Singapore turning away Rohingya boat people

From ‘Challenge, opportunity for Singapore’, 19 May 2015, ST Forum

(Mohamed Yazeed): THE complicated situation arising from the desperate migration of Rohingya people from Myanmar poses both a challenge and opportunity for Singapore.

The historical narrative we subscribe to, of Singapore being small and vulnerable and, hence, needing to do whatever it takes to survive, should not be an excuse to abandon our humanity.

Let us not speak of justice and compassion, yet turn away when there are human beings facing the horrendous fate of dying out in the ocean, which is right at our doorstep.

Although Singapore cannot accept any Rohingya due to the size of our nation, we can take the lead in trying to solve this problem at its roots.

Earlier this month, the Singapore Kindness Movement reported that we are becoming more ‘gracious’. Apparently the study did not evaluate whether Singaporeans were willing to escort drifting, hungry refugees onto our island and offer them food and shelter, instead of shooing them away because we can’t cope with the influx thereby letting them perish in the middle of the ocean or get robbed and raped by roving pirates.

In 1978, the late LKY responded to critics of our nation’s reluctance to extend a helping hand to Viet refugees, saying that ‘you’ve got to grow calluses on your heart or you’ll just bleed to death’. In other words, we were looking out for our own, and trying not to play Good Samaritan like someone opening his own doors to a horde of festering lepers. Except that at the time we were already letting thousands of migrants in through another door to boost the economy, nevermind the ‘small size’.  Despite all the money rushing in, we still had a heart of stone rather than one of gold. And for good reason too, according to S Rajaratnam, who in 1979 said that us extending a helping hand would mean ‘encouraging those responsible (for the exodus) to force even more refugees to flee’. That being ‘nice’ isn’t going to help humanity in the long run. Still, one of those Viet refugees rejected by us turned out to be a rather successful Australian governor.

Today, we continue to adopt the hard pragmatic stance of self-preservation at the expense of our ‘humanity’, but while turning away ‘illegal’ boat people, we welcome with open arms rich Chinese fraudsters and grant them PRs, or Caucasian hooligans who beat up taxi drivers and jump bail.  As the richest member of ASEAN, we fully expect our neighbours to give us the side-eye for brushing some desperate, stateless, fellow humans aside. It also doesn’t help that we’re on chummy terms with military junta leader Thein Sein, so much so that we have even named an orchid after him.

Meanwhile, despite the Rohingya crisis smack in our backyward, we send medical teams to far-flung disaster-struck Nepal to rebuild lives and go around dropping spare change into donation cans at 7-Elevens. Perhaps our callused heart is not that cold after all.

Changi airport would not exist without LKY

From ‘Aviation museum better way to honour Mr Lee’, 13 April 2015, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

AN ONLINE petition for Changi Airport to be renamed Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) International Airport has garnered nearly 12,500 signatures over four days. The list is with Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who said he would bring the matter up with the Government, according to the petition organiser, who goes by the moniker “Remembering LKY”.

When Parliament sits today, Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) will ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to consider renaming the airport after Mr Lee.

In a recent tribute to Mr Lee, who died at 91 on March 23, Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong said: “Changi Airport was his baby, and it has become an icon. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was truly the Father of Changi Airport.” So should the airport take his name?

While the petitioners have good intentions in honouring his legacy in this way, it might not be the best way to recognise his contributions. Make no mistake – without Mr Lee, there would be no Changi Airport. He was the one who pushed for the airport’s move from Paya Lebar to Changi, even though foreign experts disagreed. He foresaw that an airport on the coast would allow room for expansion towards the sea and would direct noise away from the city.

…To take away the name would undo, to some extent, the hard work put in over the past 34 years to build up this reputation. Indeed, one could argue it would diminish the legacy that Mr Lee has left behind. One middle-ground option that could be considered without removing Changi’s brand name would be to rename it Lee Kuan Yew Changi Airport.

The petitioners, who had hoped to go a step further by changing its airport code from SIN to LKY will be disappointed to learn that LKY is already being used by Lake Manyara Airport in Tanzania, Africa.

Well, without LKY, Singapore as we know it today would not exist. Should we rename Singapore to ‘Leekuanyew’ then? But let’s take a few steps back in our aviation history and examine the development of Changi Airport, and whether it’s true that it would not have existed if not for LKY’s calculated risk of abandoning Paya Lebar and going for broke. Along the way, expect to see the forgotten names of some unsung heroes, and unlikely naysayers. To the petitioners I say this: Read up your history before jumping on the petition bandwagon.

In the beginning, there were mangrove swamps and virgin forests on the north-eastern coast of Singapore, save for a sleepy fishing village and a couple of buildings. The serendipity of war led to the initial development of Changi into a state-of-the-art military base by the British in 1942. A year later when the Japanese invaded, POWs were forced to build two airstrips for Japanese fighters to defend Singapore. After the war ended, the Royal Air Force took over until the British withdrew from the island in 1967. If it weren’t for these invading foreigners, Changi would have remained a backwater marshland, nevermind how much blood has been spilled into its surrounding waters.

It wasn’t long before a debate ignited between the two sites, with the Singapore Planning and Urban Research Group (SPUR) recommending Changi over Paya Lebar due to noise concerns for the latter. SPUR consisted of architects and planners from both private and public sectors, including Tay Kheng Soon and William Lim. A Polish town planner named Krystyn Olszewski made the same recommendation in 1971, citing health hazards of having a busy airport in the heart of the city. One disapproving voice against the writing off of 150 million dollars invested in the current airport was Perm Sec Ngiam Tong Dow, who didn’t buy the noise argument. If LKY had listened to the man, the proposal would have its wings clipped, and Changi would today be synonymous with nothing other than an airforce camp, chalets for BBQs and fishing, a haunted hospital, and anyone living around Paya Lebar would need MediShield to cover ruptured eardrums.

1974 brought the first oil shock and slowed the growth of air traffic, and given the delay in building a second runway at Paya Lebar, LKY took the chance to seriously consider an alternative aviation hub and take the ‘$1 billion gamble’, but not without hearing others out. One man who ‘pushed very hard’ for Changi was then Head of Civil Service and future Minister of Defence Howe Yoon Chong, whom LKY referred to as a ‘bulldozer’.  Howe and his Special Committee on Airport Development team did a final re-appraisal and concluded that Changi was the future of civil aviation. In fact, in PM Lee’s eulogy of the man, not only was his ‘vision and tireless energy’ acknowledged, but it was Howe who proved Goh Keng Swee wrong when he insisted that the MRT, and not an all-bus system, was the future of  public transport.

The dirty work of running the project after Cabinet approved of the shift fell to Sim Kee Boon,  who had the unenviable task of coordinating various agencies to turn a shabby military airbase into one of the finest airports the world has ever known. In Ong Teng Cheong’s opening ceremony speech in 1981, he expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the project, Howe, Sim, down to the contractors and sub-contractors. Well, everyone, except a certain Lee Kuan Yew.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Except that with LKY’s passing, his role in the making of Changi Airport has been, rather predictably, exaggerated. It was a series of fortunate, and unfortunate, events (the War, oil crisis), and the foresight and toil of other people, not just LKY, that led to the materialisation of the dream airport that we’ve become so proud of. In fact, if we were to rename Changi Airport to LKY Airport, it would diminish not just the man’s greatness, but those who contributed so much of their lives to make Changi what it is today. Let there be an aviation museum if you will, but let’s celebrate not just LKY but the people behind the scenes, criminally omitted from our history textbooks, without whom Changi Airport would remain a mere flight of fancy.

LKY wanted his Oxley Road House demolished

From ‘Mr Lee Kuan Yew stated in will that he wanted Oxley Road Home demolished’, 12 April 2015, article in Today

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had specified in his will that the house he shared his late wife on Oxley Road be demolished after his death, and this wish will be “administered strictly”, said his children Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

In a statement issued today (April 12), Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who are the executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee’s will, said their father had given them clear instructions directly and in his will — dated Dec 17 2013 — to demolish the house immediately after his death. If Dr Lee continued to live in the house, then the house should be demolished immediately after she moved out.

The late Mr Lee, who passed away on March 23, had been aware of the calls to preserve his home, but his wish expressed to his children and publicly was “unwavering” — that the house to be torn down upon his passing, said Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

“He was concerned an order might be issued against his wishes. He therefore added in his Lee Kuan Yew Will that ‘If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants’,” they said.

When interviewed during the launch of his book Hard Truths in 2011, LKY said that he didn’t want his Oxley residence, a ‘big rambling house’, to end up in shambles like Nehru or Shakespeare’s, and that because of his presence, nobody in the estate would dare build anything higher than his own. Even Google Maps can’t get anything out of its Street View of 38 Oxley Road beyond what appears to be an impenetrable forest.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 10.05.55 PM

The media tells us that the house was ‘spartan’, with LKY’s bed bearing nothing more than a ‘towel blanket’ and a bolster. The downstairs bathroom had traditional mosaic tiles, a ‘hamdankong’ (barrel for making salted eggs) and an urn filled with water for bathing like how people used to wash themselves in the old days. Other than the old man’s computer, the second most modern thing in the house is probably his exercise bike, which looks set to the next piece of memorabilia to be displayed at the National Museum alongside his red box and the ‘battleship’ telegram. I’m sure LKY wouldn’t mind if someone designed an exact replica of the house as an exhibit by itself, with Gurkhas, hamdankongs and all.

There is currently a 1500-strong petition to gazette the house as a national heritage site and museum, which seems like a good idea for the sake of future generations, provided the government maintains it such and ignores the issue of property prices. Hundreds of years down the road people would still flock to Oxley Road like how tourists swarm the House of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, where you could bring home a mini 38 Oxley Road fridge magnet as a souvenir, or get your picture taken with a Gurkha against the backdrop of the PAP’s ‘War Room’. The Chinese are already doing that to LKY’s ANCESTRAL home in Guangdong, regardless of what Singaporeans think.

Alas, LKY was not a man who would succumb to fawning sentiment, and would rather see a hideous luxury condo take its place in Oxley than have a part of his legacy worshiped and swooned over like devotees to a shrine. The last thing our late founding father wanted was to have his private domain turned into a site of pilgrimage, or a giant statue built in its place like our version of Christ the Redeemer. He already has a baby in India named after him, Jeyaprakesh Lee Kuan Yew. The least we could do, as grateful Singaporeans, is to fulfil a dying wish, and not be disobedient to Ah Gong like this writer/consultant in 2013, who basically thought destroying a monument in Singapore’s history was a silly idea. Ignore his wishes, and risk having Oxley Road eternally haunted by his angry hatchet-wielding spirit.

Still, it would be nice if we had an open house before the government sends the demolition team in, with the blessings of daughter Lee Wei Ling of course. You would probably have to start queuing from Novena MRT station for 8 hours to get a sneak peek, which could be a boon to Orchard Road businesses by the way.  Wonder what’s to become of the Nassim Jade and Scotts 28 apartments, though.

UPDATE(13 April 15): Lee Wei Ling has decided to continue staying in 38 Oxley Road. The house gets to live another day.

Two full Malay ministers in Cabinet is testament to meritocracy

From ‘Promotion to full minister shows Singapore runs on meritocracy: Masagos’, 8 Apr 2015, CNA

The promotion from Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs to full Minister is a testament to how Singapore is run on the basis of meritocracy, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday (Apr 8). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the promotion, along with changes to the portfolios of four other Ministers, earlier on Wednesday.

In an interview with MediaCorp’s Berita, Mr Masagos said: “It would seem apparent that the Malay community would celebrate having two full Ministers in the Cabinet for the first time, but I think this is also how Singapore runs on the basis of meritocracy.

“That you get the post, and are rewarded for your performance and contributions because of the impact you have made. Not because you are close to a particular person or that you are the son of somebody,” he added.

“I think this is important because it gives you the credibility to the people you serve as well as your colleagues. And I’m glad that this is the system that we have.

Credit to Masagos for getting the promotion, but feminists continue to frown because there’s only ONE woman minister in Cabinet currently (Grace Fu). Nobody’s going to tell you that women in Singapore have not ‘progressed’ based on their dismal representation in Cabinet. But since we’re keeping score, here’s the ministerial ethnic breakdown, with the Chinese leading the way.

Chinese: 13
Indian: 4 (Vivian Balakrishnan technically of mixed-race heritage)
Malay: 2
Eurasians: None (Though S Iswaran represents the community’s interests)

There’s another system that Masagos probably needs to acknowledge, one that brought him into politics in the first place. The GRC. To be specific, his Tampines team led by Mah Bow Tan beat their SDA opponents 68-31% in the 2006 GE. SDA did reasonably well despite the line-up of relative unknowns though, compared to the other opposition parties including an SDP led by Chee Soon Juan’s sister.

In 1988,  Goh Chok Tong introduced the ‘Team MP’ concept, in which selected GRCs would require to place at least one Malay candidate up for contest. There were also select committees set aside to decide if you were considered a ‘minority’ candidate or not. A ‘Malay’ for example, is defined as someone who is Malay, Javanese, Boyanese, Bugis, Arab or ANY OTHER PERSON, generally accepted as a member of the Malay community or by that community’.  To which Chiam See Tong remarked that even a European, or a MAORI, would be considered as a ‘Malay’ if he or she was generally accepted to be one. I’m bad in Mandarin and read everything in English i.e jiak kantang. Does that make me accepted as an ‘ang moh’?

Chiam then went on to urge the Government to reconsider such ‘racial’ politics, while others lamented about the ‘special protection’ given to Malays, which curiously enough, allegedly contravenes the principles of meritocracy. In other words, that a tinge of ‘tokenism’ belies the progress of the minority community, a phrase that Ng Eng Hen used to deny that the rise of Malays/Muslims in the armed forces had anything to do with race or religion.

So it’s not just a matter of simply performing well and earning it regardless of your ethnicity. Ex press secretary to LKY James Fu wrote in a 1988 letter that Malay MPs were dropped or shuffled around constituencies based on ‘preferences for a Chinese candidate’ from the ground, and even expressed concern that there may come a time when there may be NO MALAY MPs at all if we allowed non-Malay communities to vote their own kind into Parliament. Chillingly, he had this to say about the Chinese voting habits: “The fact is, other things being equal, Chinese voters prefer a Chinese to a Malay MP.” We have voters preferring young pretty politicians over old, ugly ones, tall ones over short ones, thin over fat. I mean, why trust voters and bother with elections at all, let the PM handpick all his men/women then, Malay or non-Malay, then we don’t need to worry about a certain race or sex dropping out of Parliament entirely. It’s all democracy’s fault that we’re racially imbalanced, dammit!

Echoing Chiam, our Cabinet should be made up of Singaporeans regardless of race language or religion, not Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, mixed-race or what have you and neither should we indulge in bean-counting MPs and ministers of a certain race as a gauge of one community’s progress as a whole. But that, the PAP would tell you, is unrealistic. Still,  when it comes to the top position, the man of the House, it appears that there remain reservations on the ethnicity of a future Prime Minister other than a majority race. LKY himself admitted that he did not consider S Dhanabalan as a successor as he felt Singapore was not ‘ready for an Indian PM’. Now that he’s passed away, no one would ever accuse him of discrimination. The day of ‘true meritocracy’ or equality will only come when we see a Malay taking the helm. Until then, we’re not as impartial as we’d like to think ourselves to be.

Dr Mahathir calling LKY ‘kiasu’

From ‘Ex-Malaysian PM Mahathir calls Lee Kuan Yew kiasu over tough stance on negotiations’, 4 April 2015, ST

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad says the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was “kiasu” and wouldn’t budge on negotiations. This was because Mr Lee’s relationship with Malaysia was “coloured with bitterness” over Singapore’s expulsion from the federation in 1965, Dr Mahathir said.

“We had 20 problems to resolve and I spent 22 years (as prime minister) trying to resolve them, but I could resolve none. He will not give even an inch; kiasu, you know,” Dr Mahathir, who served as Malaysia’s Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003, reportedly said to students at a dialogue in Cyberjaya on Saturday.

Asked why Malaysia was not as well-developed as Singapore, of which Mr Lee served as the founding prime minister, Dr Mahathir replied that the smaller country had fewer problems to deal with.

With friends like these…

Even in death, there’s no love lost between these two. Dr M expressed sadness at his political sparring partner’s demise, though he admitted that he was ‘no close friend’ of the late leader. Often used in a derogatory manner, ‘kiasu’ has defined the Singaporean psyche, and I don’t blame Mahathir for not being familiar with the local nuances associated with the term, hence his misuse of it. In this case, he probably means ‘stubborn’ rather than ‘kiasu’. After all, one man’s resolve and tenacity is another man’s ‘kiasuism’, just like how some observers may refer to Dr M’s comment as ‘candid’, others will think his jibe, at 89 years of age, as a sign of cranky senility.

Dr M then went on to lament that LKY ‘had it easy’ considering Singapore’s compact size, with the smug assurance of a man dancing on the grave of his arch-nemesis. Being tiny, we didn’t need to build as many roads as Malaysia has, and he once remarked that even though we’re rich enough to afford Ferraris, Singaporean drivers would fall into the sea before shifting to fourth gear. He also accused LKY of trying to usurp Malaysian power, when he was a mere ‘mayor’ of Singapore, a ‘big frog in a small pond‘. Now that the frog is gone, another is croaking to fill the silence, the last of the South East Asian ‘old guards’.

LKY wasn’t one to back down from a fight, of course. He once branded Dr M a Malay ‘ultra’, and  according to his blog, Dr M took ‘decades’ to ‘live down’ the ‘extremist’ label. In an interview with the New York Times LKY expressed regret about being ‘turfed out’ of Malaysia, and that if the PAP weren’t kicked out Malaysia would have been less racially ‘polarised’, suggesting that Singaporean Malays were better educated, that even though some still wear headscarves, they were at least ‘modern looking’. LKY also hinted at Malaysia’s growing orthodox ‘Middle Eastern’ influence, that they used to ‘serve liquor and drink with you’, but now toast with syrups. It was one knockout punch after another, a case of one proclaiming ‘my country is better than your country’, and neither would give up the fight.

The crossing of swords would, however, be interspersed with snuggly moments like Mahathir’s heartfelt compliment of LKY’s ‘able stewardship’ after his windfall victory at the 1988 elections. LKY responded by saying that Dr M’s ‘felicitations’ brought him great pleasure and encouragement. It was a vintage love-hate relationship, though Dr M would stress in his condolence message that there was ‘no enmity’ at all.

As hard as both men would admit it, they found their match in each other, not despite, but because of their differences. Dr M may even miss the old ‘little Chinese emperor‘, like Lex Luthor clamouring for Superman. No one else in any position of power I could think of would address LKY as just ‘Kuan Yew’. To many that would be plain rudeness, especially now that he’s gone, but I see it as more a term of endearment and reluctant mutual respect, like how one reminisces about a rocky relationship with an ex-wife after an ugly divorce.

Dr M, I believe LKY is waiting for you on the other side, chessboard ready to play, and a couple of syrups to welcome you back into the game.

Amos Yee charged under the Protection from Harassment Act

From ‘Youtube Amos Yee charged, bail set at $20,000′, 1 April 2015, article in CNA

Amos Yee Pang Sang was on Tuesday (Mar 31) charged in the State Courts with multiple charges. The 16-year-old, who was arrested on Sunday, had his charges read out to him in Court, and asked for a lawyer to represent him. The three charges were under Section 298 and Section 292(1)(a) of the Penal Code, as well as Section 4(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act.

For the first charge under Section 298, the charge sheet stated that the YouTube video created by Yee “contained remarks against Christianity, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians in general”.

As for the Protection from Harassment Act charge, Yee’s video “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed” by the clip, according to the charge sheet.

The Court also granted him a bail amount set at S$20,000, under the condition that he will not post, upload or otherwise distribute any comment or content, whether directly or indirectly, to any social media or online service or website, while the current case against him is ongoing. The amount has been posted, and Yee is out on bail.

According to section 298, it is an offence to insult someone else with the intention of wounding the religious feelings of that person, meaning if I tell you in the face that I do not think it’s physically possible for Jesus Christ to walk on water and the Bible is a silly pack of lies, and you’re offended by the remark, it means that your ‘religious feelings’ have been hurt, and I’m liable to get charged under the Penal Code although I’m merely presenting an argument based on current scientific knowledge. It’s a different story, though, if I decided to put a pig on the Kaaba. That would be an act of sedition, meaning I’m promoting ‘feelings of ill will and hostility’ among the races.  How does the law draw the line here? Has FHM been charged for depicting Jesus with a shotgun? What does Christianity say about ‘turning the other cheek’?

The more intriguing charge, however, is the one under the protection from harassment act. My idea of harassment is an obsessed fan stalking me outside my doorstep, and sending death threats to my spouse out of jealousy. The victim of the act here is, specifically, ME. Who, exactly, was Amos Yee ‘harassing’? Did he send his link to specific people and force them to watch it? Was he causing trouble to a dead man by loitering around his casket threatening to jump on it? Did he go up to the Lee family and prance around with a party hat and a trumpet going ‘Hooray your dad is dead!’?

If the harassment charge is equivalent to ‘insulting’ a fellow human because you have the ‘intention’ of doing so and it causes them ‘distress’, then we’ll have to round up a whole bunch of attention-seeking netizens and bloggers who so much as declare that a minister’s wife looks like a sack of shit, or influencers attacking other influencers with obscenities or death threats. Hell, I’ll charge the Pizza Hut guy for calling me a pink fat person because he hurt my feelings and I can’t sleep because I’m crying all night long. Amos’ parents have been called ‘useless’ by Facebookers because they can’t control their kid. Maybe they should take action against such unfair accusations as well.

Since when have we become so fragile to, for lack of a better word, MEAN things people say about us, or our dead parents? Come on, give our police a break. They just spent an entire week securing the biggest funeral of all time. Now we expect them to drag a naughty boy to court who hasn’t yet learnt how to toss a grenade or shoot a rifle. (Soon, Amos, soon). It’ll be less taxing on our psychological well-being if we just brushed off such insults, and not go ballistic on a kid like how the Thais would punish people for mocking their almighty King. Like, chill, people. Are we serving justice, or appeasement?

Amos’ crime here is being pathologically ‘insensitive’ to the occasion, and for that I personally think a jail term is too harsh. To be fair, he makes observations, one-sided as they may be, about the country and its leadership at an age when most adolescents are hopelessly apathetic about the state of the nation, spending more time at tuition or playing video games than downloading charts and statistics about how miserable Singaporeans are under LKY’s so-called ‘dictatorship’. Some uncles 3 times his age don’t even bother with the research and continue hating on the Lee legacy because their friends are into it too.

He’s 16. He’s barely growing hair on his balls, and what he needs now is learning from this and grow some ‘perspective’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘tact’, and hopefully he may mature into a formidable political commentator, channeling the eloquence and fury into something beyond acting like a spoilt brat in a Jack Neo movie.  The seeds of discontent have been planted, all he needs is some pruning. That includes the hair.

LKY using chicken feathers to cure hiccups

From ‘Remembering LKY: Daughter Lee Wei Ling’s personal, touching eulogy’, 30 Mar 15, article in sg.yahoo news

…”After Mama died in October 2010, Papa’s health deteriorated rapidly. The past five years have been challenging. But as always, Papa was determined to carry on as normal as possible, as best as he could.

“He developed Parkinson’s disease three years ago which severely limited his mobility. He had great difficulty standing and walking. But he refused to use a wheel chair or even a walking stick. He would walk, aided by his SOs (security officers),” Dr Lee said, in an excerpt made available on the website of the Prime Minister’s office.

“Papa was also plagued by bouts of hiccups that could only be controlled by medication which had adverse side effects. Over and above the frequent hiccups, his ability to swallow both solids and liquids was impaired, a not uncommon problem in old age.

“Papa searched the Internet and tried a wide variety of unorthodox hiccup therapies. For example, he once used rabbit skin and then chicken feathers to induce sneezing, so as to stop the hiccups. Although the sneezing sometimes stopped his hiccups, it did not do so consistently enough. Papa also tried reducing his food intake, because he felt that eating too much could precipitate hiccups, hence he lost a lot of weight, and appeared thin and gaunt.”

To me, the most interesting aspect of a powerhouse like LKY are his frailties, and trust his descendents to bring bits of our late leader’s personal life into the spotlight, snippets which would otherwise be smothered by tale after tale of his many accomplishments. It’s ironic that it’s only after his death do we realise that there were parts of LKY’s life that weren’t devoted to nation-building, that beneath the ironclad exterior we uncover layers of a unique personality and history never made known to perhaps even his closest friends.

It’s unusual, however, that a man of his intellect and stature would resort to things a shaman might use during a ritual to relieve his hiccups. This being the same person who believed in eugenics and that there was a genetic basis for homosexuality i.e a man of science and hard logic. Lee Wei Ling concluded her eulogy by saying that she would not break down, being a tough ‘Hakka woman’. And we believe her. This is a woman with the tenacity to run up and down a 20m corridor 800 times, or do burpees on a plane. She can beat off all 3 of her dad’s SOs with one arm behind her back.

Here are some intimate things you’ll never read about LKY in history textbooks or TV specials, told by the people who love him the most.

1. He struggled with dyslexia, and before the Parkinson’s diagnosis, was suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Despite this, he still spoke more languages, and wrote more books, than you ever will.

2. LKY was given the name ‘Harry’ from birth, and found it a ‘political liability’, according to son Lee Hsien Yang. None of the Lee children or grandchildren have Western names.

3. He had a weakness for sister Monica’s Nonya cooking: rojak, mee siam, gado gado, satay. Occasionally tiramisu or souffle. Hsien Yang mentioned that he had the typical Peranakan sweet tooth for desserts. I always thought the old man was a culinary ascetic, being credited with the quote that one should eat only 3/4 full for longevity. For a man who we now know loved food just as any Singaporean does, he grew up without ever cracking a soft boiled egg.

4. He had his wife fix the elastic band on his shorts rather than buy a new pair. He also washed his own underwear, according to LWL. He didn’t change his jacket for 20 years.

5. When PM Lee was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, his dad sent him DURIANS.

6. He studied Christian meditation under the guidance of a Benedictine monk. LKY was an agnostic.

7. He once asked an SO to time how long LWL took to swim. He also despatched SOs to accompany Hsien Yang when he was trekking in Pulau Ubin. In other parts of the world, these hires are known as ‘bodyguards’.

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