The death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, 91 invoked a torrent of social media discussions. Going by the views expressed, there are two distinct camps. State controlled media pounded the print and air news with praises beyond praises of the great achievements by the late Lee. Not a trace of negative words was mentioned. The mourning period is a solemn time. Perhaps, it is only “courteous” that the dead should be spared harsh words, and the family allowed some grieving space. The social media on the other hand went overboard with tirades highlighting the not so great deeds of Lee. Whether good or bad, dead man doesn’t speak.
Is the social media really too on harsh Lee and his family? The situation is somewhat peculiar because the late Lee’s son is now the incumbent Prime Minister. Barring a short period during which what many saw as an interim Prime Minister was in charge, the late Lee and his son had the country under their family’s grip since Singapore’s independence. The interim PM took the reign when the younger Lee was diagnosed with cancer. Hence “FamiLee” is frequently used by social media to caricaturise this ruling family.
There are sufficient publicly known facts about Lee to allow anyone interested in the real history of Singapore and what Lee really was like to make a fair judgment call. Lee had his fair share of the “good, bad and ugly”. Incidentally, Lee did not cease to exercise power even when his son took control. He created a new portfolio for himself – Senior Minister. When the interim Prime Minster relinquished his sit for his son after his rehabilitation from cancer, the post of Senior Minister was awarded to him. Lee elevated himself with a new title – Minister Mentor (social media would have called him Minister Mental). Now that he is gone eternally, elevated to Minister Eternal, he will fade away into history. The emotions of the moment will also pass.
It is extremely difficult to thread a middle line when making a judgment on the enigmatic Lee and his contribution to Singapore. For material contributions, Lee scored well and that is hard to dispute. But for other social matters, the verdict is mixed. For those against, the language used on him, especially during this period of mourning is indeed uncouth. Those barrages of negative attacks could easily be justified based on “facts” as they were presented. But they are not necessary. Somehow, it seems cruel and hard on the heart to speak of a dead man in such uncultured ways, no matter how bad he may have been.
Roy Nergn, a young activist in Singapore calling for transparency and accountability of the government, but was instead slapped with the blunt end of the law by the Prime Minister had this to say in his tribute message:
Dear Lee Kuan Yew,
Saying my goodbyes to you is a healing experience. I grew up believing in the Singapore you spoke about but as I read about the lives of the hundreds of people imprisoned, tortured and sued under the government under your rule, I cannot but feel angry for the families and individuals who have lost their many years, and the many poor who continue to exist today. Yet, who am I to be self-righteous, an anguish only they and you can understand. Yet, is it not that many Singaporeans appreciate what you have helped built, to bring Singapore to what it is today. So, thank you, Mr Lee. I only hope that with your passing, forgiveness can take place and our country can have a new beginning, and a new togetherness and future. Now that you have left your physical body and are in a better place, I believe, I hope that you will continue to watch over the Singapore you fought so hard to turn into. May you bless Singapore and our people from where you are and may healing for our country finally take place.
Please rest in peace. Thank you.
Thankfully, there are still people with hearts of flesh and blood, not hearts of stone. Now and eternally, a forgiving and non-vindictive heart goes a long way (read Corrie Ten Boom story on forgiveness).
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.