LKY’s name sullied by an ‘dishonourable son’

From ‘Lee Wei Ling’s accusations ‘completely untrue’ PM Lee’, 10 Apr 2016, article in CNA

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Apr 10) responded to comments made on Facebook by his sister Lee Wei Ling. In a statement on Facebook, Mr Lee said: “I am deeply saddened by my sister Dr Lee Wei Ling’s claim that I have abused my power to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing in order to establish a dynasty. The accusations are completely untrue.”

He added: “The first anniversary of a person’s passing is a significant moment to remember him and reflect on what he meant to us. The more so with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The Cabinet had discussed how we should mark the occasion. My advice was that we should leave it to ground-up efforts. Groups should keep their observances in proportion, and focused on the future.

…In one of the emails released by Dr Lee, she said that she “and HL are at odds on a matter of principle” with regard to the commemoration, and that Mr Lee had “no qualms abusing his power to (have) a commemoration just one year after Lee Kuan Yew died”.

She added: “Let’s be real, last year’s event was so vivid, no one will forget it in one (year). But if the power that be wants to establish a dynasty, LKY’s daughter will not allow LKY’s name to be sullied by a dishonourable son.”

LWL somehow managed to take everyone’s attention off her alleged plagiarism, but instead of throwing a smoke bomb, she decided to drop an atomic one. It’s a shame that family relations have to come to this after the passing of a patriach. The elder Lees would be saddened to see their own flesh and blood fighting over how a dead man should be remembered. LKY may have asked to have his Oxley house demolished, but it would pain him to see this pair explode into the sibling rivalry of the year, and a family torn apart.

So now that our PM’s reputation has been ‘sullied’ by his own sister, you’d have to wonder what drastic measures would need to be taken to ‘protect his honour’. One individual would be particularly interested. His name? Roy Ngerng. LWL has deleted the offending post, so perhaps that will keep Davinder Singh away for now.

As a son and PM, LWL’s brother had every right to commemorate Daddy’s 1st death anniversary, as many Singaporeans would come to expect as part of traditional custom. If he had decreed that a grand pagoda made of pure gold 10 storeys high be built just for LKY, then you could consider it an ‘abuse of power’. As for ‘honour’, well, we’ll leave it for the professor from NNI to elaborate further. As long as PM Lee doesn’t appear on the Panama Papers ‘honour roll’, then he’s fine.

Don’t expect any juicy bits from LWL’s Hakka Woman memoir, though. The ‘powers that be’ would have none of it. What everyone should learn from this episode is this: Don’t screw yourself over writing incriminating emails that any bugger can forward and post in the public domain.

UPDATE: PM’s wife Ho Ching apologised for inadvertently posting a picture of a snow monkey flipping its middle finger, explaining that she was a newbie at Twitter and deleted it as soon as it was construed as a response to her sister-in-law’s comments. A handy excuse for anyone ‘accidentally’ posting campaign material on Cooling Off day, as what a Facebook glitch did to Vivian Balakrishnan last year. Some levity on a very grim family matter then.

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When you pay peanuts, you get..

 

Lee Wei Ling caught plagiarising in LKY hero worship article

From ‘Why ST did not publish Dr Lee Wei Ling’s column’, article by Ivan Fernandez, 9 April 2016, ST

Several issues of serious journalistic concern arose from recent allegations by Dr Lee Wei Ling, a former columnist of The Sunday Times, after she blogged about events last month to commemorate the death of her father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

In a Facebook post on April 1, Dr Lee wrote: “i will no longer write for SPH as the editors there do not allow me freedom of speech. in fact, that was the reason why i posted the article on LKY would not want to be hero-worshipped.”

I had been editing Dr Lee’s columns since last November. So it pained me when she also alleged that those who edited her columns had been “commanded to edit certain issues out, and they are to (sic) timid to disobey, and too embarrassed by their timidness to tell me the truth”.

…On March 25, I received another version of the column with substantial additions that I found distracting at first reading because of repeated references to China (Mao Zedong’s China had already been mentioned higher up in her piece).

But there was another issue as well. Upon checking the accuracy of a quote she cited from British Prime Minister David Cameron, and other further checks, I found that almost three quarters of the additions had been plagiarised.

I had learnt from experience with Dr Lee’s columns that her sources needed to be double-checked.

Ivan Fernandez has just joined Team Janadas in this kerfuffle, armed with evidence of wholesale copying and a serious allegation of LWL’s integrity as a columnist. While JD had insinuated that LWL wasn’t a very good writer as reading her work was like ‘sailing through a fog’,  it looks like the fangs, claws and knives are out with this latest exchange. Meanwhile, her book ‘A Hakka Woman’s Singapore Stories’, happily compiled together by the ST team, continues to receive rave reviews as a ‘page turner‘. It’s telling that only 75 out of 180 essays made the cut according to one reader.

LWL won’t let the matter rest of course, having inherited the more renown character traits of her deceased father, including those in the looks department. Upon this reveal and reading the hero-worship post again, the historical bits about Churchill or Mao Tse Tung do stick out from her usual style like a sore thumb. In fact, they’re conspicuously BORING compared to rest of the post.

It’s one thing to label a prominent figure ungrateful as Janadas did when he sarcastically wrote ‘At the conclusion of that prolonged period of agony, she lovingly gathered the products of her oppression into a best-selling collection of essays’. It’s another to accuse one of intellectual thievery, no less someone who’s both a neurologist by training and a member of a powerful family. I believe LWL’s smart enough to wiggle her way out of this situation. My censorship is your editing. Your plagiarism is my paraphrasing. Potato, tomato. Not that plagiarism is anything new in academic circles. 

Through their censorship, I mean EDITING, ST has tried to sell LWL as an honest, down to earth voice speaking from beyond the ivory tower, someone who could give precious insight into the private lives of the Lees. But this debacle has made it appear that ST were somehow ‘tolerating’ LWL’s requests all these time, and that she’s not as simple as she sounds on paper. Until the death of her father that led to the hero-worship piece that is. Now we’re seeing the true power of a spurned Hakka woman without the moderating, some say manipulative, lens of the ST. As for ST, it’s hard to tell if this is a last-ditch attempt for eyeballs following LWL’s departure, or a genuine statement of how professional they really are.

Still, ST shouldn’t have worried about LWL’s accusation that they do not allow freedom of speech because EVERYONE knows how ST is viewed as a shameless mouthpiece for the ruling party, despite the irony that they’re sticking to sacred journalistic principles when making sure LWL doesn’t get what she wants. As Fernandez writes: “No newspaper editor would accept columns on that basis (ultimatums), however illustrious the writers.” Ouch.

UPDATE: LWL’s FB response was that Fernandez was not upfront on the plagiarism during their correspondence, and continued to emphasise that her intention was to downplay the LKY hagiographies. She also said as a doctor, she had nothing to gain professionally from her contributions. In other words, borrowing material is no big deal. You didn’t tell me clearly about ST’s position on copying.

Though a bad article indeed does nothing to hurt LWL’s career, it would reflect badly on an ‘award-winning’ newspaper if they gave in to an ‘illustrious character’ and allowed the copy-and-pasting to get through. I figure LWL was too impatient with the to-ing and fro-ing, and decided to post her unedited version anyway. I guess shortcuts are fine if you’re a really busy neurologist who needs to save people’s lives.

LKY hero worship is cringeworthy

From Dr Lee Wei Ling’s Facebook post, 26 March 2016

Lee Kuan Yew would have cringed at the hero worship just one year after his death

The response of Singaporeans during the seven days of national mourning when my father, Lee Kuan Yew, died last March was unanticipated – even by Singaporeans themselves, not to mention foreign observers. As his daughter, I too was astounded by the intensity of Singaporeans’ feelings towards my father.

…Life seemed to return to normal for Singapore over the past year. Personally, it was a different story for me. That I don’t express my emotion in public does not mean I am not hurting inside. The wound has only recently healed, and not even completely. So I declined to comment for publications marking the first anniversary of my father’s death.

What made me write this article was a front page report in The Straits Times (Mar 21). It carried a photo of an outline of Papa’s face made with 4,877 erasers that form an installation which is 2.3 m wide and 3.1 m tall, titled Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag. That was the work of 110 Singaporeans aged 17 to 35 using erasers with the Singapore flag on it.

It was a well-meaning effort but it made me wince. Here is why:

The photo brought back memories of my first visit to China with my father in 1976. It was the end of the Cultural Revolution and I have vivid memories of our delegation being greeted by young children lining the streets chanting loudly: “WELCOME, WELCOME, A VERY WARM WELCOME.”

It was very contrived and my father was not impressed. We are Singaporeans, not prone to excessive, unnatural displays of emotion.

…I acknowledge the outline of Papa’s face made with erasers as a sincere gesture. But in looking at acts of commemoration in general, I would ask how the time, effort and resources used to prepare these would benefit Singapore and Singaporeans.

…Any veneration could have the opposite effect and lead future generations of Singaporeans to think that my father’s actions were motivated by his desire for fame, or creation of a dynasty. He strove hard and determinedly in life to advance Singapore, and not for his place in history, or leaving a great legacy. He is a rare politician and leader, who did what he had to do with no thought to any gain for himself.

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The late LKY once said that even if he had to be lowered into his grave, if he saw something wrong, he would get up. Today, one year after his passing, he’s probably cringing from the other side, with Mdm Kua Gek Choo by his side consoling him: ‘Dear, at least it’s not a giant statue like Michael Jackson’s off his History album cover’, to which her soulmate would reply: ‘It’s damn rubbers. At least you could USE a $50 commemorative note with my face on it!’.

What his daughter is saying about the death anniversary commemoration is ‘Nice, but please don’t waste your time and just get on with your lives already’. An even more cringeworthy piece of news was that of an Indian child born a year ago today in Tamil Nadu, also called Lee Kuan Yew, in honour of His Greatness. There was a nationwide search for people with the same name. Breadtalk wisely refrained from capitalising on the surge in this ‘hero worship’. Elsewhere, people observed a minute of silence, flocked to remembrance sites in Tanjong Pagar, shed a tear or two or, if they have too much time on their hands, create mega portraits made out of erasers, signatures, staples, nose hair, back pocket scraps or their own blood. No it wasn’t a mere hero that people were praying to. It’s a God-Emperor. Don’t forget to plan for Sept 16, your Heavenly Father’s 93rd birthday, devotees!

Lee Wei Ling already saw this mass deification coming just last year (Dr Lee Wei Ling on honouring the late Lee Kuan Yew’, 19 April 2015, ST). Her dad was dead set against a personality cult  growing around him, eschewed hagiographies and had urged an ex-MP to ‘remember Ozymandias’, a pharoah who craved glorious immortality only to have his statue reduced to dust over time, leaving only the desert. Other writers advised against lionising the late leader and making an ubermensch out of him. Then there’s all this fuss over the Owen Road house, which may well turn out to be a shrine instead of a historical building if we don’t watch ourselves. Interestingly, Lee Wei Ling used the loaded word ‘dynasty’ in her post, a word that Lee and company did not take kindly to when they sued the New York Times for the defamatory ‘All in the Family’ article about political dynasties.

The media was, as expected, flooded with tears and sentiment of ex-Ministers paying tribute to Dear Leader, expressing more sorrow and gratitude than if it were their own dead parents. Meanwhile, someone else needs to settle the dead SMRT staff incident, while these guys are busy writing their soppy monologues and rehashing their public sad face, which no one gives a shit about except maybe the PM, who must be thinking at some point: ‘Why can’t I spend some time quietly reflecting on Daddy without going around beaming in approval at all these activities dammit!’

Let’s honour the man not by stroking his ghost ego, but by emulating his agnostic, pragmatic spirit. Our nation wasn’t built by one man, so let’s not undermine the contributions of other important individuals by elevating LKY on a godly pedestal. Stop the wailing, the offerings, the hero worship hang-ups and get on with your lives, Singaporeans.

Women are from Venus, Lee Wei Ling is from Mars

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.

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’.

Lee Wei Ling is an atheist sent by God

From ‘ An atheist sent by God’, 31 March 2013, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times

I have a patient, R, who has been under my care since 2006. In 2008, she ran into a serious non- medical problem. She worked for someone who ran tuition centres, and her duties included taking children from one tuition centre to another and calling the pupils’ parents.

She was paid only $750 a month, but had to spend her own money to ferry the children by taxi, and she was not reimbursed for the telephone calls made on her own cellphone. She was naive, and her boss exploited her. Strapped for cash, she took money from the fees paid by the parents to pay off loan sharks. She had intended to repay the tuition centre from her future earnings, but before she could do so, her boss found out.

He threatened to report her to the police if she did not reimburse him immediately. Although her parents repaid the money on her behalf, the boss lodged a police report anyway and she was charged.

I asked a senior psychiatrist to see her. After examining her, he agreed that she was in no medical condition to serve out a prison term.

The law firm I approached agreed to help her pro bono. Their representation and the medical reports helped reduce her sentence from a jail term to a fine.

…In this cynical world, there are still people who want to do what is right, even if doing so will not profit them personally, as my psychiatrist friend and the lawyers who defended R pro bono show. This gives me hope that we can develop into a compassionate society no matter what our religion, or whether or not we believe in God.

R praised her saviour as a ‘person sent by God’, which the latter thought was ironic since she did not believe in His existence. If Lee Wei Ling weren’t the daughter of LKY, this would have been a perfect ‘Letters to Heaven’ bedtime story for Christian kids. Although intended as a Easter-themed celebration of the human spirit and compassion without faith intervening, Lee Wei Ling’s account of how she got a patient off the hook is not so much Good Samaritan as it shows the benefit of having powerful connections, or how having a mental illness and good lawyers can help you escape prison time. Pro bono also happens to be a fancy legal term for ‘free of charge’. It is usually administered for ‘the public good’, legal assistance for an ‘indigent stranger’ without expectation of reward. I would imagine it given to say elderly, disadvantaged workers seeking compensation for unfair dismissal at work, or to bloggers getting threatened for commenting on famous politicians’ celebrity daughters.

Dr Lee would deny that her position and influence had anything to do with R having an advantage over anyone else caught in the same situation. Regardless of R’s mental state or financial difficulties, the fact is she STOLE from her company, a crime that warrants a jail term. Lee carefully sidesteps the details; if R was indeed ruled out of a prison sentence on the basis of illness, was there any rehabilitation program mandated in addition to the fine? What illness do you need to suffer from to be spared a jail term? How did this article get past the Sunday Times editor?

Lee concluded with a cloyingly hopeful reminder that there is still some humanity left in us after all, that altruism is alive whether or not you believe in God.  Many people who have committed similar crimes out of desperation have landed in jail because they couldn’t afford expensive lawyers or psychiatrists to declare themselves medically unfit. Nor are they fortunate enough to have ‘atheists sent by God’ among their company. There is also too little information and too much sob-story from Lee’s perspective on R to say if she was truly deserving of the loving, unbiased touch of God. I also question if Lee’s doctor and lawyer friends did it out of genuine compassion, were returning a favour to ‘promote access to justice’, or acted simply because of who she was.

Maybe she should have written a story about volunteering in a tsunami-hit Third World country where the people believe in animal spirits instead of Jesus Christ, and then conclude that belief in a Man-God in a flowing robe and a halo over his head is not a prerequisite for miracles. Incidentally her father would call such disasters ‘Acts of God’, though he has been described as a man ‘agnostic’ in his approach to life.

Postscript: Lee Wei Ling reproduced the same ‘sob-story’ as an Easter special on 20 April 2014 (An atheist’s Easter story, Think, Sunday Times), but with further updates on R’s condition (depression coupled with epilepsy), who’s currently leading a normal life thanks to this ‘person sent from God’. Yes, we all know you did an Egg-cellent job, atheist.

Lee Wei Ling and LKY are dyslexics

From ‘The long and short of rules’, 2 Sept 2012, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times

…Ryan’s mother, however, reacted melodramatically. She went to the press with her son’s story and lodged a police report. She claimed that Ryan “could not leave home for two days because of the way he looked”. Then she arranged for him to have a $60 haircut.

She excused her son’s disobedience by saying he was dyslexic, and that dyslexics were forgetful. Both my father and I are dyslexic. We are no more forgetful than other normal people.

…Ryan’s mother’s reaction to the teacher cutting her son’s hair was, I am afraid, close to hysterical. How do we bring up our children with the right values when parents and schools send such conflicting messages?

I wouldn’t doubt a famous neurologist’s analysis on the symptoms of dyslexia, and I fully concur with her diagnosis of HYSTERIA in Ryan’s mother. But what’s interesting about this week’s Lee Wei Ling column is not so much her stand on hair rules or teachers playing barber (which is not surprising since she fancies a shorn crop, probably one that’s even shorter than Ryan’s), but her admission that both herself and LKY are dyslexics. Wei Ling herself once confessed that she didn’t really pay attention during GP lessons, which could be related to her undiagnosed dyslexia then. Despite that, she did well (an ‘A’ too) and look where she is now.

In a 2009 article ‘Morals and Morale’, Wei Ling was candidly honest about her problems with spelling in English, but did not shy away from boasting about how good she was at Chinese ‘mo-xie’, a test in which you had to regurgitate an entire essay or poem entirely by memory.

Those who know about moxie might be surprised to hear that I enjoyed memorising the classics, and I never got less than 90 marks for moxie. It was English spelling that I had problems with.

Since I had no difficulty with written Chinese, I blamed my problems with English spelling on the strange spelling rules of the language. It was only many years later that I discovered I was dyslexic in English. To this day, I sometimes cannot decide whether to use a ‘d’ or a ‘t’, a ‘v’ or a ‘z’. I have even more difficulty with vowels. Fortunately, my e-mail and word-processing programs have spell checkers.

In 1995, the good doctor was kind enough to sign up as Advisor to the DAS (Dyslexic Association of Singapore), an acronym which I’ve come to realise is a smart wordplay on how dyslexics tend to ‘mirror-write’ (DAS backwards is SAD). Wei Ling also spent some time in the 80’s as registrar at TTSH working with ‘under-achieving’ kids, a euphemism for ‘slow learners’ or ‘backward’ children. In the 60’s, experts were quick to discount myths that children who suffer from ‘word-blindness’, as it was formerly known, were ‘necessarily STUPID’. In the 70’s you would see headlines in the ST like ‘The bright kids who just cannot write; first in a two-part series on ABNORMAL children’. In the tradition of making disorders less dreadful than they sound by making them harder to read or spell, dyslexia has been rebranded recently as Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD).

Looking at the language standards of Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, you would think dyslexia, despite affecting up to 10% of Singaporeans, is still relatively under-diagnosed here. Perhaps the rate would have been higher if spellcheck and Autocorrect were never invented. There’s also a chance that with the stigma removed and dyslexia being erroneously tied to genius like how bipolar mania has become a ‘fashionable’ disease, normal people who write undecipherable emails may abuse the ‘dyslexia’ label by claiming they are ‘dyslexic’ when they’re just TERRIBLE, LAZY spellers. I hope DAS never has to change their name to DRDAS.

In a 2007 interview with the New York Times, LKY mentioned that an unnamed grandson was dyslexic as well (without saying that he had it himself), further supporting the observation that it runs in families and is more common in boys than girls. No signs of it in PM Lee so far, though he has the occasional lapse in mistaking one hawker food for another.

I’ve got one grandson gone to MIT. Another grandson had been in the American school here. Because he was dyslexic and we then didn’t have the teachers to teach him how to overcome or cope with his dyslexia, so he was given exemption to go to the American school. He speaks like an American. He’s going to Wharton.

It was Lee Wei Ling herself who revealed to the media that her daddy suffered from ‘mild dyslexia’ in 1996 (SM Lee has mild dyslexia, says daughter who’s dyslexic, 18 Jan 1996, ST), just like how she told the whole world last year he had peripheral neuropathy. Still, dyslexia didn’t seem to stop the elder statesman from publishing bestselling autobiographies showing a strong command of the written word, though I doubt he said anything about the disorder in ‘Hard Truths’. In the HongKong Journal of Paediatrics 2005, LKY was cited as a case study of highly successful dyslexics, where he submitted himself to testing only when he realised that ‘he couldn’t read fast without missing important items’. Proceeds from sales of a CD-ROM of his life were donated to the DAS (You can still buy it from e-bay but not sure where the money goes now). LKY’s affliction is proof that some dyslexic individuals not only function just as well as their ‘normal’ peers in society, but far exceed their abilities in all other aspects. The list include visionaries like Richard Branson and Albert Einstein, famed Scientologist actor Tom Cruise, Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney, light bulb inventor Thomas Edison and internet sensation ‘Dog Bless You’ Dr Jia Jia.

And how could I forget Derek Zoolander and Homer Simpson.