The first IPS-Nathan Lecture by Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, Ho Kwon Ping took place at the National University of Singapore’s Cultural Theatre on Monday evening. In his lecture, Mr. Ho presented his views on how Singapore’s political scene would be shaped in the next fifty years.
During the Question and Answer session, Prof Tommy Koh shared that one of the takeaways from Mr. Ho’s lecture is that Singapore society has changed and the young people feel empowered. The young people want to be governed with a lighter touch than the earlier generation.
Mr. Koh asked Mr. Ho if he thinks that the decision by MDA recently to ban “To Singapore, With Love” is not in line with the light touch governance of what people would have expected to see.
Mr. Ho said:
“I felt this was a missed opportunity on the part of the government. I haven’t seen the movie, I have only seen
snippets of it on Youtube. The snippets I saw were of really aging people in Thailand, elsewhere whom may really posed a threat to Singapore by being hardcore communist. But clearly they were rather sad people today.
“And my sense is that if the government had not banned it but in fact welcomed it and screened it, (they could) use it as an opportunity to educate Singaporeans that there was a hard ruthless struggle for the soul of Singapore. Some people won, some people lost. Those who lost are not to be treated badly, they believed in what they sought to do.
“But most importantly, the sense I think any Singaporean would have if they have saw that movie, if you trust Singaporeans, is the same sense as when our government many years ago allowed us to go to China.
“Remember for many years they did not allow us to go to China because they thought we would then be duped by the communist. But what happened when we went to China was we sense an empathy for Chinese culture, and when we came back to Singapore, we were ultra grateful for the society we live in.
“And I think this could have been a great opportunity for younger Singaporeans to recognise that the people who are out there as exiles, they are not terrible people. They believed in their cause but we younger Singaporeans would have understood that it is so fortunate the PAP won.
“Because the system that we live under today for all its flaws would have been much better than the system that would have exist if they had won. It would have been a system of Cuba, it would have been Vietnam. So we missed an opportunity by simply saying that these are self serving people, we all know that they are not threats to Singapore any more. They are self serving, who would not be self serving?
“But at the same time, are Singaporeans not educated, matured enough to recognise that the battle for the soul of Singapore was won by the people who should have won and they won, and being magnanimous enough to let this be a teaching exercise? So I find it unfortunate because I think it could have made younger Singaporeans realise what exactly happened.
“And by banning it on the grounds of being self-serving means that we have to postpone the period of education and of history being rewritten. And I think when history is being rewritten in Operation Coldstore as examined and everything else, history will come to the conclusion that the battle was won by those who should have won and we do not need to write the history every line and chapter. Let there be enough room for others who may be self-serving to say their peace.
“I found it unfortunate because I think it would actually have helped to illustrate the reality of what the PAP went through and how they made the right decision. The battle that Lee Kuan Yew had to fight was real, battle with real people that are not just in history books.