Foolhardy to Keep Wishing for a Lee Kuan Yew

PM Lee Hsien Loong said last week that the Opposition (unfortunately for them) does not have a Lee Kuan Yew. He and his Ministers have also from time to time bemoaned that the PAP and Singapore no longer has a Lee Kuan Yew.

Some Singaporeans share the sentiment, wishing for a Lee Kuan Yew to solve the country’s problems.

Apart from indulging in wishful thinking, just exactly why do people wish for a Lee Kuan Yew? He was from a different time and era. What makes people presume that LKY would be able to work his magic today?

Let’s imagine LKY telling us today why his style of leadership works for Singaporeans: “It’s like with dogs. You train it in a proper way from small. It will know that it’s got to leave, go outside to pee and to defecate.”

Or his advice to Singaporeans: “So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright.”

How about LKY in 2018 thuggishly warning his opponents the way he did back then: “Everybody 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.”

It’s no use saying we’ll take the intellect of LKY but not the methods. They are inextricably intertwined, they make up the man. It is impossible to disentangle one from the other, the intellectual rigour and visionary foresight from the authoritarian, unforgiving, roguish, take-no-prisoners style and personality.

A Lee Kuan Yew today would be totally out of place. He would struggle to make sense of why he cannot govern Singaporeans with an iron-fisted, almighty, omnipotent hand (like training dogs, he said), and why he cannot wield a hatchet to whack the Opposition into submission.

In fact towards the end of his political career, LKY had already lost touch with the mood and expectations of the people. He famously went to Aljunied and told voters they had “five years to live and repent” if they voted in the Opposition. That only succeeded in spurring on the voters to throw their weight behind the Workers’ Party.

There are legions who salute the singular vision of LKY and his unrelenting commitment to the cause, personal and political. But it would be unseemly to salute the style and the methods, which include the merciless bludgeoning and banishment of political foes. In the twilight of his life, LKY said that “everything I did was for an honourable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.” Whether honourable or heinous, legitimate or fabricated, the jury is still out. K Shanmugan and his PAP colleagues do not have the last word, nor historian Thum Ping Tjin.

It is also untenable to imitate the LKY style today. It does not sound and look pretty whenever the PAP tries to do so. The Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods is a fine example. The “performance” of Minister Shanmugam, questioning professional competence and generating contempt and condescension, was disconcertingly reminiscent of LKY tactics. Prior to that, there was the perceived intimidation of Sylvia Lim in Parliament over her GST hike “test balloons” remarks.

If the PAP persists with playing hardball in the post-LKY era, there may be repercussions down the road. At the Select Committee hearing, Shanmugam was dead sure he had the intellectual crispness and willpower to carry the day. But in a style, tone and manner that seemed targeted at belittling Thum? And they are not yet done with the belittling, with the Select Committee now publicly clarifying Thum’s academic credentials. Why not let it go? What’s the use of winning the battle but losing the war?

So neither putting on an LKY nor wishing for another LKY is the answer. Singapore must move forward on a different footing, without the unsavoury imitation and the foolhardy, wishful thinking.

We are in the post-LKY era. To keep wishing for a Lee Kuan Yew, even if only to make a symbolic point, is to keep looking back, to be bereft of ideas and sound leadership, to wish for a return to the era where one man had the guile and gumption to wrest absolute control, almighty and omnipotent. Past is past, the future of Singapore should not lie in the hands of one man or one family.

Do we hear the Indians wishing for a Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru? Or the British wishing for a Winston Churchill? They were men who made the greatest impact because they possessed the unique personality, style and attributes that were right for the circumstances of the time.

Today a Gandhi or Nehru, a Churchill or a Lee Kuan Yew would no longer be relevant because time does not stand still.


Augustine Low


* The writer is a proud but concerned citizen. Voicing independent, unplugged opinion is his contribution to citizen engagement.



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23 Responses to “Foolhardy to Keep Wishing for a Lee Kuan Yew”

  • Tom:

    They invoke his name to strike uncertainty … Foolish and desperate. Let him rest in peace! Or burn in hell…

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  • Mamm:

    LKY is a bogeyman. They should stop using his name to frighten people.

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  • Fong:

    They want to preserve the Lee dynasty, that’s why!

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  • Amy:

    The PAP has lost touch, lost ideas, lost credibility. Still invoking LKY name in vain. Still milking him for political gain. LHL siblings are right!

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  • Goh KS:

    LKY is a relic from the past. He did what he did… Augustine is right… Stop wishing for LKY or imitating him. But it is the PAP way. It’s their way to sustain the Lee dynasty.

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  • patriot of Temesak:

    Another Coward & Traitor??? 50+ years of Evil destroying 1,000,000( a million) unborn babies through LeeGal Abortion, Destroying Patriots/Nationalists and their Families to USURP Power & $$$ from his Comrades after BackStabbing them???

    You, IDIOTS, are MAD to Trade the above for a Devil who gave you an ILLUSION of Success

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  • Jiro:

    When you’re making a mess of the present,
    you take refuge in the past. Pathetic tt they
    cant trumpet their own work, but have to
    depend on a dead man from a different time.

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  • They are idiots:

    I mean you must be an idiot to allow someone to call you an idiot.

    So idiot, idiot and idiot, idiot.

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  • LIONS:

    I would say the PAP does not have someone like Goh Keng Swee; one who really cared for the NATION.

    LKY lives in LEE AH LONG,more or less.
    If LEE AH LONG farks up,one can say lky would also foul up in current conditions?
    Well,like father,like $on?

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  • MarBowling:

    Famous words of wisdom from Lee Kayu:

    1. “So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright.”

    Response: Heaven has eyes. Lee Kayu thought that he is GOD, can suka suka play with Nature. After he had said the above words of wisdom, his DSon and his 1st wife bore Lee Kayu an ablino grandson. Understand the child’s beloved mother immediately passed away. Doctor said she had heart attack. Most Singaporean felt very very sad for her family!

    2. “Everybody 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.”

    Response, The LEEgacy of Lee Kayu Live on! Today, one of his pupil cum eunuch SNAKEMugam is in possession of his famous Hatchet, plus another of Lee Kayu’s WMD, the Knuckle-duster. This s*ake has used it in Parliament against WP Sylvia Lim. Unfortunately, he misused it and it Kenna blunted! He then tried it on Dr Thum in the recent DOF debate. Think it’s also Kenna blunted too!

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  • Deja Vu:

    Whence the likes of Dr. Toh Chin Chye and President Ong Teng Cheong?

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  • lese majeste coming soon:

    something tells me got people now busy working on a lese majeste law ala thailand’s jazz king is in the works.

    did not see it coming? got watch attack siaokau grilling the professor to protect the name of lau chi bye?

    wanna bet? lese majeste will come or no come?

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  • LKY is a self-serving SOB:

    LKY is an arrogant, ruthless, self-serving SOB. Those who disagree should think again. Start by asking the RIGHT questions (if NUS and NTU had not made them stupid and spineless).

    Hints: The questions are those PAP ignores because it does not want Singaporeans to know the TRUTH. Also, consider what LKY LEFT OUT in his books, e.g., [email protected], low productivity, etc.

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  • Babel:

    That’s half a wisdom. He had created more damages than good in society. His model of governing Is unsustainable long term. It will take several generations to see the unraveling of a strong man like him.

    He is a Man of Law.

    Those who live under the rule of law exhibits a hollowness in their soul.

    The law is good at facilitating goods and services. It puts self before others and create an uncaring society(go figure). At best, they are hypocritical performing outward good deeds like deceptive religious folks.

    Legalistic people do not seek nor allow enlightenment/transparency because they are constantly at war. These people can’t liberate your soul from the yoke they dictate. They are here to aggregate on the inequality they had created and finally militarise society.

    His style of rule, if copied, will result in unending feud and war.

    Salvation is for the humble.

    You have arrogant(beastlike) and greedy(beastlike) people in power with severe lack in wisdom.

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  • Great Man:

    LKY is a great man who looked after us as one of his own.

    But his horrible son gave our rice bowls away to earn votes for himself.

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  • see:

    He isnt LKY either, he is a clown.

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  • I - "DisHonorable Son" .. .:

    > ” Shanmugam was dead sure he had the intellectual crispness and willpower to carry the day.” . . .
    The AristoCATs like to think that they are smarter then everyone. . .
    But, they won’t answer – Why the current team Under-Perform??? :(

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  • Homeless Cat:

    LKY is dead. Now we have to find people better than him. No point looking for someone like him, as this era is different from his. A tough job, truth be told, as PAP demolished those able to test and hone their political and governing skills. But we got to find a new generation of leaders better than the sorry excuse that the PAP is telling us to accept.

    And hope that these ones will not make the mistakes of their predecessors.

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  • Sinkies are most unimpressive:

    Why does the education system of Singapore not equip the mind with an ability to think?

    Why do such minds think that only a LKY or only a certain person or personality can lead Singapore or solve the problems of Singapore?

    Is Singapore the only country in the world that is unable to produce natural crops of leaders with every generation?

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  • opposition dude:

    The goondu PM sure is clinging on for his political career these days. Every now and then he mentions his departed dad.

    Kayu did a job for his country and was rewarded very well financially. I don’t begrudge the older generation for their gratitude since being upgraded from kampung to HDB is a massive leap in living conditions. What I find annoying is that the same generation does not know or want to give up this gratitude.

    The PAP now is in a different era with netizens watching them like a hawk. Remember the noise made over the PWP and the presidency? How will things unfold in the next GE? How much will PAP’s vote share go down by?

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  • Rabble-rouser:

    Nothing unique about LKY’s methods & pattern of ‘leedershit’ style. It’s all formulated under Ivan Pavlov and his theory of classical conditioning which had a profound impact on the understanding of human behavior. LKY simply manipulated people to his advantage using Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning behavoural adjustment methods.
    Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist interested in studying how digestion works in mammals. He observed dogs and their digestive process. As part of his work, he began to study what triggers dogs to salivate. He thought the dogs should have simply began drooling when presented with food.
    But what Pavlov discovered when he observed the dogs was that drooling had a much more far-reaching effect than he ever thought: it paved the way for a new theory about behavior and a new way to study humans.
    The people who fed Pavlov’s dogs wore WHITE lab coats. Pavlov noticed that the dogs began to drool whenever they saw WHITE lab coats, even if there was no food in sight. Pavlov wondered why the dogs salivated at WHITE lab coats, and not just at food. He began a study in which he rang a bell every time he fed the dogs. Pretty soon, just ringing a bell made the dogs salivate.
    Eventually the puppy will learn to associate the two. After a while, the neutral stimulus [ringing the bell] by itself will produce the same response as the unconditioned stimulus [feeding], like the dogs drooling when they heard the bell. This is called a CONDITIONED RESPONSE.
    The dogs were demonstrating classical conditioning. He summed it up like this: there’s a neutral stimulus (the bell), which by itself will not produce a response, but if you present the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus [feeding] together, eventually the puppy will learn to associate the two.
    Eventually, PAP policies became stimulus-response type of classical conditioning. Examples of Classical Conditioning were:
    * Asset Enhancement Policy – HDB Main Upgrading program were contingent on voting for the PAP. HDB resale prices went up & up but recently, PAP ministers came out to say that on lease expiry, the flat value is zero;
    * Educational System & Meritocracy Policy – Study hard, get good grades, get entry into local uni, apply for good jobs, etc. Young voters voted for the PAP because they believe in that system. But recently, PAP Ministers said, ‘You can’t eat your degree!’.

    : Let’s imagine LKY telling us today why his style of leadership works for Singaporeans: “It’s like with dogs. You train it in a proper way from small. It will know that it’s got to leave, go outside to pee and to…

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  • Zhenzidan:

    Great Man:
    LKY is a great man who looked after us as one of his own.

    But his horrible son gave our rice bowls away to earn votes for himself.

    LKY great man? Don’t talk cock lah! When his son became PM in 2004, he was still in power for 11 years before he balik kampong. During that 11 years, why can’t he stop Singapore from deteriorating? Because he was also responsible for it! So for fiack sake, stop glorifying that old fart. He is better known as

    L-oquacious E-goist E-veryday K-eeps U-ttering A-tricious N-onsense Y-akking E-rroneous W-ords!

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  • jiak lat critical thinking:

    //Why does the education system of Singapore not equip the mind with an ability to think? //

    don’t forget, before the advent of social media, sinkie land has been immersed with 151th media standard and ownself-check-ownself that spewed brainwashing propaganda for many many years.

    when white idiots said casino no good, ‘everyone’ said no good. when white idiots said ok, even own kaki lang white idiot who cried on tv would vote for it. that’s how jiak lat critical thinking is all about in sinkie land.

    lately, recently and lastly, 4 = 5 and selected = elected could even happen quite easily in this sinkie land 5th dimension critical thinking environment. wayang by white idiots has become quite normal that many daft sinkies are already resigned and adaptable to it already that the white idiots are not shameless at all and pretty much comfortable to continue with the treatment.

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