1961, neighboring Malaya proposed a merger in which Singapore would join a new Federation of Malaysia, which Mr. Lee enthusiastically endorsed, seeing it as a way to ensure the political and economic viability of his tiny, resource-poor island. Voters backed him in a referendum, and, on Aug. 31, 1963, Mr. Lee declared independence from Britain, paving the way for Singapore to join the federation.

Race riots in 1964, in which at least 34 people were killed and more than 560 were injured in clashes between Chinese and Malays, exacerbated a political dispute between Mr. Lee’s PAP and Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organization. Eventually, Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman moved to expel Singapore from the federation.

Displaying rare emotion, Mr. Lee wept on national television as he announced Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in August 1965, declaring it a “moment of anguish” for him that “literally broke everything that we stood for.”

As a result, Singapore gained full independence — the only country in modern history to do so against its will.

Mr. Lee set about building Singapore, adopting free-trade and business-friendly policies. He cracked down hard on corruption, launched urban reforms, bulldozed squalid slums and enforced multiculturalism in an effort to create a uniquely Singaporean identity.

To prevent the formation of what it called “racial enclaves,” his government crafted elaborate rules stipulating the percentages of Chinese, Malays and Indians who could live in public housing projects. “We cannot allow segregation,” Mr. Lee declared.

At the same time, Mr. Lee showed little tolerance for dissent. Saying that Singapore “has always to be a tight ship,” he made free use of the Internal Security Act, a law predating independence that allows for arrest and detention without trial.

The case of Chia Thye Poh illustrated Mr. Lee’s penchant for political vindictiveness. Chia, a mild-mannered former physics teacher and member of parliament from a socialist opposition party, was arrested in 1966 and spent 23 years in prison without charge or trial, becoming one of the world’s longest-held political prisoners. The government suspected him of being an undercover communist agitator, which Chia emphatically denied, and he stubbornly refused to sign a confession in return for his freedom.

Chia was released in 1989, but Mr. Lee’s government then imposed a bizarre form of internal exile off Singapore’s main island. He was confined to a small former guardhouse on Sentosa Island, a resort that is the city-state’s equivalent of Disneyland. It was not until 1998 that authorities lifted all restrictions on him.

“They wanted me to pay a very high price for not kowtowing to them,” Chia said.

Mr. Lee was unapologetic. “We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists,” he said in 1986. “If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”

Critics also accused Mr. Lee of using Singapore’s libel laws to suppress dissent by suing political opponents into bankruptcy. One who made that charge was Devan Nair, who served as president of Singapore in the early 1980s before falling out with Mr. Lee and moving to Canada, where he died in 2005. From exile, Nair described Mr Lee as an “increasingly self-righteous know-all” whose acolytes were “department store dummies.” Mr. Lee later sued his former comrade for libel in Canada but eventually dropped the case.

A bigger target of Mr. Lee’s wrath was Workers’ Party leader J.B. Jeyaretnam, a gadfly who in 1981 became the first opposition politician to win a seat in Parliament since independence. He was repeatedly sued for slander or libel over the years. After failing to keep up with payments for damages, he eventually declared bankruptcy in 2001 and was stripped of the parliamentary seat he held at the time.

Under Mr. Lee, Singapore instituted some of the world’s strictest gun-control and drug laws, enforcing them with mandatory death penalties. For example, automatic sentences of hanging were prescribed for trafficking slightly more than an ounce of cocaine, or for firing a gun while committing another crime, regardless of whether anyone was hit. As a result, Singapore has practically no gun crime and negligible drug problems. But it also regularly ranks among the top countries in executions per capita.

Mr. Lee was also a strong proponent of corporal punishment, notably caning. Singapore’s zeal for the penalty led to a diplomatic tiff with the United States in 1994 when an American teenager, Michael Fay, was sentenced to be caned for vandalism. U.S. officials saw the case largely as a Singaporean repudiation of American permissiveness.

A tendency to dabble in social engineering sometimes put Mr. Lee at odds with foreign critics, as well as Singaporean women. In the 1980s, his government set up the world’s only state-run matchmaking agency, in part to find mates for Singapore’s growing number of unmarried, *college-educated women. Another program provided incentives for graduate mothers to have several children, reversing an overly successful family-planning campaign.

“If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool . . . you would end up a more stupid society,” Mr. Lee complained in a 1983 speech.

In 1994, Mr. Lee even lamented that his government had been “young, ignorant and idealistic” when it had promoted equal education and employment rights for women decades earlier. As a consequence, he said, they were having a hard time finding husbands, because “the Asian male does not like to have a wife who is seen to be his equal at work.”

Some of his most controversial comments concerned democracy and its applicability to Asian societies.

“With few exceptions, democracy has not brought good government to new developing countries,” Mr. Lee said in a 1992 speech in Tokyo. “What Asians value may not necessarily be what Americans or Europeans value.” He ignited a furor in Manila the same year when, ignoring two decades of previous authoritarian rule, he told Philippine businessmen that their country needed “discipline more than democracy” to develop. “The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development,” he said.

His outlook was perhaps best summed up in his 1997 biography. “Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right,” he told his biographer. “If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.”

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:44 PM
Singapore in uncharted territory as longtime leader Lee Kuan Yew dies

By Chico Harlan

March 22

Follow @chicoharlan

Singapore’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, died early Monday, leaving the wealthy and orderly city-state in uncharted territory as a small but growing percentage of the country questions the one-party monolith that Lee helped forge.

Lee, who died at 91 after a bout with pneumonia, ruled Singapore for 31 years and transforming it from a British outpost into an independent trading and finance powerhouse. Lee stepped down as prime minister in 1990 and left government in 2011, but he remained a towering figure whose distaste for corruption and criticism set the tone for modern-day Singapore.

His death brings Singapore to a moment of both grief and national anxiety. Among the central questions is whether Singaporeans — particularly a more outspoken younger generation, influenced by democratization movements elsewhere and facing slowing economic growth and rising inequality — will continue to accept what for decades has been a national paradox: economic liberty but little freedom of expression.

Singapore has been governed since its founding by the People’s Action Party. The current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, is Lee Kuan Yew’s son. The system is nominally democratic, but the PAP has overwhelming influence over the media and judiciary and has gerrymandered districts to give it an electoral edge.In the 2011 election, the party faired poorly — by its standards of dominance — with a fragmented opposition grabbing 40 percent of the vote.

Lee Hsein Loong said in an interview with Singaporean journalists this year that there was “no certainty” the dominance of one party would continue. “You make one small change — the [political] sky can change,” he said.“And that is not a comfortable position to be in.”

In a statement, President Obama said of the elder Lee, “A visionary who led his country from Singapore’s independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader.”

Early Monday, a stream of grieving messages grew on the official Facebook page of the prime minister’s office. Nearly all were admiring.

“You have done Singapore proud,” one post said. “A tiny red dot [on the map] becomes world famous because of you.”

But others have mixed feelings about Lee’s legacy. Commentator Carlton Tan, 28, wrote in a recent column that Singaporeans “simultaneously love and hate, respect and despise, cherish and abhor, the man.”

“We are thankful for our decades of economic progress, but we wonder whether it was really necessary to sacrifice our freedoms,” Tan continued. “We are grateful for the stability and security, but we wonder whether we can maintain it without a strong civil society.”

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that while the economic development Lee oversaw is “beyond doubt,” it came at a “significant cost,” with restrictions and self-censorship that “Singapore now needs to overcome.”

Now that Lee Kuan Yew has passed from the scene,” Robertson wrote, “perhaps that long overdue conversation [about political liberalization] can finally proceed.”

Singapore is only about three times the size of Washington D.C., and has maintained relative peace despite its mish-mash of ethnicities and proximity to traditional powers. The country maintains close trade and defense ties to the U.S., and Singapore has spoke favorably about the Obama Administration’s avowed pivot toward Asia.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:46 PM
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s longtime leader

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial included incorrect dates for Lee Kuan Yew’s tenure as Singapore’s prime minister. He held the post from 1959 to 1990. The following version has been updated.

By Editorial Board

March 23 at 2:41 PM

LEE KUAN Yew was the democratic world’s favorite dictator. Over the course of half a century, the Singaporean leader, who died on March 23 at the age of 91, helped propel his island city-state from a backwater British colonial trading post to one of the world’s richest countries. His counsel was sought by a succession of U.S. presidents and many other world leaders, who valued his insights about China, capitalism and what he called “Asian values.”

High among those values was a belief in strict discipline and a disregard for democracy, which Mr. Lee claimed was not suited for developing nations. As prime minister from 1959 to 1990, he created a public administration renowned for its efficiency and lack of corruption, which became the foundation of Singapore’s economic takeoff. He steered the country through independence from Britain, a painful divorce from Malaysia and multiple wars and upheavals in Southeast Asia, while forging a community from Singapore’s ethnic mix of Chinese, Malay and Indians.

But Mr. Lee also persecuted anyone who violated his hidebound notions of public order, from gum chewers to gay people, media critics and opposition political leaders. “I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial,” he told the New York Times in 2010 . One opponent, Chia Thye Poh, was imprisoned for 23 years without charge or trial beginning in 1966. More recently, opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan was bankrupted by spurious libel suits and repeatedly jailed for offenses such as speaking in public without a permit and saying that the judiciary is not independent.

With his domestic media subservient, Mr. Lee frequently targeted Western news organizations that had the temerity to suggest that nepotism or dynastic politics might explain the installation of his son as prime minister in 2004 , or other appointments of family members to high positions. The International Herald Tribune, the Economist and Bloomberg News were among those hit with suits and forced to pay fines and print retractions.

None of this prevented several generations of U.S. and European leaders from seeking Mr. Lee’s counsel and offering glowing praise for his wisdom. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger has said that no world leader “has taught me more ”; former British prime minister Tony Blair called him “the smartest leader I ever met.” To be sure, Mr. Lee was shrewd in judging his giant neighbor, China, and its leaders. Beijing respected him, too, and at times he helped West and East to understand each other.

Mr. Lee was, however, demonstrably unwise about democracy in Asia. While he was touting supposedly unique Asian values incompatible with liberal Western norms, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia became robust democracies and prospered economically. Now Singapore’s entrenched establishment is under pressure from a generation accustomed to free expression on social media. “It’s a different generation, a different society, and politics will be different,” Prime Minister (and Lee’s son) Lee Hsien Loong told The Post’s Lally Weymouth in 2013. “We have to work in a more open way.”

Arguably, Mr. Lee’s stewardship of Singapore has made it inevitable that a prosperous, globally connected society will embrace personal and political freedoms. But the country will sustain its success only if his successors abandon the dark side of his legacy.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:50 PM
What Lee Kuan Yew got wrong about Asia

By Ishaan Tharoor

March 23 at 2:24 PM

Follow @ishaantharoor

The eulogies to Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of the modern city-state of Singapore, are flooding in for good reason. Few world leaders stood astride as grand a sweep of history as Lee or represent as much to their nation as he did. Later this year, Singapore will mark its 50th anniversary of full independence — a half-century defined by Lee's rule and vision.

Lee, who died at age 91, went from being an advocate of trade unionists and socialists to a state-building nationalist to a global paragon of good governance, credited with the transformation of his tiny country from a sleepy backwater to a wealthy First World entrepot. He is both an exemplary post-colonial leader and an almost post-national figure; in his later years, Lee became a seemingly endless font of soothsaying global wisdom, hailed by Western politicians and business management gurus alike.

But there will always be one shadow hanging over Lee's incredible legacy: that of his views on democracy, and the draconian methods his government sometimes deployed to stifle it. Under Lee, Singapore was governed as a virtual one-party state. Freedom of speech, despite slow reforms, was strictly curtailed. Intense libel laws led to the bankrupting and marginalization of opposition politicians.

Lee, erudite and articulate, was outspoken in his ambivalence toward democracy as a political system. "The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development," he is quoted as saying, with trademark pragmatism. "The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society to establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people."

Under Lee's stewardship, Singapore became a model of economic growth and efficiency, whose blueprint for success was celebrated throughout the region. It was an unabashed nanny state led by supposedly apolitical technocrats. Deng Xiaoping's 1978 trip to Singapore is believed to have opened the communist Chinese leader's eyes to the benefits of a market economy in an authoritarian context.

"Singapore enjoys good social order and is well managed," Deng later said. "We should tap their experience and learn how to manage things better than they do."

The Singapore model got spun into a larger lesson for the world: that to advance, Asian societies needed to avoid the pitfalls of Western liberal systems. Unsurprisingly, China's state news agency Xinhua framed its praise for Lee in its Monday obituary along these lines: "It is exactly thanks to his firm belief and long implementation of Asian values, that [Lee] could establish an Asian ‘micro power’ with good order, a prosperous economy and a rich culture."

The cult of "Asian values" grew in the 1990s as the economies of East Asia and Southeast Asia took off. This was championed most vociferously by Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, and largely discredited after the 1997 Asian financial crisis exposed the fragility of some of these governments. But its ethos remained a fundamental part of Lee's worldview.

"I don’t think there is an Asian model as such," Lee said in an 1994 interview with Fareed Zakaria that was published in Foreign Affairs. "But Asian societies are unlike Western ones." Like Mahathir, he argued that there were hard and clear differences between "Eastern" and "Western" cultures: In the former, the individual matters less than in the latter, and, as a consequence, in the former, human rights matter less than the need for the security of the collective and economic growth.

This argument finds its backers in Asia's authoritarian countries, but it has been widely panned, as well. More than 60 percent of the world's population lives in Asia, and to imply that each and every Asian is somehow bound by a shared system of values is utterly preposterous. The fact that some of East Asia's most advanced economies — Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan — also are healthy, battle-tested democracies suggests that societies steeped in Confucianism can happily accommodate more liberal, "modern" forms of politics.

Others, including Indian academic and Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen, contend that traditions of debate and argument, as well as the belief in universal values, are as inherent to Asian cultures as they are to the West. To deny that is to provide a fig leaf for authoritarianism.

"Those who wish to deny us certain political rights try to convince us that these are not Asian values," said Aung San Suu Kyi, the former Burmese political prisoner and a Nobel laureate. "In our struggle for democracy and human rights, we would like greater support from our fellow Asians.

Martin Lee, a leading democracy activist in Hong Kong, deemed the idea of Asian values a "pernicious myth."

Indeed, Hong Kong is an interesting counterpoint to Lee's Singapore. Another former British colony that's now uncomfortably part of China, it remains a leading Asian metropolis, with a far freer and more robust civil society. "Colonial Hong Kong, so similar in many ways, prospered as well without the guidance of a 'philosopher king' or a 'Moses', as [Lee Kuan Yew] was to be later described," writes veteran Asia hand Philip Bowring in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

And that may be Lee's legacy after all: A man so unique and so capable, he should be remembered as a one-off figure in history, rather than an emblem of an entire civilization's progress.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 01:52 PM
The world will miss Lee Kuan Yew

By Henry A. Kissinger

March 23 at 3:43 PM

Henry A. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977.

Lee Kuan Yew was a great man. And he was a close personal friend, a fact that I consider one of the great blessings of my life. A world needing to distill order from incipient chaos will miss his leadership.

Lee emerged onto the international stage as the founding father of the state of Singapore, then a city of about 1 million. He developed into a world statesman who acted as a kind of conscience to leaders around the globe.

Fate initially seemed not to have provided him a canvas on which to achieve more than modest local success. In the first phase of decolonization, Singapore emerged as a part of Malaya. It was cut loose because of tensions between Singapore’s largely Chinese population and the Malay majority and, above all, to teach the fractious city a lesson of dependency. Malaya undoubtedly expected that reality would cure Singapore of its independent spirit.

But great men become such through visions beyond material calculations. Lee defied conventional wisdom by opting for statehood. The choice reflected a deep faith in the virtues of his people. He asserted that a city located on a sandbar with nary an economic resource to draw upon, and whose major industry as a colonial naval base had disappeared, could nevertheless thrive and achieve international stature by building on its principal asset: the intelligence, industry and dedication of its people.

A great leader takes his or her society from where it is to where it has never been — indeed, where it as yet cannot imagine being. By insisting on quality education, by suppressing corruption and by basing governance on merit, Lee and his colleagues raised the annual per capita income of their population from $500 at the time of independence in 1965 to roughly $55,000 today. In a generation, Singapore became an international financial center, the leading intellectual metropolis of Southeast Asia, the location of the region’s major hospitals and a favored site for conferences on international affairs. It did so by adhering to an extraordinary pragmatism: by opening careers to the best talents and encouraging them to adopt the best practices from all over the world.

Superior performance was one component of that achievement. Superior leadership was even more important. As the decades went by, it was moving — and inspirational — to see Lee, in material terms the mayor of a medium-size city, bestride the international scene as a mentor of global strategic order. A visit by Lee to Washington was a kind of national event. A presidential conversation was nearly automatic; eminent members of the Cabinet and Congress would seek meetings. They did so not to hear of Singapore’s national problems; Lee rarely, if ever, lobbied policymakers for assistance. His theme was the indispensable U.S. contribution to the defense and growth of a peaceful world. His interlocutors attended not to be petitioned but to learn from one of the truly profound global thinkers of our time.

This process started for me when Lee visited Harvard in 1967 shortly after becoming prime minister of an independent Singapore. Lee began a meeting with the senior faculty of the School of Public Administration (now the Kennedy School) by inviting comments on the Vietnam War. The faculty, of which I was one dissenting member, was divided primarily on the question of whether President Lyndon Johnson was a war criminal or a psychopath. Lee responded, “You make me sick” — not because he embraced war in a personal sense but because the independence and prosperity of his country depended on the fortitude, unity and resolve of the United States. Singapore was not asking the United States to do something that Singapore would not undertake to the maximum of its ability. But U.S. leadership was needed to supplement and create a framework for order in the world.

Lee elaborated on these themes in the hundreds of encounters I had with him during international conferences, study groups, board meetings, face-to-face discussions and visits at each other’s homes over 45 years. He did not exhort; he was never emotional; he was not a Cold Warrior; he was a pilgrim in quest of world order and responsible leadership. He understood the relevance of China and its looming potential and often contributed to the enlightenment of the world on this subject. But in the end, he insisted that without the United States there could be no stability.

Lee’s domestic methods fell short of the prescriptions of current U.S. constitutional theory. But so, in fairness, did the democracy of Thomas Jefferson’s time, with its limited franchise, property qualifications for voting and slavery. This is not the occasion to debate what other options were available. Had Singapore chosen the road of its critics, it might well have collapsed among its ethnic groups, as the example of Syria teaches today. Whether the structures essential for the early decades of Singapore’s independent existence were unnecessarily prolonged can be the subject of another discussion.

I began this eulogy by mentioning my friendship with Lee. He was not a man of many sentimental words. And he nearly always spoke of substantive matters. But one could sense his attachment. A conversation with Lee, whose life was devoted to service and who spent so much of his time on joint explorations, was a vote of confidence that sustained one’s sense of purpose.

The great tragedy of Lee’s life was that his beloved wife was felled by a stroke that left her a prisoner in her body, unable to communicate or receive communication. Through all that time, Lee sat by her bedside in the evening reading to her. He had faith that she understood despite the evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps this was Lee Kuan Yew’s role in his era. He had the same hope for our world. He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous. But many of us heard him and will never forget him.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 02:02 PM
Lee Kuan Yew: Singapore's founding father divided opinion

By Katie Hunt and Susannah Cullinane, CNN

Updated 0256 GMT (1056 HKT) March 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew will forever be remembered as the man who transformed a mosquito-ridden colonial trading post into a prosperous financial center with clean streets, shimmering skyscrapers and a stable government.

Born in 1923, Lee became Prime Minister in 1959 when Singapore, a tiny spit of land with no natural resources and a polyglot population of Chinese, Malays and Indians, was still British territory and beset by riots and unrest.

He presided over Singapore's bitter split from Malaysia in 1965 and molded the independent country into the global economic powerhouse it is today. "I was trying to create, in a third-world situation, a first-world oasis," Lee told CNN in 2008.

Lee's thinking also had an international impact. His brand of capitalism -- which stresses the role of government rather than the free hand of the market -- has provided a blueprint for China's landmark economic reforms.

But Lee was also a divisive figure, attracting criticism for stifling media freedom and for the harsh treatment of political opponents.

In 2013, protests over plans to allow more immigrants into the city-state indicated growing unease among Singaporeans about the vision of the country set forth by the People's Action Party -- the party co-founded by Lee that has ruled Singapore for five decades.

Lee voluntarily stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990, the first Asian strongman to do so.

However, he played a role in the country's Cabinet until 2011 when his eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, was elected for a second term as prime minister.

The elder Lee retained his influence around the world. "This is one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries," U.S. President Barack Obama said during a meeting with Lee at the White House in October 2009.

"He is somebody who helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle," Obama added.

But there were indications Lee's health had been slipping in recent years.

In 2010 he was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection and in early 2013, Lee -- then 89 -- was hospitalized and treated treated for "stroke-like symptoms."

He was again admitted to the hospital on February 5 for severe pneumonia and more than six weeks later remained on a ventilator.

A fourth-generation Singaporean, Lee's family originally emigrated from southern China.

A bright student, he gained a place in the city's elite Raffles Institution and went on to study law at Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge.

He attributed his decision to go into politics to his experiences during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.

"I learned how people survived and how people had to submit because you need to eat and your family needs to live, so I learned the meaning of power," he told CNN in 2002.

The city Lee took control of in 1959 was still recovering from the ravages of war and could not have been more different from today's Singapore. However, Lee told CNN he had no "great vision of transformation."

He concentrated on attracting investment and creating jobs; first finding a successful niche in electronics manufacturing by touting Singapore as an alternative to Hong Kong, which he said was in turmoil due to the Cultural Revolution in China.

While Lee has been lauded for his economic accomplishments, he also created a Singapore bound by stringent laws and regulations that dictated most, if not all, aspects of society -- including media and political freedoms, censorship and even the selling of chewing gum.

The country ranks 150th in Reporters Without Borders' 2014 Media Freedom Index, putting it just above the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico and Iraq.

The New York Times, The Economist, the International Herald Tribune and the Asian Wall Street Journal have all been targeted with the "judicial harassment" employed by the Lee family, according to the media watchdog.

Authoritarian system

In a 2014 article for CNN, opposition politician Dr. Chee Soon Juan criticized Singapore's authoritarian system, blaming a lack of dissenting views for economic inequality and worsening working conditions.

"The ranks of the opposition, civil society and labor movement have been decimated in the last 50 years through imprisonment without trial and criminal prosecution, and nearly every newspaper, TV channel and radio station is owned and run by the state," Chee said.

But in a 2008 interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Lee rebuffed charges that Singapore was too domineering or coercive a state.

"I want social peace and stability within the country. I am not following any prescription given to me by any theoretician on democracy," he said.

While Lee is likely to be remembered with affection and pride by many Singaporeans, a younger generation, with no memory of the poverty and violence that marked the country's birth, is questioning the Lee dynasty's control of Singaporean politics and pushing for greater democracy.

In 2011, the People's Action Party lost six seats to the opposition, prompting Lee, then the party's "minister mentor" and another former prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, to resign.

In a joint letter to parliament, the two explained they "decided to leave the Cabinet and have a completely younger team of ministers to connect to and engage with this young generation in shaping the future of our Singapore."

How Singapore copes with these democratic demands will be key to its success in its second half-century, but those demands are unlikely to detract from Lee's achievements in its first 50 years. In 2010, Time magazine listed Lee as one of world's 100 most influential people.

"The mark of a great leader is to take his society from where it is to where it has never been," wrote former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the article on Lee. "There is no better strategic thinker in the world today."

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 02:06 PM
Will Singaporean politics change post-LKY?

Nyshka Chandran | @NyshkaC


The death of Singapore's founding father marks a milestone in the island-nation's 50-year history and raises questions about what the next decade will bring for the country's political system.

Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) was considered one of Asia's greatest statesmen for turning a fishing village into a first-world economy, but his political ideology made him a controversial figure at home and abroad. His vision centered on a one-party political system, manifested by the People's Action Party (PAP) that he co-founded, which combined elements of capitalism and a state-directed economy.

Strict controls over freedom of speech and censorship are among his more contentious policies, but Mr. Lee's passing should now allow for a more open debate on those issues, Michael Schuman, TIME Magazine's business correspondent for Asia, told CNBC on Monday.

"You can make the argument that though LKY had tremendous success, it may be time for a change. He made the case for having a soft authoritarian government…Now, times have changed and I think Singapore will revisit his ideas and say: this worked in the past, but do we need something else going forward in the future. Do we need to have more political and social change? Those are the big questions going forward."

A pluralistic system?

Political opposition in the tiny Southeast Asian city-state is limited to a few names including the Workers Party, the Democratic Progressive Party and The Singaporeans First Party, which was formed last year. Some say that Mr. Lee's policies, like restrictions on public protests, have limited the ability of these parties to grow, but they are still gaining traction. During the 2011 general election, the opposition won a collective 40 percent of the vote.

Going forward, Ernest Bower, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), believes the city will shift to a pluralistic political system.

"Singaporeans will harvest the legacy that LKY has given them of an excellent education and global linkages and they will loosen up and create more political space," he said. "Singaporeans will be able to have a more normal governance structure than they have had in the past, so finding consensus rather than implementing the views of a political genius."

"I think there's a genuine, palpable desire for people wanting political plurality. That's been like a genie kept in a bottle, and now the genie is completely out," agreed PN Balji, strategist at RHT Digital & Media and former deputy editor of The Straits Times, alluding to increasingly opinionated social media users as well as several protests last year on issues related to government transparency.

Upcoming elections

Singapore will hold its next general election sometime before January 2017 and political observers say it will be a real test for the ruling PAP.

Lee's passing may complicate the timing of elections, said Citi analyst Kit Wei Zheng in a note on Tuesday. She believes the vote could be delayed until September 2016, instead of May or June: "While some may think having elections earlier can gain sympathy votes, this might be viewed as too opportunistic and thus backfire in our view."

Bower at CSIS expects the opposition, led by the Workers Party, to receive a larger share of the vote this time around, which should see Singapore's political landscape resemble a globally-accepted two-party system where parties compete for ideas.

"I'm telling Washington that, geopolitically, we have to be ready for a Singapore that's less decisive," he said.

Sam Miguel
03-26-2015, 02:48 PM
The mirror that is Singapore

Randy David


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:21 AM | Thursday, March 26th, 2015

When we Filipinos talk about Singapore, it is nearly always in the context of a broader discussion of what is wrong with the Philippines. Rarely do we talk about our affluent neighbor in order to highlight the positive in our own way of life. Singapore is for many of us the mirror of our aspirations as a people, a living example of the country we could have been, or could still be—if we had the right leaders.

I expect this unfortunate, self-lacerating habit of ours to go into full swing in the wake of the passing of Singapore’s tenacious and deeply feared founding leader—Lee Kuan Yew. Lee, who presided over the affairs of the smallest country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for over three decades, was a contemporary of three other strongmen—Suharto of Indonesia, Mahathir of Malaysia, and Marcos of the Philippines.

By far, only Lee’s legacy has endured. It is difficult to argue with success. Under Lee’s autocratic leadership, Singapore transformed itself from an insignificant trading port in the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula into one of the top financial centers of the global economy. More than 7,000 multinational corporations have offices in Singapore, most of these serving as their main Asian headquarters.

From being a transshipment point for finished products and raw materials, the country has become a dynamic center for manufacturing. Unlike Indonesia, it has no oil of its own. But it is now the biggest oil-refining center in the region, and a major producer of oil rigs. Singapore remains a port—indeed, it is one of the world’s five busiest ports, and an important hub for ship repairs. Its gigantic airport is the gateway to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Chronically fearful of sliding back, Singapore continually reinvents itself. To boost its tourist industry, it abandoned a long-standing ethical policy against gambling by inviting the world’s largest casino operators to set up shop in their city-state. Very quietly, it has also moved into a new sector of the modern economy—the life sciences—bringing in top scientists from all over the world to work at its cutting-edge laboratories. For some years now, it has been aggressively recruiting the top high school graduates from the region, luring them with full scholarships, and offering them employment and permanent residency when they graduate. Close to a hundred thousand foreign students study in Singapore, making it Asia’s most important educational center.

Singapore’s public bureaucracy can compete with the best-run private corporations in governance and compensation. A strict meritocratic system governs recruitment into the civil service. The best and the brightest are plucked out from the graduating classes of every year, and invited to work in government. They are sent to the best schools abroad for further training. When they finish, they must come home. At one point in their apprenticeship, they are taken on an exposure tour of the region, where they familiarize themselves with the economic environment, the politics, and social realities of Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, Singapore’s top civil servants are among the highest paid in the world.

The whole country is a technocrat’s dream laboratory. In Singapore, planners are at work daily, formulating new programs and policies, anticipating issues and complaints, and preparing the responses, long before the public has even thought of them. This view of governance as a planning exercise keeps the role of politics to a bare minimum. Virtually the only time it is allowed is during elections. Protest is a highly regulated activity; the designated place for this endangered activity is the “Speakers’ Corner.” Beyond it, you need a police permit for a public gathering of five or more people.

If you make allegations of corruption or wrongdoing against any government official, you could be held liable for libel. The late Lee Kuan Yew was known to file such cases against his critics, and to doggedly pursue them until the offending party pays a financially ruinous fine. If you criticize government programs and policies, you will be challenged to offer a better alternative; otherwise, you will be browbeaten into publicly admitting the foolishness of your views.

Yet, Singapore’s past is far from that of a society of sheep. Indeed, this tiny nation has had a glorious tradition of political dissent. Lee himself belonged to a generation of courageous Singaporeans who spoke sharply and fought fiercely against the British who ruled them until 1959. Most of those who joined Lee at the founding of the People’s Action Party were socialists. They were progressive intellectuals, young professionals and labor organizers who passionately loved their country, but did not always agree on how it should be run once it was free.

One of Lee’s implacable critics was Dr. Lim Hock Siew, a cofounder of the People’s Action Party. On Feb. 2, 1963, he and a hundred other activists were rounded up in a crackdown against suspected communists. Jailed under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) which gave the executive the power to indefinitely detain anyone considered a threat to national security, Lim spent the next 20 years in prison, refusing an early offer of release in exchange for publicly acknowledging his faults.

The dreaded ISA remains in force until now, a grim reminder to Singaporeans and the rest of the world that this city-state’s phenomenal prosperity and stability owe as much to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew as to the repressive tools by which the government has maintained public order.

* * *

Sam Miguel
03-26-2015, 04:29 PM
Singapore, the Nation That Lee Kuan Yew Built, Questions Its Direction


MARCH 24, 2015

SINGAPORE — Among the many orders that Lee Kuan Yew issued during his five decades as leader of Singapore was the razing of his home.

“I’ve told the cabinet, ‘When I’m dead, demolish it,’ ” he told an interviewer several years ago.

Pragmatic even about death and averse to a cult of personality, Mr. Lee, who died Monday at age 91, said the house would cost too much to maintain and would become a shambles when “people trudge through.”

There was no wrecking ball on Mr. Lee’s quiet street on Tuesday, and the official memorial does not begin until the public viewing of his coffin in Parliament on Wednesday.

But Singaporeans are asking the same questions about the larger house that Lee Kuan Yew built — modern Singapore and the vaunted “Singapore model.” Will it survive him, or has the sleek Asian financial hub outgrown his father-knows-best style of government?

Among members of the country’s increasingly assertive and demanding electorate, there are calls for a new social contract, a more consultative government and participatory rule-making.

More foreigners are living in Singapore, with nonresident immigrants and permanent residents making up 39 percent of the population last year.

“Singapore is at an inflection point,” said Kishore Mahbubani, the country’s former ambassador to the United Nations. “I think the young population of Singapore appreciates the strength of Singapore, appreciates the stability the Singapore government brings, but they also want more voices. So you’ve got to create opportunities for them to speak out — social issues, on political issues, on economic issues. It’s coming. Change is coming.”

The Singapore model that transformed this former British colonial outpost into a tidy, gleaming metropolis was a mix of semi-authoritarian, one-party rule; meticulous urban planning; laissez-faire economic policies; low taxes; and heaps of imported foreign talent. The loss of personal freedoms and government intrusiveness — like muzzling political dissent and issuing fines for failing to flush public toilets — in exchange for order and prosperity was a trade-off broadly accepted by a generation of Singaporeans who saw their country’s living standards rocket beyond those of its neighbors.

Many became loyal acolytes of Mr. Lee’s governing party, which has held power without interruption since independence five decades ago. But to younger generations, for whom stability and one of the world’s highest per capita incomes are a given, good sidewalks, clean tap water and graft-free government may no longer be enough.

“The Third-World-to-First-World in one generation narrative has less traction with the younger Singaporeans,” said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University. The governing party’s monopoly on power may not end soon, but the expectations are changing.

“It’s not a question of whether but rather when Singapore will evolve to a two-party or multiparty democracy,” he said.

Nor will the government have Mr. Lee, who was viewed as a sort of strict national grandfather, both loved and feared, to defend it. None of his successors, not even his son, the current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, have the same prestige and authority.

Issues that were unthinkable when Lee Kuan Yew was alive now cannot be dismissed as easily, including the prospect that his People’s Action Party could split into factions, a possibility that some believe is beginning to take shape.

“Anything is possible,” said Kenneth Paul Tan, the vice dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “When you have very talented people gathered in an organization, there will be differences in view and ambitions.”

Sam Miguel
03-26-2015, 04:30 PM
^^^ (Cont'd)

The Internet has amplified divergent opinions and bypassed a tightly controlled media that over the years has acted less like a watchdog and more like a cheerleading squad for the government and its ambitions. Partly because of social media, Singapore appears more divided than in the past.

The most prominent and contentious issues are bread-and-butter concerns: a surge in immigration over the last decade, rising living costs and soaring property prices.

Tan Wee Cheng, 45, a management consultant, said Singaporeans felt vulnerable and were concerned about “how to survive and make a living in a highly competitive society with a labor market that is open to the rest of the world.”

Battling a low birthrate among its citizens, the government opened the floodgates to foreign labor over the last decade and a half. More than a third of the 5.5 million people living in Singapore today are not citizens.

The number of nonresident immigrants has more than doubled since 2000, to nearly 1.6 million from 754,000. The number of foreigners given permanent resident status also nearly doubled during the same period, to just over 500,000.

At the higher income end, Singaporeans feel threatened by foreign executives and managers brought in to run the city-state’s world-class companies. At the lower income end, Singapore benefits from foreign workers in shopping malls, at construction sites and in restaurants. Critics say the country’s fragile national identity, which was still a work in progress, has been interrupted by the surge of immigrants.

The backlash against immigrants has boxed in the government. In response, it has imposed restrictions making it harder to hire foreigners. But at the same time, it plans to increase the country’s population to 6.9 million by 2030, mainly through immigration.

Other cracks starting to show in the Singapore model stem from complaints over a lack of freedom of expression and political pluralism. Catherine Lim, a social critic and author, wrote a widely circulated open letter to the government last year taking it to task for not listening to the concerns of its citizens. It began, “We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.”

She assailed the government for hardball tactics against its political opponents, saying it had “no qualms” about reducing them to bankruptcy.

This month, Singapore’s High Court fined a blogger, Alex Au, the equivalent of $5,800 for “scandalizing contempt” of the judiciary.

His crime? Mr. Au, a gay rights activist, had questioned why the Supreme Court had scheduled the hearing of a constitutional challenge to a British colonial-era law banning gay sex ahead of a separate challenge filed before it.

The case was not about homosexuality, he said, but political control.

“What has happened in the last 20 years is that the government has loosened up, but only in ways that are not politically threatening — sex, gambling,” he said. “It’s a camouflage for the fact that detention without charge is very much on the books, and newspapers must be licensed.”

Karim Raslan, a regional political analyst and newspaper columnist, said the leadership in Singapore would be forced to adjust its tone.

“As a leader in Singapore now, you have to be more inclusive, you have to be able to persuade more and bring people along with you,” he said. “Lee’s iron hand did not really allow for much dissent, but today the hierarchical nature of Singapore has broken down.”

For decades the governing People’s Action Party faced a token opposition with only a handful of seats in Parliament. But the party’s share of the vote has been steadily declining since 2001. In 2011, voters, including young Singaporeans, dealt the party its worst setback yet, awarding it only 60 percent of the popular vote.

The next general election must be held by January 2017 but may be called sooner, in part because the government may seek to benefit from the nostalgia and affection for Mr. Lee after his death.

Mr. Tan, the vice dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said he expected Singapore to enter a period of introspection after the ceremonies and eulogies for Lee Kuan Yew, including the state funeral on Sunday.

“It cannot be just the government leading the way forward,” he said. “The people have to be as much a part of this, so a new social contract can be forged which can be legitimate to all.”

If so, it is a lesson the government is still learning. On Monday, the government banned protests and other gatherings at Hong Lim Park, whose Speakers’ Corner was one place free speech was traditionally tolerated.

Instead, the National Parks Board announced, the park would be a designated site “for remembering the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.”

Weiyi Lim contributed reporting.

03-27-2015, 02:34 PM
Lee’s ‘rule by virtue’

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:12 AM |

Friday, March 27th, 2015

The passing of Singapore’s founding father and elder statesman should give us pause, and a chance to reflect on the historic opportunities that we Filipinos have lost, as well as the enduring virtues that we have kept.

Lee Kuan Yew died early last Monday, and was immediately hailed by US President Barack Obama as “a visionary who led his country from … independence … to becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world.” Indeed, in his island-nation, Lee carved out what he called “a First World oasis in a Third World region” and trained his citizens to act “more like First World citizens, not like Third World citizens spitting and littering all over the place.” He took pride in his haven of meritocracy amid a sea of mediocrity. There’s no need for Filipinos to feel alluded to because true to form, Lee actually said as much in so many words, and sometimes even while visiting the Philippines (though with more restraint and diplomacy).

There are many Filipinos who, when asked about how to solve the ills of our nation, would say that we should find a Filipino Lee Kuan Yew, a benevolent dictator who would govern for the good of all, and who can combine free-market economics with one-party rule. But these same Filipinos should also ask themselves: When we do find our own Lee Kuan Yew, will we let him govern the way Lee did? Would we even elect him to public office in the first place?

The New York Times described Singapore the nation as embodying the strengths of Lee the man: “efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking, pragmatic.” Many Filipinos crave the efficient and valorize the incorrupt. But would we elect the unsentimental, when we so value people skills? Lee has even confessed in his memoirs that often he had to rely on his wife’s sixth sense to judge people’s characters. Don’t we constrain inventive and forward-looking government officials because they are too daring, and prefer the stodgy bureaucrats who cross their “t’s” and dot their “i’s” but don’t produce results? And don’t we define pragmatic as willing to compromise and cut corners, and not ask, as Lee did, whether it was for the general good?

Lee used the so-called “Asian values” argument each time he was criticized by the West for his repressive policies, especially his curtailment of free speech and his use of the law and the courts to punish his enemies with libel convictions, as in the case of the late oppositionist J.B. Jeyaretnam, whom Lee drove to bankruptcy and was consequently disbarred as a lawyer. Through all these, Lee was unapologetic: “I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”

In a regional human rights gathering, a Singaporean expert echoed that logic: “Some countries have the right to housing, but their people live in slums. We have houses.” Make that “high-rise apartments” to be more precise, but you get the point.

But the “Asian values” argument thrived for as long as the Asian tiger economies flourished, and waned with the Asian financial crisis. It drew its power from the fact that Lee delivered results and, indeed, Singapore, without a common ethnicity, no common native language, and so bereft of natural resources that it has to import its drinking water from Malaysia, has prospered. It can now match the wealth of the North Atlantic democracies, Europe and Japan.

But the decreasing parliamentary dominance of Lee’s party, the People’s Action Party, reminds us, too, that when you trade off freedom for bread, or rights for rice, it comes at a price. They have the vibrancy of a free market. We have the vibrancy of the free marketplace of ideas, a rambunctious, even licentious, press now enhanced by popular access to social media and new technologies. The nanny state has lulled the natives into what Singaporeans themselves caricature as “kiasu,” a fear of losing that induces a tendency to play it safe, and it has so dulled indigenous creativity that a local study showed that its leading entrepreneurs were either dropouts of their local schools or graduates of foreign studies.

Filipinos take pride in the “rule of law” which has led to a government-by-stalemate that has yielded sorry results. Perhaps we should look at Lee Kuan Yew’s “rule by virtue,” where the law is but an instrument for social engineering and the courts defer to decisions by the wise for the benefit of the majority. When we do find our own Lee Kuan Yew, let us remember to give him or her enough room to let virtue reign.

03-27-2015, 02:46 PM
Transparency through AMLC


By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) |

Updated March 27, 2015 - 12:00am

Peter Tanchi, the senior pastor of Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF), had been telling me to write about the need for public officials to sign a waiver of their bank secrecy rights at the same time they sign their oath of office or employment. I told him I had written this a number of times, but he insisted I have to keep writing until it is happens.

The need to stop corruption is the simple justification for what would normally be considered an invasion of privacy. It is a way by which the Ombudsman can check allegations of corruption against a public official.

Without it, everything becomes a “he said, he denied” situation that diminishes public trust in our government. I understand Indonesia’s highly effective anti-corruption agency, the same one that won the Magsaysay Award, has that power to look into bank accounts of public officials.

The annual filing of the Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN is not enough. There must be a way of verifying the data claimed in a SALN. Such verification by AMLC or the Anti-Money Laundering Council was proven to be most useful during the impeachment proceedings against former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

In the case of Vice President Jojo Binay and his tormentors in the Senate, the only way accusations and denials can be verified is through an examination of the bank accounts of the Vice President, his family and close associates. It is not enough to just claim the charges are politically motivated because that’s obvious.

It is unfortunate the Vice President is opposing the examination of his accounts by AMLC, an agency that works under the Bangko Sentral, the most trusted of public institutions. By asking the Supreme Court to stop such an examination, the Vice President is sending the subliminal message that he might have something to hide. Nothing responds to accusations of corruption best than the balm of a clean conscience. A clean conscience, on the other hand, removes any fear of an investigation by AMLC.

Indeed, the AMLC is the best institution we have to keep our officials honest, by following the money through its paper or digital trail. The law should even be strengthened to enable the agency to do its job well. The results of AMLC examinations are now supporting the corruption charges against Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Bong Revilla before the Sandiganbayan.

The claim that an automatic waiver of bank secrecy by a public official invades his privacy does not hold water. So is the claim that it would discourage qualified people from seeking public office. No one forced the official to become a public official. If he is so finicky about his privacy, he should have stayed as a private citizen. Anyone who is reluctant to automatically allow the Ombudsman to order AMLC to examine his bank accounts can be presumed to have something to hide.

Indeed, public service is not for everyone. Given the pervasive state of corruption in government today and its negative impact on our country’s development, we have to limit the honor of holding public office only to the most honest of our citizens.

Of course, it would be nice if high government officials are also given a compensation package commensurate to the skills required of the office, as is the case in Singapore. We can’t afford to do that yet, but still it is a fact that many of our officials have been getting rich while in office. It is time to find out without doubt how that happened.

The link between corruption and the failure of government to adequately deliver essential public services is clear. That explains why honesty in public office had been deemed important when people elected P-Noy in 2010, even if they had doubts about his leadership abilities. Indeed, kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.

Speaking for myself, I voted for P-Noy even if I thought he is less capable than some of the other presidential candidates because I figured he will not steal while in office and he had Mar Roxas to help him. At the end of his term, I expect him to go back to the house of his parents on Times Street, not in an exclusive Makati enclave.

My mistake was I didn’t realize P-Noy would tolerate corruption and incompetence among his close aides. This explains why people now think Daang Matuwid is a joke. And I overestimated the effectiveness of Mar despite his honesty and best intentions.

This reminds me of something S. Dhanabalan, an associate of the late Lee Kuan Yew wrote on the subject of honesty in the highest places. He said LKY insisted on honesty even if it meant going against a friend. I hope P-Noy reads the next few paragraphs and learns from it.

“To call Lee Kuan Yew my friend would not be quite right. More accurately, we were colleagues. I don’t think he had many friends, because he was so focused on doing what was good for the nation, and that would require him sometimes to act against his friends. If he was too friendly with anyone, that could color his decision, so he was very careful.

“Many leaders of countries are honest. India’s Jawaharlal Nehru was honest. Julius Nyerere in Nigeria was honest. Manmohan Singh is honest. But that’s not enough. You must be prepared to demand honesty and be ruthless with your relatives and friends if they are not. Otherwise you can’t get the honest culture established.

“Lee Kuan Yew was not only honest, but he was also ruthless in demanding honesty from his colleagues. You could have been his colleague, you could have fought with him through the long march, it didn’t matter. If you are dishonest, you’re out.

“So I think in order to make sure he did not soften in this approach, he was very careful about establishing friendships with people.”

Too bad P-Noy, like his mother before him, thought being honest themselves was enough. They allowed people close to them to do business as usual.

This is why Jojo Binay should be concerned about this attempt to stop the AMLC from checking his accounts. It shows fear and would color the public perception of his honesty in public office.

True, it can be said that after the experience with a half baked anti corruption program of P-Noy, the public probably no longer cares that much about honesty. That probably explains why Jojo continues to enjoy the lead among potential presidential candidates in a recent Pulse Asia survey despite pretty damaging stories about alleged corruption under his watch in Makati.

As far as some people see it, all politicians are crooks anyway so they just vote for the one who helps them. It may be true that in a presidential contest a good political network drubs honesty, but Jojo shouldn’t sell himself short.

Jojo has done good things for his constituents in Makati to the point of creating a mini welfare state there. Free health care and free high quality education are at the core of what our poverty stricken countrymen need. Having come from the ranks of the poor rather than the traditional elite, Jojo understands the basic needs of people and he delivers.

But the Jojo I know is bigger and better than his political enemies see him. He showed he has his heart in the right place by being a human rights lawyer when it was dangerous to be one. Now that Jojo is writing the final chapter of his life, he needs to remove that cloud of doubt that hangs over him. Otherwise, his legacy would be less than it could have been. He shouldn’t waste his date with destiny with a good segment of the Filipino people thinking he might have been less than honest.

It is time for Jojo to instruct his law firm to drop that case filed in the Supreme Court seeking to prevent the AMLC from doing its job. If he is clean, AMLC should be able to testify to that fact because the paper trail from his banks says so.

Otherwise, it would be safe to say not even his supporters fully believe in their hearts that the charges against Jojo are simply politically motivated. At the very least there is doubt, but they choose to discount the corruption allegations because they like Jojo… and for good reasons too because overall, he had served them well.

It would be very impressive if Jojo can stand on a platform and dare AMLC officials to do their job because he knows he has nothing to hide.

Until AMLC can certify all is clear, people will always think where there’s smoke, there’s fire and as a consequence, think less of public officials. That weakens public confidence in our government and is a threat to our democratic system that its enemies can exploit.

03-27-2015, 04:03 PM
Lee Kuan Yew on Filipinos and the Philippines

January 10, 2011 | Opinion

Source: http://antipinoy.com/lky_phil/

One of the best ways for us Filipinos to realize the Truth about ourselves and our country is to find out how people from other countries observe us and our society. This is best done when the one observing and describing us is an extremely well-informed and highly intelligent non-Filipino who has had his own fair share of problems similar to the ones that the Philippines has gone through (or is currently going through), and had a hand in actual problem-solving for his own country’s originally Philippines-like issues.

An example of such a person is Singaporean Minister Mentor and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Hailed as the Father of Modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party were able to craft appropriate solutions for the issues and problems that were hounding Singapore early on in its history as a newly-independent Third World country with no natural resources, a huge number of uneducated people, and security problems resulting from the initial hostility of its neighbors towards it, among many other problems and managed to turn it into Southeast Asia’s oasis of prosperity and development and a First World hub within a region of what were then known as “Third World” countries.

The following excerpt which features Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s observations on the Philippines and of Filipinos should at least entice the readers of www.antipinoy.com to immediately pay a visit to the local Bookstore (those which specialize in real books – not school supplies!) and ask around for copies of the book from whence it came - “From Third World to First.”

Far from just being a book about Lee Kuan Yew or Singapore’s history of development, “From Third World to First” is also a collection of invaluable lessons in economic development, policy-making, international diplomacy, statecraft, domestic politics, history & culture, behavioural and cultural reform, meritocracy, the principles of pragmatic idealism, and examples of ingenious out-of-the-box thinking. In it, Lee Kuan Yew himself also describes how he and his team of technocrats were able to reform the culture, mindset, and behavior of a people who in the 1950’s were still predisposed to spitting in public and other unhygienic behavior as a result of carefully-planned behavioural-modification policies and systems which have turned Singapore into one of the cleanest and most orderly societies in Asia as well as well as the World.

This book can no doubt serve as a helpful handbook for any would-be leader of any Third World country looking to move into the First World.

I truly encourage all Filipinos who work in government, have an interest in government, or are looking for lessons on how to craft solutions to the problems of the Philippines to please buy a copy of this book. I assure everyone that “From Third World to First” will not just be eye-opening and enlightening, it will also enable Filipinos to understand that finding solutions to our problems is very possible if only we adopted a can-do attitude, a bias for intense learning and analysis, a solid framework for critical analysis and big-picture thinking, as well as a grounding in practical & creative out-of-the-box problem-solving.

If Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party could do it, why can’t we?

* * *

(The following excerpt is taken from pages 299 – 305 from Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”, Chapter 18 “Building Ties with Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei”)


The Philippines was a world apart from us, running a different style of politics and government under an American military umbrella. It was not until January 1974 that I visited President Marcos in Manila. When my Singapore Airlines plane flew into Philippine airspace, a small squadron of Philippine Air Force jet fighters escorted it to Manila Airport. There Marcos received me in great style – the Filipino way. I was put up at the guest wing of Malacañang Palace in lavishly furnished rooms, valuable objects of art bought in Europe strewn all over. Our hosts were gracious, extravagant in hospitality, flamboyant. Over a thousand miles of water separated us. There was no friction and little trade. We played golf, talked about the future of ASEAN, and promised to keep in touch.

His foreign minister, Carlos P. Romulo, was a small man of about five feet some 20 years my senior, with a ready wit and a self-deprecating manner about his size and other limitations. Romulo had a good sense of humor, an eloquent tongue, and a sharp pen, and was an excellent dinner companion because he was a wonderful raconteur, with a vast repertoire of anecdotes and witticisms. He did not hide his great admiration for the Americans. One of his favourite stories was about his return to the Philippines with General MacArthur. As MacArthur waded ashore at Leyte, the water reached his knees but came up to Romulo’s chest and he had to swim ashore. His good standing with ASEAN leaders and with Americans increased the prestige of the Marcos administration. Marcos had in Romulo a man of honor and integrity who helped give a gloss of respectability to his regime as it fell into disrepute in the 1980s.

In Bali in 1976, at the first ASEAN summit held after the fall of Saigon, I found Marcos keen to push for greater economic cooperation in ASEAN. But we could not go faster than the others. To set the pace, Marcos and I agreed to implement a bilateral Philippines-Singapore across-the-board 10 percent reduction of existing tariffs on all products and to promote intra-ASEAN trade. We also agreed to lay a Philippines-Singapore submarine cable. I was to discover that for him, the communiqué was the accomplishment itself; its implementation was secondary, an extra to be discussed at another conference.

We met every two to three years. He once took me on a tour of his library at Malacañang, its shelves filled with bound volumes of newspapers reporting his activities over the years since he first stood for elections. There were encyclopedia-size volumes on the history and culture of the Philippines with his name as the author. His campaign medals as an anti-Japanese guerrilla leader were displayed in glass cupboards. He was the undisputed boss of all Filipinos. Imelda, his wife, had a penchant for luxury and opulence. When they visited Singapore before the Bali summit they came in stye in two DC8’s, his and hers.

Marcos did not consider China a threat for the immediate future, unlike Japan. He did not rule out the possibility of an aggressive Japan, if circumstances changed. He had memories of the horrors the Imperial Army had inflicted on Manila. We had strongly divergent views on the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia. While he, pro forma, condemned the Vietnamese occupation, he did not consider it a danger to the Philippines. There was the South China Sea separating them and the American navy guaranteed their security. As a result, Marcos was not active on the Cambodian question. Moreover, he was to become preoccupied with the deteriorating security in his country.

Marcos, ruling under martial law, had detained opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, reputed to be as charismatic and powerful a campaigner as he was. He freed Aquino and allowed him to go to the United States. As the economic situation in the Philippines deteriorated, Aquino announced his decision to return. Mrs. Marcos issued several veiled warnings. When the plane arrived at Manila Airport from Taipei in August 1983, he was shot as he descended from the aircraft. A whole posse of foreign correspondents with television camera crews accompanying him on the aircraft was not enough protection.

International outrage over the killing resulted in foreign banks stopping all loans to the Philippines, which owed over US$25 billion and could not pay the interest due. This brought Marcos to the crunch. He sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of US$300-500 million to meet the interest payments. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “We will never see that money back.” Moreover, I added, everyone knew that Marcos was seriously ill and under constant medication for a wasting disease. What was needed was a strong, healthy leader, not more loans.

03-27-2015, 04:07 PM
^ Continued

Shortly afterward, in February 1984, Marcos met me in Brunei at the sultanate’s independence celebrations. He had undergone a dramatic physical change. Although less puffy than he had appeared on television, his complexion was dark as if he had been out in the sun. He was breathing hard as he spoke, his voice was soft, eyes bleary, and hair thinning. He looked most unhealthy. An ambulance with all the necessary equipment and a team of Filipino doctors were on standby outside his guest bungalow. Marcos spent much of the time giving me a most improbable story of how Aquino had been shot.

As soon as all our aides left, I went straight to the point, that no bank was going to lend him any money. They wanted to know who was going to succeed him if anything were to happen to him; all the bankers could see that he no longer looked healthy. Singapore banks had lent US$8 billion of the US$25 billion owing. The hard fact was they were not likely to get repayment for some 20 years. He countered that it would be only eight years. I said the bankers wanted to see a strong leader in the Philippines who could restore stability, and the Americans hoped the election in May would throw up someone who could be such a leader. I asked whom he would nominate for the election. He said Prime Minister Cesar Virata. I was blunt. Virata was a nonstarter, a first-class administrator but no political leader; further, his most politically astute colleague, defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, was out of favour. Marcos was silent, then he admitted that succession was the nub of the problem. If he could find a successor, there would be a solution. As I left, he said, “You are a true friend.” I did not understand him. It was a strange meeting.

With medical care, Marcos dragged on. Cesar Virata met me in Singapore in January the following year. He was completely guileless, a political innocent. He said that Mrs. Imelda Marcos was likely to be nominated as the presidential candidate. I asked how that could be when there were other weighty candidates, including Juan Ponce Enrile and Blas Ople, the labor minister. Virata replied it had to do with “flow of money; she would have more money than other candidates to pay for the votes needed for nomination by the party and to win the election. He added that if she were the candidate, the opposition would put up Mrs. Cory Aquino and work up the people’s feelings. He said the economy was going down with no political stability.

The denouement came in February 1986 when Marcos held presidential elections which he claimed he won. Cory Aquino, the opposition candidate, disputed this and launched a civil disobedience campaign. Defense Minister Juan Enrile defected and admitted election fraud had taken place, and the head of the Philippine constabulary, Lieutenant General Fidel Ramos, joined him. A massive show of “people power” in the streets of Manila led to a spectacular overthrow of a dictatorship. The final indignity was on 25 February 1986, when Marcos and his wife fled in U.S. Air Force helicopters from Malacañang Palace to Clark Air Base and were flown to Hawaii. This Hollywood-style melodrama could only have happened in the Philippines.

Mrs. Aquino was sworn in as president amid jubilation. I had hopes that this honest, God-fearing woman would help regain confidence for the Philippines and get the country back on track. I visited her that June, three months after the event. She was a sincere, devout Catholic who wanted to do her best for her country by carrying out what she believed her husband would have done had he been alive, namely, restore democracy to the Philippines. Democracy would then solve their economic and social problems. At dinner, Mrs. Aquino seated the chairman of the constitutional commission, Chief Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, next to me. I asked the learned lady what lessons her commission had learned from the experience of the last 40 years since independence in 1946 would guide her in drafting the constitution. She answered without hesitation, “We will not have any reservations or limitations on our democracy. We must make sure that no dictator can ever emerge to subvert the constitution.” Was there no incompatibility of the American-type separation of powers with the culture and habits of the Filipino people that had caused problems for the presidents before Marcos? Apparently none.

Endless attempted coups added to Mrs. Aquino’s problems. The army and the constabulary had been politicized. Before the ASEAN summit in December 1987, a coup was threatened. Without President Suharto’s firm support the summit would have been postponed and confidence in Aquino’s government undermined. The Philippine government agreed that the responsibility for security should be shared between them and the other ASEAN governments, in particular the Indonesian government. General Benny Moerdani, President Suharto’s trusted aide, took charge. He positioned an Indonesian warship in the middle of Manila Bay with helicopters and a commando team ready to rescue the ASEAN heads of government if there should be a coup attempt during the summit. I was included in their rescue plans. I wondered if such a rescue could work but decided to go along with the arrangements, hoping that the show of force would scare off the coup leaders. We were all confined to the Philippine Plaza Hotel by the seafront facing Manila Bay where we could see the Indonesian warship at anchor. The hotel was completely sealed off and guarded. The summit went off without any mishap. We all hoped that this show of united support for Mrs. Aquino’s government at a time when there were many attempts to destabilize it would calm the situation.

It made no difference. There were more coup attempts, discouraging investments badly needed to create jobs. This was a pity because they had so many able people, educated in the Philippines and the United States. Their workers were English-speaking, at least in Manila. There was no reason why the Philippines should not have been one of the more successful of the ASEAN countries. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the most developed, because America had been generous in rehabilitating the country after the war. Something was missing, a gel to hold society together. The people at the top, the elite mestizos, had the same detached attitude to the native peasants as the mestizos in their haciendas in Latin America had toward their peons. They were two different societies: Those at the top lived a life of extreme luxury and comfort while the peasants scraped a living, and in the Philippines it was a hard living. They had no land but worked on sugar and coconut plantations. They had many children because the church discouraged birth control. The result was increasing poverty.

03-27-2015, 04:08 PM
^ Continued

It was obvious that the Philippines would never take off unless there was substantial aid from the United States. George Shultz, the secretary of state, was sympathetic and wanted to help but made clear to me that the United States would be better able to do something if ASEAN showed support by making its contribution. The United States was reluctant to go it alone and adopt the Philippines as its special problem. Shultz wanted ASEAN to play a more prominent role to make it easier for the president to get the necessary votes in Congress. I persuaded Shultz to get the aid project off the ground in 1988, before President Reagan’s second term of office ended. He did. There were two meetings for a Multilateral Assistance Initiative (Philippines Assistance Programme): The first in Tokyo in 1989 brought US$3.5 billion in pledges, and the second in Hong Kong in 1991, under the Bush administration, yielded US$14 billion in pledges. But instability in the Philippines did not abate. This made donors hesitant and delayed the implementation of projects.

Mrs. Aquino’s successor, Fidel Ramos, whom she had backed, was more practical and established greater stability. In November 1992, I visited him. In a speech to the 18th Philippine Business Conference, I said, “I do not believe democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy.” In private, President Ramos said he agreed with me that British parliamentary-type constitutions worked better because the majority party in the legislature was also the government. Publicly, Ramos had to differ.

He knew well the difficulties of trying to govern with strict American-style separation of powers. The senate had already defeated Mrs. Aquino’s proposal to retain the American bases. The Philippines had a rambunctious press but it did not check corruption. Individual press reporters could be bought, as could many judges. Something had gone seriously wrong. Millions of Filipino men and women had to leave their country for jobs abroad beneath their level of education. Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists, and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours. Hundreds of thousands of them have left for Hawaii and for the American mainland. It is a problem the solution to which has not been made easier by the workings of a Philippine version of the American constitution.

The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. They supported the winning presidential and congressional candidates with their considerable resources and reappeared in the political and social limelight after the 1998 election that returned President Joseph Estrada. General Fabian Ver, Marcos’s commander-in-chief who had been in charge of security when Aquino was assassinated, had fled the Philippines together with Marcos in 1986. When he died in Bangkok, the Estrada government gave the general military honors at his burial. One Filipino newspaper, Today, wrote on 22 November 1998, “Ver, Marcos and the rest of the official family plunged the country into two decades of lies, torture, and plunder. Over the next decade, Marcos’s cronies and immediate family would tiptoe back into the country, one by one – always to the public’s revulsion and disgust, though they showed that there was nothing that hidden money and thick hides could not withstand.” Some Filipinos write and speak with passion. If they could get their elite to share their sentiments and act, what could they not have achieved?


President Noynoy Aquino and everyone in his cabinet and staff (all secretaries down to the director level) should all get copies of “From Third World to First” and read the book at least twice.

* * *

Sam Miguel
03-29-2015, 11:57 AM
Singapore bids farewell to Lee Kuan Yew in elaborate funeral

Associated Press 10:56 AM |

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans are lining a 15 kilometer (9 mile) route through the city-state to witness an elaborate funeral procession for longtime leader Lee Kuan Yew.

During a week of national mourning that began Monday after Lee’s death at age 91, some 450,000 people queued for hours for a glimpse of Lee’s coffin at Parliament House. A million people visited tribute sites at community centers across the island.

People began arriving along the cortege route not long after dawn for the procession which begins early Sunday afternoon.

Leaders and dignitaries from more than two dozen countries are attending the state funeral.

Lee was Singapore’s prime minister for more than three decades, ruling with an iron grip until 1990 and is regarded by Singaporeans as the architect of their island’s prosperity.

Sam Miguel
03-29-2015, 12:05 PM
Singapore compared to the Philippines

Mahar Mangahas


Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:43 AM | Saturday, March 28th, 2015

When examining another country, it is quite normal to take one’s own country in context. What is it like in Singapore (Sg), compared to the Philippines (Ph)? How are the two countries rated by objective observers? How do Singaporeans look at their situation, and how do we Filipinos look at ours?

Objective indicators of wellbeing. The standard approach, commonly used by international development organizations, is to look into objective indicators of each country’s state of health, education and income. In such matters, Singapore outclasses the Philippines across the board.

For persons born in 2013, the average life expectancy is 82.3 years in Sg, versus 68.7 years in Ph.

For every 1,000 live births, the average number of infants that die is 2 in Sg, versus 24 in Ph, as of 2010. For the same number of live births, the average number of children under 5 years old that die is 2.8 in Sg, versus 29.9 in Ph, as of 2013. For every 100,000 live births, the number of mothers that die is 6 in Sg, versus 120 in Ph, as of 2013.

The schooling of an average adult was 10.2 years in Sg, versus 8.9 in Ph, as of 2012. The schooling available to an average child was 15.4 years in Sg, versus 11.3 in Ph, as of 2012.

The gross national income per capita (GNIpc), valued in 2011 PPP $ (Purchasing Power Parity, or what a dollar could buy in the United States in 2011) was $72,371 in Sg, versus $6,381 in Ph, in 2013.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a combination of life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and income per capita. HDI is .901 in Sg, versus .660 in Ph, as of 2013.

(A country’s HDI is made by taking 1.000 as the world’s best achievement in each underlying dimension, getting the country’s position relative to the best achievement, and then averaging the country’s positions. Norway has the world’s top HDI of .944, with a life expectancy of 81.5 years, 12.6 years of schooling among adults, 17.6 years of schooling available to a child, and GNIpc of $63,909.)

Subjective happiness and satisfaction with life. Throughout Southeast Asia, whenever surveys ask if people are Very Happy, Somewhat Happy, Somewhat Unhappy, or Very Unhappy, the first two choices combine for at least 90 percent of the responses, making countries indistinguishable.

However, the Very Happy proportion, specifically, was higher in Ph (50 percent) than in Sg (38 percent), according to the latest World Values Survey, in 2012. If one may refer to the extreme feeling as Joy, then one may say that Filipinos are more joyful than Singaporeans.

Alternatively, one can check the Gallup World Poll (GWP), taken of adults in over 160 countries, which asks respondents to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst possible life, and 10 is the best possible life, that they can imagine. This is called a ladder scale, with 0 as ground level, and 10 as top level.

Pooling together the annual GWP over 2010-2012 (thus tripling the sample size), the average ladder score turns out to be 6.5 in Sg, versus 5.0 in Ph. (In both countries, these averages are more or less unchanged from 2005 to 2007, by the way.) So, are Singaporeans more satisfied with life than Filipinos? Bear in mind that a ladder-scale operates on the basis of the best hopes and the worst fears. Is there a reasonable similarity between the extreme limits of hopes and fears for these two peoples?

The state of democracy. Not long ago, I wrote about the Democracy Index that has been made by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), a private firm that does country-analysis (Opinion, 11/15/14). This index uses judgement calls by country experts, and adds readings from opinion polls in the countries themselves. It is scaled from 0 (i.e., nil) to 10 (i.e., complete) democracy. Scores of 8 and up indicate a “full democracy,” 6.0 to 7.9 imply a “flawed democracy,” 4.0 to 5.9 refer to a “hybrid regime,” and less than 4.0 imply an “authoritarian regime.”

In the Democracy Index for 2012, Singapore’s overall score is 5.88 (i.e., “hybrid regime”) versus the Philippines’ overall score of 6.30 (i.e., “flawed democracy”). Thus, the Democracy Index puts Philippine democracy as superior, on the whole, to Singaporean democracy.

However, the overall Democracy Index score is built up from five underlying scores. These details show Philippine democracy as superior in the three dimensions of (a) civil liberties, by 9.12 versus 7.35 in Sg, (b) electoral process and pluralism, by 8.33 versus 4.22 in Sg, and (c) political participation, by 5.56 versus 3.33 in Sg.

(To illustrate the dimension of civil liberties, I should point out that Singapore has legal bans on exit polls and on surveys of voter preferences during the campaign period. In the Philippines, on the other hand, these two types of survey activities are protected by explicit Supreme Court rulings, in 2000 and 2001, that affirm their coverage by the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.)

On the other hand, Singapore has a superior rating in the two dimensions of (d) government functioning, by 7.50 versus 5.36 in Ph, and (e) political culture, by 6.88 versus 3.13 in Ph.

What aspects of the current situation in Singapore may be attributed to its great leader Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away last week?

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.

* * *

Contact mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph.

Sam Miguel
03-29-2015, 12:09 PM
Lee Kuan Yew and Jojo Binay

Solita Collas-Monsod


Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:42 AM | Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Vice President Jojo Binay has seen fit to eulogize Lee Kuan Yew, calling him “the architect of modern Singapore,” a “dedicated public servant and well respected leader,” and saying that “the success of Singapore is but a testament to his decades of remarkable public service.”

Nothing out of the ordinary in there. We do not doubt that Mr. Lee was all of that and more. He made a small island an industrial and commercial giant. Unfortunately, Mr. Binay went further in his eulogy. His praise of Mr. Lee was then used to praise himself: “His political will and pragmatic approach to governance was my inspiration in rebuilding Makati after the 1986 Edsa Revolution from a bankrupt municipality to the country’s premier city providing unparalleled social services to its constituents…”

Now that has to be the most tasteless, and shameless, use of an iconic public figure’s death for one’s own political ends, in the hope that the glitter from Mr. Lee’s stature will rub off on him. It is a statement that also happens to be inaccurate. Only consider:

Mr. Lee’s governance, from all accounts, was one that brooked no corruption at any level. The war on corruption was waged very early in his regime. Mr. Binay’s service as mayor of Makati was hounded by corruption and corruption charges from the beginning, which have lasted to this day. Where’s the “inspiration”?

Mr. Lee’s “dynastic” tendencies is a far cry from Mr. Binay’s. Mr. Lee’s reign as prime minister of Singapore ended in 1990, and Goh Chok Tong (no relation) succeeded him. In 2004, Goh was succeeded by Mr. Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong. Mr. Binay has held sway over Makati since 1986. His successors as mayor have been his wife and his son. Where’s the “inspiration”?

Mr. Lee “forged a widely admired system of meritocratic, corruption-free and highly efficient government and civil service.” Does that describe Makati City now?

Then there are Mr. Binay’s claims about Makati:

I have not been able to access the Commission on Audit report on Makati for 1986, so I cannot report whether the municipality was bankrupt in 1986. I can only say that Mayor Nemesio Yabut was the predecessor of Mr. Binay, and his reputation was not of the best.

In any case, we have to remember what it was like in the Philippines in 1986, when Cory Aquino took over as president. The economy had collapsed earlier, in 1984, due to the international debt crisis—and its polity had just been shaken up by the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. It was chaos all over, not just in Makati.

But to say that Mr. Binay built up Makati to become the Philippines’ premier city is a stretch. Makati was the country’s business and financial center even in 1986, Binay or no Binay. The skyscrapers, condominium buildings, hotels and shopping centers would have been built whoever the mayor was. I do not recall anyone saying that the reason they chose Makati was the Binay administration. Their entry may even have been in spite of him.

The Makati experience is being used by Mr. Binay to woo voters. It goes like this: Vote for Binay, and he will make your cities, municipalities and barangays like Makati, with its own university and hospital, etc. That is obviously a falsehood. Makati’s revenues—from 62,000 business enterprises—is not replicable anywhere. Makati has benefited from economies of agglomeration, which have nothing to do with Mr. Binay.

Are there “unparalleled” social services for its citizens? No question about it. The seniors even get a cake on their birthday, courtesy of a favored baker. But that is because Makati can certainly afford it; it has the highest income of all cities in the Philippines. The question is not whether the citizens of Makati (and those from all over the Philippines that are being wooed by the Binays) are having these “unparalleled” social services, but whether they should have more, especially since the sharing of the revenues seems to be “one for them (the constituents), one (or two) for us.”

Everything can be condensed into the following: Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore immensely rich, while Makati made Mr. Binay immensely rich. That’s the difference.

And by the way, I thought the Binays did not want the Senate hearings, because these were supposedly usurping the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman and the courts? “Let the courts decide,” the Binays said. So why are they fighting the Ombudsman and the courts every inch of the way? When the judicial proceedings to ferret out the facts are delayed by legal maneuverings, how are the citizens going to make an informed decision?

Sam Miguel
03-29-2015, 05:24 PM
What comes after Lee Kuan Yew?

Published : 2015-03-27 19:33

Updated : 2015-03-27 19:33

All political leaders worry about their legacies. Lee Kuan Yew, who presided over Singapore either directly or indirectly for more than a half-century ― remaining influential right up to his death at 91 ― had more time in power than most to do so.

Several volumes of memoirs attest to Lee’s concern about his legacy, although Singapore’s extraordinary success under his leadership speaks for itself. Like him or not ― and many did not ― there is no denying the city-state’s remarkable and enduring prosperity and stability.

Yet the effort put into those memoirs by the man who called himself “Minister Mentor” during his later years offers a clue about Lee’s ultimate concern. His legacy in terms of Singapore’s past success may be clear, but what about the future?

That, of course, is one of the few things he could not control, beyond offering his teachings to future generations. Yet in one crucial respect ― determining who Singapore’s new generation of leaders will be ― the tight control that Lee exercised in the past may now make that future more difficult. The issue is certainly solvable, especially given an excellent education system and high-quality institutions of all kinds. But Lee’s own actions suggest that he harbored doubts.

The succession to Lee was clear: after handing over the premiership in 1990 (at the surprisingly young age of 66) to a trusted associate, Goh Chok Tong, he groomed his eldest son, Brig. Gen. Lee Hsien Loong, for the job. After serving as Singapore’s trade minister, finance minister, and deputy prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong took over the top post in 2004. What is unresolved is where power goes next, and how.

Perhaps the answer will simply be that the ruling People’s Action Party will choose a successor in the conventional way. Certainly, Singapore’s cadre of talented and experienced officials and ministers is deep. Still, the question is an open one, owing to Lee Kuan Yew’s somewhat paradoxical sensitivity to the prominence of his family members in some of the country’s most senior posts.

Lee fought many battles with the international media over their coverage of Singapore, especially from the mid-1980s onward, by which point the country’s success had become abundantly clear. As a Cambridge-trained lawyer, he was especially keen on using the law to browbeat his media (and political) critics, knowing full well that he had no serious chance of losing in Singapore’s own courts.

During my time as the editor-in-chief of the Economist from 1993-2006, I received such browbeatings on many occasions. What eventually became clear was that under no circumstances could Lee Kuan Yew countenance one particular word or concept: nepotism.

After all, he had set up Singapore as an intensely meritocratic society, in which competition, under clear and accepted rules, was king. So when his own son became prime minister, and his daughter-in-law, Ho Ching, took the helm at Temasek, one of the state’s huge investment companies, any insinuation that they had done so on anything other than their own merit was unacceptable.

Lee established a high-minded committee to establish that nepotism was not the reason, and then set about suing anyone who dared to suggest otherwise. Yet this abhorrence of nepotism was illogical ― and Lee was generally nothing if not logical, even ruthlessly so ― because in this case a perfectly good justification for it followed smoothly from his own analysis of Singapore.

A tiny, multiracial society ejected from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore was born in an atmosphere of vulnerability, lack of legitimacy and trust, and ethnic conflict. Up through the 1980s and 1990s, Lee often justified the continuation of authoritarian policies by reference to those communal riots, and to the ever-present possibility of a loss of social trust and a return to conflict.

So, in passing the baton to his eldest son, he could be said to have dealt with that risk in the most logical way possible. If you trusted the founder of Singapore and thought him legitimate, who better to trust than the founder’s own son? Indeed, the father would remain on the scene, first as “Senior Minister” and then in his mentor role, and had made his son prove his abilities openly in a series of prominent positions.

It worked, and Lee Hsien Loong has by all accounts done a good job as prime minister, whatever the explanation for his rise. There is no current risk to Singapore’s political stability, and the younger Lee is only 63 years old; he could remain in office for a long time to come.

The question, though, remains: What happens next? Lee Kuan Yew dealt with the question of succession by deferring it. His son will need to provide the answer.

By Bill Emmott

Bill Emmott is a former editor in chief of the Economist and the author of “Good Italy, Bad Italy, and The Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade.” ― Ed.

Sam Miguel
03-29-2015, 06:16 PM
By gum, the West is wrong about Singapore

By Joyce Hooi



Miss Ann Thrope

Where the short end of the stick meets the empty half of the glass.

27 Mar11:40 PM

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose – Me & Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin*

IT must be nice to be Western and superior. It must be nice to judge from afar a grieving and poorly understood nation that is often confused with China. As Singapore came to terms this week with the loss of a titan, the country also came under scrutiny, a great deal of which was admiring in a back-handed way.

After Lee Kuan Yew died, The Guardian devoted an entire article to his policy on chewing gum. Decades of phenomenal GDP growth, the lowest crime rate in the region and top-notch healthcare, and Westerners are still talking about the friggin’ chewing gum. This is like being complimented on your English.

The day Mr Lee’s body was moved from the Istana to Parliament House, a wire agency article concluded by saying that the proceedings felt “almost too well organised” to some Singaporeans. This is like being told your English sounds – almost – too polished.

And this week, a Telegraph piece called Singapore “proud and prosperous”, but could not resist throwing in “somewhat antiseptic”. This almost made me regret learning English.

These articles share a churlish and tired subtext, that Singapore is somehow less of a country because it lacks some kind of personality that foreigners expect this part of the world to have. The Western lexicon for Asia is a funny thing, and I have a real estate agent’s relationship with it. When a house is advertised as having “charm”, it means that its toilet doesn’t work. When a country in this region is lauded for its “charm”, it usually means that its people have a touch-and-go relationship with indoor plumbing.

“Quaint” means paddy fields where white-collar jobs should be. “Plenty of character” means the roads are not paved and you get diarrhoea from the ice cubes.

If this is what “charm” is, Singapore does not need it. And if it is handwoven baskets and barefoot children you want to see, go to another country that was not farsighted nor fortunate enough to avoid being charming.

For a long time, Singapore has been denied the gloss treatment other cosmopolitan cities get. Fifth Avenue is worshipped as a glamorous shrine to shopping, but Orchard Road is frequently portrayed as soulless. When outsiders report on Singapore, words like “gleaming” and “spotless” are used as though they were epithets.

Once in New York City, thanks to my dithering, my husband took too long to order a sandwich at Katz’s Deli and got snapped at by one of the legendarily ornery servers. “This is Noo Yawk,” the server said, as if that explained everything, and it did.

Likewise, this is Singapore. Everyone is in a hurry and they will hold pre-briefings for briefings, a post-briefing after and a break for a cost-benefit analysis. This is Singapore, this is what made it great. This is also why I became a citizen of this country – because I got tired of “charm”.

Besides, if anyone has the right to complain about Singapore, it is the Singaporeans. This right, they have exercised as though it were the Second Amendment and they were Americans. According to Mr Lee, the Singaporean is a “champion grumbler”. He said this in 1977, so citizens have been practising for at least 38 years.

These days, the complaining is the loudest it has ever been, and some of it doesn’t even make sense. Mr Lee’s passing has unearthed old chestnuts about the stifling of creativity and freedoms. This grousing was understandable 15 years ago, but who is stopping you from being creative now?

For how long do you intend to blame the spectre of a man before taking responsibility for the limitations of your own mind? What books have you been unable to gain access to, what TV shows have you been unable to BitTorrent and what poorly informed, anonymous comments on the Internet have you been unable to write?

If any party is censorious and forbidding, it is the society we have allowed ourselves to become, one that drives people into hiding in Perth when they’ve done something we find unacceptable.

Today, the prevailing attitude is miles away from Mr Lee’s hard-driving, survivalist one. Now, people want to trade a few percentage points of GDP growth for the balance of work and life, as though work were not part of life. They want a softer approach to this idea of competition or betterment, a more consensual form of governance.

What the people want, the people will eventually get – that is both the beauty and horror of democracy. And such has been the earlier success of Singapore that its people have the middle-class wherewithal to demand change, and the government has the resources to provide it.

Like many other migrants, I came here to escape corruption, injustice and water that came out of taps brown in colour. I came here because I understood this to be a place that rewarded industry and ability while tolerating – if not welcoming – extreme dorkiness.

I’ve had the luxury of being able to mind my own business, largely because the government had minded everyone’s. This is not for everyone, I’m sure, and as Singaporeans clamour for more self-determination, they will get it, if only because tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

I have my reservations about what this country will become, but as for how it came to be, my appreciation is unequivocal, without qualification and unreserved. Thank you, Mr Lee, for Singapore. There was nothing more you could have done.


*I should note that Me and Bobby McGee was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. Janis Joplin's cover of it was released in 1971.

03-30-2015, 08:05 AM
Lee Kuan Yew 1923-2015

Ramon Farolan


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:12 AM | Monday, March 30th, 2015

During the early years of martial law, particularly from 1973 to 1976, the country was visited by a number of high-ranking dignitaries from the region. To name a few, Gough Whitlam from Australia, Michael Somare from Papua New Guinea, Kukrit Pramoj from Thailand, and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. Some came from more distant lands, like Sirimavo Bandaranaike from Sri Lanka, and Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania. Perhaps it was a well-orchestrated PR offensive designed to show the outside world how martial law was being carried out and implemented in the Philippines.

On those occasions, I was assigned as the aide-de-camp to the visiting heads of government, and this provided me with a ringside seat at most of the functions that were organized for them. I was not involved in the discussions that took place, but the assignment provided me with a close and unparalleled view of how some leaders conducted themselves in their private moments, away from the prying eyes of media.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore visited the Philippines in January 1974. His Singapore Airlines flight was met by a number of Philippine Air Force fighter jets as it entered Philippine airspace. At that time there were no serious problems with Singapore, trade was minimal and the visit was more of the getting-to-know-you variety. Perhaps it was also an opportunity to test the golfing skills of the two leaders who were both keen golfers. At the Mansion House in Baguio City, the prime minister was a bit early for the scheduled golf meet, and so we took a short walk around. I noticed his keen interest in the flowers and plants that made the surroundings explode in lovely colors and greenery. He asked if I had finished at the military academy nearby, and if I had been to Singapore. But I sensed that his main concern was the presence of threatening clouds hovering close by. I assured him that January was the best golfing month in Baguio.

There was no doubt that you were in the presence of a leader. His steely eyes were focused on you as he spoke with clarity and a sense of authority. Those brief moments were all I had with him.

* * *

During the last few days, if you had the opportunity to visit Channel News Asia on your cable TV sets, you would have seen how the people of Singapore mourned the death of their country’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. As of yesterday, close to half-a-million Singaporeans paid their respects by visiting his remains lying in state at Parliament House. Many more laid flowers and greeting cards at several community sites located all over the island. Waiting time for those who were queuing up at Parliament House came up to from eight to 10 hours. By Saturday night so many more had to be turned away due to preparations for the Sunday ceremonies.

India declared a national day of mourning with Indian flags ordered flown at half-staff throughout the country.

Tributes poured in from leaders all over the world. But none was more touching than the one from a young boy perhaps of grade school age, who laid his card in front of Lee’s picture at one of the community centers. The card read: “Dear Mr. Lee, I am proud to be Singaporean. Thank you for everything.”

* * *

Lee’s views on some of the continuing issues of the day (from a collection of interviews by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill with Ali Wayne):

What is the role of the leader?

“It is the duty of leaders to instill confidence in the people so that they will stand up to be counted. No army however brave, can win when its generals are weak. . . Your job as a leader is to inspire and to galvanize, not to share your distraught thoughts. You make your people dispirited if you do so. The test of leadership lies not merely in echoing fears and doubts, especially when these fears and doubts, however real, are capable of solution and being rendered irrational and unfounded. We cannot afford to passively let things drift. We have to take the lead in public thinking. After having drawn attention to the interests of our communities that require special protection, we must formulate solutions which will safeguard those interests and advance the common good.

“A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people, and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honorable place in history.”

How responsive should a leader be to popular opinion?

“I learned to ignore criticism and advice from experts and quasi-experts, especially academics in the social and political sciences. They have pet theories on how a society should develop to approximate their ideal, especially how poverty should be reduced and welfare extended. I always try to be correct, not politically correct.

“What the western world does not understand is that at the end of the day, I am not worried by how they judge me. I am worried by how the people I have governed judged me.

“My idea of popular government is that you do not have to be popular at all, all the time when you are governing. There are moments when you have to be thoroughly unpopular. But at the end of your term, you should have brought about sufficient benefits so the people realize that what you did was necessary and will vote for you again. That is the basis on which I have governed. If you want to be popular all the time, you will misgovern.”

What are the risks of democracy?

“One person, one vote is a most difficult form of government. From time to time, the results can be erratic. People are sometimes fickle. They get bored with stable, steady improvements in life and in a reckless moment, they vote for a change, for change’s sake. . . . I am not intellectually convinced that one person, one vote is the best form of government. We practice it because that is what the British bequeathed us but I am convinced personally that we would have a better system if we gave every person over the age of forty who has a family, two votes because he or she is likely to be more careful voting also for his children. At the same time, once a person gets beyond 65, then it is a problem. Between the ages of 40 and 60 is ideal, and at 60, they should go back to one vote. But that will be difficult to arrange.

“One person, one vote on the basis of the western parliamentary democratic system is workable within certain limitations.”

* * *

His last words: I do not want to be remembered as a statesman. First of all, I do not classify myself as a statesman. I put myself down as determined, consistent, persistent. I set out to do something. I keep on chasing it until it succeeds. Anybody who thinks he is a statesman needs to see a psychiatrist.

03-31-2015, 02:21 PM
What Filipinos must learn from Lee Kuan Yew

Oscar Franklin Tan


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:10 AM | Monday, March 30th, 2015

Whenever I land in Changi Airport, I ask myself what it would take to turn every Philippine city into Singapore. Every overseas Filipino worker who has passed through that magnificent airport sighs at the thought.

Lee Kuan Yew highlights that the “little red dot” catapulted itself from a village with no natural resources into Southeast Asia’s jewel in but a lifetime. Idealistic Filipinos must read Lee’s autobiography as a concrete lesson in the possible.

The story is prone to oversimplification or adulteration with myth. Critical young Singaporeans clarify that Singapore began not as a tiny fishing village but as a strategic British port. The Western media’s romanticization of a Switzerland of Asia is likewise too simplistic.

We should assess Lee through the eyes of OFWs who have lived in the Singapore two generations after him. The first and simplest lesson is that we must not compromise in the character we demand in our national leaders. Lee led an austere lifestyle though he was hardly poor, maintained a strict work ethic even in semiretirement, and backed his strong opinions with meticulous study.

Not that he was perfect. That his son leads Singapore today undercuts the meritocracy Lee espoused. Nor was he a paragon of tact. The best story I heard from the consummate diplomat Tommy Koh features Lee explaining the role of culture in national development. When a reporter asks if certain cultures retard development, Lee bluntly points to Caribbean countries’ supposed carnival culture. At the United Nations in New York, Koh wakes up to find every Caribbean ambassador angrily knocking on his door. He mollifies them by joking that at least his prime minister offends everyone equally. But such were Lee’s convictions that no one begrudged him the right to threaten to reach out from beyond the grave should Singapore go astray.

Second, Lee cultivated talent and cited the ability of his first ministers. Independent Singapore still had Malaysian troops stationed in it, so he wrote how he immediately put the most talented in charge of national defense. Technocratic to an extreme, an

older Lee presented statistics on the low marriage rate of female college graduates. He cajoled educated men to marry their peers to maintain the talent pool and introduced incentives for this, to howls of protest from educated women. Today, a special government agency still promotes dating among college graduates and, more seriously, the best students still aspire to serve in government.

Third, Lee was open to knowledge, absorbing what he considered appropriate for Singapore and avoiding other societies’ expensive mistakes. He invited Israelis to discreetly train the first Singapore army and later emphasized the United States’ key role in Asia’s security. He reinvented himself, moving from an Anglophilic Harry to the Kuan Yew that emphasized his Chinese heritage to the leader that pushed multiethnic Singaporeans to speak English to be competitive.

Singapore was initially conservative in financial regulation because Lee felt it could not yet bear the cost of a financial scandal. However, after retiring as prime minister, Lee was exposed to new concepts as an adviser to the multinational bank J.P. Morgan. He nudged his government in a more liberal direction and had his son head the financial regulator to implement this. He then nudged the Development Bank of Singapore to hire a retiring J.P. Morgan banker, pushing other Singapore banks to hire senior expats and adopt global practices.

Finally, Lee showed how critical vision is in leadership. We are fortunate to have a President perceived to be honest—yet reduced corruption or improved governance alone fall short of vision. Lee had a clear vision of a meritocratic market economy cushioned by healthcare subsidies and universal home ownership. He believed in the stability created when citizens own their homes. He laughed at how villagers hauled pigs and chickens up the stairs of the first high-rise government flats, but recalled with pride how homeowner citizens were ready to defend communities under threat of later riots. Lee also envisioned a racially integrated Singapore, enforced with both carrot and stick, and a clean, competent government supported by the willingness to pay higher salaries.

It is thus shallow to equate Lee with a choice between democracy and authoritarianism. What Lee criticized were weak democracies that left themselves directionless and, in the Philippines’ case, a soft people with short memories that too readily forgave past leaders’ worst sins. We can readily learn from Lee in the context of decisive action within our democratic traditions.

Although Philippine politics continues to revolve around personalities and emotional appeal, we do have young leaders with longer-term visions that transcend individual issues. Sen. Pia Cayetano has consistently championed women’s autonomy, which connects her passionate defense of reproductive health education on the very floor of the Supreme Court and her willingness to open the difficult debate on divorce. No one predicted that Sen. Sonny Angara would emerge as a tax reform advocate, highlighting how our income taxes are the region’s highest, or that Sen. Bam Aquino would be questioning our slow Internet speeds in a greater context of empowering startup businesses. Lacking a once-a-generation genius as Lee, we must throw our support behind transformative visions in various fields. Whether it takes 100 or 1,000 of our most forward-looking leaders to match a Lee, we will need them all to bring our 100 million people into modernity.

* * *

03-31-2015, 02:22 PM
The real Singapore model

Minxin Pei


12:09 AM | Monday, March 30th, 2015

CLAREMONT, California—The death of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, offers an occasion to reflect on his legacy—and, perhaps more importantly, on whether that legacy has been correctly understood.

During his 31 years as prime minister, Lee crafted a unique system of government, intricately balancing authoritarianism with democracy and state capitalism with the free market. Known as “the Singapore model,” Lee’s brand of governance is often mischaracterized as a one-party dictatorship superimposed on a free-market economy. His success in transforming Singapore into a prosperous city-state is frequently invoked by authoritarian rulers as justification for their tight control of society—and nowhere more so than in China.

Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping is pursuing a transformative agenda heavily influenced by the Singapore model—a relentless war on corruption, a broad crackdown on dissent, and promarket economic reforms. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees in Singapore a vision of its future: the perpetuation of its monopoly on political power in a prosperous capitalist society.

But the Singapore model, as China’s rulers understand it, never existed. To emulate Lee’s model of government—rather than its cartoon caricature—would require allowing a far more democratic system than the CCP would ever tolerate.

The true secret of Lee’s political genius was not his skillful use of repressive practices, such as launching lawsuits against the media or his political opponents; such tactics are common and unremarkable in semiauthoritarian regimes. What Lee did that was truly revolutionary was to use democratic institutions and the rule of law to curb the predatory appetite of his country’s ruling elite.

Unlike China, Singapore allows opposition parties to contest in competitive and free (though not necessarily fair) elections. In the last parliamentary election in 2011, six opposition parties won a total of 40 percent of the vote. Should the People’s Action Party (PAP), the party Lee founded, lose its legitimacy due to poor governance, Singapore’s voters could throw it out of office.

By holding regular competitive elections, Lee effectively established a mechanism of political self-enforcement and accountability—he gave Singaporean voters the power to decide whether the PAP should stay in power. This enforcement mechanism has maintained discipline within Singapore’s ruling elite and makes its promises credible.

Regrettably, most of the rest of the world has never given Lee proper credit for crafting a hybrid system of authoritarianism and democracy that vastly improved the wellbeing of his country’s citizens, without subjecting them to the brutality and oppression to which many of Singapore’s neighbors have resorted.

China would be wise to embrace this model, by introducing a considerable degree of democracy and strengthening adherence to the rule of law. China’s 1.4 billion citizens would benefit immensely if their rulers were to adopt Singapore-style political institutions and practices. This would mean, at a minimum, legalizing organized political opposition, introducing competitive elections at regular intervals, and creating an independent judiciary.

Emulating Lee would allow China to achieve immense progress and become a more humane and open society with a brighter future. Sadly, there is almost no chance of this happening, at least any time soon. When China’s leaders cite the Singapore model, what they have in mind is limited to the perpetuation of their power. They want the benefits of political dominance, without the checks imposed by a competitive institutional context.

Lee may have been skeptical about the benefits of democracy, but he was not viscerally hostile to it; he understood its usefulness. By contrast, China’s leaders view democracy as an existential ideological threat that must be neutralized at any cost. For them, allowing even a modicum of democracy as a means to impose some discipline on the elite is considered suicidal.

Unfortunately, Lee is no longer with us. One would like to imagine him explaining to China’s leaders what has been truly innovative about the Singapore model. Obviously, that is not an option. But it would behoove the CCP—if for no other reason than simple respect for one of Asia’s great statesmen—to stop appropriating the Singapore brand in the service of a completely different agenda. Project Syndicate

Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a nonresident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

04-02-2015, 12:14 PM
Lee Kuan Yew: Strong man in small country

Kevin H.R. Villanueva


1:02 AM | Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew was a man “too big” for Singapore and “too small” for the world. Under his enigmatic repute as an authoritarian leader, he would turn this tip of a tadpole on the Malayan peninsula into a rare social and political model for states that became envious of its economic prosperity.

The comparisons that were drawn may have been a useful heuristic device but they were dangerous, not least unfair: first, on account of the brilliance and gravitas of Lee Kuan Yew; second, because of Singapore’s geography; and finally, because of the unique historical conditions in which the nation was fitted and formed.

But its story was seductive, so the allusions to the success of this city-state and its founding prime minister by scholars and statesmen kept on coming: What on earth was the secret?

A Cambridge-trained lawyer (earning him a double first with distinction) and a natural fighter, Mr. Lee began his leadership in a hostile and precarious environment. Southeast Asia had barely recovered from the pillages of the Pacific War and was overwhelmed by nationalist movements and the destabilizing effects of communist insurgency. The withdrawal of European imperial authority created a power vacuum and new alliances had to be formed in order to fasten as well as to expand old borders.

Singapore’s ideal postcolonial settlement was to join the Federation of Malaysia, which included Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah. But when Tunku Abdul Rahman caught wind of the loftier ambitions of Mr. Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP) to unite in opposition against the ruling Alliance at the federal level, Singapore was expelled.

This self-confessed “moment of anguish” drove Mr. Lee to build Singapore on his own terms. The year was 1965.

He would subsequently send his first foreign minister, Sinnathamby Rajaratnam, to request that Singapore be one of the five original states that would establish Asean in 1967. Among his peers of that era—Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia, Suharto of Indonesia, Thanom Kitticachorn of Thailand and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines—Mr. Lee would be one of the longest to stay in power (1959-1990) and would stay on as a minister-mentor feared and loved by his people.

Singapore was a “tropical slum” in the 1960s—poor, rundown and bereft of natural resources. But Mr. Lee micromanaged his house and virtually tended his lawn to beauty and perfection.

From his policies on regulated social housing, matchmaking and childbirth rates, the careful selection and execution of official languages in order to enhance cohesion in this multiethnic society (of which 74 percent are Chinese, 13 percent Malays and 9 percent Indians), the prohibition of chewing gum in open spaces, to the peremptory flush of public toilets, the end-result is a feat of social engineering and control. There is no satire in this; it was for him, and in his own words, simply the only way to transform Singapore from “a fishing village of 150 souls” into a desirable spotless metropolis.

But the measures Mr. Lee practiced—stifling political dissent, locking up his opponents and muzzling the media—were scorned, not least by the West, whose multinational companies would ironically seek stability and profit in this same corruption-free society.

Why was there such love and hate? It was because Mr. Lee was frank about the belief that leadership is as much a question of embracing values as getting things done right. The Lee-Singapore formula, it seems to me, was to keep an even keel between the principles of idealism and pragmatism.

And to stay the course, an acute sense of realism anchored his vision. Mr. Lee focused on what the world did not have to be able to develop the only two main resources that his country did have: a naturally deep harbor and the limitless potential of a highly skilled and technical workforce. The government lured and coopted the best and brightest to scale the ladders of its meritocratic administration and, by virtue of the country’s size, provided fiscal advantages (i.e., because of low structural overhead costs) for businesses wanting to put up shop.

Singapore has emerged as a crossbreed between a global financial center and a key international shipping hub.

Mr. Lee’s spin on the Asian values debate has to be read, therefore, with greater nuance. Whether it was to perpetuate his vaunted iron fist or to rally his constituency into a social contract that gave primacy to communal over individual ends remains in ambiguity. It is clear, however, that tradeoffs had to be made on the basis of social choices.

This generation’s new leaders have an exciting opportunity before them—to challenge notions of political accountability, to reassess Singapore’s trade and developmental role in Asean, and to spur innovation among the young in society—possibly on new forms of participatory democracy. It is the kind of match that Mr. Lee would have relished.

Whether his social experiment becomes a matrix for political plurality and social creativity or whether it reverts Singapore to its unhappy state will only now pass through the crucible. Either way, Mr. Lee wins, because he finally rests in the legacy that it was he who first made Singapore, incredibly, big for the world.

Kevin H.R. Villanueva, PhD (kevinhrvillanueva@hotmail.com), is research director at the HZB School of International Diplomacy at the Philippine Women’s University and founding director of the recently formed national-regional thinktank on Asean affairs called Arise (Asean Research Institute for Strategic Studies and Enterprise).