Unpopular opinion: Low Thia Kiang gave his best tribute to Lee Kwan Yew

I avoid discussing local politics in general because I have always felt that my agreement or disagreement with the establishment had little to no impact on policy decisions. Today, I’m approaching a topic that is emotional in nature.

In the past few days. we’ve been inundated by news reports and opinion pieces from all sorts of people. Many have been loving and heavily positive about Mr. Lee’s life, some have been overtly negative. But one stands out to me, that of Mr Low Thia Kiang’s parlimentary tribute to Mr. Lee. The post-speech reactions have been strong, with detractors saying that he has sullied the great legacy of Mr. Lee.

I disagree.

Social Media Mistake

Firstly, both TODAY and The Straits Times misrepresented Low’s speech, making it sound like he was attacking Mr. Lee’s legacy.
Low never said that Mr. Lee “silenced the opposition”.

What he DID say was:

“However, I don’t think that the PAP one-party rule is the key to Singapore’s fast economic development, strong social cohesion and the unitedness. This is because many Singaporeans were sacrificed during the process of nation building and policy making; and our society has paid the price for it.”

Of course, the knee-jerk detractors went into overdrive and starting launching attacks.

A Balanced Tribute

What most people didn’t hear was how Mr. Low praised Mr. Lee for being a listener and a man of action:

“From my meetings with Mr Lee in Parliament, I don’t think he was an autocrat who didn’t listen. If you have strong reasons and arguments that are better than the policies that he had given a lot of thought for, I think he will consider your views. I also know he was someone who hates empty talking, because he thought time was precious and there were too many things to do.”

Mr. Lee was obviously not a time waster and an efficient man. In fact, Low also recognised that Mr. Lee did what he had to do in order to ensure survival. His explicit statement on that showed that he understood and recognised the policy decisions made by Mr. Lee, in the face of extraordinary conditions, and perhaps under extreme pressure:

“He crafted policies based on the situation then and made rational judgments in the interest of the country.”

But Low also clearly states what he thought was missing, and perhaps, what he wishes to add to policy decisions in the future:

“However, the choice and implementation of policies is not only a rational decision. It should also take into consideration human nature and the sensitivity.”

He closes his speech by saying what we all feel about Mr. Lee:

“Singapore today is united regardless of race, language and religion. This is an achievement that is not possible without Mr Lee.”


Social Puberty

So why have so many people lashed out at such a balanced and respectful tribute?

I personally think that it’s Singapore going through an accelerated Social Puberty. One set into overdrive by the death of Mr. Lee. As a society, we’ve given very little thought to the concept of losing such a titan. Add this to the fact that we have been in an era where our society is struggling to make sense of a newfound openness and you can see why many of us are still looking at things in a little bit of a black and white perspective.

Today, reasonable criticism could be levelled at the ruling party with little or no persecution (Roy Ngerng went overboard, obviously), and maybe even get a positive change from the establishment. Today, we can sit on Facebook in our comfy offices and talk about this issue. Today, we have the freedom, time and luxury to BLOG about this.

I’m thankful to Mr. Lee for that opportunity, and the many other things I have in life that would just not be possible.

This is why he deserves the best, most balanced tribute from Mr. Low.

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