27 August 2015

Lee Kuan Yew's Role In GE 2015?

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's death in March was followed by a week of national mourning during which national television and the mainstream newspapers focused on his contributions to Singapore, and showed scenes of the public paying their respects to him and the state funeral.

Even after the state funeral, the mainstream newspapers continued to remind us of Mr Lee's contributions with various articles (some of which were published before the state funeral).
On National Day, MediaCorp broadcast an audio recording of Mr Lee's reading the Proclamation of Independence. It is not clear why the recording was made three years ago. The Proclamation was originally read to the public on 9 August 1965 by a TV announcer, not Mr Lee who was the prime minister then.

At the National Day parade, the organisers arranged for a three-minute video tribute to Mr Lee.

In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned Mr Lee 27 times (according to the text of his main speech in the English language released by the Prime Minister's Office).

Mr Lee was an exceptional politician. Together with his early Cabinet colleagues, the public servants and the man in the street (many of whom are, or were they still alive today would have been, Pioneer Generation members), he transformed Singapore from third world to first world in a single generation by the time he stepped down 25 years ago in 1990.

However, we should not let sentimentality over his death or his contributions obscure the issues nor cloud our judgement when we cast our vote in GE 2015.

This GE is not a GE in which a PAP team led by Mr Lee is contesting.

This GE is not a GE in which we express gratitude to the PAP for Mr Lee's leadership in transforming Singapore, not that any GE should be an occasion to express gratitude to a past or present politician or a political party for what he or the party has done for us in the past.

This GE is a GE to elect Members of Parliament to serve us for the next five years — MPs from among whom hopefully will emerge leaders who will form the government and, equally important, the opposition or the alternative government in the future.

This GE is about Singapore's future. Mr Lee has his place in history. But he is not around any more and he does not and cannot influence our destiny beyond what he has done and put in place. Whatever the government of the day — whether headed by incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong or anyone else — decides or does, are its decisions and actions alone, not Mr Lee's. Therefore Mr Lee should not feature in our decision on which candidate and which party we vote for on polling day.

We should guard against and ignore any attempt by any candidate to associate himself or herself with Mr Lee or what he has done for the country.

We should guard against and ignore any attempt by any candidate to take advantage of our feelings for Mr Lee.

Neither Mr Lee's past work nor our present feelings for him should have any bearing on how we vote in GE 2015.


1. In this article, for the avoidance of doubt, all references to Mr Lee is to the late Lee Kuan Yew, not Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong nor any other politician with the surname Lee.

This article was updated on 27 August 2015 9:10 am

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