From ‘The truth about my father’s health’, 6 Nov 2011, article by Lee Wei Ling, Sunday Times
…The following week, when I showed him the positive feedback from two readers on the article (Living a life with no regrets), he paused for a moment, then said: ‘Let the readers know I have sensory peripheral neuropathy.’
In my father’s case, sensory peripheral neuropathy has caused the conduction of sensation from his legs to his spinal cord to be impaired. This makes his walking unsteady, as many Singaporeans have already noticed.
…His day-to-day condition now fluctuates. On some days he is fairly steady and on other days his balance is poor. The problem is limited to the sensory nerves outside his central nervous system. His brain and muscles are working normally. But being deprived of sensation from his legs means he finds it a challenge to balance. Thus his unsteady walk.
…I have no doubt my father will fight his disease for as long as he thinks he can contribute to Singapore. I think with medication and simple precaution, he can continue to be of service to his country and the world. He is that rare person, someone who will look at the facts carefully, and express his opinions regardless of what others might say. He will say and write what is truthful, no matter how politically incorrect he may be viewed by others.
It’s only natural for Lee Wei Ling to shower praise on her ailing father, though it’s more of his indomitable will than ‘political incorrectness’ that accounts for his fight against neuropathy. There’s no doubt LKY is a rare breed, as a man and politician, as well as his tendency to speak his mind and ‘stick to his guns’, but it’s arguable if what comes out of his mouth is ‘truthful’, and whether being ‘politically incorrect’ i.e insensitive, would actually do any good for Singaporeans, or just an elaborate show-and-tell to stir controversy and dramatic conflict. ‘Truthful’ is a tricky term, for what’s truth to the man may be a glaring falsehood to others. A more accurate term would be ‘honest’, but honesty is a underwhelming virtue you could attribute to any lay person, not a ‘rare’ breed who was once voted as a national icon of Singapore. An ‘honest politician’ is an oxymoron in any case, but let’s take Wei Ling’s emotional assessment of her father at face value and review how his ‘truthful’ opinions have affected others and how outsiders with nothing to gain by lauding him rate his character.
“He (Tang Liang Hong) claimed that his life was under threat. But, of all places, he went to Johor. If there is anywhere where people can do him harm, that is the place.” Mr Lee said it was “notorious for shootings, muggings and car-jackings.”
Such remarks earned LKY a barrage of Malaysian insults from ‘bloody idiot’ to ‘senile’, though the man did apologise ‘unreservedly’. Not much info on theft rates in the 90′s, but since 2001, a syndicate known as Geng Panjang have been stealing cars, some of which were Singaporean owned. In 2004, the Johor police released a report that in that year ALONE, 1381 cars were reported stolen in Johor, of which 33 were Singaporean-owned. The total number increased to 1394 in 2005. LKY may be wrong about the ‘shootings and muggings’, but there’s nothing ‘idiotic’ about the car-jackings.
The determinedly irreplaceable Lee Kuan Yew is the world’s most intelligent, and to some most likable despot.
There is no doubt about LKY’s ability and intelligence, according to Safire Western counterparts such as George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Henry Kissinger have all sung praises for the man. Hillary Clinton has also remarked that he has a ‘great many admirers’.
Aug 23, 1999: A relentless urge to smite opponents (TIME magazine)
A champion of Asian values, he is most un-Asian in his frank and confrontational style. Lee loves Singapore but has relatively few close Singaporean friends or confidants. He is a man of great intelligence, with no patience for mediocrity; a man of integrity, with an relentless urge to smite opponents; a man who devours foreign news but has little tolerance for a disrespectful press at home.
…But even as he obsessively pruned, trimmed and weeded the Garden City, Lee would never shed his lifelong sense of insecurity, his feeling that it could all be taken away with one uncontrollable spasm of social upheaval or regional chaos.
This piece by correspondent Terry McCartney basically sums up the Western perception of the man as a powerful, insecure, somewhat unforgiving loner.
“If, for instance, you put in a Malay officer who’s very religious and who has family ties in Malaysia in charge of a machine-gun unit, that’s a very tricky business.
“We’ve got to know his background. I’m saying these things because they are real, and if I don’t think that, and I think even if today the Prime Minister doesn’t think carefully about this, we could have a tragedy.
“So, these are problems which, as poly students, you’re colour-blind to, but when you face life in reality, it’s a different proposition.”
This isn’t an irrational fear seen in today’s context post 9-11. In 2009, an ‘devout’ American-Muslim army major gunned down 13 army colleagues at Fort Hood. Though we wouldn’t call such remarks prescient, the threat of ‘self-radicalisation’ remains very real today, though not exclusive to the Islamists.
Mr Lee said: ‘My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful, they’re hard-working and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education. ‘And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese, compliant.’
Tun Dr Mahathir retorted yesterday: ‘I look at the houses in KL of the people that are ‘systematically marginalised’. They have bigger houses than mine.’ The former Malaysian leader also told Mr Lee not to feel smug, noting that the Minister Mentor looked wise in his own ‘tiny’ country. He said China did not think much of Mr Lee, who was also ‘marginalised by Chinese in the world’.
‘Don’t be like that, Kuan Yew! You just look after your rice bowl, that is all. The country is tiny, don’t be too proud,’ Tun Dr Mahathir said in response to a written question by a member of the public who attended the function here. Asked at a news conference why he thought Mr Lee had made the comments, Tun Dr Mahathir said: ‘He feels he is strong. He is the proud type. He is not bothered with his neighbours. That is why he deliberately raised something he knew to be sensitive in our country.’
I’m unable to comment on the accuracy of LKY’s observations here, but it’s an interesting flipside to the man’s character (smug, selfish) as noted by long-time combatant and intellectual rival Mahathir, a man who has probably known LKY for as long as his own daughter has. Current PM Najib had something else to add on the same issue, that LKY’s comments were ‘naughty’. Mahathir has also called LKY a ‘little emperor‘ in a ‘tiny Middle Kingdom’, echoing Safire’s sentiments almost a decade earlier.
Be less strict on Islamic observances and say ‘Okay, I’ll eat with you.’
‘Racist’ and ‘militant‘ were used in the same breath by a Malaysian politician in response to then MM’s views on racial integration. LKY eventually responded with the immortal ‘I stand corrected’ ‘apology’.
So, in the view of outsiders, LKY is a brilliant, despotic, insecure, unapologetic, power-hungry, racist, smug, well-admired, naughty little emperor. But at this stage of his life, we don’t want to hear about his work ethic or attributes as a leader, we want to know if he was a good father, husband or even a worthy friend, a side that has never been revealed publicly. The whole world knows how ‘rare’ he is, but what needs to be told to opponents and admirers alike, other than the fact that he has sensory nerves and a spinal cord, is how ‘ordinary’ he can be.
Filed under: 1990s, 2000s, 2011, Politicians, Racism, Religion, Violence | Tagged: discrimination, islam, Lee Kuan Yew, lee wei ling, Mahathir, MM Lee, muslims, Politicians, Racism, Religion, Violence | 7 Comments »