Saturday, September 16, 2006
Straits Times: Do critics know the Singapore political system, asks MM Lee
Addendum (2.10.2006): MM Lee says sorry that recent comments caused discomfort to PM Abdullah
By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew says he is sorry that his recent comments about Chinese Malaysians had caused Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi a great deal of discomfort.
Mr Lee had said during an international forum in Singapore more than two weeks ago that ethnic Chinese minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia are being marginalised.
In his letter to Mr Abdullah, Mr Lee said he had no intention to meddle in Malaysian politics.
Nor does he have the power to influence Malaysia's politics or to incite the feelings of Chinese in the country.
The remarks about Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority were made at what Mr Lee called a 'free flowing dialogue session' with former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Setting the context, Mr Lee explained he was speaking to a liberal audience of Westerners who wanted to see a stronger opposition in Singapore.
He reiterated that Singapore needs a strong government to maintain good relations with neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia and to interact with their politicians who consider Singapore to be 'Chinese'.
Mr Lee said he did not say anything more than what he had said many times before, and added he said less than what he had written in his 1998 memoirs.
Mr Lee said UMNO leaders, including former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and others, had on numerous occasions, publicly warned Malaysian Malays that if they ever lose power, they risk the same fate as Malays in Singapore, whom they allege are marginalised and discriminated against.
Mr Lee cited examples of such comments in the letter's annex, quoting Dr Mahathir and other leaders in media reports over the years about the "marginalisation" of Singapore Malays.
The Minister Mentor reiterated that Singapore understands the reality of Malaysian politics.
Singapore has never protested at such attacks on Singapore's multi-racial system or policies but merely clarified Singapore's position and explained to Singaporeans the root cause of such difficulties in bilateral relations.
Also in his letter, the Minister Mentor said relations between the 2 countries have improved since Mr Abdullah took the helm in November 2003 and that both Singaporeans and Malaysians appreciate this.
Mr Lee concluded that the last thing he wanted to do, after a decade of troubled relations with the former Prime Minister, was to cause Mr Abdullah a great deal of discomfort. - CNA/ch
Republic has to deal with different geographical and physical factors
By Lynn Lee
Straits Times 16 Sept 2006
MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew knows his critics want Singapore's political system to be as "free" as the West.
But he wonders if they know Singapore and the physical and geographical factors it has to consider.
And despite these considerations, it is in no way a closed society, as top students study abroad and return to rise to senior posts in the civil service and other sectors, he said yesterday .
He was replying to a question as to how critics see the system here, at a dialogue on good governance.
My main critics want me to be as liberal, open and contentious and adversarial with the opposition as the West. "I ask myself this question, 'Do they know, do they recognise this little island that they see?”said Mr Lee,who spoke at the session with Harvard University Professor Lawrence Summers.
Some had written to newspapers asking why Singapore could not take the lead from other small countries like Denmark and New Zealand.
His reply to them: Both countries had different physical, economic, geographic and strategic bases.
"Their neighbours are different," he told an audience of 250 at the dialogue, part of the Raffles Forum organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
The Singapore of today, he pointed out, was the result of the Government's efforts in educating the population, and "the systematic grooming of talent and putting the right people in the right jobs".
A World Bank report on governance released yesterday said that Singapore scored highly for government effectiveness and regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption and political stability.
But it did not rate as well in categories like "voice and accountability", which measures factors like civil society participation.
Earlier in the dialogue Mr Lee spoke of how the system developed--- and how Singapore got to be where it is on the back of good governance, education and hard work.
Infrastructure and conditions for investments, including ensuring the rule of law, were put in place.
Some 9,000 multinational companies are here because Singapore was able to offer "First World conditions in a Third World region".
In response to other questions, he spoke of the importance of a good system and finding good people for government.
A case in point was post-Suharto Indonesia. lt now has President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono who, with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, understood the problems facing the country.
But he noted that it will take "more than 10 years to get that system right". An important requisite for the government was order.
He referred to how a group signed up to fight in Lebanon after the outbreak of hostilities there, and how Americans in Indonesia, were chased from their hotels.
Only a minority do these things in Indonesia, he said.
"But unless you are able to maintain order, what American company is able to get its CEO to go there with his wife and family?"
That was why foreign investments dropped, he said.
Mr Lee also said it was important for Singapore to have a government that was "really firm, stout-hearted, subtle and resolute''
"My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They were successful, they're hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education," he explained.
"And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese, compliant. So every time we say 'no' to some scheme to knock down the Causeway and build a bridge, he says 'Oh, you are not cooperative' You are only thinking of yourself."
Mr Lee explained that Singapore eventually said it would agree if there were "commensurate benefits".
"But you need a government that will be able to not only have the gumption but also the skill to say no in a very quiet, polite way that doesn't provoke them into doing something silly."
Another noteworthy article.
I managed to OCR it for the benefit for those who do not read the Straits Times.
If there is any inaccuracy, please let me know and I shall correct it as quickly as possible.
As I am a no-good coward, I will be monitoring closely to see if the moderation function for comments is necessary.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: By displaying the comments does not in any way suggest that I agree or disagree with the views offered.