Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'I curse the day I was born a Singaporean'

Letter by Olinda Brazil originally published at Malaysiakini.com

It is very amusing to see how Malaysians (probably of the minority races) have spasms of ecstasy when referring to Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) in Malaysian forums. From across the border in Malaysia, Singapore seems like Wonderland and LKY like a benevolent god.

As a Chinese Singaporean, born of Malaysian parents who took up citizenship here in Singapore, I can understand why they feel this way. The grouses are familiar: NEP, corruption and ineptitude in governance.

Let me provide an insight on how it is like to be a Singaporean. I must first stress that new immigrants or Permanent Residents (PRs) from Malaysia (like my parents) will not experience any disadvantages. It is the children of these people (like me) or new PRs' children (who will be Singaporean) who will feel the disadvantages most sorely, and curse the fact they were born in Singapore:

On the relative development of both countries - Singpore developed well largely due to early good advice given to LKY, its strategic position, the lack of natural disasters and its easily-governable size. Malaysia lags behind in spite of its natural resources because of its larger size, poorer planning/ execution, more difficult decision-making and corruption.

However, Singapore has problems at present because its development model is outdated. As LKY still insists on the methods recommended tens of years ago, trouble is looming. There is no impetus to change because there is no one who dares to disagree. The media prints only propaganda, the courts will always find the government blameless as the government runs 70% of the economy.

The opposition has been persecuted to the point where only those with nothing to lose will dare to oppose, and the common people are scared to death of arbitrary arrest.

Yes, corruption is more widespread in Malaysia. But in Singapore, it also exists - though restricted to the top political elite and in a legalised form. In Malaysia, many get a share of the cake but in Singapore, only a select few get a share of the cake.

Many scoff at the position of the Malay rulers. But are they aware of the many dubious acts of LKY and his cronies - his ‘cooperation’ with the wartime Japanese, then the Communists and then the British (he betrayed the latter two in the end)?

And the actions taken by him and his courts to destroy the opposition, moves which are reported in a twisted manner by his press? A shining example of good character?

Yes, up till recently, Singapore was performing excellently. But at the same time, the ordinary people had the fruits of their labour taken away. We seem rich but yet are in debt. The government apartments are now exorbitantly priced. Cars are a necessity (given the poor performance of the profit-oriented public transport companies) but are also exorbitantly priced.

Much of our money is locked in the Provident Fund and it is becoming impossible to get it back while we are still alive. Yes, all races are treated equally - and they are sucked dry equally. This is the pivotal point in times when things became bad. By the way, the money in the Provident Fund (as well as in the reserves) is used for investment - for which there is almost no transparency and accountability.

Huge losses have been incurred in the current crisis yet the ruling party still baulks at spending a million or two on the poor. Oh, and we spend twice as much on defence as Malaysia despite being at least 400 times smaller.

Instead of addressing the root of the problems, LKY's son (yes, his son - by the way did Dr Mahathir install his son as prime minister?) decided to take action on only one aspect of the problem, in a negative manner. Instead of lowering costs for citizens, and therefore maintaining wage levels, he decided to import foreigners to lower cost.

It is effective - foreigners earn much more per hour than they do back home. They are stuck with the same employer for the duration of their visa, hence they are obedient. If they are sacked, they have to go home. And home means facing unpaid debts which they incurred in getting to Singapore. So which foreign worker will dare to resist exploitation?

This means the ‘choosy’ Singaporeans get to twiddle thumbs at home. And would the Singaporean ministers care? They are paid $S$2 million basic per year, a performance bonus of up to eight months, and get a pension when they reach retirement age. Good clean governance, huh? Oh yes, the judges are paid the same too so not surprisingly they always find for the government.

Malaysians are LKY's top choice. It gratifies him to poach bright minority students which his old pal Dr Mahathir had educated. They get good jobs (there is supposedly a quota to be filled), will not get sacked (as it means they go back to Dr M) and are favoured by corporations, as they do not have national service obligations.

None want to be citizens - at the end of the day, they will retire to the Malaysia (which they hate so much) to enjoy the Singapore dollar’s strength. God have mercy on the children they leave behind!

Currently one person in three is a foreigner in Singapore. The press chooses to obfuscate matters by lumping citizens and PRs together in their reporting (as 'resident population') so the huge number of foreigners in Singapore is understated.

To all Malaysians who love LKY, you have to be ruled by him, not as a PR turned citizen, but as a born and bred Singaporean, to understand that he is not what you think.Y ou curse Dr Mahathir because you know LKY will treat you like lords. You are correct but very shortsighted and shallow.

Dr Mahathir may be much less than perfect, but only ignorant fools will say LKY is better than him. Singapore residents receive two broadsheet pages daily on how bad things are in Malaysia, but no Singaporean commentator will blast LKY and compare him to Dr Mahathir.

Why? Because it is stupid to compare - we have not been ruled by Dr Mahathir or Umno so how are we able to compare? Using anecdotal evidence supplied by privileged fellow countrymen is poor practice.


Messi said...

While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!

fadzly extenders said...

nice one dear.. i'll show it to my colleagues who are now running to singapore to work there.. they should think for their children.. No wonder my father wants to stay in JB..

solo bear said...

Good point about being ruled by LKY. Too many people worship him like a demi-god. He is only human. His faults are not unknown and his time is actually up.

In my opinion, he is a shallow thinker and thinks only in one dimension.

Old Man Lee – the One Dimensional Thinker

ed said...

One of the main reasons why malaysian chinese love Lee is because they know that Lee is doing with the Chinese what the Bumiputra-pushers are doing for the Malays in Malaysia.

In both cases, the Indians are left on the side and aside. Pity that a people from what is verifiably the most perspectivally, critically, and logically vibrant culture in s.e.asia need to be born elsewhere before they can excel with the aid of their cultural perspective above and beyond most of their discriminators.

Instead of learning from them, most in s.e.asia choose to hold them down so that they can continue feeling good about themselves and their respective cultures.

Pathetic actually. My brother had to go to the UK before becoming a professor in law in one of the UK's top universities. And the same applies to many of my professional Indian friends who have left. According to them, for an Indian to make it with the aid of their culture, they'll have to go elsewhere to be recognised for their worth as opposed to their perceived value by the insecure of most in s.e.asia.

Funny how many here stupidly complain about the consequences of their biases. I suppose they have been underdeveloped to not be able to connect the dots.


Anonymous said...

The writer is entitled to his views on LKY. Certainly LKY is no god. But he has done what is best for Singapore in the best possible manner. On a micro basis, I donot share all his approaches. But on his vision, people should make attempts to see the real contribution of his. One sided perception does not necessarily tell the whole truth.

Every country is different. It calls for different strategy and resources.

And throughout the last 40 plus years, he maintains one golden value ie discipline. And I believe without this discipline to commit on long term vision, Singapore would have dropped several ranks below Malaysia.

Seelan Palay said...

In a country where all the media is controlled by him and his PAP, and constantly used to praise and prop him up as some kind of 'god', views such as those expressed by the writer of the above letter are such a breath of fresh air.

I'm glad Malaysiakini has the moral courage to publish it on their site.

Justice is justice and torture is torture. LKY must always be held accountable for the injustice and torture that he has brought upon others who only wished for the positive progress of Singapore.

If this 'progress' has to come at the expense of injustice and torture of innocent Singaporeans, I will never ever appreciate it one bit.

SADSACK said...

Disipline?? When there are so many capable leaders and he hands over leadership to his incapable son. What about his daughter-in-law? Who lost our cash ,gambling on investments.Eventually quit Temesak with ease. What about the discount on the condo, over at Stevens Road? Have you also forgotten the discounts given by the poor cobbler for the greedy old man. Even with all the high salaries recieved from the tax payers,he is scrounging for freebies. You call this a leader who has brought about disipline? Yes he has brought fear, bullying and disipline to the citizens of Mother Singapore. Definetly not to his overpaid cronies. Are you one of his cronies, Mr. Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

singapore is on its road to perdition. only looking sophisticated and developed on the outside but very inhumane internally.. statistics show tat s`pore has one of the highest rate of maid abuses.. loan millions to indonesia and at the same time abuse their ppl here.. so contradictory.. :)

its abt time a minority should govern s`pore.. if the giant america can be governed by a minority why not in s`pore?

as long as this type of solo governing monopolization goes on s`pore.. the morale of the minority ppl will deteriorate.. and this a FACT!

Vincent said...

Hey Seelan,

Thanks for posting this article. Being a 1st generation Singaporean of a Malaysian father and Indonesian mother, I couldn't agree more with the author of this article.

My father is planning to retire in Malaysia while my mother is planning to retire in Australia.

My little sister is now living in Australia and I'm outside of Singapore at the moment but I will migrate to Australia in a few years once my PR has been approved. Only my older sister is choosing to stay in Singapore because of her husband.

My parents came to Singapore because they didn't like the way they were treated back in their respective countries.

After 40 + years in Singapore, my parents feel like they have had enough of the way the PAP has been ripping them off.

I don't understand what it means to be Singaporean. What does that word mean? I call myself a Chinese before I call myself a Singaporean. I tell people I am a Chinese guy from Singapore.

I don't understand what is there to be proud of in Singapore when all we have achieved economically was done through the exploitation of Singaporeans and foreigners. If your father was a drug dealer but gave you a comfortable life, would you be proud?

That is how I feel about my country. Lost and confused with no reason to return.

Anonymous said...

This is your nemesis.Adam a.eng ah por.you & your kind is a disgrace to Singapore why you still stay in a place you despised is beyond comprehension.I suppose you are incapable of being accepted eleswhere or like all parasites stay and feed on others.

Seelan Palay said...

Hi everyone, please note that the commenter 'Eng' is Maurice Neo. He thinks he's my 'nemesis', sends me abusive and racist emails and many other strange things like that :)

Anonymous said...

it seems like tat "eng" is some type of chinese chauvinist.. takes pride in dominating the minority in sg.. its time for him to grow up..:)

Anonymous said...

seelan you are absolutely wrong on two counts 1.I am not maurice & 2.I am no racists.My personal remarks which you call racists is meant for a coward who denieis his roots by the name of Gopal Nair.My first mail to you was when I am under the impression that you may have something which singaporeans lack.Alas!!! I was wrong you are just another attention seeking idiot.PERIOD.

SADSACK said...

You need lots of intellectual growth,kid! Can reckon in your ancestorial gene to have a cloistered upbringing n one dimensionel thought. The trashing out of this discussion is the disgraceful situation Singapore and it's citizens are in and going through, kid!What's so despiteful about speaking the truth, child? Would not truth bring about decent change to everyone? Rather than a few chosen elite ones, here all glued! Ain't it best to get back the dedicated, true, DECENT AUTHENTIC SINGAPOREANS, with de-ep roots, through generations to return? Of course for these brilliant, decent Singaporeans to return. Responsible DEMOCRACY must be encompassed within and tolerance for one another. I won't call it nemesis, bro! It all boils down to utmost tolerance for your type of pride and inhumility, even in ethnic nemesis. U arse hole!

Anonymous said...

Hah!!!I have always wondered who this gentleman Maurice Neo is which you mistakenly take me for.I am truly honored to be him but sad to say he I am not.He is doing wonders as far Singapore is concern as compared to you bunch of nitwits.I now sign of as MR.Adam Halla that is who I truly am Eng Ah por is my nick name in Tamil "I AM GOING"TIME WASTING IN YOUR BLOG FOR IDIOTS.

Anonymous said...

Sad sack,my parting comment before i leave this idiotic block.FAILURES WILL BLAME ALL BUT THEMSELVES. Their inability to succeed frustrates them to no end.Hence their reason to blame the successful for their failures.Brother, all my life I have met your kind from coffee shop scribes to MBA taxi drivers.My sympathies and please give the govt. handouts to charity instead of quitely keeping it.

Seelan Palay said...

Wow that's amusing! Maurice Neo is actually posting using different nicknames and replying to himself. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Seelan, you are indeed pathetic not knowing realty from fantasy.there is nothing wrong with fantasising as it gives you a feeling of "shiok sindiri".Now the last word.Whatever your gripes with LKY his family or the govt.per se,you pieces of shits are lucky to be here enjoying all that is provided through theirs and your parents hardwork.Enjoy the privileges SHITHEADS.

SADSACK said...


The hidden ugly side of Singapore

Achievement at whose expense?

Anonymous said...

dear "eng", u mean those hungry for political salvation are living in fantasy?.. i guess u should be the one to come out of your fantasy world.. be more observant of your surrounding and get real for god`s sake!

citizens struggling to make ends meet due to soaring prices in medical,transport,meal,housing,schooling and etc.. and our ministers paying themselves in millions..

so who is living in a fantasy world now..? the citizens or the ministers..?

Anonymous said...

More hidden sides of Singapore
Rachel Loo
Jul 7, 09

I refer to Vijay Kumar's letter 'The hidden side of Singapore' and wish to add my own experiences of the so called beautiful Garden City.

For several years I did a part-time course at the Singapore Bible College, commuting to and fro between Johor Bahu and Singapore via the Woodlands Causeway. Had it not been because of God's calling, I would have never stepped into Singapore despite living and working in Johor Baru for more than a decade.

For one, Singapore may be a first world country but the mentality of its people is anything but first world. Many Singaporeans are still very much in the third world.

One does not have to go very far to find an example for this. The Singapore Bible College itself is run as if they are still in the 1940s. They are so old fashioned in so many ways. A Mat Salleh lecturer once made a joke in class: "the dress code for the students in this college is Victorian" and he broke out laughing.

Management of the college is very much influenced by the Lee Kuan Yew's style authoritarian - I talk you listen.

There are no grievances procedures for the students. Thus students are expected not to dispute the decisions of the management and being a bible college, they of course do not think it is biblical to sue the college.

Out of college, younger generations of Singaporeans not only do not have a proper understanding of the history between Malaysia and Singapore, they also do not have any great interest in it. For those who can afford it, they are only interested in migrating overseas. What happens to those who cannot afford it?

Rev Dr Joseph Ogawa, a psychologist missionary from America, often shares his testimony of how when he was first called by God to move to Singapore from America. His first reaction upon reaching Singapore was "are you sure there are any poor people here?"

Yes, there are many poor Singaporeans. A classmate from Singapore Bible College said his family was so poor, they could not afford to send him to school and he had to work as a carpet boy when he was 13 to supplement his family's income. Later when he had kidney failure, he couldn't get aid from dialysis centre like NKF because in Singapore if you have more than one terminal illness (he had two), you will be classified as a "no hope" case. In other words, "wait to die". As such, you will not get aid from government hospitals.

Like many people who visit Singapore, we only see the skyscrapers, the immaculately kept public places, efficiency of the public transport system, the cars, the condos and the affluence of the Singapore lifestyle. But have you seen a one room flat (not a one bedroom flat) with a whole family living in it?

Besides, the normal HDB flats, the poorest of all can be found in abundance around Redhill. As part of my course practicum, I was sent as a volunteer to counsel the students in one of the secondary schools in Redhill. It turned out to be a cultural shock for me.

Have you seen Singaporeans who are so poor, they have to steal their neighbour's water? Collecting cardboard boxes for a living? Have you heard of Singaporeans who can't pay their monthly bills? Have you heard of Henderson Secondary School or do we only know Raffles Junior College? Seen the juvenile delinquents? Do you know what is the "in" thing for school girls these days in Singapore? It's self mutilation by using razors and committing suicide. If you have not done it, you are not considered normal.

The school counsellor admits, this is the other side of Singapore the government do not want to brag about, neither do they want to highlight it. Singapore being a Confucius-led society is very concerned about the "face" and will never let you see anything but only "success". That is why Singapore cannot afford to fail.

Malaysian said...


paradox said...

i left singapore in 1989 and never looked back since. It has been the best decision i've ever made in my life and till this day, i look back and thank my lucky stars i left that oppressive rat hole of a country. LKY and his minions are akin to drug dealers, forcing their brand of ideology down the throats of every citizen. Trap them in mountains of debt and the perception of 'security'. Snare them with the privilege of 'owning' their own property.... hahaha! I believe its leasehold! And then they say... look around you, look at all those unfortunate citizens in our neighboring countries... see how lucky you all are?


damn right...

Anonymous said...

LKY may not be the perfect gentleman, but it certainly beats having a team of religious fanatics building religious mayhem in your backyard. Sure things are expensive, sure the government has lost tons of money...But losing money in their investments is still better than filling the pockets of politicians ruled only by relationships. Sure the Lees & their 'cronies' or senior servants are making tons of money...but if you ask me. I'd rather give them money and get the occasional good decisions than feed a bunch of headless chickens interested only in filling their mouths.

Seelan Palay said...

Yes, and what if a Burmese comes and tells you that "UMNO may be bigots, but at least they don't get the army to shoot you in the streets like the Burmese junta"?

How would the Burmese feel if a Zimbabwean comes and tells them that "The junta may shoot down dissidents, but at least they don't make your economy so bad that you have to pay in millions and massacre by the thousands"?

We can go on and on down this slippery slope of justifying authoritarianism by comparing it to where we come from.

We should rather focus on seeing stable democracy, justice and human rights around the globe - regardless of which dictatorship has done better in terms of "structural development".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing and expressing the same feeling I had of my Government.

Thomas Lee

Anonymous said...

Precisely, the point. If you compare against the worse you always see better. Compare LKY to Malaysia, LKY wins. Compare Malaysia to Burma, Malaysia wins. Compare Burma to Sudan, Burma wins.

Unfortunately Seelan you compared it in the wrong direction. If Malaysia is better than Singapore, today, the currency exchange value would be the other way around, Singapore would not be under the 'First World' category and Malaysia would be the one with the US$ million over dollars condominiums.

So, you really need to check what you're comparing LKY against.

Seelan Palay said...

If currency and the value of property is all you use to measure life in Singapore, then why do we have such a high rate of migration? And why do we have the highest suicide rate in the world?

And if that's all you're comparing LKY with, perhaps you wouldn't be saying the same if your friend of family member was a victim of Lee Kuan Yew's oppression in Singapore - which includes torture and decades of detention without trial.

Seelan Palay said...

And so, like you won't want Malaysia to be compared to Burma as an excuse.

Myself, and many other Singaporeans would only want Singapore to compared to other developed, "first world", countries.

Seelan Palay said...

Have a read of this article too by a Singaporean blogger, its titled Stop comparing Singapore with Third World countries: http://geraldgiam.sg/2009/11/stop-comparing-singapore-with-third-world-countries/

Anonymous said...

RIGHT!...you're getting on. Compare with the 1st world countries!...and Singapore FALTERS. This I TOTALLY agree with you.

BUT like I said...if you compare with malaysia, then you're really doing it the wrong way around.

Perhaps you would have faced oppression or even imprisonment without trial in Singapore (nobody's denying the existence of such 'policies'). But you must also know that this ALSO happens in Malaysia!...its just that you faced it in Singapore but perhaps not yet in Malaysia.

If your article had compared Singapore against the likes of New Zealand or Japan, I'd have concurred with your more 'relevant' comparisons.

Seelan Palay said...

Thank you for your clarification, I better understand your point of view as well.

But I have to add that while your ISA detainees were kept for a number of years, in contrast Singapore's detainees have been detained for 10, 20, and even 32 years - that's 5 years longer than Nelson Medela.

While main political detainees in both countries have been released, those in Malaysia are a little closer to seeing justice done, and at least having the space to share with the public about the injustices committed to them. Some of the Malaysian ex-detainees are even in parliament now.

In Singapore, there is mostly dead silence, and ex-detainees are either living in exile or bound by fear. Activists are restricted from advocating the truth as well.

We can't even give out flyers without being harassed, arrested and charged.

Anonymous said...

Not an entirely fair statement. In Malaysia you can get accused of sodomy…you can get thrown off buildings.

You see, the modus operandi is different. But it doesn’t mean one is better than the other.

Singapore does it in a HIGH HANDED way perhaps also Tactical way…Malaysia does it in an entertainingly comical way. Sometimes when I feel bored, I watch Malaysian channels to amuse myself with their kiddy antics.

Do I curse myself for being born a Singaporean? Perhaps not now…or not yet. But if you ask me, I’d really rather take the risk of getting detained in Singapore without trial than get accused of Sodomy or thrown off buildings.

Seelan Palay said...

Sure, you can get accused of sodomy or thrown off a building in Malaysia. But there will be sufficient avenues for free and alternative information, so that at least some justice is done.

Perhaps you can have a read of the accounts of torture during years of detention without trial in Singapore, and think about whether you'd actually prefer it:



Above all this, the ideal should be to work for democracy, equality and rule of law in all parts of the world, as much as possible. No human being should be the victim of totalitarianism.

Anonymous said...

Seelan, the issue is not what you suffer in there, but WHY. WHY would a person even be subjected to it. I am familiar with such tortures having also close friends who are ex-convicts.

Singapore is run differently from its neighbor. Whilst in power, the government always has the final say...this is true wherever you go. Of course you can attempt to topple it, IF YOU CAN. There's no absolute right or wrong in the way they wish to handle opponents, only smart or stupid ways.

The ancient emperors decapitate, the european warlords impale, these days the government has other 'means'. Your gripe about suffering under such 'deliberate oppression' is no reason for blaming the country.

You can at best only say you have failed.

mib said...