21 September, 2018


Singapore – Malaysian Models To Sri Lanka

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

In a frequently telecasting political commercial, popular singer Santhush Weeraman attempts draw parallels with Malaysia and Singapore on the argument of development. His logic, though never said in direct terms, is seem to be that a longer duration in power is necessary for a sustainable development like in Malaysia and Singapore.

Good argument, but in an entirely different context, and easily be counter-productive as well. Of course, both Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew ruled their respective countries for many years guiding their nations to prosper, but can we draw parallels with Sri Lanka?

Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years since 1981. He was a charismatic leader and a man of wisdom. With strong commitment to market economic policies, Mahathir dedicated most of his tenure for attracting investment and also developing local industries. Before China came into market as a mass scale production house, it was Malaysia that produced our house-hold electronics as well as some auto mobiles. The well-read medical practitioner made his country the market leader in palm oil and rubber products as well. He always respected professionals and promoted ethnic harmony to make Malaysia – Truly Asia. After completing his mission, Mahathir said good bye to politics while many were requesting him to reconsider his decision.

Lee Kuan Yew | Photo courtesy The Age

Lee Kuan Yew | Photo courtesy The Age

Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore, was a visionary who always wanted Singapore to be Ceylon in 1960s. His dozens of books – mainly the Singapore Story and From Third World to First – explains his vision and strategy in bringing the city-state to a strong global model predominantly in the economic development. In fact the Temasek Management Services Private Limited which is being criticized by the Rajapakse camp is one of the success stories of Lee Kuan Yew regime in early 70s which brought Singapore up in the economic ladder. In that context Maithreepala camp should be happy about the claims by Santhush to make Sri Lanka a Singapore.

On the other hand, some political analysts identify both these leaders as authoritarians that curbed multi-party democracy, press freedom and political liberalism in their respective countries. Both countries are under one-party rule since independence. Many identify both these countries as ‘Guided Democracies’ which do not practice basic values of democracy but mere name-sakes. Both state and private media houses have no room to be critical towards government – rather they should be mouth pieces of the regimes.

The main ruling parties would ensure comfortable victories at every election. Nevertheless, interestingly, both United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in Malaysia and Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) in Singapore had narrow escapes at their last respective elections. Specifically they never allowed room for defection and if anybody dared to dissent, that person would face with severe physical and political punishment. When Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim started revolting against Mahathir following the Asian economic crisis in 1997, Anwar was brutally beaten up – both physically and politically – and kept behind bars for many years. Until recent years he was on a wheelchair thanks to the ‘physical treatments’ he received. Anwar is still struggling with many court cases which were ‘doctored’ by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Thus, there exists this popular argument that true democracy would never bring economic prosperity. Hence, I am bit confused about the message by Santhush.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

    RE: Singapore – Malaysian Models To Sri Lanka

    “Good argument, but in an entirely different context, and easily be counter-productive as well. Of course, both Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew ruled their respective countries for many years guiding their nations to prosper, but can we draw parallels with Sri Lanka?’

    Thanks for the write up.

    However, Sri Laanka has two things others do not have to mess things up.

    1. Monk Mahanama Sinhala Buddhism, Racism and Chauvinism

    2. Low IQ of the populace, 79 as opposed to an IQ of 108 for Singapore and 92 for Malaysia. Therefore, the caliber of the politicians and the leaders is much lower than Singapore and Malaysia.

    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings


    ——– Country
    ———————– %
    1 Singapore 108
    2 South Korea 106
    3 Japan 105

    15 Malaysia 92

    28 Sri Lanka 79

  • 2

    Good article and something to think by Ranga. Both malaysia and Singapore never had any broad discussion about democracy. They always followed the way to gain rapid development by following western examples. South Korea, Singapore and malaysia never had any room for democracy. But we don’t have to follow them. We have a history and background for governance. If we look back and follow the ancient path of Democracy, way of living it is not difficult to gain what we want to achieve through our ways. We should never , ever should follow the way that singapore and Malaysia did!

  • 5

    Neither Malaysia nor Singapore practiced democracy in the true sense of the word. They each have their own version adapted to their particular needs.
    What both countries did, however, was modernise their economies and tie into the rest of the world.
    Sri Lanka does not have to copy anyone. Just do what works. The priority is honest government that shuns playing popular politics.
    There is no quick fix but Sri Lankans are intelligent enough to know a good government when they see one.

  • 2

    Brian Vittachi

    “Sri Lankans are intelligent enough to know a good government when they see one. “

    Are you being serious?

    Is there a wise leader who is going to take the people to show a good government?

    You are rest assured people will get more of the same.

  • 0

    Yeah……. too early to discuss this sophisticated politics and economics here. First get Sri Lanka out of its present stone age, feudal system run by goons and gangsters.

  • 0

    Just Crap articles.

    Sri Lanka is politically very backward.

    So many changes are needed before considering whether the existing model is right or not

    OR another model should be accepted.

  • 1

    The important difference is Mahathir and Lee Quan Yew did not plunder the country. Whatever they did was in the interest of the country not their families.
    There is no comparison.

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