26 January, 2021

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Lee Kuan Yew: “From Third World To First” – Some Excerpts

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Selecting excerpts from Lee Kuan Yew is as difficult as selecting from Thirukkural. The whole work may need to be quoted. The difference with the former is that to understand in context, the whole requires to be read. Anyone wishing to be initiated in politics, particularly Tamils from Sri Lanka wherever they may reside have a compulsion to digest both volumes of his autobiography. I read them only a few months after publication and that too by borrowing because availability for purchase was difficult. I thought a few Sri Lankans would have read them. I now know that only a miniscule might have.

Volume I of about 700 pages deals principally with the politics of creating Singapore as a separate state, the emotional trauma Lee experienced in doing it, how adroitly he managed his mission and the way he   gathered around him men of intellect, scholarship and character. Volume II of equal size is a textbook on political consolidation, economic growth and social integration of a small state. Unswerving and dedicated leadership launched a new state into the comity of advanced economies and of modernized societies. More significantly 2050 will see Singapore among the most advanced states, in multiple respects.

Lee Kuan Yew | Photo courtesy The Age

Lee Kuan Yew | Photo courtesy The Age

Without doubt one man’s initiative and persistent surveillance achieved it. Years back he said famously “Even when I am being lowered into the grave, if I see something going wrong in Singapore, I will get up”. His greatest emphasis is on character and he had the credentials to dwell on it. He has drawn much on Confucius. Tamils have Thiruvalluvar to benefit from. The story of Singapore has been an unqualified success. The world knows who the architect was. Some excerpts from his writing to provide the lure.

Page:

73.           The  foundations  for  our financial centre were the  rule of Law, an independent judiciary, and a  stable,  competent  and  honest  government  that  pursued sound macro-economic policies, with budget surpluses almost every year.

137.        Nearly 80 percent of a person’s makeup is from nature, and about 20 percent the result of nurture

137.        I believed intelligence was inherited and not the result of education, food and training.

160.        Human ingenuity is infinite when translating power and discretion into personal gain.

163.        It is easy to start off with high moral standards, strong convictions and determination to beat down corruption. But it is difficult to live up to these good intentions unless the leaders are strong and determined enough to deal with all transgressors and without exceptions.

164.        A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums of money to get elected, or it must trigger off the cycle of corruption.

348.        A Confucian gentleman’s duty to family and friends presumes that he helps them from his personal and not official resources. Too often officials use public office to do favours for family and friends, undermining the integrity of government.

381.        In April 1985, Thatcher paid us an official visit. At dinner, I congratulated her for trimming the excesses of the welfare state:

For nearly four decades since the war, successive British governments seemed to assume that the creation of wealth came about naturally, and that what needed government attention and ingenuity was the redistribution of wealth. So governments devised ingenious ways to transfer incomes from the successful to the less successful. In this climate, it requires a Prime Minister with very strong nerves to tell voters the truth, that creators of wealth are precious members of a society who deserve honour plus the right to keep a better part of their rewards… We have used to advantage what Britain left behind: the English language, the legal system, parliamentary government and impartial administration. However, we have studiously avoided the practices of the welfare state. We saw how a great people reduced themselves to mediocrity by levelling down.

491.        Singapore  depends  on  the  strength  and  influence  of  the  family to  keep  society orderly  and maintain a culture of thrift, hard work, filial piety, and respect for elders and for scholarship and learning. These values make for a productive people and help economic growth.

491.        Man needs a moral sense of right and wrong. There is such a thing as evil, and men are not evil just because they are victims of society. Many of the social problems in the United States were the result of the erosion of the moral underpinnings of society and the diminution of personal responsibility.

499.        American friends kept reminding me that their foreign policy is often driven not by considerations of strategic national interest, but by their media.

526.        The Japanese were focused on the future. They were not harking back to an idyllic Japan of sailing ships and samurais. Their agenda was energy conservation, alternatives to oil, and a strategy to overcome protectionism in steel, cars, and electronic products by moving to creative knowledge industries.

527.        Japan’s advice in 1980 was, given Singapore’s geographic position and environment, to prepare for a possible role as a centre for knowledge and information, to complement Tokyo. To be such a knowledge and information centre, we redoubled our emphasis on the teaching of the sciences, mathematics and computers in all our schools. We computerized the whole   government administration to set the pace for the private sector.

534.        How had we tackled corruption? First, good intelligence; next, an impersonal, not a subjective approach third, solid backing from the top for anti-corruption investigation and prosecution.

535.        Ordinary people could not follow the intricacies of an economic or a political problem, so they learned whom to trust. To win such trust, I never said anything which I did not believe in, and people slowly recognized that I was honest and sincere. This was my most powerful asset.

539.        Hong Kong and Singapore, both Confucianist societies, had withstood the financial storm because both had British systems of law, business methods that were transparent, accounting practices of international standard, open tenders and binding contracts negotiated on level playing fields, and bank loans made at arm’s length.

544.        In 1949 I did not understand the importance of talent, especially entrepreneurial talent and that trained talent is the yeast that transforms a society and makes it rise.

628.        He (Deng Xiaoping) had lived through a revolution and recognized the early signs of one at Tiananmen. Gorbachev, unlike Deng, had only read about revolution and did not recognize the danger signals of the Soviet Union’s impending collapse.

640.        The chairman of the Bundesbank was appointed by the Chancellor, but once appointed he had independence and the Chancellor could not order him to increase money supply or lower interest rates.

654.        As China’s development nears the point when it has enough weight to elbow its way into the region, it will make a fateful decision-whether to be a hegemon, using its weight to create its sphere of influence in the region for its economic and security needs, or to continue as a good international citizen because it can achieve better growth by observing international rules.

664.        Leadership is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character, and ability that makes people willing to follow a leader.

686.        I had the advantage of several ministers who read widely and were attracted to new ideas but not mesmerized by them-Keng Swee, Raja, Sui Sen. We passed interesting books and articles we had read to each other.

687.        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 tried to be correct, not politically correct.

The para on page 527, is of great relevance to Sri Lanka. The writer had seen at first hand at Thiruvallur Collector’s Office in 2001, the vast strides made in computerization of government administration. Very impressive was the computerization of all data on land and the facility of ready retrieval. Even more remarkable was the use of Tamil in Computers and its use in internet and intra-net. Some three years of training had brought forth the initial talent pool. Achievements since then have earned the encomia of the central government for Tamil Nadu while drawing the attention of state governments. Praise apart is the toning up of administration in making it people oriented.

When the excerpts of Lee are read, one would recall Plato, “The state is the citizen writ large”. In Singapore the citizens understood and endorsed the leader.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    6

    “I believed intelligence was inherited “
    UNFORTUNATELY RAJAPASSAS, RAJAVASSAS dont have this at all.

    • 1
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      Everybody wants out leaders to follow Lee Kuan Yew.

      Unfortunately Lee Kuan Yew is a highly educated and a very skill full leader and set a such high standard it is very difficult for other leaders to follow, specially in South Asia.

      Can Rajapakses follow?
      It is too much to ask.-:)

      • 6
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        Lee Kuan Yew took Singapore from 3rd world to 1st world, whereas our leaders took Ceylon from 3rd world to hell on earth!

        • 6
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          Thiru,

          CEYLON would have done it before Singapore if Sinhalese had enlightened leadership

        • 1
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          Thiru what is so Great about the First World?

          The First World has been turned into a Boring, Uniform, Heartless, Concrete Jungle!
          That is what will happen to Colombo if GR is allowed Free Rein!

          Give me Sri Lanka’s still remaining Wide open Spaces any time.

  • 2
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    ” Leadership is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character, and ability that makes people willing to follow a leader.”

    Sri Lankans win an eletion thier ego goes from behind to the head. The brain goes from head to the back side.( PUKA) They forget who elected them.They behave like they own this country and they can do anything they want. (GOTA, and other rajavassas, other politicians) ITs something like they inherite the ruling from generations.

  • 6
    10

    Tamils are strange people.

    Some complain about modernization of the North while others praise how Lee Kwn you has developed Singapore.

    The very same Tamils who supported terrorizing Sri lanka for 30 years are against spying on Tamils.

    Tamils spread tribalism and ask for reconciliation.

    How funny.

    • 6
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      Jim Nutty,
      How funny Fathima Fukushima is?

  • 7
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    Sivathasan Ayyah,

    No matter how much you try to influence the Sri Lankan readers about the difference LQY made to Singapore, Sri Lanka will not change. Our leaders reflect the mentality of our people. We will continue to be a country of merciless morons.

  • 3
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    All is very good, but one must never forget the result of Japan abandoning its sumarai and sailing ships and moving into American technology(especially gun technology): World War 2.

    And after Japan was defeated, then the Americans sailed in and installed their system in Japan, Japan needed back-up, and that’s when they gave great encouragement to Singapore to hold-on to and build-up like the imperialists(all the while with a vastly disproportionate number of people languishing in jails and on death row in Singapore’s attempt to keep up to the extended Western imperial system).

    And all that intelligence Lee talks about is European-styled intelligence, and as long as the West stays up there, they will sustain. But it is known in this day and age, that human intelligence comes in different forms, and forcing European intelligence on Asians, Africans and Middle-Easterners will indefinitely perpetuate the Western hold. But even nowadays, it is seen that the West is tottering and deferentially looking for a different and more innovative system to sustain their finances(i.e. devoid of war – thank you Obama).

  • 7
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    Mr Sivathasan, thanks. It is well recognised that Lee Kuan Yew was also an absolute autocrat. During the Tiananmen square student uprising you allude to, I happened to be in Beijing and I remember my room mate – a doctor from Singapore, commenting that in Singapore even if one merely ‘thinks’ of a revolution he/she would go ‘missing’. If you consider the history of Singapore, the legacy of Lee and perhaps the ‘ruthless suppression’ of the Tinananmen uprising, would you agree that absolute power and the willingness to exercise that power to crush destabilising dissent is an essential component in the growth and development of a society. We may not like it, but that seems to be an inescapable conclusion that one has to make when one looks at the history of Singapore and China. I have just returned from Delhi and in spite of all the commentaries one hears in the media about the growth potential in India and how India has the potential to drive the world economy in the new future etc. etc., what is most striking is the dirt, the smell, the poverty, the disorderliness and the total lack of a sense of self-worth. You have to look very hard beyond these immediate realities to see its history, traditions, values and the natural goodness. My conclusion was that – however much we may wish India to succeed, India is very very far from reaching out to all its people in terms of delivering even the basic living standards, fairness and pride. If you compare the Indian situation with the spotless cleanliness and the rapid development of Infra-stucture in the whole of Sri Lanka (including the North and East)…….again the inevitable conclusion seems to be that “authoritarianism and ruthless dictatorship” delivers for its people than a more liberal democratic approach. I certainly don’t like the current regime and its ultranationalistic post-war conduct in SriLanka, but if I am honest I have to admit that it has delivered much more than any other previous post-independence government Sri Lanka has had. Am I being naive here? I am struggling to reconcile my natural inclination towards wanting a more liberal form of government in our part of the world against the ability of ‘ruthless dictatorships’ to deliver development, prosperity and orderliness to all its people.
    I will like to hear your views on this.
    Dr Mahesh Nirmalan
    Manchester Medical School.

    • 5
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      You are disgusting.

      “spotless cleanliness and the rapid development of Infra-stucture in the whole of Sri Lanka (including the North and East)…….”

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran says https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/gotas-paranoia-efficiency-and-war-crimes/comment-page-1/#comment-1481705

      “Colombo and other cities are no doubt being made beautiful. Nuwara Eliya is a delight to behold. But at what price? Is the price the erosion of civic values, good governance and democracy? Is the price murder, rape and mayhem? Is the price rising poverty at the expense of the few becoming filthy rich? Is the price a degraded society? Cake cannot substitute for bread however well it is made and decorated.”

    • 5
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      Dr.Mahesan Nirmalan,

      What Lee Kuan Yew delivered was top class visionary development coupled with good governance. He was centuries ahead of the rest of the world and instituted a meritocracy and an equal opportunity-equal treatment society that is admirable.. The benign dictatorship that accompanied this was the price that had to be paid to force the change required. He even banned chewing gum, to keep the pavements squeaky clean!

      It is a squeaky line country in many other respects too- no bribery, no corruption, little crime and high ethical standards and a multi-ethnic, multicultural and progressive society that is content and is at peace. What more, he transformed back water into the richest country in the world- US $ 55,000 per capita income.

      What we have in Sri Lanka is a situation where we are adding a lot of concrete mixed with every possible corruption. Society is being degraded on a daily basis and fissures within arebeing deliberately enlarged. What we have in Sri Lanka is not the formula for progress or sustainable development.

      Dr.RN

      • 2
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        Only exceeded by Qatar @ US $ 95,000.

      • 0
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        About 10-years ago, I had the opportunity to listen to the then High Commissioner of Singapore in SL, when he spoke on development planning in Singapore. Policy planners in Singapore generate 40-year scenarios for the world, subject them to multiple criteria evaluation and select the most likely scenario for Singapore to focus on for preparation of a 10-year master plan. Development guide plans for sectors are prepared based on this Master Plan and all are reviewed and revised annually.

        Who knows whether Prez MR has done just the same by developing an airport and a harbour in Hambantota, after considering a 40-year scenario?

        • 4
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          The Professional

          “Policy planners in Singapore generate 40-year scenarios for the world,”

          The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry MITI was a shinning example of proactive bureaucracy which played a crucial role in the last half of the last century. Though MITI’s interventionist industrial policy might have helped Japan in many ways in hindsight some experts believe Japan would have been better off without MITI’s interventionist (picking the winner) policy. Well the debate will go on for centuries.

          On a serious note:

          Is it true VP too had 40, 50 or 60 year plans in his head which no one knew what they were and not subjected to scrutiny. As part of his plan, he too built several infrastructure projects including a runway, …… submarines, and his bunker.

    • 4
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      Nirmalan,

      What era are you living in? Is it 2014 or 1914? Your conclusions are devoid of the norms set on UN protocols that came out as a result of decades of study and experiences! Of course it is easy to kill off dissents by violent methods and create a subjugated society that will eventually become peaceful. But in the process, one would see death and destructions in biblical proportions like we witnessed in the last stages of the Eelam war. Is this what you mean by necessary evil?

      Also Rajapaksas’ post war development record must be compared with like with like. How would you know that another leader wouldn’t have done a better job much more fairly?

      India on the other hand has solid foundation on which to build on. She needs to overcome many social impediments that will take years to overcome. I am sure they will get there with their unshakable democracy as a tool. It may take many more years but it will be pain free and fair.

    • 1
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      Mahesh,
      Remember, LQY was NOT born in Singapore, but loved his adopted land, far more than can be said of some Sri Lankans privileged to have been born there. When he became leader, he was labelled a communist by the British because he did not always bend to their will. He instilled sense of discipline on his citizens, which was required at the time. He was single minded in his determination to develop his small city-state and succeeded. Today Singaporeans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, and comes out at the top as the best place to live in the modern world. The society is more liberal, educated and hard working.

    • 3
      5

      Mahesan Nirmalan, what you say is so very plausible. But we have to also think in terms of history and humanity. For example, what led China to the cut and dried solution were first the debauchery of the Mandarin rulers (invaders from the North-West according to the average Chinese), and then finally ruthless communism that unified all. The cutting and drying of Singapore was very easily done by for Lee, and while he had good intellect and Western education, in a place that had no farmland and peasantry (Malay fishing villages taken over for further development projects), all those millions of Chinese immigrants had no other choice but to set themselves up in this way, in an area of intense smallness.

      I will give it to Rajapakse in taking a more moderate path in the modernization, and what Gosl is doing in the North is exactly what Northerners would do, given greater devolution (just look across the straits to TN).

      As per India : India is a sorry case because of nothing else but its own Hindu caste system thus disabling the rich to only grow richer especially in the modern capitalistic path. Any path, even intense communism will not cure this plague, for the caste-ideology is ingrained into the very chromosomes of the inhabitants.

      • 0
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        ~ correction :India is a sorry case because of nothing else but its own Hindu caste system thus ENABLING the rich to only grow richer especially in the modern capitalistic path.

    • 6
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      Dr.Mahesan Nirmalan

      Thanks for the fine comment. Even before coming to the last sentence, I had decided on responding.

      History has it that those who make half revolutions are doomed. Successful ones never temporized. Oliver Cromwell unable to brook the tyranny and misrule of Charles I, deposed the King, cut off his head and instituted his own dictatorship in mid-17th century. The Cromwellian phase of iron handed rule saved Britain from a possible lack of governance. After stability was restored and years after his death his body was exhumed, head cut off and was publicly displayed. This is the way of the world.

      In the ensuing centuries many a state has gone through the Cromwellian phase in Europe and elsewhere. Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee of S.Korea became hated names after their inevitable mission had done the needful. So with Formosa by Chiang Kai Shek.

      Lee and Mahathir are the best examples for strong democratic governance. By no means did it ever verge on autocracy. All the countries cited are prosperous with good educational and health systems and with stability that wealth bestows. Did they reach beyond their call of duty to do what was unnecessary? This is not to explain away or justify every misdemeanor of all the tyrants. After the end of WW II Stalin wanted to shoot 50.000 German soldiers. In disgust and to show his extreme anger, Churchill walked out of the meeting. Who will ever Condone murder overt or covert? The doctor’s tale of possible missing communist has little credence.

      Leon Trotsky describes the challenges that the first communist revolution in Russia faced with adversaries fighting in about 16 fronts along several thousand miles. Lenin and Trotsky saved the revolution which according to the latter was betrayed by Stalin. The two great leaders created history, but only their ruthlessness survives while their achievements are dutifully interred. This way historical truth gets distorted for want of objectivity and reputation of leaders like Lee and Deng suffers.

      Another historical piece needs to be cited to make my stance firmer. Even in 1978, China was a poor country. The allowance given to Deng on his first trip to US was hardly adequate to buy a toy for his grandchildren. By 1989 she had reached lift off stage with reforms and technological innovations. Left untrammeled she was a threat to major economies. She has become so now and it was foreseen then. Movement for Democracy emerged and Tien An Men provided the Waterloo. In 1961, Chou En Lai said Americans are not fools to do anti-China propaganda even 12 years after the revolution. They are targeting minds yet with anti-revolutionary ideas and sentiments. It was really not bloodlust that caused the containment at Tien An Men. Why hasn’t the so called movement revived ever since for 25 years?

      Every event and development has to be viewed contextually and in historical perspective. A seeming autocrat will blazon forth as a pious democrat when history absolves him.

      • 0
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        Mr Sivathasan

        It is a great pleasure reading your comments citing the history. You reminded me of my teachers at St John’s college. I do not fully understand how an autocrat could do it Singapore, Malaysia Korea for example failed in Syria, Zimbabwe etc. In spite of all the misdeeds of Mahathir and LQY, I agree they showed the world how prosperity can be achieved in a multi-ethnic society. I do share the views of Dr Nirmalan that Srilanka is better poised for great heights in comparison to India in achieving prosperity and social justice than India. It is quite clear for every one the current dictatorship does not have morality or backbone to venture into such great heights

        I think,If good character, and a sense of social justice could be groomed from childhood, then nation building could be achieved better by an autocrat rather than a democratically elected government. I think it is our duty to inculcate this to the future generation of Srilanka.

        • 1
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          ken Robert

          You have missed Child protégé’s piece of typing this week.

          I understand.

          • 1
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            You have missed Child protégé’s piece of typing this week

            no I have not, I lost interest in her diatribes!
            kind regards

            ken Robert

  • 2
    2

    The lawmakers (MPs) in Singapore are the highest paid in the world, educated, and democratically elected. Bribery and corruption was thus got rid of, and the 10% from this contract and 15% from the other does not exist.

  • 3
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    Lee Kwan was able to work on a blank canvas. He did not have to deal with historical baggage. He did not have to deal with a “self-respect” movement next door with an inferiority complex. Its a tiny city state strategically located in the Straights of Malacca. Nothing much can go wrong there.

    Singapore GDP per Capita overtook Ceylon in 1972. Administratively, the biggest mistake was the introduction of Socialist policies by the SWRD govt.

    The virtual closing of the economy, nationalisation etc broke the back of Ceylon. The Tamil and JVP insurgencies start this exact same year. SWRD and Socialism was where the crap hit the fan.

    • 2
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      The socialist economic policies did really hurt SL economy especially by SWRD and sirima. Unfortuantely it is the same policies run by the current government.

      what do u think (gota) government initiated businesses like Mihin and SriLankan air?

      SLFP politics have been characteristic with low performance on economy during all post independance years.

      The damage done by sirima-banda to SL education did result in 71 insurgency.

      what this government and people who support this government should understand is, for SL to develop, we need internal stability. Govern cannot develop SL while letting groups to harm internal staibility.

      • 0
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        Sach,

        The world left-wing experimented with revolutions, Communism, Socialism etc. Now they have realised nothing can actually beat capitalism.

        Not just the SLFP all labour movements around the world are trying to find something to cling to given most their ideologies are now irrelevant.

        SLFP policies still have weakness like preferring protectionism in favour of competition etc. Although now its mostly like what JRJ did back in 1977.

  • 1
    3

    LQW assumes that united Sri Lanka will be competitive with Singapore. SL has more resources and the location is a threat to supremacy of the Singapore. See how China has challenged Japan to become the second largest economy in the world.

    So LQW is promoting Tamils to renew their activities. Troubles again? What a below the belt shot aiming at SL for a person like him?

    If British did not divide India today it would have been a super power? Back in Great King Ashoka ‘s era!

    SL Canadian
    177 College circle
    Ottawa.

    • 4
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      Ranjth Wimal

      “If British did not divide India today it would have been a super power? Back in Great King Ashoka ‘s era!”

      Emperor Asoka didn’t rule South India.

      • 1
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        Emperor Asoka didn’t rule South India

        when will the society learn to untangle this mythology from facts?

  • 3
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    Among other achievements Lee Kuan Yew eradicated corruption and crime.

    The Rajapaksas are involved in it, and made things worse in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka today is a nation with high crime, rapes, corruption, murders, unsolved murders, disappearances, government thugs, and saffron robed racists attacking minorities.

    No comparision.

  • 2
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    Lee Kuan Yew also advised sri Lankan leaders not to mix religion with politics – but they did and ‘singhala buddhism’ was the result with disastrous consequences.
    He also made four languages official – and avoided what happened in sri lanka.
    He also selected ministers and public servants on qualifications and proved abilities – the Singapore Cabinet is a galaxy of super qualified persons.
    He prevented/abolished bribery and corruption.

    Implementing all this required (well justified) authoritarianism the end result of which is the most prosperous nation in asia.

    The end result justified the means of acquiring it.

  • 1
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    At independence Ceylon had all the necessary ingredients to beat Singapore. This was the British system and the Soulbury constitution. Indeed Ceylon was ahead until 1972.

    Soulbury was opposed tooth as nail by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. He opposed it and insisted on Tamil Eelam. He starts the process of isolating Tamils from Ceylon after 1949 with this idea.

    No one really cared when Tamils isolated themselves. Although it left a potent ‘enemy within’ that Ceylon made a mistake of educating and giving many positions within the govt.

    Any govt, in any country time to time implement wrong policies. What happened was in Ceylon was the 1972 constitution made Ceylon incredibly weak economically. It was at this point the ‘enemy within’ pounced and tried to gain control of half the island.

    • 2
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      Vibushana,

      “Soulbury was opposed tooth as nail by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. He opposed it and insisted on Tamil Eelam.”

      Please provide evidence.

      • 2
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        Anpu

        “Please provide evidence.”

        Core reading: Ancient Jaffna page 380 by S Rasanayagam.

        Recommended further reading: Comments in CT by OTC, Banda, Mechanic, Navin, Ravi Perera, wathie, sach, Nuisance, Teresa, Thondamanar,Ram, Vibushana …………….

        Please do visit Lankaweb.

    • 2
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      Soulbury – “Sinhala Stupidity; I Feel Sorry For The Tamil Community” https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sinhala-stupidity-i-feel-sorry-for-the-tamil-community/

  • 4
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    Singaporeans paid a price for the “so-called” success that was attributed to their paramount leader

    Also note that this leader you praise had once told a Sri Lankan premier during his visit to the “red dot” that the Sri Lankan government did not know how to handle the Tamils and the rebel group LTTE, resulting in a warning given by the rebel leader to him to shut up

    The leader of Singapore either jailed all opponents who could match his eloquence or he sued them to bankruptcy in his “kangaroo” court.

    He socially-engineered the country and used threats and racial politics to remain in power.

    He counted amongst his best “friends” dictators like Suharto and Marcos and also rulers like Norodom Siahnouk and General Ne Win.

    Only a Singaporean born and living in Singapore can make fair comment.

    The rest are looking at the red-dot with tinted glasses.

  • 4
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    Singapore is a city of gigantic casinos and super-luxury hotels catering to multi-millionaires, possibly billionaires from East and S.E. Asia. It has been fashionable for some Sri Lankan commentators to hold forth the Singapore experiment as one to be emulated. Looking at some of the facts given below, this cannot be and will not be. If we need comparative study we have to choose countries equivalent in size and population, possibly Malaysia or Kerala in India.
    JRJ attempted without success to take SL into ASEAN. He promised to make the SL Rupee the strongest currency in the world. We now have a president who promised to make this country the miracle of Asia or something to that effect – dreams that come with the arrogance of power.
    I am inclined to agree with the comment of Steve Tan. One has to talk to long-timers (citizens ) in Singapore one to one in private to have a real insight into LKY and his Singapore story. The LKY story is a mixed bag
    In Singapore there is a growing gap (huge) between the rich and the poor, especially the immigrant labour under-class taking on difficult, dirty and dangerous jobs.. Thousands of Malaysians commute to work daily, The plight of the Indian and Bangladeshi workers on the pittance of a salary is pathetic, transported in packed open small trucks to work and back to what can hardly be called homes. The frustrations of these workers finding release from alcohol on their day off (Sunday) led to the recent “Little India” violence taking the absolutely self-confident Singaporean government by surprise.
    It is agreed that there are some achievements of Singapore to be emulated. Singapore has possibly the fastest passport clearance services in the world on arrival for foreigners. It is a model secular state promoting multi-culturism and equal rights for linguistic and religious minorities. In this context Mr.Sivathasan has in his quotes omitted the devastating comments repeatedly made by Lee Kuan Yew on Sri Lanka.
    Singapore is a tightly knit security state where the police are hardly seen. Drug trafficking carries the death penalty, and more recently a fine of up to S$ 4000 for ill-maintained houses and gardens prone to breed mosquitoes in the fight against dengue. Just try some of these in our good old country!
    .
    All credit goes to not only to LKY but to the “Men in White” a great tribute to the founding fathers including Lee, Rajaratnam and others. Men In White: The Untold Story Of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party
    by Yap, Sonny; Richard Lim & Leong Weng Kam
    2009, Singapore
    Lee Kuan Yew once said no developing country can repeat the Singapore story after the oil-crisis of the 1970s, and that Singapore was fortunate to have made the break-through prior to this global crisis.
    The moot point is that Singapore is a small city state and its demography speaks volumes.
    As of mid-2013, the estimated population of Singapore was 5,399,200 people, 3,313,500 (61.37%) of whom were citizens, while the remaining 2,085,700 (38.63%) were permanent residents (531,200) or foreign workers/students(1,554,500
    Foreign workers includes the highly paid expatriate class, working for several of the world’s major companies, amounting to several lakhs – (families included) living in the more affluent parts of the city. 23% of Singaporean citizens are foreign born.
    Singapore has an estimated 11 million annual visitors.
    The tiny state faces a major problem. The total fertility rate is estimated to be .79 children per woman in 2013, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population
    Among Lee’s biographies is “Singpaore the Ultimate Island: Lee Kuan Yew’s Untold Story – by T S Selvan,(1990). It is a devastating critical biography, and narrates the rise to power of Lee and the means he used, how he collaborated with radical/communist Chinese-speaking trade unionists to drive out the British colonialists and how they fought each other.
    He tolerated his colleagues so long as they did not cross his path. He did praise the Jaffna man. But if one opposed him as did one of Singapore’s famous sons of Jaffna, Joshua Jeyaratnam, he used every means to marginalize and politically “kill” him. JJs story in perennial dissent (once elected to parliament constituting a one man opposition- was a rare feat in Singapore’s façade of a democracy where dissent was never tolerated) is another saga in the Singapore story. Hopefully it will be documented someday after the old man goes and a generational change takes over. The signs are already there and even a bit of mellowing in the once tough and ruthless LKY. The “Men in White” cited above concludes with the intriguing poser: will PAP outlive Lee Kuan Yew?

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      KSR

      About Joshua Jayaretnam you have said in your comment of Sept. 11, 2014, “After the old man goes away”. Fact is he had already gone away by September 30th 2008, at age 80.

      Your statement “Singapore has an estimated 11 million annual visitors” denotes a picture of stagnation. Truth is Singapore had recorded 10.3 million arrivals in 2007 and 14.4 million in 2012. Arrivals estimated for 2013, stand at 15.5 million.

      I have cited the above because a public forum would appreciate exactitude.

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      KSR,
      Over the casinos and plush hotels, and also the entreport port, is the oil and gas of the region (in Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia), of which Singapore has set itself up as the financial hub of the region (and the oil-rich Brunei dollar is pegged to the S’pore $). Hence Singapore’s outstanding success.

      Therefore what Sri Lanka has achieved exclusive of most the above facilities is commendable, although one would caution again the current ports systems and the constant borrowings from China for we would never know what can happen post-Obama (ports, especially the Hambantota one taking over from Goa and places, because Goa consciously dismantled because of pro-Americanism).

      Singapore has legalized torture for ordinary crimes called scientifically designed caning that extracts the greatest amount of pain to the point of death (but not beyond) – far, far, worse than water-boarding in war-time situations of the Americans. What a way to maintain artificial standards.

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    What LKY achieved for Singapore is nothing short of extraordinary. But it has all come at a price and even as we applaud him for what he’s done, we need to keep things in perspective. So, it is good to read the comments of the likes of KSR and Steve Tan. KSR presents a pretty comprehensive and balanced comment and Steve Tan makes the very valid observation that “only a Singaporean born and living in Singapore can make fair comment”

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran has noted that LKY “instituted a meritocracy and an equal opportunity-equal treatment society.” That, certainly is the theory. But there have been rumblings that this has not always quite worked that way. For instance, I have met a number of Singaporean Tamils who have complained of subtle discrimination against them, and of favouring the Chinese when it comes to selection for jobs. I don’t know whether to believe their stories or take it that these types will always have a whinge, no matter what.

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