Yesterday’s session was for MPs to Pay Tributes to Lee Kuan Yew, not to rebut Perceptions of other MPs
Yesterday, Singapore’s Parliament paid tributes to the late leader, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some fitting, some sycophantic and mostly reflective of a grateful nation recalling the stellar stewardship of Mr Lee that helped put Singapore in the First World league!
I do not expect MPs belonging to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to commit political suicide during a solemn period such as this by being otherwise.
I have great admiration for Mr Lee and have been acknowledging his contributions in my own humble way all week through this blog.
But listening to the eulogies at the session telecast live that I watched in patches, I began to wonder if Singapore’s much-hailed meritocracy is evident in today’s Parliament. Educational qualifications can, after all, lie and can be no real yardstick for wit, sagacity or perceptiveness!
It was a session for MPs to talk about their experiences with Mr Lee, what they remember him best for, where he made a difference and what they think his contributions to Singapore were.
Political Brownie Points: It was not a platform to rebut what other MPs thought of him to gain personal, political brownie points.
Yet, it appeared Indranee Rajah, an MP from Mr Lee’s Tanjong Pagar GRC (Group Representation Constituency), attempted to do that in the course of her brief speech.
Some Singaporeans “Sacrificed”: Mr Low Thia Khiang, representing the Workers’ Party, acknowledged that Mr Lee was an extraordinary leader without whom Singapore would not have become an economic success story and a peaceful multiracial country. A fair tribute without a hint of any prejudice.
But, he also said that some Singaporeans were sacrificed in the process of nation-building. That may be a debatable point, but it was his personal view which he was free to express as an MP. Tributes need not have to be one-sided and obsequious.
Ms Rajah, in her tribute, said “it was not people who were sacrificed, but things that would have made us a lesser people, a lesser country…”, as quoted in today’s edition of The Straits Times.
It was nonetheless and admission, possibly an unwitting one, that were some sacrifices – whether they were things or people.
Avoidable Rebut: It was an avoidable counter though she made no reference to Mr Low. She did not have to make a political statement when she was called upon to offer her take on Mr Lee. The session was not intended to be a debate on the contributions of Mr Lee to the country. It was for members to air their perceptions on Mr Lee and his work.
But Dr Ng Eng Hen was impressive with his emotional tribute, occasionally fighting back a tear or two in what appeared to be a genuine expression of sorrow, acknowledging that Mr Lee’s life-work has exceeded all expectations. “It is called Singapore, and filled with Singaporeans who love and revere you.”
G Joslin Vethakumar
Photo credits: Internet, thru Google searches