Posts Tagged ‘LKY’

Honouring LKY

In News Reports, Politics, Society on April 11, 2015 at 2:57 am

On Monday, some very important questions will be asked about how we should honour the memory of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Now, I am NOT being sarcastic because I DO think something should be done to keep him or at least his thoughts alive beyond merely ensuring re-prints of all his books. So the MPs have come up three suggestions which I suppose will generate a bit of debate given how everyone has something to say….(I’m just going by my FaceBook wall)

The three:

1. Have his face imprinted on coins and dollar notes.

I like this idea.

After all, given that we have our first President’s face on dollar notes…why not? It’s something that our currency board can do quite easily and I rather like some variety of faces on my dollar notes…. And Mr Lee himself never said no. He was against monuments built for him and I suppose that would mean statues and busts. He wouldn’t be against being in the hands of bankers or fishmongers would he? He was a man of the people and everyone would have a bit/a lot of him in their wallets…He was concerned about economic development and our Singapore dollar is super-strong, a reflection of the man as well.

Of course, those who don’t like him might want to deface their notes. But that’s their lookout. If defaced so much that it is no longer accepted as legal tender, too bad…That will teach people to be careful with their money! Hey, that’s another LKY maxim!

2. Re-name Changi Airport after him

Not a popular choice it seems even though he was the man who moved the airport from Paya Lebar to Changi. And SIA pilots are sure to remember the man who thumped them and threatened to replace all of them! There are plenty of precedents abroad. Charles de Gaulle airport in France, JFK in the US. Better, methinks, than Ho Chi Minh city?

People will have to get used to saying “I have to get to LKY tonight’’, “Planes delayed at LKY’’ and “Did you get any duty-free booze at LKY?’’ But we Singaporeans can get used to anything….One argument in favour: Besides Singaporeans, foreigners will be forced to be educated on the legacy of LKY as well…His name will be remembered forever, far and wide. Hurray! The Singapore dollar, on the hand, is only circulated on this tiny red dot.

So why unpopular? Methinks people rather like the term “Changi’’, more than the LKY name for the airport. I like Changi too…It is so Singaporean. And we don’t need to ape the ways of foreign countries do we?

3. Have a Founder’s Day for him

Quite a popular choice, since it’s likely to be public holiday. So should it be on the day of his death, March 23? Or his birthday, Sept 16? Some people, however, think it should be a PLURAL Founders’ Day – for all the first-generation leaders since he wasn’t the sole architect of Singapore.

I’m not sure about this since he would probably tell us to “stop this nonsense and go back to work’’. Also, what would we DO on Founder’s (singular) Day? Re-play old broadcasts and enact scenes from LKY’s past? Have mass readings of his books? Hold an LKY festival? Or should the day simply be a day that’s marked on the calendar like Teachers’ Day, Racial Harmony Day, Total Defence Day or Youth Day? That is, no public holiday…but the school children will have to do something…?

As you can tell, I am personally not in favour of this. I am also not in favour of preserving his Oxley Road home given that it is the family’s wish to have it demolished. We should respect their wishes.

Monday’s sitting is sure gonna be interesting…

PS. Actually why don’t we name a battleship after him? And I don’t mean steamboat.


When vocal minority meets silent majority

In Politics, Society on April 3, 2015 at 8:00 am

A discussion between Vee Meng (vocal minority) and Si Meng (silent majority)

VM: “….what did say? ’’

SM: “…erm…what? Didn’t say anything…Eating my prata lah….’’

VM: “You haven’t been listening? That’s the trouble with people like you…so contented with your lot! Can’t you see so many things are wrong here? People can’t say what they want! The media is muzzled! We rank so low on human rights watch! We just care about money, money, money! Everything here is geared for the rich people, big business. We, the ordinary citizens of Singapore, are being trampled on and we don’t even know it!’’

SM: “That bad ah…I thought we’re always Number 1? You want to share another prata?’’

VM: “You should read more, especially what people are saying on the Internet. Then you’ll realise that this is not paradise and why people are buying homes in Johor and even, get this, staying there for their retirement!’’

SM: “Ya, I bought a place in Iskandar for investment and got burnt… Did you read about property prices here coming down? Shiok! I want to buy a new place, but then my old place now too cheap to sell….’’

VM: “Can you don’t just think about yourself? Think about single mothers who don’t get much help! Think about the old lady who collects cardboard and the old man who works at McDonalds! They should be enjoying their retirement! What kind of society are we becoming?’’

SM: “What? They didn’t join CHAS ah? Very good. Very cheap. My parents even better. Just wave PG card and get discounts everywhere… I hope cheng hu PG me when I turn 65.

VM: “My dear, dear Si Meng, you’re not connecting with me…I give up on you…You are the sort of people who just go with the flow, comfortable with your job, your HDB flat, your car…your little life…apathetic and couldn’t care less…’’

SM (slightly distressed): “Okay, okay. Of course, got some things wrong here lah. Like, I wish PSLE not so hard because paying for my children’s tuition is killing me.

VM: “Ah good. Something we agree on at last… We have a crazy education system that is driving parents nuts. Your children no longer have a childhood because they have to start running the rat race since kindergarten. Every school is a good school? Pah! It’s a myth! Even ministers don’t send their children to neighbourhood schools. The system just wants to churn out people for the economy. This ITE/poly thing…what master craftsman they want to produce? This place simply can’t afford to have more graduates so they want people to be happy to become master craftsman. We’re just digits in this economy, nuts and bolts to make the machinery run. Just soul-less people.’’

SM: “Eh? So cheem. I just want my children to get As and get good jobs.  Just don’t become cleaner or road sweeper.’’

VM (sarcastic): They won’t. Most of the jobs taken up by foreign workers already…

SM: “Oh ya. I also don’t like so many foreign workers around. Too crowded here already. They don’t even clean or sweep properly…

VM: “Talking about foreign workers….you agree with me that we must treat them well, right? You know their employers make them eat stale food? I still don’t think their living conditions are as good as the cheng hu say, never mind the new rules. We must treat these people better…and not subscribe to the capitalist demands of businesses who just want to profit from their sweat and blood.

SM: “Eh, my maid get day off every Sunday…’’

VM (in full flow):  “And look at the abuse of power. The ISA is still around. People are getting sued. Some kid rants on YouTube and cheng hu takes him to court! Just because he dissed Lee Kuan Yew! He’s non-conformist, like me! We should counsel people like him, not use the law on him!

SM: “Ya…his parents should just cane him…so boh tua, boh suay….”

VM (ignoring SM): “Have you seen what the Western media are saying about Singapore? All these controls on society. We always have some campaign or other. Laws against littering, graffiti and now this public drinking ban. We can’t even buy chewing gum here!’’

SM (placatory) : “You want chewing gum ah? I brought some from Malaysia. Before GST.’’ (passes chewing gum)

VM (making big show of chewing gum as an act of rebellion): I am thinking of starting a petition and get all the civil society types to sign. Maybe I’ll even book a slot at Hong Lim Park and get people to speak up. You should come along and see what this is all about…A good education.’’

SM: “Saturday? Not free lah. Got errands to run, send kids for enrichment class, dinner with in-laws…where got time?’’

VM (desperate): “Not even to ask for your CPF to back?’’

SM (lights up) : “Ya! Ya! I want my CPF! What age again we get it back? Can’t remember…When are we supposed to get GST rebate ah? And this Singapore Savings Bond thing…good to buy or not?’’

VM (shakes head): “I give up on you…You should be ashamed to call yourself Singaporean. Like sheep. Please don’t tell me you’re one of those fellows who queued 10 hours to go past the old man’s casket? Do you even know why you’re honouring him? Have you thought about PAP hegemony, repression, Operation Cold Store (no, not Cold Storage) and the Marxist conspiracy? Don’t you recall all that gerrymandering, political bullying and how the opposition always gets screwed? I know we should respect the dead but are you trying to turn him into a cult figure?’’

SM: “Aiyah…I…. queued… because…he…is…Lee Kuan Yew. Good enough reason for me. Eh, can you don’t talk so much or not? Tiring to hear..And where is that prata? Still haven’t come yet?!! What kind of service is this???’”

We made Amos Famous

In News Reports on March 31, 2015 at 10:07 am

What is wrong with Amos Yee?
Did he think we’ll go tee-hee
When he mocked Christianity?

And those jibes on LKY
Did he think that they would fly?
Did he think “I’ll just try, try?’’

Some say Amos is just a boy
Who thinks YouTube is just a toy
Even if some people he did annoy

Some say he’s a special kid
Who made an extra special vid
No foolish thing YOU ever did?

We want blood, some bayed
He should be flogged and flayed
That’s the price to be paid!

Now Amos’ got his day in court
Wonder if that’s what he sought
Then we’ve been suckered by his plot

He came out with a big wide grin
His poor parents, the reporters pinned
Dad said sorry for son’s sin

Chill, people, coz can’t you see
This kid is just a wannabe?
Commiserations to his family…

Plain and simple living…is so hard to do

In News Reports on March 30, 2015 at 8:48 am

And now the suggestions will start rolling in… on how to honour Lee Kuan Yew. So far, there seems to be a “re-name Changi Airport’’ lobby, a proposal for a sort of museum or for his Oxley Road home to be retained as kind of monument. What about his face on dollar notes? Or a postage stamp? Or just posters for mass distribution? Thankfully, no one has suggested a statue a la Stamford Raffles – methinks Mr Lee would have turned in his urn if that came to pass.

Of course, there is no need to do anything at all. Singapore, is after all, his monument. His imprint is everywhere, whether in infrastructure or policies or even governing philosophy. Some say it is enough that we honour him by sharing his values and passing them on, like the values enshrined in the National Pledge. The ultimate method, others say, is to honour him by ensuring that Singapore continues on its upward trajectory.

I would pick one value above all that we should imbue in ourselves and in future generations: frugality. Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam pointed this out, as did a myriad different people, including Mr Lee’s own family members. A waste not, want not approach to living. Maybe not the sort of austere lifestyle that he led in Spartan conditions, but a lifestyle that knows the value of being alive rather than the price of things.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything “designer’’ on him – or even really “new’’. He wore the same jacket and had the same red box for years. He wouldn’t change the cloth of armchairs in the Istana. He ate home cooked food, didn’t take expensive holidays and clearly disliked lavishness. He advised politicians like Mr Sidek Saniff to borrow, rather than to buy.  I looked at photographs of his living room and it reminded me of my family home – more than 30 years ago. In fact, it seems to me the only thing he wanted people to buy was a place to live, because home owners would have a stake in this country and its future.

How many of us can live as frugally, given the temptations that surround us? Yet, too many get into debt and are in too much of a hurry to enjoy the finer things in life. I don’t think he ever compared himself with the many millionaires and billionaires he must have met in their well-cut suits. But what about us? We look at some people’s clothes, bags and shoes – and drool. We want to upgrade all the time – not ourselves, but our homes. I sometimes think it is good that Mr Lee didn’t get around too much, to see the conspicuous consumption of this disposable people.

I know the usual arguments: that people must spend in order to power the economy ecetera and that it was Mr Lee who wanted all these bad things, like casinos, into the country. And how we should enjoy the fruits of our labour. I think there must be a distinction between growing fat on the fruits and having them pickled for a rainy day. If we want to build on his legacy, this is one trait we must keep.

It must permeate the political circles, the governing elite and down to the masses. It is right that politicians eschew ornamentation and civil servants understand the needed for understatement. As a people, while there are legitimate worries for the down and out, I think this need to be with the “in’’ crowd and our penchant for comparison must simply be reined in. As a people, we waste so much, including food and water. We use so much electricity and complain about the bill. We don’t need air-conditioning or even hot water – yet how did they become necessary instead of nice to have?

I am guilty too of waste, having forgotten the days of Bobo the elephant and water rationing and, yes, scooping water out of a big jar to bathe. Of buying new clothes only when Christmas and Chinese New Year rolls round.

(We forget the basics even as we talk about climate change, eco-conservation and eating organic food, you know, the trendy stuff.  I cannot forget how Mr Lee responded to a young woman a long time ago who asked him about Singapore’s role in guarding against climate change and other environmental concerns. He said that Singapore had been protecting the environment for years, by planting trees and its Stop Littering campaign. I think the young woman was hoping for something more esoteric and uplifting…)

Such small gestures. Pick up litter. Don’t waste water. Don’t spend money unnecessarily. Such basic traits that we might just be beginning to lose as a people.

So how can we keep them intact?

I have one suggestion (and it’s not another campaign) – and that is for us to pick up some traits from the West, yes, the West. You know how we always sniff at their “welfare system’’ and “unemployment benefits’’ and how they sap the value of hard work. Here, we don’t have the same scale of government welfarism, simply because we have our parents.

It bothers me that young working adults want to be treated like adults, when they are really children living under their parents’ roof. That is why they can afford the finer things in life early in their careers and why they suddenly find that forming a household not so easy. How can it be easy when young people have had free board and lodging until the day they get married and move into their own place (sometimes bought by their parents)? On the other hand, young people are “expected’’ to leave the nest when they start work or pay for their living at their parents’ home. It looks like a weird arrangement to us and seems to work against the idea of a traditional, Asian home. I think, however, that it is time to start thinking this way if we want ever stronger Singaporeans who will fight to live the good life on their own steam instead of relying on Mommy and Daddy.

We need, to use an awful phrase, a mindset change so that we can grow more resilient generations.

Why this talk about giving parents an “allowance’’ when their children start work? The children should be paying for food and board, not living for free, just as they would if they were living on their own. Single people in their late 20s and 30s, living with – or rather off – their parents should be ashamed of themselves. Toothpaste, toilet paper and utilities all add up you know.

We must stop thinking that our duty of care to our parents only start when they can’t look after themselves. And then applaud ourselves for being filial. It must start from our being independent of our parents money-wise when they are still able AND caring for them when they are unable.

That’s when I think we will start realizing the value of being frugal. That money from work is not “spending’’ money, but “living’’ money.

I am ending here because I am beginning to nag. But I hope you get what I mean…


In News Reports on March 29, 2015 at 9:26 pm

Life goes back to “normal’’ today

We don’t have to think about when is the “best’’ time to join “the queue”.

We don’t need to worry about wearing the appropriate mourning clothes.

Should we hang the Singapore flag or not is a decision to be made in August only.

There is no black nor white. We’ll be talking about shades of grey.

Radio goes back to playing “normal’’ music we can easily identify

TV is back to its boring programmes

Traffic is as normal as the ERP is efficient

We’ll be reading about molesters, minor and major criminals in the news again

The Padang gets to grow its grass

We can go back to our whiny ways

The vocal minority will start vocalizing

The silent majority will keep quiet

Singapore carries on.

An era is over

In News Reports on March 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

It’s over. Seven days of mourning and shared sorrow. Who would have thought that half a million people would wait for hours, whether day or night, whatever the weather, to bid goodbye to someone? Who have thought we would queue along the roadside in the rain to watch his cortege go by, that we would yell LKY, LKY and strew petals on the road as he went on his last journey?

Singaporeans did it. Not because they were sheep or suffering from mass hysteria,  but because of a deep, abiding attachment to the man. They probably can’t even explain it, not by dissecting his policies in detail or by calculating the pros and cons of his leadership. To many, he was, in the words of his younger son, an “orang besar’’. Bigger than anyone they ever knew, who commanded every stage he was on, whether here or abroad.

This was LKY.

And so thousands carried umbrellas and wore ponchos just to watch the cortege whizz by. Others were glued to their television sets, picking out the dignitaries in the University Cultural Centre sitting silence for Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last entrance before an audience.

I was one of those in front of the TV watching the State funeral along with my mother. The pictures were grainy. The heavens had opened up after a week of humid weather, for Singapore’s chief gardener. The Lee family walked in the rain. The lines of uniformed citizens were drenched to the bone. I wondered about whether musical instruments used by the SAF band would be destroyed in the rain. I wondered if children would catch cold. I tried to identify the roads. Anything, anything. To stop myself from wallowing in the mood of the occasion. I didn’t succeed.

Who could? You watch fervently, hoping that the State flag wouldn’t slip off the casket, that the coffin bearers wouldn’t, gasp!, lose their grip and you wondered if Mr Chiam See Tong was all right in his wheelchair. You try to keep count of the gun salute and wish you could see the plane formation in the grey sky. You make out the lines on the Prime Minister’s face and saw his puffy eyes. All of us were trying to take in every moment of this time in history. We didn’t want to miss anything.

As the Prime Minister took to the stage to deliver the first of 10 eulogies, my mother hoped out loud that he would hold it together. For a while, we thought he would succeed without a hitch. He was in “political speech mode’’, that is, until he turned personal. He had to pause after he said he had tried to spend a quiet moment meditating alongside his father’s casket before the ceremony. I don’t know about you, but I cried. Not for the man in the casket, but for his son, who was so determined to carry out his national role of Prime Minister, that he never once said “Papa’’. (By the way, this is not an indictment.)

Every day over the week, I learnt something new about our first Prime Minister as people started trotting out anecdotes about their interactions with him. Today was no different. Former MP Sidek Saniff told of how Mr Lee advised him to borrow an overcoat from Dr Ahmad Mattar and a pair of boots from Mr Goh Chok Tong when he had asked him if he was equipped for a trip to China. Mr Sidek was also the most emotional, bidding farewell three times as he turned to the casket.

Long-time grassroots leader Leong Chun Loong recalled how he got testy when the firing of firecrackers was mistimed during a Chinese New Year event. You can’t run a country if you couldn’t get such a little thing right…(How like the man, I thought. The perfectionist. But isn’t it true that most of us try to run before we have even learnt to walk? We want to do the “big stuff” when we can’t even do the small things…)

Both President Tony Tan and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong told of Mr Lee’s great respect for office. When he was no more Prime Minister, he would always defer to Mr Goh and Dr Tan, like making sure that it was he who visited the President and not the other way round. Never mind that it was Dr Tan who wanted to pay him a visit while he was ill.

Mr Goh also said something that will probably set some quarters buzzing: that Mr Lee “never muzzled’’ anyone. He was a man of great intellect who put forth his views forcefully, but he was open to being converted if the arguments convinced him. Former Cabinet minister S Dhanabalan said much the same. Mr Dhanabalan seemed unsettled by descriptions of Mr Lee as a “pragmatist’’. He was an idealist too – or he would have simply courted the Chinese majority instead of pursuing the ideal of a multi-racial society, he said.

I think all of us listened especially closely to the last speaker, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who delivered the eulogy on behalf of the family. We know now what it was like to have a famous father. How Papa was seldom around and how they always took their family holidays nearby, like in Cameron Highlands. And how he found out about his parents’ secret wedding at Stratford-upon-Avon in England only upon reading his father’s memoirs. There were little vignettes of family life – like how they left birthdays “unmarked’’ until recently and how Papa and Mama were delighted to have another grandchild while they were in their 70s. Frankly, he sounded like a son who missed his father even before he died.

In my mother’s living room, I recited the pledge, hand on heart, and sang the national anthem. The State funeral had ended, and I left for my own home.

I could see the streets come back to life, slowly. People started emerging from their homes to do whatever they usually do on Sundays. My mother’s neighbor left his flat at the same time as I did. We wondered if our younger and not-so-young leaders were of the same calibre as Mr Lee…How? It was a sombre ride in the lift.

As I walked back to my home, I realized that I had not bumped into any cyclist or handphone-staring pedestrian on the pavement – because there weren’t any.

I also noticed something in the air. The rain was over. The air was fresh. One era has ended. A new one has begun.

Majulah Singapura.

For the PM, the father’s son

In Society on March 28, 2015 at 12:27 am

Dear Prime Minister,

You look awful. I know you can’t help it; very few people who have lost a father can. Older folk will tell you that you need to rest, drink lots of water and take medicinal soups. Younger folk might well recommend cool cucumber slices to take away the puffiness that has built up around your eyes these past few days. Your own father will probably recommend meditation.

Yet I know you cannot rest. You have too many hands to shake, too many people –  including very important people from abroad – to greet and you are being snowed under by cards, flowers and well-wishes. Maybe you will retain some as keepsakes and give everything else to the National Archives? Then again, this is not the time to worry about post-funeral arrangements. You still have to get through tomorrow.

It must be tough to be the son of Lee Kuan Yew. Personally, I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever felt the need to measure up to the man. To be sure, some of us did not know what to think when you were inducted into politics; this Brigadier-General with big framed glasses. No one doubted your intellect, we just wondered what sort of a leader you would become. How much like your father would you be?

I think many Singaporeans have been/are still curious about the father-son relationship. It’s probably none of our business but I can safely say we devour every bit of news that involves the Lee family. Your sister helped with her articles, painting a more personal picture of Lee Kuan Yew and showing us glimpses of his devotion to his wife, your mother. Then there were, of course, your FaceBook posts. They made you more like us, although frankly, this citizen wishes that you would remain prime ministerial, mythical and mysterious. But that’s just me.

Over the past few days, your fellow citizens have watched you keep a leash on your emotions. ALL of us wanted to know if you are holding it together. We dissected and analysed your every look and word. People asked, example, why you didn’t mention “my father’’ when you addressed the nation on his death. Others said you were speaking as Prime Minister, not as the son of Lee Kuan Yew. It must be hard to divorce the two roles. Sir, you did it admirably.

Reams of information have now come out about your family life. I have to say that I still can’t get over the family taking their baths by using scooping out water from a jar, as your brother Mr Lee Hsien Yang disclosed. That frugality is something most of us admired of Mr Lee. It pains me every time I come across people who say that the Lee family have amassed a fortune somehow. When they say this, I think about how your father stood up in Parliament to clear the rumour that the two of you had bought some condominium units at a huge discount. Never mind that there were never any open accusations, just whispers. I think about what your father said in the past about leaders of Third World countries who fly in to rich countries in their private jets to ask for, ahem, aid. Your father even had to account for the Singapore Airlines flight that took your mother home from London when she fell ill. He paid for it, he said.

I see a lot of his frugal nature in you, and I thank God for that.

How must you feel now that hundreds of thousands of citizens are honouring your father?  More than touched, I’m sure. They queued for hours to have just a few seconds in front of your father’s casket. Yet, in that same action, we see the Singapore that has been built over 50 years, in the efficiency of the logistics and the patience and resilience of its people. We are not a cold people; and this is not a soulless country. I hope you wave away all the insane and inane remarks by unkind people and those who are in too much of a hurry to dissect his legacy. He was after all a public figure, even if he was your parent.

I know you are not religious by nature, but it will not stop me from praying for your father’s soul, and for God to give you strength.

He was a great man.

As you said, there will never be anyone like him ever again.

Yours sincerely,

A citizen of Singapore

A Catholic send-off

In Society on March 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

I suppose sitting for three hours in an air-conditioned church waiting for a service to start is a lot better than queueing for three hours under the sun. Never mind that you can’t snack, nobody passes any bottled water around and you can’t have a pee break because somebody will immediately slip into your seat at the pew. But at least, we could pray together – one rosary, one chaplet of Divine mercy and choir master Peter Low took us through all the hymns to be sung. That filled up a lot of time.

It was a requiem mass celebrated by the Archbishop himself, along with so many priests I couldn’t keep count as they walked into St Joseph’s Church at 1.15pm. The Papal Nuncio, the Pope’s representative, was there too, and His Grace entered the church under a canopy being held up by six lay people – the first time I’ve seen this happen.

I made up my mind to be at the mass ever since the Catholic Church first announced that it would do holding one. Both offline and online, there were some interesting discussions about why the Church was doing this for a professed agnostic who sometimes described himself as a nominal Buddhist. In fact, there was nothing “religious’’ during the wake. Only cultural, as when his grandsons carried his picture behind the casket as it made its way out of the Istana.

Through his life, Mr Lee Kuan Yew kept the State “secular’’ and drew a line between politics and religion. Of course, this made the religious unhappy sometimes. Like passing the Abortion Act, having lax bio-ethics rules (as compared to other countries) and which Catholic can ever forget the incarceration of some laypeople in the Marxist conspiracy of 1987? We probably didn’t forget, but it seems that we forgave, going by the turnout for the mass with people packed to the rafters and in the compound. But, maybe, we forgot that he greatly admired the Catholic institutions, with their welfare organisations and mission schools. After all, he sent his son to Catholic High.

The organisers only printed 1,000 leaflets for the order of the mass, a gross under-estimation. It was just like how the state’s funeral organisers under-estimated the unending lines of people who wanted to pay their last respects to the man in Parliament House. I didn’t see any children, mainly adults and plenty of retirees. All were garbed in subdued colours. It was, after all, Lent and Catholics have of plenty of practice on sticking to the appropriate dress code. The church was, as usual for Lent, somberly adorned with purple cloth at this time.

What was different: people put up their cellphones to record some bits of the proceedings, which wouldn’t have happened during any normal mass except weddings.

I had wondered what the Archbishop would say in his sermon. He was nowhere near as emotional as the MPs who paid tribute in Parliament yesterday and enough got a laugh when he told of how Catholics had called him and told him to go to SGH quickly to anoint Mr Lee when they heard he was worsening, that is, to give Mr Lee his last rites. I think Mr Lee would have chuckled too. Archbishop William Goh did his best to point out that whatever policies Mr Lee had promulgated that riled the religious, he did so with an eye on the greater good of Singapore. In other words, it was never a personal nor a religious attack.

The Archdiocese formulated the following Prayers for the Faithful, adapted from the Rite of Christian funerals for the unbaptized. I reproduce them here for fellow Catholics.

  1. Lord listen to this family of faith, we commend to you Mr Lee Kuan Yew, that he may be held securely in God’s loving embrace now and for all eternity. Let us pray to the Lord. “Lord Hear our Prayer.”
  2. For Mr Lee’s family, especially the Prime Minister and his family, that they feel the consoling presence of Christ in the midst of their pain and grief. Let us pray to the Lord. “Lord Hear our Prayer.”

It was not a teary affair, at least not until the end. That was when choir master Mr Low led the congregation in the final song, Rest in Peace, Lionheart.

(sung to the hymn, You are mine)

Great guiding light with vision grand

You gave your all for this our land

With verve and might, you shaped and forged

You led the way, you made your stand

Your journey’s o’er, Great Lionheart

You gave your all, you did your part

Carved in your heart forever more

May we remain “My Singapore’’

You gave your best, you did your part

In peace now rest, Great Lionheart

Being Lee Kuan Yew

In Society on March 27, 2015 at 1:36 am

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew. Beyond obvious gender differences, I don’t have his searing intellect and that ability to cajole, persuade and bully. I don’t even own knuckle-dusters.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew, because I can’t see myself obsessing over the big picture every day, like how to make Singapore a better place to live in. I think I will go mad if I can’t make small talk.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who took studying a language so seriously he hired a tutor even in his old age. I am younger and I prefer to study a language in a less stressful way by watching television serials.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who can talk about the internationalization of the Singapore dollar and cleaning up the Singapore River. I don’t understand the former, and I take the latter for granted.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who made pragmatic decisions based on changing circumstances, like having casinos in Singapore as an economic piston. Although, like him, I am a non-gambler.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who was always so convinced of the rightness of his decision that he swept obstacles out of the way. I am too tentative and I worry about not being “nice’’.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who was so devoted to his wife that he would talk to her every night, although she couldn’t speak – no matter where he was. I am also not disciplined enough.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew who was so frugal in his habits and lifestyle that he bathed by ladling out water from a jar. I like my hot showers.

I cannot be like Lee Kuan Yew, although sometimes I wish I can.

Mourn now – fight later

In Society on March 25, 2015 at 7:55 am

Such a strange thing is happening in the ether. The normally silent majority seemed to be speaking up. They are thumping those who had hogged the online space with their cutting, unkind comments about anything to do with the Government. Or the People’s Action Party. Or Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

I was surprised at first at the outpouring of online emotion, so protective of Mr Lee and his legacy. I can’t help but think that those who have been sitting at the sidelines of the Internet space have decided to put their gloves on. Woe is you who dare to say anything rude about Singapore’s first prime minister! Whack! Bam! Slam!

As for those who think that the Internet is about letting anyone speak their mind, however inane and insane their words, they are finding out that this is not the case. The internet herd, typically anti-establishment and even rude, is turning the other way.

Yet I wish we could stop fighting, at least for the next few days. Can we stop arguing about the merits and demerits of the man who’s just died? About whether people are right to want to wear black this Sunday or whether some MP’s idea of a tribute being a workout is daft? About whether too much expression is symptomatic of the mentality of sheep or any kind of criticism of the man is out of line?

I gather that online friendships have been broken; a lot of “unfriending’’ going on these days.  Some people are vying to be more demonstrative of their admiration than others, at least that is how it is being construed in some quarters. Others who have always taken a hard anti-LKY line have softened, prompting charges of bending with the wind. Gosh. The death of Lee Kuan Yew is inspiring a lot of emotions. May we not let them pit ourselves against each other.

Last night, friends and I encountered an admittedly drunk young woman alone in a bar, telling us about how she had split up with her boyfriend after an argument about the kind of leader Mr Lee had been. It seemed to be fundamental point of difference for her. I guess at any other time, the couple wouldn’t have had such a big blow-up. The difference is the timing: Mr Lee has just died.

Yes, he has died, which is why I don’t think we can have much meaningful or rational discussion – at least online – at the moment. Think of those times when you lost a loved one, you would sit quietly and cry, recall last moments or reminisce about good times. Friends at the wake will be respectful, even if they did not know the deceased.  Mr Lee has a large family, and I don’t mean his immediate one. That’s why people jump at any sign of impropriety. Even family members will quarrel about funeral arrangements, like whether wearing black is the right protocol. I, for one, had wondered if it was “good form’’ to clap while his funeral cortege passed along the road earlier today and decided to close the FB discussion because I was worried that it would get out of hand.

Therefore, we are now commenting on the eulogies. Should eulogies be positive or are they actually propagandistic? Should they have some critical comments or would this be considered nasty? Or should they be balanced? And “balanced’’ according to who? It is inevitable that when a public figure has passed on, people feel the need to pass judgment.  On him. And on others who have passed judgment on him Methinks Mr Heng Swee Keat wrote the best eulogy and that is because he did “reporting’’ – he told us what we didn’t know about Mr Lee’s working style. His use of the “red box’’ (plus picture) to hold all the parts together is brilliant.

Frankly, I am beginning to have my fill of foreigners weighing in on the man’s legacy, after not being able to get enough of it earlier on. The key players have weighed in, and now the fringe actors are doing so. I can’t even recognize the Mr Lee whom some of them have described. He was either saint or Satan. Then there are those who put a sting in the tail, to conform to their own ideals of what a leader should be like. I think Mr Lee would have waved away all these speeches and eulogies. He had said before that it was for Phd students to mull over. In other words, history will decide.

I agree. I think we should mourn now – and fight later.