A Singaporean in California

March 15, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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15 March 2005

Dear Dr. Chee,

I read with dismay, the rising jobless rate, the rising suicide rate and the general gloom that prevails in Singapore today.

The problems are due to one man, one man alone LKY. Since 1959, he has felt that he knows best, and no one else had a head on his/her shoulder. He will decide, and everyone else will conform. Any contrary opinion must be silenced. The people must submit or else. This arrogance has over the years, made an entire population silent and submissive. We have an entire Singapore population unable to think independently. An entire population silenced. The only speakers are those who will parrot the government line.

This style may have worked in the late 50s and the 60s where Singapore could attract foreign investment by purveying their assets, namely a docile English speaking work force that will work for peanuts, without complaint. But this marketing technique has been copied by our neighbors who have the advantage of lower wages. So the niche in the cheap labor market is gone. But the problem was that during the good times wages went up, salaries went up, property prices went up. Now with the niche gone, property prices are declining, foreign investors are leaving, banks are foreclosing and the ripple effect of the downturn is causing Singapore to fall on an unstoppable tailspin.

And this is mainly because LKY thought he knew best. Instead of 4 million people thinking and finding their own niche, now they can do nothing because their thinking caps are off. They do not know what to do.

And what have we in Singapore? A very large government sector with thousands of pen-pushers doing clerical work. Now when times are hard, they are laid off. What else can they do? They can learn to cook mee goreng, but how many mee goreng sellers can there be? Singapore does not have a large reservoir of artisans and technicians and tradesmen who can work in the industries that the foreign capital in Singapore needs, even if Singapore can attract more foreign capital. If Hewlett Packard intends to have a plant in Singapore, they can only employ assembly line workers. And the cost of assembly line workers in Singapore is no longer competitive. You get much cheaper costs in Jakarta Indonesia.

And with the lack of work, people turn to suicide. Suicide is something that can be prevented. If you had a caring society which can give some support for people in dire straits. But LKY says that people should stand on their own feet, they should be robust. Giving any assistance would turn Singaporeans into a lazy people. That is etched in stone. But Mr. Lee does not realize that not everyone can be as robust as he wishes them to be. Giving some assistance sometimes is necessary. It is necessary because it will give people a sense of belonging, the knowledge that Singapore cares. And in return the people would be loyal and appreciative. At least you will stop this tragic syndrome of suicides.

I live in California, near San Francisco. Here, people fall into dire straits too. Families suddenly find themselves penniless. But they dont drive to the Golden Gate Bridge and throw themselves into the San Francisco Bay. Why? Because the State has a system in place where people can turn for help, until they can stand on their own feet again. They invariably recover. They appreciate the government for this. They become useful citizens again, having learnt their lesson. But of course, in California, there is no LKY. Thank God.

If only LKY will listen, but he will not. I have sent him various emails telling him that Singapore is now a metropolis. Singapore has to find its own direction. And for that the 4 million people should be able to think and reason without fear or favor. That way Singapore will somehow find its own direction. Suing Dr. Chee and JBJ for thousands of dollars and bankrupting them, sends a wrong signal to the entire population. A society of fear is not going to produce anything. And topping it all, with the Internet, any discerning person in any part of the world, is already aware that Singapore is, to quote a phrase Disneyland with the death penalty. This too prevents many international companies from stationing in Singapore, because of the bad name it has earned.

I urge all readers who read this letter to write to Mr. Lee, and point out to him that he is barking up the wrong tree. Write to your local MP, write to your Minister, write to your local Residents Committee, write to everyone, and keep telling them, ad nauseum that their policies are driving Singapore down on the fatal tailspin.

You can see the desperation that Singapore now faces. Macau, the former Portuguese Colony which is now part of China, earns its income entirely on gambling and prostitution. There is nothing else there. Is this what the PAP wants to do with Singapore with the casino push. Tell the PAP that there are other ways to succeed and that gambling is not the way out. All LKY has to do is to come down from his high horse and realize that Dr. Chee, JBJ and the 4 million Singaporeans also have heads on their shoulders. And collectively, with their thinking caps on, Singapore may yet be saved.

GOPALAN NAIR