Madonna performing for the first time in Singapore

From ‘Madonna could perform in Singapore for the first time’, 29 Nov 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

Queen of pop Madonna, who was banned from performing her controversial Girlie Show World Tour here in 1993, seems set to strut her stuff in Singapore for the very first time.

Home-grown concert promoter IMC Live told The Sunday Times it is in talks to bring the 57-year-old American star’s ongoing Rebel Heart tour here for a one-night concert for 30,000 at the National Stadium.

…For the Singapore gig to be given the go-ahead this time, The Sunday Times understands some songs may have to be dropped from the setlist.

Bitch, it’s Madonna, the only singer to continue chart-topping since the Michael Jackson ‘King of Pop’ era. I was a casual fan in the 80’s, when she brought the world timeless ballads like ‘Live to Tell’, ‘Crazy for you’ and sugary pop gems like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Open Your Heart’. She was Material Girl, Madge, Maddie, sex kitten, goddess, Kaballah practitioner all at once. When you look up ‘raunchy’ in the dictionary, you will find Madonna in a bustier.

She has come a long way since the days of the conical bra and Vogue. Things spiralled downhill after she remade American Pie. Today, she struggles to keep up with the Youtube and Spotify generation, sometimes ending up like the Auntie in denial gatecrashing a dubstep party when she should really should be line-dancing. Her ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ collaboration with Nicky Minaj is a case in point. Most singers her age would be more comfortable dueting with the Bee Gees instead.

Despite attempts to stay edgy and relevant, Madonna remains revered among the Pop Princess sorority, from the Britney Spearses to the Arianna Grandes. No one denies her accomplishments, but as iconic as she is, the fate of the Rebel Heart Tour remains at the mercy of the MDA, and a certain lot of Singaporeans among our midst who will stop at nothing to ban her from these shores,  the very same people who signed petitions against openly gay Adam Lambert from performing at the Jubilee Year End concert.

Other than being an active promoter of the LGBT cause, there are several more reasons why Madonna may find herself ‘Swept Away’ by the prudish powers that be.

  1. Hentai Demon Rape

In 2002, the ‘Drowned World Tour 2001′ DVD was banned for sale here as it featured an animation sequence of a monster raping an ‘Asian looking girl’. You can, of course, find the link to the video on Youtube.

2. Insulting Christianity

Another DVD ban. In the ‘Confessions’ tour, Madonna sang ‘Live to Tell’ while strung up on a cross.  This coming from the same woman who brought us the blasphemous ‘Like a Prayer’ video, where the cross was sexualised as a cleavage accessory to black lacy lingerie. And that was in 1989, way before Lady Gaga bugged the Christian community with less spicy stuff like ‘Judas’.

3. Random violence against men

The Guy Ritchie-directed video ‘What it Feels like For a Girl‘ was banned in 2001 because it depicted Madonna going on a misandrist rampage. An advisory warning by MDA alone would not be enough to protect our local men from being castrated on site if all the ladies in the house transform into Amazonian cannibals.

4. Lesbian kissing


5. Drug references

One of Madonna’s more recent albums was titled MDNA, which is one letter away from controlled drug MDMA. You may know it as Ecstasy.

6. Kinky BDSM and Androgyny

Till today, the steamy Justify My Love video continues to stir loins. 20 years later we would have Fifty Shades of Grey. How many more reasons do we need to justify her ban?

If all goes well, we could have the first almost-sexagenarian to perform to a sold-out crowd in Singapore. Toned down or not, Madonna could earn more from this single show than all the Air Supply concerts combined.












PAP posters displayed next to Taoist altar

From ‘Mini PAP posters taken down after queries from SDP:ELD’, 5 Sept 2015, article by Koh Swee Fang Valerie in Today

A day after Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan cried foul over miniature posters promoting the People’s Action Party’s team for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC being plastered around Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, the posters have been taken down.

In response to queries from TODAY, the ELD said that it understands these posters had been put up by the merchant association in the area.

“The association has since taken the posters down,” said an ELD spokesperson. “ELD would like to remind everyone, including candidates and members of the public, that the display of election posters and banners must abide by the rules set out in the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.”

During an election, the Returning Officer authorises candidates and their election agents to display election posters and banners for campaigning. “No person shall display or cause to be displayed in any public place during the campaign period any poster or banner without the authorisation of the Returning Officer,” added the spokesperson.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Chee said that his team – which is also contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC – had alerted the ELD to these miniature posters, after coming across them on a walkabout at the food centre.

“We… saw miniature posters of the PAP Holland-Bukit Timah team pasted all over the food centre – even at an Taoist altar,” he said. “The SDP team is also campaigning for every vote but, please, let’s have some decency and not paste our photos where people worship.”

Eat, Pray, Vote

There is a specific list of places where you’re not allowed to stick posters in the Election Handbook. These include on an ERP gantry, traffic sign boards and stalls within a hawker centre. Not in this list are places of worship, between the grills of your front gate, or behind public toilet cubicle doors so you can ruminate on your party of choice while taking a shit.

So technically, millionaire pastor Kong Hee and his ilk could flash PM Lee’s face all over the megachurch premises without committing an actual offence. You could be queuing up at the ATM and have a group of MPs on a poster smiling at you by the side while you withdraw your cash from the machine. You could be buying groceries and have someone covertly slipping a mini handout into your bags at the cashier. You could be out jogging on a windy day and one of these discarded flyers could be blown smack into your face. The PAP, as our PM Lee promised, will be ‘For you, With you’. Every single day. Everywhere. Like an overprotective girlfriend who refuses to leave you alone.

Some posters are already stuck on traffic signs as we speak, and the police should really clamp down on these as they pose quite a distraction to motorists. Imagine cruising along the streets and seeing one of the Opposition’s placards asking hard questions about government investments and CPF, or getting awestruck by our PM’s warm glowing face everywhere you turn.  That may be enough to prevent you from checking your blind spot, or spotting an old auntie pushing cardboard against the red light. I wonder if any of the PAP’s posters were placed on U-TURN signs, though.

It’s ironic that as an anchor minister with the Environment portfolio, the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team leader would endorse such indulgent paper consumption, as if the SG50 flags and paraphernalia still flying about weren’t enough. ‘Poster wars’ between political parties and random vandals have led to the ‘disfigurement’ of the city ever since 1955, where lamp posts, trees and even longkangs (culverts) are not spared from party propaganda.  Up till today, we have people messing up banners or stealing them as collectibles. Maybe we should be thankful to these thieves for relieving us of a serious eyesore. Or maybe it’s the ghost of Yusok, I mean Yusof, Ishak at work.

As for the Holland ward, I saw with my own eyes Vivian Balakrishnan and gang’s faces stuck on the wall between stalls while ordering food at Ghim Moh Temp Hawker centre some days back. Which means PAP has, indirectly, already flouted one of the election guidelines set up by the ELD, merchant association or not. While fashioning PAP candidates as deities next to a religious shrine comes across as a show of disrespect (though not illegal), that didn’t stop contestants from physically entering places of worship during their walkabouts during the last election. Politics and religion shouldn’t mix, of course. That includes holding rallies in conjunction with getais. Neither should politics be mixed with basic necessities like Lunch or Dinner.

A godless society is problematic for Singapore

From ‘We welcome criticism within constraints, says Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong’, 23 Jul 2015, article in CNA

The governing authorities are open to criticism, but the ability to exercise of the freedom of expression comes with limits, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, referencing the cases of bloggers Amos Yee and Roy Ngerng. Yee received a four-week jail sentence for posting an obscene image online and posting content intended to hurt the religious feelings of Christians – a sentence and conviction he is appealing.

“In our society, which is multiracial and multi-religious, giving offence to another religious or ethnic group, race, language or religion, is always a very serious matter. In this case, he’s a 16-year-old, so you have to deal with it appropriately because he’s (of a) young age,” Mr Lee said in an interview with Time, published on Thursday (Jul 23).

The peaceful co-existence of religions is something that takes work, the Prime Minister said.

“Overall, we think religion is a good thing. I mean, if we were godless society, we would have many other problems, the communists found that out,” said Mr Lee.

“But religion is a good thing provided we are able to bridge the differences between our different faiths, provided there’s give-and-take, provided we are able to get along together and not offend each other by aggressive proselytisation, by denigrating other faiths, by being separate and, therefore, having suspicions of one another, which can easily happen,” he added.

Well, religion is awesome, as 50,000 Christians proved to PM Lee when he joined the godly masses for the Jubilee Day of Prayer. It’s also great to see different faiths coming together and praying to purge evil spirits from suicide reservoirs. I can’t imagine what Singapore would be like if we all didn’t believe in the Almighty; no heritage churches, Sultan Mosque, temples. No multimillionaire pastors. No Lawrence Khong magic shows. Gasp, no Sun Ho! We’ve got 99 problems but God ain’t one.

PM Lee’s reference to ‘godlessness’ echoes his father’s sentiments towards the Red Scourge back in 1964, which he calls ‘a godless philosophy that leads to trouble’.  Soviet communism has given atheism a bad name, and has been described as an ideology that started on a godless premise.  The same term was used to describe the Nazis, though both regimes had similar elements of worship and idolatry – the deification of Lenin and Hitler come to mind. Atheism has since been recognised as philosophy based on logic and science rather than violent heresy, and the word ‘godless’ itself was just another Dark Ages relic label like ‘infidel’, until its resurgence around 1958 as this Ngrams graph shows. This was around the time the USSR launched Sputnik, and Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.09.18 PM

Today, despite their inherent godlessness, we see branded Che Guevara images and ‘Hitler chic’, with its Nazi themed cafes, weddings and even cosplay. Mao propaganda posters have become hip marketing gimmicks. Godless commies have become trivialised in pop culture, though our Government refuses to let it go still. Look what happened to ‘To Singapore With Love’, banned like an exorcist casting away Satan. Even if we don’t worship a literal supernatural father figure, there’s one god that every successful, capitalist country, especially one among the richest nations in the world, looks up to in reverence: Money. Or at least a personification of money. Like Cai Shen Ye.

Unless there is anthropological evidence that any society without the pillar of monotheistic faith is doomed to fail, with or without the godless Red Star Armies, our PM’s assertion on the social advantages of religion as compared to no religion, remains up for debate. Religion has its share of problems, obviously, if you think of all the horrific tragedies in human history , from the Crusades to ISIS, done ‘in the name of God’. Wonder what PM Lee’s sister, a self proclaimed ‘atheist’ thinks about elder brother’s quip. As for life without God, we can only for now, well, Imagine.

Self-radicalised teen released under Restriction Order

From ‘Singaporean teen arrested under ISA released, under Restriction Order’, 29 June 2015, article in CNA

A Singaporean youth who was arrested under the Internal Security Act in May has been released from custody and is placed under a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for two years from June, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday (Jun 29).

Investigations showed the 17-year-old had become radicalised after viewing videos, websites and social media materials propagated by radical ideologues and terrorist elements, MHA stated. “He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans,” MHA said.

Under the Restriction Order, the youth will have to attend religious counselling and has to stop accessing violent or extremist online material. He will not be allowed to leave Singapore without permission or to issue public statements. Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public, MHA added.

The teen ‘radical’ has not been named, and was arrested sometime in May, which means he’s been under lock and key for not more than 2 months. This leads me to the inevitable comparison of ISIS boy’s fate to another kid around his age, one who got into trouble after badmouthing a certain dead leader. That kid is none other than Amos Yee.

1) Identity

The identity of ISIS Boy remains under wraps. Not so secretive was another 19 year old detained under ISA for planning violent attacks, with the death wish of assassinating the President and Prime Minister. It’s puzzling why the name of this guy got leaked, but not the younger teen whom the ministry folks seem to think can be ‘de-radicalised’ with ‘religious counselling’, and not with that thingamajig used in A Clockwork Orange.

Amos, on the other hand, made a grand show-and-tell of how he felt about LKY, through his own Youtube Channel no less. Despite depicting the man in a rather unflattering position with Margaret Thatcher, he did not call for his followers to gun down the rest of the Lee legacy, or strap themselves with homemade bombs and detonate them inside 38 Oxley Road.

We also know who Amos’ parents are, which school he dropped out from and maybe even where he lives. We know that he LOVES bananas. We know absolutely nothing about ISIS boy or his friends. At least if you see Amos in the streets one day you could run and hide in case he unleashes a torrent of anti-Christianity rants on you. ISIS boy is practically invisible, and exactly how the shady organisation wants him to be.

2) Time spent ‘in remand’

Excluding a pending 2 week stint in IMH, Amos has already spent at least 40 days in remand, and may potentially exceed the time ISIS boy spent ‘detained’. What gives? The kid who’s an actual threat to public safety getting out of prison before another who dissed Christianity and broadcast some cartoon porn for the world to enjoy. Which is the more heinous crime? Amos probably knows more about the history and geography of Syria than any blind follower who looks forward to a training stint there like it’s the Disneyland of the Middle East.

3) Victimisation

Amos has been threatened with castration, and even hit square in the face by a random attacker with dumbstruck reporters standing by snapping away without lifting a finger to help. His fashion sense has been made fun of, and his parents shamed for not doing their job.

What about ISIS boy? Were people afraid of teaching him a lesson in case his secret ISIS brethren begin blowing up our stuff and loved ones? Where was that slapper when we needed him the most?

4) Cause

An eminent psychiatrist from IMH has suggested that Amos may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder, which may explain his behaviour. It’s also the kind of tactic lawyers resort to when they don’t know how to keep extremely rebellious teens out of jail. If diagnosed, Amos may be at the receiving end of the ominous-sounding Mandatory Treatment Order, which has been dished out on maid abusers, bra sniffers, schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers. He may never be the same again after 2 years of forced rehab. Or maybe this was a devious ploy all along to escape NS.

ISIS boy, on the other hand, isn’t suffering from a mental disorder, but merely mixed up with bad company and swayed into some murderous doctrine disguised as rap videos. Unlike Amos, there seems to be hope for ISIS boy, that he shall be guided onto the path of righteousness with religious elder support. Yet, the one labelled ‘sick’ here and set to be coerced into therapy is not the one with aspirations to actually fire weapons at other human beings, but the boy who merely had one too many things to say, and refused to take those words back.

Burning joss paper leading to lung cancer

From ‘Restrict incense burning to places of worship’, 15 June 2015, ST Forum

(Madam Wah Yan Chan): I AGREE with Mr Mckeena Neo (“Common corridors not the place for burning incense paper”; June 2). While our forefathers may have burnt joss paper and incense sticks as a sign of devotion, they probably did so without knowing that such burning produces a cocktail of harmful carcinogens that may cause conditions such as asthma and, in the long term, can lead to life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer.

Causing inconvenience and harm to others should never be justified on the bases of religion and tradition. Surely Singapore should have a law prohibiting the burning of incense and joss paper in common areas and restricting the practice to designated places of worship.

There are regulations in the Environmental Public Health Act that stipulate how many joss sticks and candles with specific dimensions may be burnt in premises such as an ‘enclosed space’ or a temple. When burning cancerous joss paper, however, the public is merely advised to use burning pits and containers provided by town councils and clean up their mess after satisfying the gods, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it just outside your HDB flat. The writer above is clearly convinced that burning joss paper increases one’s risk of cancer and should be banned from public areas. The problem is she’s somehow OK with people getting cancer in ‘designated places of worship’.

Whether or not joss paper has the same risk as cigarette smoke is up for debate, since I believe no one has done extensive epidemiological studies on joss paper as we have for tobacco. What is certain, however, is joss paper is a potential fire hazard, especially if people are appeasing their ancestors near a PETROL STATION. Even burning them in bins as recommended by the authorities may lead to explosions in your FACE if there’s a stray aerosol can lying within. In 1976, a blaze ripped through a Jalan Ubi village, rendering 16 locals homeless. It started when burning joss paper flew into a mattress factory. If only the Fire department had SPRUNG into action faster then.

You may think we’re relatively safe because we don’t live in attap houses anymore, but God help you if a stray hot ash lands on your curtain.  You could say a lit cigarette may cause hell on Earth as well, but the trajectory of burning ash in the wind is more unpredictable, and it’s harder to catch the culprit because it could have blown in from anywhere. It could be a little girl behind it following her parents’ instructions to send money to Grandma’s account in the Netherworld. Do we, then, need to wait for someone to perish from a freak joss paper fire, not to mention asthma or lung cancer, before we do something?

Curbing a religious practice may have, well, inflammatory repercussions, and may explain why the authorities are slow to crack down on joss paper burning, even doing little to stop worshippers from aggravating the haze and pissing off asthmatics some years back. Interestingly, one of the stories behind how joss paper was invented involves a con-job by a paper inventor Cai Lun, who tried to boost paper sales by faking his own death and getting his wife to bribe the King of Hell to return his soul through joss offerings. Today, it has morphed into a custom of filial piety and endearing superstition, though one incompatible with our bid for a ‘clean and green’ future. Then again, we’re still seeing ever more cars on the road, trees being cut down to be replaced by condos and people continuing to smoke like chimneys because the government has banned all ‘smokeless’ tobacco products. At least the burning of joss paper, for all its environmental damage, is a small price to pay if it stops ghosts, demons and the evil dead from popping out of hell portals in what’s left of Bukit Brown and haunting the shit out of us all.

I forsee the practice dying out by the next generation anyway, provided we all don’t die of joss-induced cancer, asthma or in a fiery inferno anytime soon.

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.

LKY being lionised into an ubermensch

From ‘Recognise imperfections without diminishing stature’, 28 March 2015, ST Forum

(Ng Qi Siang): I AM greatly saddened by Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death. He was a great leader and deserves our respect for making Singapore the great country it is today.  However, I am concerned that many Singaporeans have been accused of being “disrespectful” of Mr Lee by mentioning some of his mistakes or policies they disagree with. Mr Chia Boon Teck has even called for such speech to be punished with punitive action (“Take the disrespectful to task”; Forum Online, yesterday).

…Moreover, by deeming the discussion of Mr Lee’s faults taboo, we lionise him excessively and present an inaccurate picture of the man to future generations. For all his great deeds, Mr Lee also made mistakes. Some of his policies, such as the “Stop at Two” policy, led to undesirable outcomes like an ageing population. His strict governing style has also been the subject of much controversy.

In order to give Mr Lee an honest assessment, we should recognise these imperfections without diminishing his stature, as historians do with other great figures, from Winston Churchill to Thomas Jefferson.  This will allow future generations to better relate to him as it gives his legacy a human touch. It also allows them to learn from both his errors as well as his successes.

However, by lionising him to the point of ignoring his weaknesses, we risk mythologising him into an “ubermensch” that future Singaporeans cannot relate to. By glossing over his mistakes, they may be deprived of important lessons that may help them avert the mistakes of their forebears.

Mr Lee himself has acknowledged that he is not perfect. As a man who did not take to heart how others perceived him, he would not want the value of his legacy to be lost for the sake of universal laudation. Free debate will allow for a more meaningful discussion of Mr Lee’s place in history.

When Low Thia Khiang mentioned that LKY was considered a ‘controversial figure’ because ‘many Singaporeans’ were sacrificed and had to pay the price for his one-party rule during a solemn parliamentary tribute, he was swiftly rebuked for being insensitive in light of his passing. The Catholic Church’s Archbishop William Goh said that Lee would not be canonised because although he achieved a lot of Singapore, he had his FLAWS, in particular the crackdown on parishioners during the 1987 Marxist conspiracy (Time to move on from Marxist conspiracy, 28 March 15, ST), a dark period under LKY’s rule that is conveniently omitted from the memorial biographies. I doubt anyone would accuse the Archbishop of disrespecting the dead man, unlike the brickbats tossed at the leader of the Workers’ Party.

Some critics go for the jugular, and become the target of a witch hunt as you would expect given this emotional period. Playwright Alfian Sa’at condemns the ‘fishing village myth’ and how the week of mourning was also a ‘history revisionism free-for-all’ (Playwright Alfian Sa’at questions LKY legacy, 27 March 2015, ST). Loudmouth Youtuber Amos Yee posted a video titled ‘Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead’, calling LKY a ‘dictator’ and comparing the adulation to that for Jesus Christ. Yes this is the same kid who thinks CNY is bullshit. Once talent spotted by Jack Neo, now facing 15 police reports at time of writing.

To be sure, LKY was no saint, as much as we have to be thankful for his glorious work. The glossing over the ‘controversial’ aspects of his leadership is inevitable as Singaporeans, having no king, emperor, saints or superhero to revere since our founding, finally have the chance to mourn a strong father-leader figure, many to the extent of messianic idolatry. After all, rational behaviour is hardly expected when a nation is bereaved, if the 10 hour Padang queues are anything to go by. Respect the phenomenal heroics of the man, but also remember him as a mortal with hopes, dreams, loves, quirks, habits, and yes, the occasional mistake. Aspiration, not divination. And of course, it pays to get your facts right.

Tribute in India

If the exaggerated mythologising of the man is not kept in check, we’ll have our children believing that LKY descended onto our little pitiless island on a flying giant unicorn, threw rainbow confetti across the land which magically spring forth HDB blocks and skyscrapers over mudflats, his sweat and tears transforming into the clean drinking water that we all take for granted today. In fact, on the day of his funeral itself, one already remembered for the torrential, incidental ‘tears from heaven’ that accompanied it,  someone reported a full rainbow appearing over MBS (which turned out to be an image from 2010). Also, the birds were singing Somewhere Also the Rainbow while flying in formation over the travelling cortege. OK, the last one is made up. I stand corrected.

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and we risk slaying it if we overdo this rose-tinted tribute to LKY’s legacy, the gushing sentiment leading to a mass selective amnesia. We want to celebrate the man and his people without whom all this would not be possible, not the myth.

The ubermensch is German for ‘Superman’ or ‘Overman’, and we hear of mourners calling out to Lee as their ‘superhero’, ‘idol’ or bizarrely ‘Papa’, unaware that the man himself was known to eschew a personality cult, and was always reluctant to have buildings named after him. Since his death, we have petitions to rename Changi Airport to LKY airport, people changing their Facebook banners and profile pics to LKY and black ribbon decals with his face on cars. He was ultra-pragmatic both in life and would want his death to be likewise, without the wailing grandiosity and postmortem epithets such as ‘Architect of Modern Singapore’ and ‘Chief Gardener of Singapore’. I can imagine him shaking his head from above, telling Singaporeans to go home to their families, get back to work and stop screwing up the Padang, doing injustice to his life’s work as the creator of the ‘Clean and Green’ movement. Life goes on, as what as he had designed in the Singapore ‘DNA’ all along, for us to carry on without him.

If there’s anyone disrespecting our late leader, it’s the grievers leaving behind a sad mess for others to pick up after them while deifying the man, not the critics trying to make him sound more like us;  a fallible, emotional, stubborn human being, warts and all.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 2

While it is heartwarming to see genuine acts of compassion from ordinary people on the ground, it would be nice to see such kindness being displayed on an everyday basis. Yes, even in Hello Kitty queues.

When interviewed by the ST (Critical battles: Letting go of past, but not forgetting it, 29 March 2015, Sunday Times), Otto Fong, son of banished Fong Swee Huan, alleged instigator of the Hock Lee Bus Riots, said:

..As I looked at everyone queuing up, I wondered how many of them would do the same thing for their loved ones while they were still alive. There’s a difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiving is about letting go, forgetting is not healthy for history.

Yes, you probably wouldn’t give your own flesh and blood a Black Knight farewell when they pass on, but if there’s one lesson to take home from the week’s events, it’s to cherish your loved ones while they’re still around. The Old Man, God bless his soul, would agree.


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