Fear of political persecution crippled the citizens and residents in Singapore like no other country in the developed world, observes Tan Wah Piow.
In life, Lee Kuan Yew’s sole concern was to be feared by his countrymen. He was so spectacularly successful in this pursuit that by the time of his death, he was left with no cohorts, only minions.
He will be remembered as an accomplished dictator who maintained a veneer of democracy and the grand illusion of the rule of law to his very last breath. Such was his achievement that dictators elsewhere viewed his system of control with envy.
But this “Singapore model” is made possible only because of the particularity of Singapore: a strategically placed island city state, with unique geographical attributes such as a natural port, blessed with a diligent and industrious population, surrounded by resource-rich countries. It is not a model which can be easily replicated elsewhere, nor should it be.
Another undoubted accomplishment of the man was his ability to propagate the myth that he alone was the founding father of Singapore. That myth may soon unravel with his passing.
For someone who would rather be feared than loved, his dear family members and minions who now mourn his passing should not take exception if his death is celebrated as a great historic event which will eventually set the people free.
The death of Lee Kuan Yew will certainly unlock the inhibitions and liberate the people from fear. Fear of political persecution crippled the citizens and residents in Singapore like no other country in the developed world to the extent that even the very rich, the very clever, and those in high political office shy away from expressing dissent.
With his death, the truth about the man will emerge. Luckily, the deceased can no longer wield the stick of libel law to gag his critics, as he was so quick to do in life.
Those in his ruling People’s Action Party who enjoyed his patronage during the past fifty years may soon also have to mourn the eventual passing of the cosy politics of one party dominance. Political life will no longer be as tranquil for this political class as it was before.
Tan Wah Piow, a former Singapore student leader, has lived in political exile in London since 1976.