Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lee Kuan Yew : Latest Interview

On 1 September 2010, Seth Mydans interviewed Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

A few comments by LKY have a very pertinent message for Malaysia.  This was what he said.

Q: “I wonder if that is a concern of yours about the next generation. I saw your discussion with a group of young people before the last election and they were saying what they want is a lot of these values from the West, an open political marketplace and even playing field in all of these things and you said well, if that’s the way you feel, I’m very sad.”

Mr Lee: “Because you play it that way, if you have dissension, if you chose the easy way to Muslim votes and switch to racial politics, this society is finished. The easiest way to get majority vote is vote for me, we’re Chinese, they’re Indians, they’re Malays. Our society will be ripped apart. If you do not have a cohesive society, you cannot make progress.”

Q: “But is that a concern that the younger generation doesn’t realize as much as it should?”

Mr Lee: “I believe they have come to believe that this is a natural state of affairs, and they can take liberties with it. They think you can put it on auto-pilot. I know that is never so. We have crafted a set of very intricate rules, no housing blocks shall have more than a percentage of so many Chinese, so many percent Malays, Indians. All are thoroughly mixed. Willy-nilly, your neighbours are Indians, Malays, you go to the same shopping malls, you go to the same schools, the same playing fields, you go up and down the same lifts. We cannot allow segregation.”

Q: “There are people who think that Singapore may lighten up a little bit when you go, that the rules will become a little looser and if that happens, that might be something that’s a concern to you.”

Mr Lee: “No, you can go looser where it’s not race, language and religion because those are deeply gut issues and it will surface the moment you start playing on them. It’s inevitable, but on other areas, policies, right or wrong, disparity of opportunities, rich and poor, well go ahead. But don’t play race, language, religion. We’ve got here, we’ve become cohesive, keep it that way. We’ve not used Chinese as a majority language because it will split the population. We have English as our working language, it’s equal for everybody, and it’s given us the progress because we’re connected to the world. If you want to keep your Malay, or your Chinese, or your Tamil, Urdu or whatever, do that as a second language, not equal to your first language. It’s up to you, how high a standard you want to achieve.”

Q: “You made one of the few people who laugh at Singapore.”
Mr Lee: “Let me give you a Chinese proverb “do not judge a man until you’ve closed his coffin. Do not judge a man.” Close the coffin, then decide. Then you assess him. I may still do something foolish before the lid is closed on me.”

Q: “So you’re waiting for the final verdict?”

Mr Lee: “No, the final verdict will not be in the obituaries. The final verdict will be when the PhD students dig out the archives, read my old papers, assess what my enemies have said, sift the evidence and seek the truth? I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”

Q: “For the greater good?
Mr Lee: “Well, yes, because otherwise they are running around and causing havoc playing on Chinese language and culture, and accusing me of destroying Chinese education. You’ve not been here when the Communists were running around. They do not believe in the democratic process. They don’t believe in one man, one vote. They believe in one bullet, one vote. They had killer squads. But they at the same time had a united front exploiting the democratic game. It gave them cover. But my business, my job was to make sure that they did not succeed. Sometimes you just got to lock the leaders up. They are confusing the people. The reality is that if you allow these people to work up animosity against the government because it’s keeping down the Chinese language, because we’ve promoted English, keeping down Chinese culture because you have allowed English literature, and we suppress our Chinese values and the Chinese language, the Chinese press, well, you will break up the society. They harp on these things when they know they are not true. They know that if you actually do in Chinese language and culture, the Chinese will riot and the society must break up.”

Q: “So leadership is a constant battle?”

Mr Lee: “In a multiracial situation like this, it is. Malaysia took the different line; Malaysians saw it as a Malay country, all others are lodgers, “orang tumpangan”, and they the Bumiputras, sons of the soil, run the show. So the Sultans, the Chief Justice and judges, generals, police commissioner, the whole hierarchy is Malay. All the big contracts for Malays. Malay is the language of the schools although it does not get them into modern knowledge. So the Chinese build and find their own independent schools to teach Chinese, the Tamils create their own Tamil schools, which do not get them jobs. It’s a most unhappy situation.”


Anonymous said...

Well, I will say that I am partly agreed with LKY on language that Malaysia should promote one language as national language and that every single citizen of this country should speak and write on one language that is Bahasa Malaysia, period. Malaysia can still progress this way. Then the malay rite and all the privileges can phase out gradually.

bow said...

Singapore mentor LKY want his country to progress, his Singaporean regardless of ethnicity to progress and prosper, so he adopted neutral stand as the basic for his nation building policy, while the leadership in Malaysia doesn't want that to happen, the ruling elite only want a selective group of ethnic (majority) to benefit and progress, instead of minority in Malaysian nation. So long as the elite and wealthiest among Malaysian can go oversea for study annually, they hardly care about the population inside Malaysia can speak or write English or not, they are just ordinary people.

Anonymous said...

Sometime when you tell the truth you hurt your friends and neighbours. What the hell this man took his nation state from a per capita income ofS400.00 in 1966 to S40,000.00 today. Well if he is not entitled to blow his horn who is.I hope that other countries rich in natural resources in the region will implement a similar plan now so that 40 years from now they too can blow their horns 40 years down the road instead of trying to belittle LKU who is one of the greatest leaders of our time period.

bow said...

If Singapore government under mentor LKY continue to waste their time and resources in dividing the tiny island population over race and religion over the past few decades, you know it is not going to make itself the most advance and prosperous nation in SEA, race and religion politic is a killer for a nation progress and advancement, not even mention it is a sign of regression on the part of a leadership in a nation.

A true Malaysian said...

I am more interested in the other part of the interview. It is my regret as well to see that episode of history.

MM Lee is again proven him right to have English as the unifying language for its people, at the same time as language of trade and knowledge. In fact, a strategy of one stone hit many birds.

But, Malaysia doesn't think that way because of self-pride of you-know-who.

In actual fact, proficiency in English doesn't make us less Chinese, Indian, Malay or 'lain-lain'. Yet, you-know-who doesn't think that way.

Simple thing yet so complex for them. How about complex thing make simple? Weird, but keep happening.

bow said...

It is a pathetic scenario for Malaysian to have leadership that see the population of a Malaysian nation as Malay, Chinese and Indian after close to half a century of independence from British colonial master. Continue to bend on creating schools, businesses, eateries, etc for Malay, Chinese and Indian instead of for Malaysian people, nothing can be more regressive in the mentality of the present leaders to continue harping on the insignificant elements in our nation building, while the rest of the world and nations pass us by leap and bound in pursuit of excellent and advancement, while Malaysia's leaders continue to waste time and resource to take us aback. LKY can rest assure his tiny island country will be ahead of us forever till the end of his day.

Anonymous said...

LKY will not get to see his wish fulfill anytime soon, his desire to see a fail Malaysian state is not going to happen well before he is gone from this world, he still need to be around for awhile if he want to witness his own testimonial come to reality. We Malaysian are quite resilient and courageous people compare to Singaporean, he has underestimated our resolves to move forward at all costs.

Anonymous said...

LKY is another old man that need to retire graciously instead go on talking about his old time Malaysia make up of Malay, Chinese or Indian. This is year 2010, not 1957, OMG!!! Still harping on Chinese or Indian in Malaysia on interview ?? He is getting as senile as the old wolf of his time, can't keep up with the changing condition on the ground and the dynamic of time. hahaha..


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