Friday, June 23, 2017

38 Oxley Road: LKY was flexible

The PAP can have its point of view and with its control of the government is the most powerful voice save a spontaneous self organized voice like we saw which rose against the inane population white paper a while ago.

To me, I keep it simple and just simply put in my bit as an individual. It is not my job to ensure outcomes but to give voice to my rights as a citizen.

The late LKY was simply being pragmatic and practical. If the Cabinet had been supportive of his wish to demolish the house, there would be no second part about preserving the house especially that it only be accessible to his descendants. The Cabinet is chosen to represent us but it might not always reflect our wishes. If they fail to do that in important ways, the next elections results will tell. We might not even have to wait for the next general elections. It would already be indicative at the upcoming presidential elections especially if the PAP preferred candidate lost or were elected with a razor thin margin like Tony Tan.

So try us.

Update: June 24: 1:35 pm

On Wednesday the veteran journlist Han Fook Kwang wrote a story highlighting three key points of the Lee's bungalow. 

He suggested that there should not be a ministerial committee to look at this and on the same day got a rebuttal from Teo Chee Hean the chairman of the committee. I wanted to blog about it but was too busy. That was his second point

Today I want to highlight Han's third and final point seeing how the public kerfuffle has developed into the PAP government pushing even harder and the MSM supporting them to consider preserving 38 Oxley Road. 

The authorities did not like Han's views. I was told he was often dissenting and that is why Yes-man Warren Fernandez is doing his job now and he in turn got kicked upstairs. Look at what I have highlighted above. I agree with him and Han should know since he had interacted with LKY extensively over such issues preparing his books. 

Han's view has disappeared and what is published today are either questioning if LKY was unwavering in demolishing the house and the arguments favoring keeping the house as a national monument. Have they done a thought experiment trying to present such arguments to LKY had he been still with us? I imagine he would give them an unforgettable lesson. 

Even in the Forum pages they have decided not to pick a for and an against demolishing the house views. They only print a letter that is for preserving the house. 

It tells me that the government is wagging their finger at ST telling it to behave. 

Let's see who are the candidates for the upcoming elections for president and decide accordingly who I should vote for. No Yes-man or woman for the PAP which is what we now have in the Istana.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

38 Oxley Road: DPM Teo, what is your private interest?

Public interest?

I did a thought experiment.

We saw countless people showed up to say their last good byes to LKY slightly more than two years ago. Imagine with me as you exit parliament house a survey is conducted asking you if you would support tearing down his bungalow 38 Oxley Road because that was what he had repeatedly said publicly he and his wife wanted. Could you say No to him? After all that he had given to us, is a simple request like this too costly for us?

Now imagine many years later when all these are now recorded as history. What would our descendants think of this generation who took the decision to preserve the house? It was a callous generation who could not even grant such a simple request and the value system that went with it as symbolized by his living and leading. That is why I am doing my bit to fight for the last wish of LKY to be honored. It would also be educating future generations right.

I am convinced the public interest is to give LKY what he wanted. Now I must ask the PAP government what is your private interest? I can't imagine any praiseworthy reason they could offer.

Update: June 23 2:05 pm

I have been receiving many memes satirizing the PM and the ministerial committee but nothing poking fun at LHY. I guess this kind of indicate what the public interest is, if not at least a large and motivated group wanting to see LKY wish of demolishing the house fulfilled. The Cabinet and PM should not be so blind as not to sense this. 

38 Oxley Road: Would ESM Goh please help?

How to get out of this mess. We all know the damage is already down. Nobody except ESM Goh have spoken words of wisdom. Not the three siblings, not DPM Teo or Shanmugam. Everyone is so worried about appearing righteous. Only one senior leader articulated the issue correctly: Singapore is bigger and stronger than this.

In an email just a while ago I told my friend how we might resolve this:

The two younger siblings could see where this is going. That the house would be preserved against their late parents' wish. As for their elder brother lust for creating a family dynasty that is the story they fashioned from facts but this is not the only possible story. The elder statesman is ESM Goh. He should study this, make a plan and heal the nation. So far what he had said was wise and looks like the beginning of a solution.

To me LWL especially her and LHY are idealists. They never understood what it is like to do the job of PM i.e., they have no skin in the game. As they say where you stand depends on where you sit. To be able to empathize beyond your comfy chair that belongs to greater spirits. Pope Francis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have pointed out how to do that. They must seriously ask themselves and be absolutely sure if there is enough evidence and understanding them to show such contempt for their PM brother. I hope they will learn to be humble and forgive. Then we can come out of this stronger than we went in.

Another friend asked this question via Whatsapp:

But then I also wondered whether the siblings think of their father or Singapore when they decide to post in fb

and I responded as follows:

I think the siblings considered not just the present but also the future of Singapore. Often if one evaluate the action strictly on its impact now, it may not make sense e.g., like stopping a child from playing and making him study instead. I think both of them were ahead of their time and if they are not appreciated now, I think history will eventually vindicate them.

Update: June 18 8:10 am

I am glad ESM Goh has acted. The goal here is not to be fair but to seek and achieve peace, to learn to give and take. 

If you insist on fairness then you would be dissatisfied with GCT advice. Unless you live in a lucky bubble which life is always fair to you, please note that most of us do not and most likely given enough time your bubble will also burst and then you will get a taste of real life.

The damn TCH and LHL should have at the earliest opportunity which was more than a year ago, outright publicly spoken like GCT advised - Respect LKY's wish. Then LWL and LHY would have no fears that LKY's wish would not be honoured. I imagined as filial children both of them were willing to stake their lives, reputation and fortune to try their best to fulfill their late father's wish. Of course, I thought the worst of LHL and Ho Ching. They have just reinforced the reputation that government is a bully and beyond the law. Only the blind and stupid would be your loyal supporters i.e., not enough to win elections convincingly or may be even win.

It is often not possible to achieve the best goals, the competition beating edge at the nation versus nation level within on electoral cycle. This government will increasingly if not already find it difficult to win the confidence of the people to take the long term view. Its motives would always be suspect and large segments of people would see the PAP as self serving and put the interest of the party ahead of the nation. To justify itself, the PAP will conflate party and nation as one. If so they will receive an electoral experience worse than the 2011 elections.

Update: June 18 8:45 am

Why did I say damn you LHL and TCH? Because all along they could have responded to LWL and LHY that they were badly misunderstood by LWL and LHY. Instead the PM and his surrogates (you have many when you are PM) to fight this publicly. In other words there was probably no misunderstanding eh? Note that the nation and not just you picked up the bill for the damages when you fight. Did you for any moment put the nation's interest ahead of whatever hidden self interest?

LHL you are the elder brother. There cannot be a public spat unless you and your ministers reporting to you also hit back and tit for tat it goes on and on. Your feckless serving ministers needed GCT to step in and play the adult but for God's sake, he is retired. It shows you are not good enough to run the show. The opposition is also feckless. How are we going to secure our future? You better confess and repent before the nation otherwise you are unfit to be PM.

Friday, June 16, 2017

38 Oxley Road: The practical vs the ideal

The practical is hard but the ideal is easy but impractical. So I shall begin with the ideal first.

Ideally the house should be demolished as per LKY and wife wish. He had said that is the thing to do publicly many times notwithstanding the revisions he had made to his will on this subject.

It is up to the public to support or oppose his last wish. Personally I am for tearing it down but everyone is entitled their point of view. We have rules and norms how a matter like this should be settled and we should just do that. Airing your family private linens in public is not one of them.

In practice things are not so simple. If I were LWL or LHY, I would have felt hadn't my late father done enough for this country? The family owes the nation nothing, the debt is from the people to the family especially its patriarch and matriarch. Therefore they should be allowed to do to their property at Oxley Road as they wished. Besides filial piety demands they try their utmost to fulfill their late parents' final wish.

In an ideal world we can look at each issue or object independently and to make things easy for everyone to understand. That is how schools everywhere taught their subjects or most pupils will fail their exams. In the real world many things are linked to each other and you cannot consider an issue independent of its impact elsewhere. Therefore the house although legally belongs to the family, it also unfortunately belongs to the nation. It is not fair but it just is. DPM Teo is right that there are larger issues involved here.

If the public is overwhelmingly for demolishing the house and public opinion makes it clear there is little the government could do but accede or risk losing support, I don't think LWL and LHY would have acted as they have because LHL would never entertain turning the house into a national monument. But the public is probably divided on this matter. If you are filled with gratitude towards LKY, you can't refuse his final wish. If you think he should continue to serve the nation after he is gone through preserving his hermitage, there is nothing wrong with that except that some of us wonder why you do not feel as much gratitude as we have toward him?

When LWL and LHY made a family feud over the house public, I recognized that they had no choice because LHL was borrowing state authority against them. But no choice here must be qualified. If they act as determined and filial children as they are displaying this very moment, they rank their late parents ahead of their elder brother in order to carry out their late parents' wish for the house to be torn down. This is regardless of how they would negatively impact the reputation of their PM brother and country. In their moral and principled reasoning, their elder brother did not possess the values to govern and so it legitimizes their course of action. He should be replaced with a better person, one that possess the right values. That is ideal but how practical is that? I always believe there are men and women that are abler and more principled that LHL and quite a few ministers as well but we don't know who they are. It is also horribly difficult and risky to select the right people. Elections is not the right way to choose the best people unless another process is in place to first short list them for elections. At the end of the day we have to live in the practical real world and keep the ideal with us for inspiration and aspiration. We confuse the two at our peril, and this is where LWL and LHY have gotten their approach wrong. What they have done has damaged us but I am also sympathetic to their deep desire to do right by their late parents. Anyone who thought they are fortunate in life, that is a superficial view. They are prisoners no different from being born into a royal family.

It is doubly unfortunate that what LWL and LHY accuse LHL of could turn out to be true of our PM if we take this public kerfuffle to its conclusion. Perhaps to be practical it is best not to complete the journey. We live in an imperfect world with even more imperfect humanity. Let's be humble and learn to forgive. Hold fast to your ideals but in pursuing them do not exceed your faith or you will crash. Ideals give life meaning but we must get closer to them in practical ways. LHL as PM must be evaluated against what other countries managed to have for national leaders. Be grateful but also discontented at the same time. This is a good tension.

I hope the public would overwhelmingly support demolishing the house. Now that part of the truth is out and you can't put the genie back into its lamp, we will have to live with the consequences. LWL and LHY must understand they do not come from ordinary families like the rest of us and trying to live like us is simply impractical unless they start life anew in a foreign country. Lee Kuan Yew paid a very heavy personal price to serve this country and instead of getting rewarded he got invoiced for his family as well. As I look back nobody probably understood this better than their late mother Kwa Geok Choo. She said many times running Singapore is a thankless task. Their children are living that now.

Update: 7:45 pm

Steve Tan made a very good comment which I want to use to look ahead. 

Assuming the house is not demolished and it became a national monument. Then I hope a more mature and wiser generation will have a change of heart and demolish it. When that happens Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching names will go down in Singapore's history in infamy. 

It is our Asian culture which has inadvertently created a First Family, and LWL and LHY are clearly resentful to be forced into these roles they never agree too, but LHL loved it and wants to leverage it.

Let's learn to by trial and error combine the best of the west and east. To have a First Family in every way except in name is not one of those treks we should travel on.

Let's have the George Washington spirit who refused to be made the first king of America. LKY never wanted to be one and he stayed around in Cabinet because he was useful, in other words he stuck around for our sake, played a role nobody else could.

As long as that house on 38 Oxley Road stands it would be a screaming reminder that LKY and his wife wanted it to be torn down. This is not China, the government cannot scrub this fact out from our history books. Make the right and wise choice but I fear unlike your late father you and your ministers are secretly leading by watching the poll numbers. Then at LHL's watch the rot in government would have begun and soon we will have an ordinary government like we see elsewhere, a government your father said would not be sufficient to serve Singapore's security and future.

Update: June 17 9:00 am

This post has been about the practical vs the ideal. Taken over a long time, we want to get closer to the ideal but to survive the journey we have to be practical, and this is not about striking a balance at all. If you heard and read too much from our leaders they loved to say "strike the right balance" but never bother to add they only they know how to do that which is not true. The practical meaning of striking a balance is the shrewdest response of the moment without losing sight of our ideals. Therefore sometimes you are totally practical and there will be moments we are completely idealistic. Go study Abraham Lincoln, he is a very good example of "striking the right balance"

It is not about not too hot or too cold but just right for the moment. It is about compromise without giving up true north.

ESM Goh was simply reminding us what matters here. It is not the Lee family but Singapore and the issues confronting our survival and well being. In that light, the family quarrel is petty and we must not let that distract us. 

LWL and LHY are leaning toward the idealistic but without skin in the game they can afford to. LHL, the evidence seems increasingly to point toward him as one has lost his way. He would have been a much better PM if there were more checks on his power. If he is bold it is because he also recognized for better or worse in the practical now, Singapore has no choice but to live with him. Time might show that LWL was right about calling him an dishonorable son, and LHY calling him a liar. Now we let time take us to the truth but wisdom is preparing for that moment. If proven guilty, you might want to throw LHL overboard or make him walk the plank but it would be stupid to sink the ship doing so. That would be clearer but politically incorrect for ESM Goh to say.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

LKY values in 38 Oxley Road

Pay special attention starting from play point 27 seconds and hear his words,

"...Because of my house the neighbouring houses cannot build high. Now demolish my house and change the planning rules, go up, the land value will go up."

He wasn't thinking about himself or his family's interests. Most leaders elsewhere would have loved to preserve their estate as a very visible monument of their legacy but LKY was devastatingly pragmatic to the very end and what for? Because of the hard truths of Singapore's survival which are different from almost everywhere else. With no margin of safety except man made ones, no two huge oceans to protect America but our own made SAF and foreign reserves with a first class foreign service as the first line of defence.

Do not trade our survivor and success values for a century old house. We get less and not more of what make this place tick if we do. So what is this PAP led government trying to do?

Mile's maxim helps us make a good guess.

“Where you stand, depends on where you sit”

LHL has to win elections but LWL and LHY do not. That is why their stand is different. LHL has skin in this but not his siblings, but he could never command the troops like his father could. It is almost impossible because the times are different. More important the son is not the father. I think the elder son has more passion for this country than his siblings. This is all about skin, responsibility and accountability. Not in theory but in real life which you have to win elections.

In the end the ball is in our court, the voters but there is always the nagging doubt of how much of the steel in our pioneer generation is also in us. Looks are deceptive but when push comes to shove we can be reasonably confident we will pass the test. We can never be completely sure because that can only come from a real test.

If we can find a better man or woman than LHL to lead us, we should follow that person and LHL should graciously make way for him or her. Nevertheless at the end of the day, we have to live we what we have got and not what we imagine to have. If we want to fantasize then work hard and pay the price to make it real.

I hope the family would reconcile and come back together again. The way to do it is to tear the old house down when Dr. Lee moves out. Then late LKY and KGC can rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Familee Quarrel over 38 Oxley Road

This government and the Cabinet too free izit? Spending so much time over something so simple. Just honour the late Lee Kuan Yew's and his wife wishes to have their house demolished when Lee Wei Ling moves out. So simple, they cannot understand unless you have loaded this up with some hidden objectives, which is now dirty linen publicly washed.

I haven't been blogging much or I binge blog because I have no time. This post would not be happen had some of my friends and I not been discussing this on and off over Whatsapp. Here goes in eight screen shots.

Before that the release of letter by Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang which started it all: See here.

We owe the late Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo a deep debt of gratitude we can never repay. The least we could do is to honour their wishes to have 38 Oxley Road eventually demolished. I am just very angry that this self serving PAP would now be trying to make something so simple complicated so that they can preserve the house. This will end up damning the house isn't it? Damn you Lee Hsien Loong a most unfilial son. You and Ho Ching have tarnished your father's legacy because you left your siblings with no choice but make this public to get our support. 

Action point: Immediately disband that nefarious committee looking into this issue and publicly commit to at the right time demolish the house. 

Update: 10:00 pm

This is not a normally family or I would agree family quarrels should remain within the family. 

At the personal level the siblings just want to see their late parents wishes complied with and it would certainly have if they are just like any family. There are many like Francis who has failed to recognize this point. There are features in Confucianism that is self serving for practical reasons but it also simply means refusing to see the problem but bury it until it bursts out of the ground again too late to fix. Please understand the success of Singapore is judiciously combining Confucianism and liberal values pragmatically. 

Now I am waiting to see the PAP and the Cabinet acting in a tribal fashion. They will close ranks and defend their boss. This is just human nature. The Republicans do that for their incompetent president too. You see such behavior in the office all the time as well. Only public opinion makes a difference here. The public will get what it deserve.

Update: 11:45 pm

In order not to look "petty" because what has some very old bricks and mortar standing or taken down compared to national interest, but the two are inseparable. The house is an indispensable device for any hidden motivations which is now brought to light but denied by the PM. 

Update: June 15 5:10 pm

Lee Hsien Yang suggested in his latest Facebook post that his elder brother has been duplicitous. He laid out the facts in a table. 

How is this going to end. LHY and LWL are also taking a risk. It is not easy to communicate and carry the public with you. The majority of Chinese are just turned off as being Confucian leaning that you do not air family grievance publicly. It is a tall order explaining to them this goes well beyond the family. By and large the majority of people will respond instinctively rather than logically. 

Update: June 15 11:10 pm

The PM threw a very hard to read 41 points summary of his statutory declaration and his brother simply brought a simple fact into the light. 

"How could Lee Kuan Yew not know when he initialled right beneath the Demolition Clause and LHL has the will?"

Moral: Don't throw smoke bombs. It only makes things worse. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We stood firm against China's bullying

We were going about our business as usual when the Chinese decided to test us. In fact everyone has been testing us to see what we are like after LKY passed away. Hence the constant reference to LKY vs LHL government in Global Times etc., The first was Israel but in a friendly way whose president came to LKY funeral and wanted to discuss business with the PM when he and the nation was deep in grief.

People hate to be tested but I think if one is ready, it is good as it helps us get promoted to the next level. Despite our small size, we stood our ground against China. We will not and will work hard not to be a supplicant and vassal to China. India resisted the BRI as a big country. We are a small country and we have our ways of standing firm. Unlike others, we are up front with the Chinese. We make what everyone perceives as the usual weaknesses of a small state turning them into strengths.