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MP Lee Bee Wah: I’m friends with everyone except those from WP

MP Lee Bee Wah recently gave an interview to ST Sunday Life, which was published on Sunday (22 Apr).

LBW's Malaysian family and home village worship Lee Kuan Yew

She revealed that she was born in Johor. Her family later moved to Melaka and lived in a rubber plantation. She studied in Melaka and did well to do science at the University of Malaya but she wanted to be an engineer.

Her father then urged her to go to Singapore as her whole family worships Lee Kuan Yew even though they were Malaysians.

"My whole family - in fact many in our village - really admired, adored, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. That's why in my village, there are children named after Kuan Yew - Huang Kuan Yew, Lim Kuan Yew," she said.

She was later accepted by Nanyang Technological University to do civil engineering. After she graduated, she worked in construction firms before setting up her own company.

Needs personal space and doesn't wear make-up

Ms Lee told Sunday Life that before she got married in the late 80s, she told her husband-to-be that she needs her personal space as she has many friends. She wants to continue to keep in touch with them even after getting married. So, she told her then husband-to-be not to expect her to stay home to iron and cook for the family.

She also told him she doesn't wear make-up and what he sees is what he gets. "I don't wear make-up one you know. So is this what you want or not?" she recalled. She thinks that cosmetics are a waste of money and said that the only time she has ever put on full-blown make-up was on her wedding day.

It's no wonder she said that she would put her family last, after her MP and her other job roles. This can be seen in her name card. Apparently, it is made up of 6 name cards joined to form a 12-sided accordion-like stack. It details her various roles and job titles in the cards.

Joins PAP through then MP Inderjit Singh

In the late 80s, she took up the Singaporean citizenship.

She told Sunday Life that she got into PAP through Inderjit Singh. Mr Singh was her university friend and was a PAP MP then. She ended up helping Mr Singh in his ward.

She was later "spotted" by the upper echelons of PAP and was asked to stand for election in 2006.

She also told Sunday Life that she wants to "serve my resident, serve my country" and that politics is about "giving back" to Singapore.

When asked if she will contest the next GE, she firmly said, "99.9 per cent I am standing for the next GE."

No friend with WP

During the interview, she was unabashedly partisan. She told Sunday Life that she is friends with everyone except those from WP. "I seldom talk to them (WP MPs)," she said.

It is strange that as an MP of a first world country, Ms Lee is treating opposition MPs like enemies.

In the US, bipartisanship or the cooperation between two opposing political parties, happens from time to time between the Democrat and Republican politicians. They put aside their ideological and individual differences to talk to each other so that they could bring the country forward together.

The followings were some of the pivotal moments when Democrat and Republican politicians rose to the occasion to work together for the greater good of their country:

1860: Lincoln’s Team of Rivals - By the time of the Republican party convention, three men representing the various factions in the party emerged as favorites: N.Y. Sen. William Seward, Ohio Gov. Salmon P. Chase and Missouri judge Edward Bates. The surprise was all 3 lost to a country lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. But the bigger surprise was Lincoln appointed all 3 of his Republican rivals to his cabinet. And he even crossed the party line to appoint Democrat Edwin Stanton as his Secretary of War. Lincoln’s so-called "team of rivals" was a watershed political moment. He later explained that he felt he had no right to deprive the country of its strongest minds simply because they sometimes disagreed with him.

1958: The establishment of NASA - When the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957, the U.S. found itself with only a fledgling space program. Alarmed at what it perceived as the Soviet technological lead in space, Congress urged President Eisenhower to take immediate action and support a larger U.S. space program. It was only with the collaboration and bipartisanship of members of Congress that NASA was conceived and then signed into being by Eisenhower in 1958. Eventually, US space program surpassed that of Soviet and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon eleven years later in 1969.

1964: Civil Rights Act - With civil rights marches and racial violence in the South, the issue of African Americans’ legal rights could no longer be ignored. In early 1964, a civil rights bill was debated in the Senate. Twenty-one of the Senate’s 67 Democrats were from the South and publicly opposed the bill. Then, Democratic majority leader Mike Mansfield asked his counterpart, Republican Senator Everett Dirksen to step in: “I appeal to the distinguished minority leader whose patriotism has always taken precedence over his partisanship, to join with me … in finding the Senate’s best contribution … to the resolution of this grave national issue,” Mansfield said. Dirksen did more than joining with Mansfield — he roped in his Republican colleagues to support Mansfield. “I appeal to all Senators,” Dirksen told the chamber. “We are confronted with a moral issue. Today let us not be found wanting …” With Dirksen’s leadership, 27 minority Republican senators joined 44 Democrats to end the debate on June 10, 1964; the historic bill passed nine days later.

1983: Social Security Reform - By the early 80s, it was clear that the Social Security Trust Fund was poised to begin running a deficit. In 1981, President Reagan appointed a commission to study the looming problem. When the commission made its recommendations in 1983, it was party leaders, Republican Sen. Bob Dole and Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Monyihan, who led a bipartisan group of legislators in turning the recommendations into legislation. Trying to keep the Social Security Fund solvent would mean amending the program, a move the group knew would likely mean an intense and bitter partisan battle in Congress. But Moynihan reminded his cohorts to focus on solving the discrete problem at hand and not get swayed by the partisan debates. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Moynihan famously quipped, “but not their own facts.” In the end, the group’s reforms to the Social Security Act passed and were signed into law by President Reagan.

2009: Cabinet Selections by President Obama - When President Obama took office, he appointed his Democratic primary rivals Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as his Vice President and Secretary of State, respectively. In addition, he also appointed Republican Rep. Ray LaHood as the Secretary of Transportation. And despite being a vocal critic of how the war in Iraq was being run by his Republican predecessors, Obama asked President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to stay in the job, so as to maintain continuity in the authority of American forces. Such is the magnanimity of President Obama to put away differences to find the best people working together for the nation.

 

It is indeed sad that Ms Lee is adopting the "Them and Us" attitude when comes to politics and forgetting that politics is about ultimately bringing a greater good to the people, even if it means working together with the opposing parties.

In any case, in the interview, Sunday Life described Ms Lee as "warm and friendly, laughs and gestures a great deal".