Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Understanding Zaid's action: a casual observation.


There is a natural tendency among men to live in peace. Then effort is made to create a safe environment. Thats how life goes. But one has to be clear about many things. What is peace? What are attributes of peace? What is environment? What is safe?

I read a simple essay on Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee is a giant for a little city state. Lets read the essay, and then make a fair assessment. Dont be bias, put aside sentiments and personal feelings. While agreeing to the point that peace is never static and in fact it is transcient in nature, we do have to allow a little bit of flexibility and being pragmatic most of the time. There is more to leadership than to succumb to limited aim and scope.

On man-made Law, i suppose it was not crafted for the fun of it. There is a larger picture to it. We do have to agree that not everyone has the privilege to be blessed with wisdom and a view of the larger picture. Most of us are walking about with limited aim and scope in life. Lee in Singapore and our own Tun Mahathir are two interesting leader to be analysed. Their wisdom is far reaching.

Here is the essay.......

Lee Kuan Yew - First Premier of Singapore

When Lee Kuan Yew resigned as Prime minister of Singapore in 1990 it was the end of the reign of a tiger; a man who took no prisoners in his drive to the top. Serving his country from 1959 until 1990, he was the longest serving prime minister of any country at that time.

Had it not been for the Japanese occupation of Singapore it is doubtful that he would have led his country, but that occupation had such a profound effect on him that it completely changed the course of his life. He was determined that no foreign power would ever again control his country and that his countrymen would never again be “the playthings of a foreign power”. His treatment by the Japanese was such that this burning ambition remained with him always.

After the war he was educated in England as a lawyer and on his return to Singapore joined the pro-British Progressive Party, for which he acted as an election agent in the 1951 elections. However, Lee was born of Chinese parents, and had a Chinese attitude to life and politics and realized, correctly, that no party could succeed in Singapore without the support of the Chinese working class, even though the majority at that time was not allowed to vote.

His opportunity came in 1953 when the Rendell Commission allowed all local born Singaporeans to have the vote, which enfranchised millions of Chinese-speaking voters. Lee Kuan Yew founded the People’s Action Party in 1954, a leftist party that formed an alliance with the trades unionists. The Communist Part was illegal in Malaysia, so the pro-communist trades unions considered an alliance with a respectable political party to be to their advantage. The British members of the PAP needed the support of the Chinese trade unionized masses to help them gain power, and both sides had the same objective of self government for Singapore and the removal of British rule.

Lee was appointed Secretary General of the People’s Action Party, and held that post until 1992, well after his retirement from national office. Thanks to the support of the Chinese-speaking masses, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly in 1955, and after his party won the next election, he became the first prime minister of his country in 1959. However, this was only the start of his work, not the end.

Lee ran a very tight ship. He possessed the Chinese trait of strict discipline and obedience of orders. When he took office he found the political scene to be full of corruption and he stamped this out immediately. He accepted no argument or criticism, and had no hesitation in destroying anybody who stood against him. The way he cut out corruption was to make it illegal, and he appointed an agency that enforced these laws rigorously. He was a tenacious fighter who left anybody who opposed him beaten. He enforced strict discipline and complete intolerance of disobedience. If you agreed with him you were fine. If not . . .

He had a typical attitude towards the severe housing shortage that existed when he took over the reins of power. He instituted a building program that increased state ownership of affordable housing from below 10% to over 90%. He invested in his country’s industry to provide employment to everybody, and the ability to afford the housing. Anybody who opposed him was politically destroyed. He could not be beaten. He was tenacious and refused to be beaten in anything he believed was right for his country. He abhorred corruption.

However, although the standard of living improved dramatically in Singapore, he was described by some as a despot and criticized by others for his autocratic approach to democracy. Examples quoted were his intolerance of political demonstrations and his restriction in the freedom of the press. Lee firmly believed, however, that the end justified the means. Examples of the way he handled dissent include bankrupting opponents and the use of the courts to settle personal disputes. He never lost! He did not believe in open debate, but in absolute rule if the end justified it.

He announced his retirement when he reached 65 in 1988, but did not hand over power to Min Goh Chok Tong until 1990. He held the position of Senior Minister as an advisor until 2004 when he took up the position of Senior Mentor, a position created for him.

Although he was authoritarian, a strong character was what Singapore needed to pull it out of the quagmire into which it had sunk after the Japanese occupation and then its reoccupation by the British. Singapore owes him a lot, and a weaker man could not have achieved what Lee Kuan Yew did for his country.

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beritadarigunung: Cheer up Zaid, it is not the end of the world and learning is lifelong.