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Disagreeing without being disagreeable

The following is a Facebook entry by Ms Joan Fong, the daughter of Mr Hon Sui Sen, Singapore’s Finance Minister from 1970 to 1983.

Mr Hon was also the first Chairman and President of the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), the first Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), and Member of Parliament for Havelock constituency. He was one of the pioneers responsible for shaping Singapore's economic development soon after Independence. (Infopedia)

Ms Fong had earlier posted a comment on author Ms Catherine Lim’s website. She was responding to Ms Lim’s article titled, “The GE 2011 Political Demise of Lee Kuan Yew: A Supreme Irony”. Her comment was subsequently widely circulated on the Internet.

The following is her follow-up note to her earlier comment.

The Online Citizen thanks Ms Fong for allowing us to re-publish it here in full.

Joan Fong

Comment: Somebody sent this to me, and I realised, my personal comment to Catherine, and nobody else, is being sent around and commented on.

Okay, what I was saying to Catherine is simply, LKY [Lee Kuan Yew] is a family friend and I gave her some insights into our interactions with him to say he is a human being with feelings. No matter what he has done, you don't hit a man when he is down, even if verbally.

It is not a humane thing to do. If you think MM was vicious towards other people, there is no need to be like him then, and be vicious to him. Just go through the letters that are in this site and you will see the degree of viciousness in the comments, which are not justified.

You want to talk about the Marxist conspirators? My nephew's wife was arrested. I was suffering along with him throughout the whole business. At the time I didn't know if there was or was no conspiracy and when in the end, it turned out these people were innocent, it was all-in-all a very regrettable thing.

Those who object are not old enough to see Communism coming down to the top of the Malay peninsula, according to what is called the Domino Theory. This was something I was personally fearful about, to the point of wanting to emigrate. So, MM and the government are equally fearful, and hence the heavy handedness of their using the ISA to investigate things.

I was laughing at all the comments made. How you can condemn people without knowing what is true and what isn't.

For the record, my family of [a] mother and three sisters and myself have been opposing government policies even before my father went into politics. It took MM 10 years to persuade him to stand for election. Articles always called him the reluctant politician.

Ok. I didn't like anything against human rights. And morality. I didn't like the way they told people to have two children only. And I can demarcate between actions that you can blame on the government and those you have to blame on the people who execute the policies. It was the nurses who scolded women who were having their third child in KK Hospital that I found distasteful.

And then Catholic schools lost the right of admitting who they wanted to admit. If you have three or more children you lose your right of admission.

If you have to blame the government for anything, look at the policy, look at those who put forth the policy and then look at the people on the ground carrying this out, and then decide who you really want to hate.

Next, if you were Singaporean and married a foreigner of low education, your spouse was barred from living in Singapore. Something I found stupid, inhumane and distasteful.

Next was the abortion policy. This was the thing I could not stand, wrote umpteen letters to the press and none were printed.

So after my dad had passed away and I could not then disgrace him with my doings, I wrote an Open Letter to the PM (at that time LKY) with a copy of the video Silent Scream, and a picture of babies all bloody and mangled in buckets. I sent a copy of these to all MPs.

My argument, I told PM, was not based on religion. It was from pure humane considerations. It was also from common morality. Why should it be a crime if the baby is born and you kill it, but it is lawful before it is born?

I told him of a remark overheard in a shopping mall: "Have a good time man! Just give her five dollars!" I swung round to see who said that and it was a boy talking to her friends, all of whom looked around 13-years old. This is what abortion is doing to their morals. It is just Casanova's charter. More girls can be taken advantage of without the boy being at risk of being held responsible.

People get confused. Is this right or wrong, morally -- to kill a baby in the womb? Why are we doing it if it is wrong? As usual we imitate the West slavishly. Roe vs Wade in America. The decision that unlocked the flood of abortions we have now.

The next consideration I told PM, was that we need manpower. The reduction of births will only lead to economic consequences that are bad for the nation. Now, see the 1.2 fertility rate? I rest my case.

It is too late for me to add this to that letter, but I can't help adding this point now. Why are we giving parents something like $20,000 for every child they bear, plus maternity benefits, but we are still aborting babies. Isn't it time to rethink the policy?

For the record, my dad, Hon Sui Sen, was the first President or CEO (Chairman?) of DBS. His salary was a princely chiak-buay-leow amount of $10,000 per month. At that time, Goh Keng Swee was a very sick man and my dad did most of his work. This is the Civil Service. The boss gets the credit. So, LKY persuaded him to stand for election, something he had no interest in and would prefer to die than to do it. He had a fear of public speaking. But he agreed.

His pay fell to $3,000 per month. All the other ministers also earned $3,000 per month. PM earned a little more -- $3,500 per month. This was when he went on record in the press saying he was a kept man! The year was 1970. By 1983, when he had a heart attack and died, my dad earned $14,000 per month. I read in the papers that Malaysian ministers earned $18,000 per month. The ringgit was not far off our Singapore dollar. Don't forget we were kicked out and had nothing in those days to make our dollar worth much.

Next thing that riled me - those casinos. All religious heads are dealing in their respective religions with the terrible problems of addictive gambling. All these head begged not to have casinos. I'm sure those in Parliament had a ding-dong verbal battle over it too. I'm sure, reading MM's mind again, he would rather NOT have them. His own father was ruined by gambling, he said.

So why are we having the casinos now? To get jobs for 35,000 people. I can bet you the gambling addiction will in future send more than 35,000 people to ruin, counting bankrupt addicts and their family members. And this number will grow and grow with time, but the 35,000 jobs will stagnate. To help these people find jobs you ruin a larger number of people.

I read Lily Neo's speech in Parliament and was filled with rage at the thought -- there are the poor people and there are the high salaries of the rich. I am not one of these rich. Retired without pension. Coupled by the fact that an old retainer of ours (meaning someone who had worked for us at home for his whole life) was sick together with his wife. Two people who would be bankrupted by it. We contributed a five-figure sum to help out.

The PAP is right in recognising that it is not the poor fighting for themselves now. The middle class and rich can recognise how terrible their plight is and where injustice lies and are putting their money where their mouths are. There are MPs who give their MP earnings to the poor. I hear Lily Neo is one of them.

I hate to report that I have been shooting my mouth off to PAP MPs who came calling. "You just wait. You won't know what has hit you when the results are out!" I let loose about arrogance, over earnings, my dad and his poor pay. When MM said something about this generation having forgotten about the Old Guard and what they did, I wanted to say, the Old Guard didn't pay themselves fabulous sums of money, and they didn't start casinos, or let Mas Selamat escape or foul up the roads with traffic.

But they started abortion. And we gave it to my dad at meal-times and my mother said he had better leave the PAP, and the poor man kept quiet and never let on his own stand on the matter. Look, if I can let MM know my mind regarding abortion (he replied saying he wanted people to have their choice, but lowered the permitted period for abortion from 6 to 3 months) do you think I want to make a show of knowing him well or his family?

What I am able to do is -- disagree with him, tell him so, but in nice terms. I don't have to hate him or the PAP. Right now I feel we have won our right to speak our minds without having to bear grudges and hate anybody at all. Or be rude to them when you do not agree.

One thing Singaporeans have not really fully cultivated yet is being magnanimous. I count myself guilty too sometimes. How to disagree without being disagreeable? It simply makes a bad show of ourselves and after that nobody will listen to us.