You may draw different conclusions from my disclosures. I am merely telling what I know about LKY. You be the judge! I am no dissident. Nor am I a malcontent … And if you think I am being unduly harsh to LKY, let's be clear about this. I am only recounting how badly he behaved – whatever damage is done to his reputation, he brought it on himself.
After the death of the Singapore Herald, I promised myself that a day of reckoning would come and I would tell all about LKY's machinations. I spurned opportunities to work abroad. A head-hunter from the Asian Development Bank arrived at my door in 1978-79 after I had installed a computerised newspaper publishing system at the Straits Times. He was an old friend, a colleague from the days when I was working in 1971-72 as Production Editor of The Asian with Tarzie Vittachi and a brilliant team in Hong Kong, and thought that the bank could use the services of a computer-savvy man in those early days.
Do you realize that, except for Hong Lim Park gatherings, if you have a common agenda, you cannot gather in groups of more than five as a rule and the police have the right to ask you to move on or else! And in the world-wide index of freedom of the press, we now languish at No. 150, below Cambodia (144) and Malaysia (147).
However from Feb. 2011 to Feb 2013, I stopped working on this blog for two years. What gave me pause was the thought that I would be offending the LKY-PAP faithful (about 60% of the electorate at last count) with my disclosures.
There was another problem. The following e-mail sent to an Oral History Specialist at the National Archives is self-explanatory:
Sent: Tuesday, 22 July, 2014 2:35 PM
To: Denise NG (NLB) Subject: Eureka!
Mr. Lee also disclosed in Helsinki that he hoped to sue two of the Nanyang Siang Pau editors1 for telling lies about him. To ears like mine, such statements have a hollow ring when they come from a man who gives blatant displays of callous disregard for the truth himself. Let's examine just a few examples:
EXAMPLE No 2 — Mr. Lee said in Helsinki that our first editor-in-chief, Mr. Francis Wong, had been "fired" — this for an international audience without access to the facts. It was his word against Mr. Wong's. Mr. Lee knows that Mr. Wong was a sacrificial lamb. Mr. Wong resigned, but there are so many unsavoury aspects of the Government's handling of this matter that I will spare Mr. Lee by not disclosing all the sordid details3. It is sufficient to say only that Mr. Lee, more than anybody else, should know why Mr. Wong resigned.
Even the Undergrad, a varsity publication, is fighting vigorously for survival today, because there have been attempts to emasculate it. Pressures are being applied6, and there are disturbing signs that our elected Government wants to dictate what we shall read — indeed, how we shall think.
As a retired journalist, I am merely relating what I know, having observed him, reported on him, subbed/edited his speeches and public pronouncements, recorded his less-than-private outbursts since the early 1950s -- and after connecting the dots, I believe I can faithfully put on record for posterity what I have pieced together about him… In my story covering several decades, you may detect a sense of outrage – and why not? I admired LKY, I trusted him, like many Singaporeans, then he betrayed us, he lost or discarded his moral compass. In general, most people hold their leaders to a higher moral standard!
Woolley: God calls me God.
In my book, our wannabe Singapore god comes across as a pain in the anal orifice with a god complex -- exposed as a control freak by retired S.T. editor Cheong Yip Seng in "OB Markers."
Dr Mahathir, Prime Minister of Malaysia 1981-2003 commented: "He is a big frog in a small pond. He is not satisfied with what he has. He had ambitions to become Prime Minister of all Malaysia. He tries to lecture people but people dislike that. People do regard him as an intellectual, as something more than just an ordinary politician. He's always invited to give his views on things and, to that extent, he is something bigger than Singapore. But the fact remains he is only the Mayor of Singapore. This is something he doesn't like. You see, he wants to be big. Feels that we in Malaysia took away his opportunity to lead a real country. But I think he will go down in history as a very remarkable intellectual and politician at the same time, which is not a very often thing." And I thought he only wanted Tan Siew Sin's job!
Curiously again, Tom Plate quotes LKY on page 31: "I think what the Western world readership 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 judge me. I owe them this responsibility when I put my self up for election in the 50s, won it, took them into Malaysia and took them out of Malaysia. We had to make an independent Singapore work."
LKY never really bothered about good PR. When we had 12 MPs in Malaysia, he pleaded with the Tengku: "Let us be your loyal opposition," taking a cue from Westminster. We were ranked like all the other States, each one led by Mentris Besar.
However, in Singapore when we had any MPs sitting on the opposition benches, LKY made it a point to demonstrate that he had a mean streak. What he himself wanted in Malaysia, the opposition was not going to get!
If you are under 55, the following will be all new to you because you would have been in primary or lower secondary school when the following events unfolded in May 1971.
- The Establishment: Our colonial masters, the administrators, the upper-class business community, e.g. A. C. Simmons managing director of The Straits Times, captains of industry, professionals, e.g. lawyers like C. C. Tan and T. W. Ong (Straits Chinese British Association), medical/health service professionals – and old money;
- The support system: the civil service, the police force, the British army, the law courts;
- The working class: clerks, teachers, merchants, immigrants, many toiling away as coolies…
We received more offers of help, including free meals from owners of restaurants in the area
I repeat, I once admired LKY and his brilliant mind. Then one learns he can be petty – worse, not just petty, but small-minded. Decent people despise small-minded people. (Note to Peter L: Now you understand). -- ends --
Epilogue (edited on Oct 26, 2014, with additional details): A few select friends invited to visit this blog have said the above is an unsatisfactory way to end this report. What next? they ask. I did declare that I would tell all about how LKY did us in. See top right column of this blog, ending with "I have promises to keep." This I have done. To leave this undone would be unprofessional.
Because he acted within the law, there was no recourse. Perhaps now that he is exposed as one who has acted as a man without honour, he may come clean and say his mea culpas. Posturing? Why not? The National Archives has recorded other instances of posturing by him.
By the way, humility becomes all-powerful leaders. Reflect on the fate of dictators who did not learn to be humble, e.g. Mubarak, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi.
Don't expect any apologies from LKY, though. He offended the Muslims, remember? When told of his error, all he would say was: "I stand corrected."
I learnt early in life in boarding school in S.X.I. that the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. If you don't stand up to them, they get bolder. In 1971, when the Herald published its defence we were standing up to a bully. This blog took five years to finish -- 43 years after the death of the Herald. So this is no rush to judgment.
It is worth noting that because LKY got away with muzzling the local press in 1971, he was emboldened to pass a few laws to bring to heel, in quick succession, several regional newspapers and news magazines, e.g The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Far Eastern Economic Review, etc. This probably appealed to his intellectual vanity!
I could go on and on... Of LKY's antics, Dr Catherine Lim has also published less than flattering reports -- in refined language. I am a journalist, I call a spade a spade. Still, I am keenly aware that many readers could judge what I have recorded as the rantings of a long-winded bore. LKY himself may instinctively say to himself: "Bah! Another strident, scurrilous attack on me." He routinely dismisses online anti-PAP and anti-LKY comments as "noise."
On TV after the 2011 general election, I recorded Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's comments on LKY's reminder to voters that they would be sorry if they voted wrongly -- using the word "repent."
Most Singaporeans, especially those who voted consistently for Chiam See Tong in Potong Pasir, would have understood that LKY was uttering a threat. He had made sure that those Pasir Potong constituents would be last in line for HDB upgrading programmes, etc. although they paid their taxes, COEs, etc like other citizens, contributing equally to the national coffers. Only crafty, wily LKY could think of how to punish them with unequal treatment of this sort!
The P.M. said on TV: "I believe MM's comments were negatively received by a significant number of Singaporeans." One PAP group constituency was lost to the Workers' Party and LKY was persuaded to leave the Cabinet and ride off into the sunset.
I learnt to ride a horse long ago, about the same time that I took flying lessons in a Gypsy Moth. Riding a horse involves the proper use of thigh muscles! It is sad to think of an old man riding off into the sunset, not on any noble steed, but in a wheelchair... while ruing the day in 1970 he issued that #^*#* order to Singapore newspapers not to print anything about the National Day rehearsals.
There is no ready explanation for that stupid order. We speculated at the time that LKY thought he couldn't trust newspaper editors. What if they published a close-up shot of some Israeli officers? In those days,these Israeli officers were masquerading as Mexicans in our Army to teach our Chinese soldiers to fight a war, surrounded as we were by Malay hordes...