Low’s reminder timely, don’t whitewash Lee’s dubious ways


Workers’ Party (WP) secretary general, Low Thia Khiang, has paid a glowing tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister who passed away earlier this week.

At a specially convened session of Parliament to recognise Mr Lee’s 60 years of life work in helping build the nation, Mr Low described the former as “an extraordinary political leader born out of that turbulent and uncertain era.”



Mr Lee had “traversed among the big countries and promoted Singapore’s values to them and the potential benefits that Singapore could provide.”

“He had won the respect of the leaders of these major powers,” Mr Low said. “Without his efforts, our economy could not have been successful and Singapore could not have achieved its status and its living space today.”

However, Mr Low also tampered his accolades with a word a caution – that Singapore’s progress was achieved on the back of sacrifices made.

“I don’t think that the PAP one-party rule is the key to Singapore’s fast economic development, and strong social cohesion,” Mr Low said. “This is because many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making; and our society has paid the price for it.

“This is why Mr Lee is also a controversial figure in some people’s eyes. He crafted policies based on the situation then, and made rational judgment out of the interests of the country.”

This nonetheless does not mean that the choice and the implementation of policies should just be based on purely pragmatic considerations.

“[It] should also take into consideration human nature and their sensitivity,” Mr Low explained. “Only by doing so can we avoid hurting people’s feelings and creating resentment. If accumulated over a long time, that resentment could become a potential political crisis and affect people’s unity and their identification with the country.”

Mr Low’s remarks seemed to have sparked a mini-rebuttal from one of Mr Lee's parliamentary colleagues.

indraneeIndranee Rajah, an MP in the late Mr Lee's constituency of Tanjong Pagar, seemed to have taken umbrage at Mr Low’s remarks about how “many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making.”

"It was not people who were sacrificed but the things which would have made us a lesser people, a lesser country than we are today,” she said, without mentioning Mr Low or his speech.

Singapore gave up "laziness, corruption, division, hatred of other races", she added.

"The other kind of sacrifice we were asked to make, was to set aside divisions and animosity in the interest of national unity," Ms Indranee said.

She seemed to have misunderstood what “sacrifice” means which, basically, is to give up one good for a greater one.

And most would agree that laziness, corruption, division, hatred, animosity are not “good”, and indeed these are things to be eradicated, not sacrificed.

Channel Newsasia also picked up Mr Low’s point just minutes after he had delivered his speech in the House.

Studio guest, Devadas Krishnadas, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Future-Moves Group, was asked for his views.

He said Mr Low was not wrong in what he said because “the initial decades of independence saw a trade-off being made between individual freedoms and political space”, among other things.

“But what I think is not controversial is that those sacrifices paid off,” Mr Devadas said, without elaborating.

“And the recognition that sacrifices had to be made is being given today through the Pioneer Generation Package,” he explained.

“A very tangible $8 billion that recognises that that generation did the most and perhaps got the least [out of the]progress of Singapore because by the time we became far more affluent than when we started they [were coming]to the end of their working lives.”

Mr Devadas said that Mr Lee never denied that sacrifices had been made.

“It's in his books and in his speeches and I think to his credit he was always upfront with saying that there's a price to be paid, and if we elect to enjoy present pleasures without paying that price, then we have the certainty of paying a higher price in the future,” he said.

Both Ms Indranee and Mr Devadas seemed to have missed completely what Mr Low was driving at, which was a deeper and more profound point – that while Mr Lee had had to make and take decisions based on pragmatic considerations at the time, governance cannot be based just on pragmatism alone.

Because if it were, and if governance was devoid of humaneness or compassion, this will lead to resentment which in turn could break society apart.

This was the point Mr Low was making, and it is an entirely valid and serious point.

While he did not mention specific incidents or names, one would guess that Mr Low was referring to (perhaps at least in part) the political detainees whom Mr Lee had incarcerated under the Internal Security Act (ISA), some of whom had spent decades in detention, without ever being formally charged in a court of law, let alone be allowed to defend themselves in open trial.

To sugar-coat such serious matters by saying it was instead “laziness” and “divisions” which we were asked to sacrifice, and that we are somehow making up for the sacrifices through the Pioneer Generation Package now (even though we have been prosperous many years ago), is to wholly ignore the other side of the Singapore story – the sacrifices of those, besides the victors, who had also played their part in the building of our nation.

Indeed, it is also to do Mr Lee a great discredit to try and whitewash what he himself had openly admitted.

In his book, “Lee Kuan Yew – The Crucial Years”, author Alex Josey quoted Mr Lee [emphasis added by this writer]:

"There were moments in 1964 and in 1965 when we felt that perhaps we were going the way of so many other places in the world."

"We have departed in quite a number of material aspects, in very material fields, from the principles of justice, and the liberty of the individual."

"620 criminal detainees... 100 of whom are murderers, kidnappers and armed robbers."

"To let them out would be to run the very grave risk of undermining the whole social fabric.”

"[There were 620 criminal law supervisees, men] on whom the due process of law were unable to place even an iota of evidence."

"[Lee admitted that all this was true.] We have had to adjust, to temporarily deviate from ideas and norms. This is a heavy price. We have over a hundred political detainees, men against whom we are unable to prove anything in a court of law... Your life and this dinner would not be what they are if my colleagues and I had decided to play it according to the rules of the game.

“So let us always remember that the price we have had to pay in order to maintain normal standards in the relationship between man and man, man and authority, citizen and citizen, citizen and authority is the detention of the 620 men and women under the Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Ordinance. But it is an expression of an idea when we say Temporary Provisions."

So, to conclude, Mr Low perhaps was saying that those days of “temporarily deviat[ing]from ideas and norms” are over, and that government today should be more humane, wiser, and open, to prevent the disintegration of society because of seething resentment which could result from the iron-fist method of rule.

And indeed, this is a timely reminder to all of us – that while we express gratitude and respect for Mr Lee at this time, it is also important to see the many facets of the man in perspective, and learn also from his mistakes, and not just from his successes.

This entry was posted in Current Affairs and tagged .
  • NotSoNutCase

    Quote – “Rule by FEAR is far more effective than rule by RULES” Un-quote.

    • Chin

      (Voldemort et al., 2011)

  • Szabo

    “Low’s reminder timely, don’t whitewash Lee’s dubious ways.”

    Are these Low Thia Khiang’s EXACT words?

    Or is TOC misrepresenting him?

    Low, as well as his party, is too much of a coward to have even been imagined to use these words.

    • nelsonmandala

      now u called lowthiaking a coward? Y? dun u called YOUR 3 great injun ministers as cowards as well?

      • NotSoNutCase

        To him all others except his kind are cowards.

  • lobo_arisen

    Reading the chinese version, I am not sure if it was ‘Singaporeans WERE sacrificed’ or ‘Singaporeans sacrificed’, as in the implied message being “Singaporeans made sacrifices” (example selling the land for cheap to SLA to build HDB).

    • nelsonmandala

      and still sellin the same land to private developers for condos…
      do u thin ..it fair to sell a vacant land for an indian temple for $440 million$ is reasonable?

      • PikuChoo

        Depends on who is buying it. If it is Szabo, then likely even $440 billion would still be too cheap 🙂

    • LTK

      “Singaporeans…. were sacrificed”

  • nelsonmandala

    “It was not people who were sacrificed but the things which would have made us a lesser people, a lesser country than we are today,” she said,

    ow bout the parliament import an injun FT to replace U as MP on a lower scale wages…
    as though u did contribute significantly

  • Hello Howdy

    If Mr Lee had apologised for his mistakes, esp of incarceration of people including politicians without trial, he would have made Singapore so much the better for the future. For the future (or current) politicians cannot simply jail someone without trial for we can quote Mr Lee’s apology!

    • jessie

      Mr. Lee justified all his actions as for the progress of the State.

    • Chin

      Then and now are different. Back then we were a much weaker nation, freshly alone after M’sia pushed us out. Perhaps human rights weren’t as highly prized as simply growing the nation, so he might not have considered them “mistakes”, but rather necessary steps to ensure stability. Not saying all those guys deserved to be jailed, but we will never know whether we would be happier or better as a nation today if he didn’t do what he did.

      Today, his son and the current PAP bunch would not be able to do the same, considering a much more informed electorate, stronger opposition and strong foreign presence. They can’t just go out, grab someone and lock him up. That will probably turn away foreign investment and be the impetus for everyone to finally push PAP out. Libel suits are the worst they can dish out I guess? Besides flooding the streets with foreigners.

      • jessie

        How can he have said “mistakes,” it would have been an admittance to human
        rights violations !

  • Tan Kwong Moh

    Mr Low, I respect you for speaking up the truth. You are an honest politician.

    • Johnathan Li

      Also, his dark blue shirt actually spoke of a BALANCED narrative of what Lee Kwan Yew actually did in his time as Prime Minister. Giving the necessary tribute and respect to the statesman with the black ribbon that every MP in the house wears, BUT with a blue shirt also in equal respect to one of his former comrades who was undeservingly a victim of actions authored by this very statesman.

  • jessie

    How can anyone make decisions to jail,bankrupt or exile another citizen and justify it by saying it is in the interest of the State ? Our Nation was built by taking down all our political opponents by placing fear of arrests and detention without trial. It goes against all humanity. It is a degenerative mind that can support LKY’s actions. No man has the right to suppress another .No matter what the reason is!
    Please see LKY as who and what he was. Don’t let the PAP justify any of his actions by saying it is
    a sacrifice!

    • nelsonmandala

      then all the pap IBs wud had says..
      in rwanda..the secret black polis wud had taken u into mandai forest..smashed yr heads and throw your carcass into sungei river
      for that u r lucky u dunt lived in rwanda

      • Jason

        What on earth are you talking about? You sound like a brat that is too comfortable with your current situation. Admit it, Mr LKY devoted his life in crafting the modern Singapore, YOU WILL NEVER BE HIM. And don’t tell me about WP, giving opinions on the current policies does not make you a good leader. You need to think of something better than the current ones.

        • nelsonmandala

          @ the least i dunt hav to admit..i on leekingyou side

    • PikuChoo

      Those were different times. Remember the “Plen”? In those days, your opponents played for keeps, ie: they were not above killing you.

      Having survived through such an environment would leave a lasting impression on your psyche. Which is likely why LKY didn’t pussyfoot around when it came to dealing with his opponents subsequently, though he didn’t resort to physical threats (ie: threaten to kill) as far as we know.

      • jessie

        Having lived through the Japanese occupation should make one, value human freedom not suppress it as what the Japanese did. Why glorify a man who openly
        stood against human rights? If he had lived in another part of a first world country, he would have been jailed for human rights violation . In Singapore we are justifying his
        gross inhumanity by praising him and in doing so share in his wrong doings.

        • Johnathan Li

          This kept me reminded of something from another famous and “controversial” politician who previously led a country that faces constant Communist Threats even till this very day! Three of which actually stood out here:
          ‘I’m all for democratic values, while he (Lee Kwan Yew) stood for “Asian Values”, which is (similar to) China’s 5000 years of history, the Feudal Imperialist System that wants to meddle with everything. The entire ruling clan (of the leader) will have to be involved in the Politics (of running this country).’
          ‘My country has had a 4-decades-old history, (which had) always been controlled by someone else, and that makes me feel heartbroken for my own land that ended up with such a pitiful kind of society. (It was) colonized by the Japanese since young, now (it’s being) “colonized” by the Nationalists. And then what does they treat its people like? Like slaves!’
          ‘This is what differentiates him (Lee Kwan Yew) and myself, although we still remain friends, and of similar age as well. Frankly, he wants to be close to China (for economic reasons), but I don’t favour being overly close to China, as I personally want my country to be able to stand on her own two feet.’
          No prizes for guessing who this President is, and the country he refers to!

        • Orchid

          “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”…..

          • nelsonmandala

            the malaysians minorities fight for reformasi for answar who was jailed and assault heavily..
            and ere u r tryin to preach the word freedom?
            than again u wud had said..luckilly we r not park nor kim right?

          • jessie

            If you compromise your freedom you are a slave!
            Aristotle: “And one is for a man to live as he likes, for they say that this is the function of liberty, is as much as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave.”

    • Neotenic

      Your ideas are laughable. You propose human rights as something fundamentally necessary. Therefore, answer this. Why they are fundamentally necessary?
      It is a fact that his political maneuvers were essential in making Singapore the place that it is today. All semantics aside, do you know what historically happens when communists run a place?

      • jessie

        Are you saying that LKY practiced democracy?

        • Orchid

          What is democracy to you?

          • nelsonmandala

            and what does democracy practise in which singapoor neber applied?
            and u simplee allowed your children to pledge daily in the moanin for sumtin that been a LIED all alon?

          • jessie

            Democracy is as what AUNG SAN SUU KYI said:
            ” And we would like to talk to those who disagree with us. That, again, is what democracy is about. You talk to those who disagree with you; you don’t beat them down. You exchange views. And you come to a compromise, a settlement that would be best for the country. …… dialogues and debates are not aimed at achieving victory for one particular party or the other, but victory for our people
            as a whole.”

          • Tan Peng Leng

            The issue here is the words OUR PEOPLE! When we disagree with them, we are ASKED to leave – just one classic example! Anyway, we are simply not Singaporeans enough, as far as some of them, especially to one particular 赖阿烂, is concerned!

          • jessie

            It is because of one party being in power for too long. So arrogance sets in and they begin to think they have the right to ask citizens to leave their homes because of disagreements . This is LKY’s legacy. Look at the response to a seventeen year old’s antics . The police have even arrested him .

        • Neotenic

          His politics weren’t democratic, but had characteristics of a democracy. When was the word ever mentioned in my text?

          • jessie

            Characteristics of a democracy? This is what LKY said:
            ” It is not the practice, now will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that
            I’ve got to prove everything against them in a court of law or (produce)
            evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence of a court of Law.”

    • Orchid

      Singapore is not built by political opponents. Singapore is based on rule of law. If they are innocents, they can seek their path home through legal means. What’s stopping them?

      • jessie

        Political opponents are not citizens? Singapore is built by all its citizens. Singapore is based on rule of law? You have not read, LEE KUAN YEW, The Man & His Ideas 1997,
        “If you are a troublemaker……it’s our job to politically destroy you….Everyone knows
        that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet. We meet in the cul-de-sac.” He was referring to the opposition Member of Parliament, Mr. Jeyaretnam !

        • liangjwc1

          Was JBJ a troublemaker?

          • nelsonmandala

            yes JBJ won the anson seat all alone..without formin a gay grc tagteam

          • liangjwc1

            Where is Anson now? Inside TP GRC?

          • Tan Peng Leng

            Anson was split into many layers – “The constituency was abolished in 1988 and split between the Tanjong Pagar and Kreta Ayer constituency, with a significant of the portion also forming the Tiong Bahru Group Representation Constituency in 1988 election. Tiong Bahru was then absorbed into the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation constituency at the 1991 general election.” – Source Wikipedia!

          • nelsonmandala

            yeap under the bellee carefool eyes of the dropdead to ensure no further opposition take that seat again

          • jessie

            LKY considered him.

      • nelsonmandala

        Singapore is based on rule of law.

        ha ha ha u made me toe laffoutloud…dr chee sister show leaflets the same style as the aljunied pap rc branch…dr chee sister goes to jail for 6 weeks or 6 days..
        the pap rc ajunied branch..bor salah..they can do it even without a polis permits

        • liangjwc1

          Orchid is not wrong….he is saying based on rule of law written by himself.

  • Sad

    LKY build Singapore single-handedly? I don’t think so. He is a lawyer, nothing more. There were many technicians, engineers, architects, scientists, bankers, clans, and many more true builders of this country during the earlier days. They are the core team that planted the seeds where we eat the fruits today. Oh!!! not forgetting our NS men in the 1960s to defend this country, the police force, nurse, bus/taxi drivers…etc. How can a man building Singapore single-handedly? Not even octupus can do that. Let’s be realistic. Mourning is a pay of respect but over-glorifying is another story we heard ad-nausesm even before the man is alive. Low, speak from his heart.

    • nelsonmandala

      LKY build Singapore single-handedly?

      worst..sum IDIOTs even says without the dropdead carcass..we r all uneducated and most likely sufferrin from malnutrition juz liked north korea..and even used braille to surf the internet

      • Johnathan Li

        There’s a famous Chinese Prose that should have summed up the CORRECT Legacy of Lee Kwan Yew, which I’m afraid some of those “worshippers” don’t even know what it actually means.
        「牡丹虽好,全仗绿叶扶持」(lit. even the most beautiful Peony can only bloom on the support of its green leaves)
        See if you’re intelligent enough to define what that really means!

        • nelsonmandala

          me version is simple..all flowers can bloom if u stuff S Hit in it and urinate with urine…me houseplants survived with me shi t & urine..

    • Alan

      Now that we have made it, it’s easy to disclaim LKY effort! Look back, IF it’s not because of his vision and dispatching his team as a leader, can you guarantee we can achieve what we have today?

      We might be better or we might be much worst with so many countries faring badly with better resources!

      What we’re doing are not glorifying but being glad to be blessed with a visionary like him who are willing to give his life for us!

      Sit behind the comfort of your comp and ponder on it lah!

      • jessie

        His vision or is it Dr. Goh Keng Swee’s vision?

    • Jason

      He was the person that brought everyone together. Did you even read your history textbooks? Stop being sour, you will never be him. Talking about it being easy and stuff, why didn’t your parents or grandparents become so successful then? BECAUSE THEY DIDNT STOOD UP FOR SINGAPORE which Mr LKY did, they listen to their leader and execute their policies which worked and build up the modern Singapore.

      • GUSSIE91

        sounds to me he is God……….?

        • It’s the state religion, and MOE history textbooks the catechism. Those who think themselves of another religion that claims exclusivity on its adherents may want to examine their thinking vs their well-taught adulation.

  • PAP supporter (retired)

    If this was what he said :”因为有不少新加坡人在建国和制定政策的权衡过程中被牺牲”, then he did say that many Singaporeans were sacrificed in the process of nation building and policy formulation.

    Can anyone say that what he said is not true?

    What is wrong with calling a spade a spade?

    I hope people would prefer a straight talking person to a hypocrite.

  • Simi Lai

    What about WP’s dubious ways?

    • nelsonmandala

      and what r the Worker Party’s dubious?
      unless u wanna says aljunied fairs is run by jover chew

      • Simi Lai

        Well, since you mentioned that.
        Actually I was referring to WP’s dubious ability to run a country. That ‘FT’ CSM is such a letdown…

        • NotSoNutCase

          You mean they haven’t run a country yet and already you are convinced they are dubious. It is like you claiming someone committed a crime when there is no crime committed yet. What kind of logic going on in your mind.

          • Simi Lai

            Logic? Simple: just look at how they manage town council money, how can we trust them to run our good country?

          • Simi Lai

            Don’t forget a certain gentleman by the name of Mr Low TK doubted the ability of WP himself in 2007:

            Why 2027? Because he will not be around by then!

          • Simi Lai

            Just in case you forget, he reminded you again in 2011 that WP is not fit to rule:

            I did not doubt him, he doubted himself!

          • nelsonmandala

            lowthiaking is humbled enuff to admit that he is simplLEE not able to run the premeirships..while the current takeover son think he can run the premeirships with the highest wages..
            u dunt feel shy on his CAPABILITY(if he had 1..only 1)

          • Simi Lai

            Humility? Anyway, enough evidence to convince me he is just an empty vessel. He has no credence to say those things in parliament about Mr Lee. Enough said.

          • nelsonmandala

            indeed..so not trustworthy that the pap LOOT the million$ and transfer into a community chest instead of aljunied ward…
            do i nid to spell it out?

          • Alan

            If Singapore were the size of Hougang…have to give him credit for not screwing that! A size larger he started go haywire!

            That’s where their capability end!

  • silver silver

    no party can build Sg single-handly… PAP nor opposition party.

    Rule applies both ways.

    Tribute to all singaporea leaders from both PAP & Opp party who have dedicated whole heartedly to Singapore regardless of party.

    • Simi Lai

      …and some NATO more than others
      That rule does not apply both ways.

  • XxSaberxX

    Singapore gave up “laziness, corruption, division, hatred of other races”, she added.

    CORRUPTION? M’am, have you been reading the local news over the past decade?

    Oh wait – you’re one of the ones who believe that your astronomical paycheck is justified. No wonder.

  • 小小云

    香港vs新加坡,1970’s股市都大約100点.現在香港23000 ,新加坡3300.
    香港有没有说是经济奇迹 ?
    3300点是经济奇迹 , 23000 是什么?

    • Simi Lai

      经济发展不可只看股市指数。你去查看星加坡和香港的人均国内生产总值(per capita GDP)吧!

    • Alan





  • Samson

    To say Mr LKY devoted his life to Singapore is to say his team mates were not as devoted as him. But were they not? I mean, was not Mr Ong Teng Cheong forced to go otherwise he would have also “devoted his whole life to Singapore?” Same with Chiam See Tong and a lot others.

    On the contrary, there were at least 40% who did not want the PAP to be in power any longer so I am afraid it was more like the Lees cling on their whole life to power.

  • Gab Winter

    Please practice responsivible speech and stop criticizing the PAP. Maybe its time again for PAP to fix the opposition.