From ‘Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter: I’m a Martian anyway’, 20 Sep 15, article by Wong Kim Hoh, Sunday Times
…Hakka women are known for being strong, tough and resilient. Indeed, those who read her (Lee Wei Ling’s) columns will know she has very strong opinions and is unapologetically frank, blunt even, when it comes to issues she is passionate about.
In 2006, she poured scorn on biomedical research directions headed by Mr Philip Yeo, former chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research. “I don’t deny that he’s contributed to Singapore as a top civil servant and he’s still contributing… All I’m saying is that you’re not a doctor, so you’re not in a position to know what is important,” she says.
Two years later, she publicly crossed swords with former attorney-general Walter Woon over the case of retail magnate Tang Wee Sung, who was jailed for trying to buy a kidney off an Indonesian man.
Recalling the case, Dr Lee – who believes that banning organ trading is irrational and medically incorrect – says: “The Indonesian guy who was willing to sell his kidney may well have needed that money to prevent two daughters from going into prostitution for all we know.”
…She does not think being her father’s daughter has made it harder to cultivate friends.
“I’ve never been much bothered by that. Like I said (in one of my columns), I was a Martian anyway. Even now. I have enough friends to count on all my fingers, and these are friends who really count. I know of a much bigger group of people who don’t count on that score.
Lee Wei Ling defines a ‘Martian’ as a term used by medical students in the 70s to describe ‘students who went it alone’. It could also be a euphemism for ‘weirdo’ or ‘loner’, rather than the HG Wells’ version where Martians are vicious extraterrestrials bent on world domination. Since then, ‘Martians’ have been played for laughs, whether as the comedic ‘fish out of water’ trope in the 60s’ My Favourite Martian, or the bungling space invaders in Tim Burton’s ‘Mars Attacks’.
LKY’s daughter is also as Martian as men are to Mars, having once acknowledged in one of her articles that she could pass off as a teenage boy in her younger years. In fact, she may well be more physically endowed than most Singaporean men, what with her running 800 times up and down a corridor or doing burpees on planes. She is, however, no alien to organ trading laws.
In 2007, Lee blasted the ban on organ trading, calling it ‘irrational’ and ‘medically incorrect’. She believes there’s nothing wrong with desperate people selling their kidneys if it saves the life of someone willing to pay. A year later, when elite businessman Tang Wee Sung was sentenced to a day in jail after an organ trade saga, she called it a ‘token sentence‘ just to prove that ‘all, rich or poor are treated equally before the law’, and called out whoever made the decision for lacking ’empathy’ because they put a very sick man behind bars.
Former Attorney General Walter Woon, knowing full well that it might be a ‘bad idea’ to cross swords with the daughter of LKY, clarified publicly that Tang was fined $7K for the offence, but jailed for ‘lying on oath’. Other experts chimed in against organ trading, with a certain Dr Choi Kin saying that it promotes ‘greater social injustice’ because you’re practically ‘prostituting your organ’. Our own Singapore Medical Association were dead against it because donors may get exploited by unscrupulous ‘middlemen’. The ethics surrounding organ trading is as murky as the haze. But what if you erase transplant complications, or the fact that you’re losing a chunk of yourself forever, from the equation? For the sake of argument, imagine one day when our blood banks run out, I needed money desperately and someone is willing to pay me to get hooked up to a machine and suck me dry (though technically blood is tissue and not an organ). I would do it in a jiffy if I could be assured that nothing would go wrong. Nevermind if some people call me a blood whore.
Meanwhile, those who have the money may choose to fly to China or India to get the job done instead of waiting to die (9 years, with 400 people in line for a kidney, to be exact), with 49 Singaporeans opting for overseas transplants in 2005 alone. All this at the risk of complications of course, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you can afford not only to be a medical tourist, but also the best medical care in town when you’re back. In the near future, a transplant could be as hassle free as going to Seoul for a nip-tuck over the weekend. Or maybe you don’t even need to leave the country. By the next millennium you could log into Carousell and auction for someone’s 3-D printable liver that’s compatible with yours, download a copy into a machine that will send an army of nanobots into your body to replace your damaged one in situ, cell-by-cell.
Lee’s argument is essentially a case of the end (life-saving) justifying the means (buying a kidney from someone who’ll do anything for money, including ‘prostituting’ his own flesh and blood). Willing buyer, willing seller. As for Tang, he’s alive and well, owing very much to the donated kidney of legendary gangster ‘One Eyed Dragon’ (Tan Jor Chin), who was executed for shooting a business associate. It’s a situation dripping with delicious irony; Tang Wee Sung is walking around with the kidney of a dead murderer, while God knows what happened to the poor Indonesian fellow who tried to sell his.
Nobody would suggest that Lee should consider herself ‘lucky’ for not running afoul with the AGC after her court-bashing. If it were anyone else undermining the courts’ ruling, they may likely get charged for contempt, or filed for harassment. Maybe her otherworldly Martian powers had something to do with it.