Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dear MM

My latest 'claim to fame' is 'taking on' the former Prime Minister of Singapore (now known as 'Minister Mentor') on the issue of graciousness.
A funny thing happened, really.
I sent a response to the MM's comment to The Straits Times Forum page.
I was contacted by someone from my paper, a new bi-lingual newspaper within the same Straits Times stable.
I was told that The Straits Times will not be running my letter, would I like to see it published in the new free newspaper with a 'circulation' of 300,000?
The letter was published, edited of course, and which you could read here (reproduced below) not in my paper, but in asionone, another publication in the of Straits Times stable, yes. My letter was reproduced in another paper without my permission. (I'm editing this on 24th January 2008: The edited letter was in fact first published in my paper but I cannot insert a link here, and chanced upon my letter in asiaone. Hope this makes it clearer.)
What is even more interesting is The Straits Times has a 'Discussion Board'. Readers write in with their comments. The thread on 'graciousness' sort of suddenly disappeared without reason.
When I emailed to ask why, I was told it had been removed. I said, yes, I noticed, that was why I emailed in the first place, but why.
Another email back, please contact the Moderator (no name).
All I can say is some of the readers' comments were personal attacks on the MM, but they are not any worse than those on other writers to the Forum.
This censorship (or self-censorship) is worrying.
This is not very gracious, is it?
Back to Organic-Ally.
Towards a gracious Singapore
One reader points out that graciousness is little more than the golden rule of "Treat others as you wish to be treated". Tue, Jan 15, 2008My Paper
TO SAY the least, I am very disappointed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's comments on the state of graciousness among Singaporeans.
MM Lee is a man of great foresight; he is highly perceptive and a man of influence.
If only he would say "Yes, we must work towards a gracious society", I am sure we will find the wherewithal to do that.
Many years ago, I wrote in a company newsletter that one day the best graduates would flock to companies that embrace environmentally friendly practices, and that clients would demand green solutions and the world would 'turn green'.
My point here is on sustainability.
MM Lee is right.
When the issue of the environment and its sustainability are at stake, which could result in our economic well-being coming under threat, we must all do something about it.
Likewise, I believe the issue of graciousness - or lack of - among Singaporeans is also one of sustainability; but it is sustainability of the ideological kind, which ultimately has an impact on economics.
Can the Singapore economy continue to grow when we become bankrupt of the ability to be gracious to our neighbours, workers, customers, tourists, the elderly or our own family?
Can the democratic (or any other) process flourish when we are unable to entertain alternative views?
When we become bankrupt of graciousness we also become bankrupt of principles and ethics. The most likely candidates to fill this moral and intellectual vacuum are violence and anarchy.
What then of the economy (bar the 'black' economy)?
Graciousness is little more than the golden rule of "Treat others as you wish to be treated". It applies to a wider scope of our lives, whether you are driving, using the public transport, interacting with your parents and children, or in shared spaces in general.
When we read of wars and civil unrest, how much of this is due to one group of people not treating others as they themselves would like to be treated - when they have the chance to do so?
Is there an urgent need and should there be political will, for us to strive towards a gracious Singapore?
I shall be gracious and let others give their views.
Dr Lee Siew Peng
Middlesex, UK


George said...

Dr Lee,

I believe 'thinking' Singaporeans are simply too tired and even angry at the propensity of MM Lee spouting his 'wisdom' on one too many issues, even those that he clearly shouldn't because of his own blemished record.

By doing it, it is like the pot calling the kettle black. The MM lives in a world of his own.

sg_peasant said...


Thank you for your write-up on what happened to your letter. Well, what you have experienced is a taste of Singapore's nation building press. It had happened before. Some letters never get to publish at all.

Mr Lee has done what he needs for Singapaore in the past, but we need to move on already and prepare ourselves for days without his "old world wisdom".

Have a nice day. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Can people please stop saying "LKY did whatever blah blah blah for Singapore"?!?!
He did it for HIMSELF!!! He's a politician, for goodness sake. It's his huge ego and selfishness that drove him to do things that happened to turn out good (arguably) for Singapore.