Lee Kuan Yew: On Ministers’ Salaries

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[LKY ON MINISTERS’ SALARIES (1980’s)]

1) “In Singapore, [wealth and power] are two different things. And we should keep them as two different entities.”
— LKY, National Day Rally 1984

2) “Recently, we persuaded a graduate, who is a journalist, to be a candidate for the next elections. He went through a stretch of soul-searching. He decided to take up the responsibility.

He explained it this way: In Malaysia, Dr Mahathir [warned] of dangers of using vast sums of money to buy voters. To be elected is the way to power and to wealth. This journalist found [that] in Singapore no one was fighting to be elected either into the Central Executive Committee of the PAP or into Parliament. There was no money to be made. . .no dishonest or opportunistic or selfish and greedy types [should] ever get into positions of powers.”
— Lee Kuan Yew (16 August 1984 / PDF Download)

[LKY ON MINISTERS’ SALARIES (1990’s)]

3) “It is possible that politically and socially uncommitted people from the higher management and professional brackets will be attracted to the idea of public office for this higher pay. . .[but] if this salary formula can draw out higher quality men into politics, whatever their motivations, I say, let us have them.”
— Lee Kuan Yew (1 November 1994)

4) “Ministers who deal with billions of dollars cannot be paid low salaries without risking a system malfunction. Low salaries will not attract able men who are or can be successful in their professions or business. Low salaries will draw in the hypocrites who sweet talk their way into power in the name of public services, but once in charge will show their true colour, and ruin the country.”
— Lee Kuan Yew (19 July 1996)

5) “Equality is an aspiration: it is not reality, it is not practical.”
— Lee Kuan Yew (19 August 2009)

[PERSPECTIVES ON SG MINISTERS’ SALARIES]

6) Mr Jeyaretnam: “The Prime Minister more than once said, “Let’s be honest with ourselves.” Well, let us be honest. What is the Prime Minister saying? Is he saying that his present Cabinet Ministers or the new recruits into his Party would not have come in unless they were promised huge sums of money by way of high salaries? . . . If they are only interested in the money, there is no integrity.”
1985 Budget Debate (via Roy Ngerng)

7) “How much money does it take to keep a Singapore government minister happy? The government says a million dollars is not enough.
— NYT (2007)

8) “The broader issue is that politics is a public service. Other corruption-free countries such as Denmark and New Zealand do not need to pay their ministers astronomical salaries to keep them clean.”
— Tan Jee Say, former senior civil servant and fund manager (2011)

9) “Given that ministers get to decide on their salaries, aren’t we in essence giving them a blank check in the name of preventing corruption?”
— Aaron Chew (2011)

* ‘Blank Check’ Definition: An unlimited freedom of action.

10) “DPM [Teo Chee Hean] talked of the ethos of political service. How this can be reconciled with paying themselves obscenely high salaries in order to serve the people? Is this service to the people or self-serving?
— Singapore Recalcitrant (11 March 2015)

Saw Phaik Hwa, Former SMRT CEO

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* Thanks to SGClub Forum for the images.

A few choice excerpts on Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa, former CEO of SMRT.

1) “The rot really started with the appointment of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa as CEO. Her only experience was in the retail business and she knew next to nothing in the running of SMRT and its maintenance. She was however successful in making hugh profits for the shareholders, especially Temasek Holdings, mainly through rentals of SMRT properties and for a time she was able to ride high in the organisation.

It’s amazing that the Government had not learned from the bitter lesson of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa. The point is as long as the SMRT is privatised and profit-oriented, the poor and unfortunate commuters will suffer from frequent rail breakdowns, not excluding massive disruptions.”
(Source: Singapore Recalcitrant)

2) [Saw joined SMRT] in December 2002. Her appointment raised eyebrows then as her background was mainly in retail and marketing, and she had no experience whatsoever in running a public transport business.

In early 2002, she was retrenched when the global airport retailer [DFS] consolidated its businesses. She then started her own consultancy business in international retail before applying for the SMRT job. “I didn’t have to learn to be a CEO, all I needed was to learn a new trade,” she says matter of factly.
(Source: AsiaOne, 2011)

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3) When asked to describe her management style, Saw quips: “My dream management style is not having to do anything.”
(Source: AsiaOne, 2011)

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Financial Information | Image from SMRT

4) “Since SMRT is a Temasek Holdings owned company, would Ho Ching herself have a say as to whom she appoints to head SMRT as CEO? Can anyone verify whether Ho Ching is good friends with Saw Phaik Hwa on a personal basis?”
(Source: travelbug)

5) Saw, who lives in a landed property off Lornie Road and owns two luxury cars, a Ferrari California and Mercedes-Benz 500, earned $1.85 million in 2010. She also said she had earned her right to spend. . .on her million-dollar pay package, she said, “the package is benchmarked to the job that I do. . .and the pay is not top-end. It’s not top-end.”
(Source: Yahoo, 2012)

6) YouTube video of Ms. Saw with 8 Hunks. Video creator says: “Shouldn’t the profits from SMRT go towards helping the old and needy in Singapore, rather than spending it on a meaningless annual dinner?”

Teo Chee Hean – Related to Lee Hsien Loong?

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* Thanks to Veritas for making the original identification.

I have included a family tree chart and verification below.

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Short Version: Teo Chee Hean is related to Lee Hsien Loong.

Long Version:

1) Kwa Geok Choo is the mother of Lee Hsien Loong.

2) Kwa Soon Chuan is the brother of Kwa Geok Choo.

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Image from NLB.

3) Kwa Soon Chuan is the husband of Ivy Lim Seok Cheng.

4) Ivy Lim Seok Cheng is the daughter of Lim Chong Pang, a prominent businessman.

5) Lim Chong Pang is the son of Lim Nee Soon, one of the pioneers of rubber planting.

6) Lim Nee Soon is the son of Lim Peng Guan, who married Teo Lee’s eldest daughter (Teo Choon Lian). He died in 1887 and left his son Nee Soon in the care of his maternal grandfather, Teo Lee (1833).

7) Teo Lee was the husband of Tan Poh Neo, the granddaughter of the Kapitan Cina from Muntok. Teo Lee is the great-great-grandfather of Teo Chee Hean.

  • Teo Bah Tan = 5th son of Teo Lee.
  • Teo Eng Hock = Uncle of Teo Beng Wan (great-granduncle of Teo Chee Hean).
  • Teo Eng Hock = Brother of Teo Choon Lian and Teo Bah Tan (Father of Teo Beng Wan). 
  • Teo Beng Wan = Father of Teo Cheng Guan
  • Teo Cheng Guan = Father of Teo Chee Hean

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Some closing words by Veritas:

It has been wildly speculated [that] family members of top civil servants and elected officers from PAP either own big businesses or hold important appointments. Although information regarding families of our politicians are held almost like a top secret, some interesting dots between them can still be connected thanks to the Internet.

All in the FamiLee

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Associated words used by netizens: FamiLEE, LEE-gime and Marry-tocracy.

I was very curious about a Lee Family Tree graphic that was created by Alternative View SG.

I have gathered some excerpts from reliable sources which verify most of the family ties in this Lee Family Tree image.

If readers know of any inaccuracies, please contact me to verify the data. Thank you :)

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* SECTION 1: RUMOURS AND SPECULATIONS

1) RUTH LEE = LKY’s Niece

Wong Kan Seng is married to Ruth Lee Hong Geok, who is rumoured to be the daughter of Lee Suan Yew (Lee Kuan Yew’s brother). If this is true, it makes Ruth Lee LKY’s niece.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ruth Lee and Wong Kan Seng:

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Wong Kan Seng with his wife, Ruth Lee Hong Geok. Image from Veritas.

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Ruth Lee and Wong Kan Seng. Image from RememberingLKY.

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Lee Kuan Yew extended family picture, taken on Chinese New Year’s Eve (1993). From LKY’s memoir, “The Man and His Ideas” (pg-246).

In the above picture taken in 1993, it looks like the woman to the right of Ho Ching is Shermay Lee (LKY’s niece). Her parents are Pamelia Lee and Lee Suan Yew, who have four children.

In a Straits Times interview, Shermay Lee said she has an older sister and younger twin brothers. (Note: I am guessing these younger twin brothers are in the 1993 black and white picture above, in front on the right.)

Pamelia Lee is standing and in the centre of the 1993 photo. Looking at this pictures makes me wonder if the woman to the left of Pamelia Lee is “Ruth Lee,” the older sister that Shermay referred to.

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* SECTION 2: VERIFIED BY RELIABLE SOURCES

This section contains excerpts and screenshots which verify the other family ties in the Lee Family Tree graphic.

1) HO SING = HO CHING’S Younger Brother

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Ho Ching (left; image from SI). Ho Sing (right; image from YTL).

A 2010 Today Online article mentioned that Ho Sing, then 44, is the brother of Temasek CEO Ho Ching.

Ho Sing has worked with several Singapore Technologies-affiliated companies. At YTL, Mr. Ho oversees a growing list of assets in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China and Japan.

Ho Ching was the CEO of Singapore Technologies Group from 1997-2001. A 2007 NYT article mentioned that a Temasek spokesman was unwilling to reveal Ho Ching’s age or date of birth, although a Temasek bond document in 2005 said she was 52.

As the following netizen says: “I don’t understand why all the secrecy.”

2) HO PENG = HO CHING’S Younger Sister

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Ho Peng. Image from ST.

A 2005 Fortune Magazine interview mentioned that Ho Peng, who was then working as the Curriculum Planning and Development director at the Ministry of Education (Singapore), is Ho Ching’s sister.

Ms. Ho Peng was appointed Director-General of Education in April 2009. She retired from the MOE in March 2015.

3) GRACE FU = DAUGHTER OF JAMES FU

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James Fu was Mr. LKY’s press secretary from 1972 to 1993.

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Grace Fu. Image from Wiki.

Grace Fu, senior minister of state, is the daughter of James Fu.

In 2012, she wrote about the difficulties of “the recent pay cut” in ministers’ salaries. With a 37% pay cut, entry-level ministers would get an annual salary starting from S$1,100,000.

4) KWA CHONG SENG = NEPHEW OF LKY’S WIFE

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Kwa Chong Seng. Image from PSC.

Kwa Chong Seng, PSC member, was the Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited from 1997 to 2012.

“It was in the immediate wake of the HPL affair of 1996 that LKY initiated a series of changes to the relationship between the DCAC and the GLCs — changes that were part of a broader overhaul of the financial sector that finally came to fruition in 1999. Lee Hsien Loong as Deputy Prime Minister was given special responsibility for this project and set about changing the structure — and the personnel — in the GLC sector.

This activity marked a major shift of institutional power away from Goh and Richard Hu and to members of the Lee family and a few Lee loyalists. First the power to appoint board members and non-executive directors of GLCs was transferred from the DCAC to Temasek holdings.

This is significant because it occured around the same time (1996) that LKY loyalist S. Dhanabalan was appointed Chairman of Temasek Holdings and LKY’s wife’s nephew, Kwa Chong Seng, was appointed Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (1997).

It may be significant that at about the same time (1997) Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, was appointed Executive Director and CEO of the Singapore Technologies Group, which is the Temasek-owned holding company for defence-related GLCs.”

(Source: The Ruling Elite of Singapore, by Michael Barr)

5) KWA SOON BEE (LKY’s Brother-In-Law)

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Kwa Soon Bee. Image from KeppelLand.

“Many senior business figures in Asia are related to other prominent figures by blood or by marriage. The connections in Asia are often not obvious to outsiders but they can be a minefield for the unwary.

The mix of marriages and blood relations in Asia can make for some complex webs. Here are a few examples that involve some of Asia’s biggest business names:

Lee Kim Yew, Chairman of the Singapore food company Cerebos Pacific, is a brother of Singapore’s Senior Minister and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kim Yew’s wife is Gloria Lee, the founder of one of Singapore’s most prominent stock brokerages Kim Eng Securities.

A third brother is Lee Suan Yew, a past director of Singapore’s Hotel Properties Ltd. His wife, Pamelia Lee, has been a senior director at the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. Kwa Soon Bee, the brother of Lee Kuan Yew’s wife Kwa Geok Choo, is a former permanent secretary of health and a member of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board.

Lee Kuan Yew’s sons Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang are deputy prime minister of Singapore and head of Singapore Telecom respectively. Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, is head of Temasek Holdings.”

(Source: Big in Asia, by Palgrave Macmillan / 2003)

6) TAN CHIN TUAN (OCBC Pioneer + Tony Tan’s Uncle + LKY’s Uncle-in-Law)

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Group Photograph of Founding Members of OCBC, 1932, showing Tan Chin Tuan (front row; fourth from left) and Kwa Siew Tee (back row; third from left). Source: Veritas / NAS.

  • Kwa Siew Tee is Lee Kuan Yew’s father-in-law.
  • Lee Kuan Yew’s mother-in-law, Wee Yew Neo and Banker Tan Chin Tuan’s wife, Helen Wee (a banker’s daughter), are half-sisters.
  • Which makes Tan Chin Tuan LKY’s uncle-in-law.
  • Tony Tan is Tan Chin Tuan’s nephew. Tony Tan was sworn in as President on 1 September 2011.

This is a picture of Kwa Siew Tee and Wee Yew Neo:

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President Yusof Ishak with Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew’s Parents, Kwa Siew Tee (left) and Wee Yew Neo (right), 1968. | Image from National Archives of Singapore.

This screenshot from Geni (a genealogy directory) states that Helen Wee and Wee Yew Neo are half-sisters.

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Wee Yew Neo. Image from Geni.

These screenshots show that Helen Wee was married to Tan Chin Tuan.

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Family of Tan Chin Tuan. Image from NLB.

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Tan Chin Tuan. Image from Geni.

According to the blog Veritas:

Without the Kwa family network of powerful families, it is questionable whether LKY could have emerged as the leader of the PAP in the 1950s, given that there were many other extremely capable and charismatic leaders in the party. The nexus of Kwa family probably also helped LKY to win the trust of the British, which handed over to him the control of security apparatus. That is the key with which LKY was able to arrest his political opponents.

7) TEO CHENG GUAN (father of DPM Teo Chee Hean):

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Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister of SG.

Teo Cheng Guan was the sixth chairman of OCBC Bank, and the father of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

He was on the same management board as Tan Chin Tuan, Tony Tan’s uncle.

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* SECTION 3: SAY THE WORD AND GET SUED

Definition of “Nepotism”: The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. (Oxford)

A summary of how “nepotism” is a sensitive word in Singapore — including publications that were sued for alleging that high-ranking Singapore officials got their jobs through nepotism.

1) “Days after political website Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) revealed Mr Richard Wan as of one of its editors, lawyers acting for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued him a five-page letter in 2012, demanding that the website remove an opinion piece that contained comments which alleged “nepotistic motives” in the appointment of Lee’s wife as head of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings. After retracting the article, Wan published an apology on the website, and urged TRE readers to refrain from making similar comments.”
(Source: SG Rebel and Asia Sentinel)

2) “The problems created by Lee Kuan Yew’s urge to control most aspects of Singaporeans’ lives are more subtle than nepotism. Lack of political and economic freedom [is] the cancer at the heart of Singapore.”
(Source: WSJ)

3) “In its apology, Bloomberg said its article had implied that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had put the Lee family’s interests above the country’s in allowing Ms. Ho’s appointment, and that her husband and father-in-law were guilty of nepotism. Lawyers for the three men accused Bloomberg and Mr. Smith of acting maliciously. The article has been removed from Bloomberg’s Web site and subscription service.”
(Source: NYT)

4) “The Financial Times has apologised and paid libel damages and costs to Singapore’s prime minister and the country’s founding father after accusing them of nepotism.”
(Source: Guardian)

5) “The International Herald Tribune apologised, settled the $678,000 in libel damages, and, as part of the settlement, [columnist] Bowring agreed that he would not say or imply that Lee Hsien Long took office through nepotism.”
(Source: Foreign Policy)

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* SECTION 4: IS NEPOTISM CORRUPTION?

According to Wikipedia:

Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.

Some other excerpts:

1) “Corruption comes in different forms and nepotism is one of its most subtle and overpowering forms. . .it marks the destruction of a meritocracy which should be the basis of admissions or employment. The problem with nepotism is even though only a few people in power have the ability to use nepotism for their own gain, its effects are widespread and affect many people.”
(Source: DNA)

2) “Favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism all interfere with fairness because they give undue advantage to someone who does not necessarily merit this treatment.

In the public sphere, favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism also undermine the common good. When someone is granted a position because of connections rather than because he or she has the best credentials and experience, the service that person renders to the public may be inferior.

Also, because favoritism is often covert (few elected officials are foolish enough to show open partiality to friends, and family), this practice undercuts the transparency that should be part of governmental hiring and contracting processes.”
(Source: Santa Clara University)

3) “When patronage, nepotism, and cronyism become popular mechanisms for government to select appointees for important positions, the corruption of collusion (i.e. conspiracy) will unavoidably take place.”
(Source: Government Anti-Corruption Strategies)

4) “There needs to be a change. Singapore is not the Lee Family and we need to get rid of the climate of fear.”
(Source: KJ in IB Times)

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* SECTION 5: CLOSING COMMENTS

Chris Ho on Nepotism:

“Is nepotism not considered corruption? Just consider: LKY’s son is PM, his other son was head of Singtel and is CEO of Civil Aviation Authority, his daughter-in-law is in charge of the sovereign wealth fund, his relative is President. I could go on but it is absolutely clear that the entire family benefited enormously from his ruthless control of the government. The gov lost 40% of the vote in the last election & yet still retains 82 out of 89 seats in parliament? Why? The electoral system has been gerrymandered & twisted to the ruling party’s benefit entirely corruptly. No corruption? Absolute rubbish & nonsense.”
(Source: Chris Ho)

Former ISD Director on PM LHL and Ho Ching:

“She did not marry me and become Temasek Holdings’ Chief Executive Officer. I married her because she had the talent of a CEO.” This was the dramatic revelation of PM Lee Hsien Loong in referring to his wife, Ms Ho Ching, in an interview with Mr. Phil Ponce, host of the Chicago Tonight on WTTW Channel 11 last Thursday. Apparently, this was said to pre-empt Mr. Ponce from popping the question of nepotism in the Singapore government.
(Source: SG Recalcitrant)

Comment:

“You can see they all ‘kaki lang‘ (one of us) — damn jia lat (this is serious).”
(Source: breakaway)

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MORE INFO (re: the “wider” family tree):

1) Why It Might Be Difficult For The Government To Withdraw From Business
(Singapore-Window)

2) “The Lee Dynasty of Singapore”
(Comment)

3) The Beginning of The End of Lee Kuan Yew’s Dynasty?
(CSIS)

The Main Cause of Singapore’s Brain Drain

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A paper on the main cause of Singapore’s brain drain.

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Excerpts from “The Causes of Emigration from Singapore: How Much Is Still Political?”

by Joel S. Fetzera & Brandon Alexander Millan (2015)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Taylor and Francis

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Definitions:

1. Brain Drain: The emigration of highly trained or intelligent people from a particular country.

Extracts from Article:

1) Efforts to maintain a robust Singaporean economy have had to confront the serious challenge of brain drain from the city-state.

2) To address the negative effects of this problem, Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has adopted a policy of increasing reliance on a foreign labor force. The PAP appears to ignore the continued loss of human and intellectual capital.

3) Data from [surveys] indicate that anti-PAP and pro-democratic ideas strongly influence the decision of native Singaporeans to leave the island state. These findings suggest that democratization and an expansion of business and technical education would be more effective in preserving economic growth than a policy of importing labor.

4) Observers question whether PAP authoritarianism itself is driving young, highly educated Singaporeans to leave their country of birth.

5) Yap Mui Teng argues that a sense of “helplessness and fear in the face of an overpowering political structure that the average person cannot hope to participate in [or] even understand” drives emigration. Such “voting with one’s feet” clearly harms Singapore’s economy.

6) In 2002, Singapore reportedly experienced the most elevated out-migration rate in the world.

7) Every year, upwards of one thousand educated Singaporeans renounce their native citizenship in favor of that of their new homelands. . .even emeritus senior minister Goh Chok Tong admitted that “at his high school reunion, it seemed all his best friends had emigrated to the United States or Australia.”

8) While the PAP went on to receive 60.1 percent of the popular vote in 2011, this majority was anything but a victory for the ruling party given its history of manipulating electoral rules to its own advantage.

9) More importantly, the opposition won its first Group Representation Constituency (GRC; a multi-seat bloc district). According to the Asia blogger for The Economist, PAP ministers suffered this electoral blow due to voters’ perceptions that the incumbent government had “lost touch” with the concerns of Singaporeans and allowed a “rapid influx of immigrants.”

10) 64.6% of Singaporean emigrant interviewees in Australia in 1989 reported that the political system was the worst aspect of living in Singapore:

“With regard to the government, the respondents were critical of the ‘limited freedom,’ ‘high-handed control of daily life,’ ‘government intolerance of opposition,’ and ‘short-sighted and forever-changing government policies’.”

11) In [the data we analyzed], a respondent who strongly opposed the ruling party and fervently endorsed democracy would be 91.7% more likely to emigrate than would an interviewee who loyally backed Lee Kuan Yew’s party and completely rejected democracy.

12) Of the forty-five Singaporean respondents in [the two immigration data sets], thirty-five said they had had little or no “ability to influence government decisions” in their country of birth. [Another] questionnaire from the forty-five respondents contained seventeen politically related “things they disliked most” about their former homeland (e.g., “the laws of the country”).

13) The political environment in Singapore seems to be the most important factor in determining emigration from Singapore.

14) In order to maximize the number of young, highly skilled Singaporean natives who remain in the country after university, Singapore’s political and educational leaders need to make significant changes.

15) The most important change the PAP should make is to open up the political system. As Sullivan and Gunasekaran suggested as early as 1994, increased public debate before decisions are made would help people feel less dissatisfied with the political conditions in Singapore and therefore less likely to leave.

16) One of the policies Yap suggested was “a more open government” to “erase the credibility gap between the government and the people.”

17) The establishment of true democracy would likely foster support for the government and the political system, as free and competitive elections often create strong national identity.

Source: “The Causes of Emigration from Singapore: How Much Is Still Political?” by Joel S. Fetzera & Brandon Alexander Millan (2015)

PDF Link: Taylor and Francis

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Bio:

Joel S. Fetzer is a Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. Immigration Politics is one of his academic interest areas.

Brandon Alexander Millan is an independent scholar from the Political Science Department of Santa Monica College.

Overcoming Fear

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Being a respected leader doesn’t mean ruling with an iron first.

Showing compassion as a leader can be highly effective. . .according to Bill George, a Harvard professor, the leader must think about the “we” instead of the “I.”  In other words, the leader doesn’t think about him/herself, but about [others].
( — JEMS Journal)

I lived in Singapore until the age of 19. I remember what it was like to constantly live with the feeling that your every move, thought, and action was being watched. Whisper something that’s anti-PAP or anti-LKY — *BOOM*, you’re in trouble.

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The first quote that came to my mind when I viewed this image: “Big Brother is Watching.” (George Orwell)
| Image from ST Blog

The sense of dysfunctional paranoia these feelings can create certainly isn’t an ideal thing for anyone to live with.

Ruling by fear is wrong for several reasons, one being that no one should be made to do something or act in a way he or she doesn’t feel comfortable with.

Why should a human being’s mind/heart/spirit be subject to being controlled by an authority figure? Wouldn’t a true “saviour of the people” sincerely care for the well-being of the populace they have pledged to serve?

This isn’t applicable to the realm of politics alone. It is something that goes much deeper which has universal resonance in terms of being free to:

  • be your own self,
  • have your own thoughts, and
  • speak your mind or speak truth to power when it is necessary to do so.

Fear is a crippling weapon of control and manipulation. To overcome that fear is to release oneself from the shame of being ruled by fear.

Many people in history have literally died for their beliefs. Integrity and a moral conscience are things that some of us are unwilling or unable to trade for elitist commodities.

I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict the outcome of the next general election in Singapore. I don’t have expectations of the result, because whatever will be, will be.

But seeing this fear of expression up-close from numerous Singaporeans is proof that people DO have strong opinions, that they do have minds and a spirit that yearns to be free from the shackles of an authoritarian power (whether it’s referred to as an aristocracy, a pseudo-democracy, or fascist).

As 16-year-old blogger and prisoner of conscience Amos Yee said in a recent update:

If we allow the government, the police and the law, to continue to censor us, to use archaic laws to dictate our ideas and our views, to use fear to threaten us into not expressing our views, then though I am a prisoner, when freedom cannot be granted to me, you are a prisoner although freedom is granted to you. And that’s more saddening than any number of months or years in jail that I have to endure.

Buried beneath this fear is a collective need to aspire for something better — if not for yourself, then for the future generations that will come after you.

An article by Catherine Lim points out how a “compliant, fearful population that has never learnt to be politically savvy could spell the doom of Singapore.”

Singapore has been under decades of authoritarian rule. Do you want to see it through several more?

As Julie Hanus writes on the forward-thinking Utne Reader:

We can give up allowing fears to define us, and focus instead on which ones are worth tackling together. When we do that, we don’t just free politicians from fear-inducing rhetoric; we also give ourselves some much-needed relief.

I think of the dark events in Singapore’s political history (Operation Coldstore and Spectrum, in particular), and all the wasted years, hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled because of fear. That alone inspires my interest in socio-political issues.

There comes a point where staying silent would be the real crime.

Instead of feeling shameful about not having done enough: just do something different today. Time is short and precious.

May you find your bolt of inspiration too, that will set you free from fear itself.

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More Info:

1. Fear is Dead (Teo Soh Lung)

2. #FreeAmosYee: Hong Lim Park Protest (TOC)

3. Self-Censorship & The Climate of Fear (Catherine Lim)

4. PAP’s “Internet Brigade” (TOC)

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“Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen.”
~ PictureQuotes.com

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Catherine Lim, Excerpts

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Dr. Catherine Lim wrote “A Great Affective Divide” 21 years ago, a sharp and eloquent critique of the PAP ruling party.

If only leaders had heeded her advice.

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Excerpts from Selection of Articles by Catherine Lim

Excerpts #1:

1) It is no secret that while the PAP Government has inspired in the people much respect for its efficiency and much gratitude for the good life as a result of this efficiency, there is very little in the way of affectionate regard.

2) While the PAP ideology remains the same, the people have not. Higher education, a more affluent lifestyle and exposure to the values of the western societies, have created a new generation that is not satisfied with the quantitative paradigm but looks beyond it to a larger qualitative one that most certainly includes matters of the heart, soul and spirit.

3) The absence of this affective dimension in the PAP framework is what has alienated the people from their leaders. It is easily seen that the main criticisms levelled against the PAP point to a style deficient in human sensitivity and feeling – “dictatorial,” “arrogant,” “impatient,” “unforgiving,” “vindictive.”

4) In other countries, political parties come and go, but the country remains the rallying point for the people’s feelings. [In] Singapore, the Government has become synonymous with the country. Indeed, Singapore is often seen as the creation of the PAP, made to its image and likeness. Hence, dislike of the PAP, even though it does not translate into dislike of Singapore, effectively blocks out any spontaneous outpouring of patriotic emotion. The best evidence is in the attitude towards the national flag. Singaporeans continue to be reluctant to put it up in their homes on National Day for fear of being thought PAP supporters and sycophants.

5) If loyalty towards the country is blocked, it has to be directed elsewhere. In Singapore, it is directed at the good life which the country has come to represent. It has been wryly described as the new religion of “moneytheism.”

Source: A Great Affective Divide,” by Catherine Lim (1994)

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Excerpts #2:

1) The fear in Singapore is a special, almost unique kind, for it is self-imposed. Its most obvious form is self-censorship.

Source: A Climate Of Fear In Our Society?,” by Catherine Lim (2010)

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Excerpts #3:

1) The PAP is incapable of reinventing itself.

2) Reinvention would require the opening up of one crucial area that the government is determined to have tight control over. This is the area of political liberties — open debate, criticism, independence of the media, public assembly, street demonstrations for the cause, all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies.

3) Pointing out the case of the 16 political detainees who called upon the government in September last year to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations said against them, Lim noted that the petition was promptly dismissed and no further action was taken.

“I thought that the government had missed a fantastic opportunity to show Singaporeans that it had the honesty and courage to face up its past excesses or to take responsibility for them,” said Lim.

Source:Yahoo News: “PAP incapable of reinventing itself: Catherine Lim” (2012)

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Excerpt #4:

You transformed little, obscure, resource-poor Singapore into one of the most successful economies in the world. If today Singapore is described in breathless superlatives—‘best’, ‘richest’, ‘cleanest’, ‘brightest’—it is all because of you.

If only you had done so without so much human cost. If only the high ranking of Singapore in international surveys on economic development were matched by a similar ranking in surveys on human rights.

Source: If Only—To The Memory Of Lee Kuan Yew (1923–2015)

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Excerpts #5:

1) The exuberance, boldness and defiance of the young voters, operating in the new media world of instant, dazzling communication, could be infectious enough to have an unstoppable snowball effect, engulfing other groups of voters, including even those normally sympathetic towards the PAP.

2) [Political] reform there must be. For only then can Singapore come into its own, only then can it claim to be a successful society in every sense of the word, and take a proud place among other societies in the world.

Source: My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans (2012)

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Excerpts #6:

1) We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.

2) There are [clear] signs that the present situation has reached crisis proportions, that it is not just an affective divide, not just an emotional estrangement between your PAP leadership and the people. How did this crisis arise in the first place? With utmost respect, Sir, I must point out that it is ultimately your inability or unwillingness to listen to the people.

3) While you see yourself as simply going by the rules, Singaporeans see you as the PAP juggernaut ready to mow down the little people in its path.your PAP leadership and the people.

4) . . .even if it meant an apology and the need to make amends, that would have been a gesture large and empathetic enough, to win over even the most vocal critics. It would certainly have begun the process of creating, for the first time in the history of the PAP government-people relationship, a nexus of understanding and reciprocity.

5) In the absence of the people’s trust, effective government is virtually impossible, as every leader knows.

Source: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister (2014)

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Snapshot with Catherine Lim (2015)

CATHERINE LIM’s works deal largely with the East-West divide, Asian culture, women’s issues, as well as Singapore’s culture, history and politics. She has won national and regional book prizes, and was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information. (bio from SWF)

Catherine Online: Website | Wikipedia | Interview | Kenneth Paul Tan on Catherine Lim

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More Info:

1) Catherine Lim: Political Commentaries

2) Catherine Lim: Newspaper Features

3) On Respect and Elitism (FB Comment, by Neo Swee Lin)

4) On PM LHL’s lack of sincerity and humility (100+ likes in 2 hours / FB Comment, by Edrei Valath)

5) Funny Comment by an ardent admirer of Catherine Lim

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