counter Is Singapore a police state?

What characterizes Singapore's political system is the constant query, worry and anxiety among the majority of the citizens, foreigners and observers that individuals and groups will get into trouble with the police and the political authorities for challenging the political status quo. Such anxiety is based on repeated examples of political challengers consistently being found guilty of contravening the system of tight and restrictive laws that govern people in the city-state.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


"If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies - even those who do not subscribe to our views - as much(sic)constitutional rights as you concede yourself." - Lee Kuan Yew Legislative Assembly Debates Sept 21, 1955

"But we either believe in democracy or we not. If we do, then, we must say categorically, without qualification, that no restraint from the any democratic processes, other than by the ordinary law of the land, should be allowed... If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought, and no excuse, whether of security, should allow a government to be deterred from doing what it knows to right, and what it must know to be right... "- Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates April 27, 1955

"Let us get down to fundamentals. Is this an open, or is this a closed society? Is it a society where men can preach ideas - novel, unorthodox, heresies, to established churches and established governments - where there is a constant contest for men's hearts and minds on the basis of what is right, of what is just, of what is in the national interests, or is it a closed society where the mass media - the newspapaers, the journals, publications, TV, radio - either bound by sound or by sight, or both sound and sight, men's minds are fed with a constant drone of sycophantic support for a particular orthodox political philosophy? That is the first question we asked ourselves. I would like to see minds stimulated and debate provoked, and truth refined and crystallized out of the conflict of different evidence and views. I, therefore, welcome every and any opportunity of a chance to agree, or to dissent, in order that out of thesis comes synthesis - thesis, anti-major premise, anti-premise, synthesis, so we progress... I welcome every opportunity to meet members of the opposition, and so do members of my party, over the radio, over the television, university forums, public rallies. We never run away from the open encounter. If your ideas, your views cannot stand the challenge of criticism then they are too fragile and not sturdy enough to last. I am talking of the principle of the open society, the open debate, ideas, not intimidation, persuasion not coercion... Sir, the basic fundamentals we asked whether the duties of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting are to produce closed minds or open minds, because these instruments - the mass media, the TV, the radio - can produce either the open minds receptive to ideas and ideals, a democratic system of life, or closed and limited. But I know that the open debate is a painful process for closed minds...But let me make this point: that 5 million adult minds in Malaysia cannot be closed - definitely not in the lifetime of the people in authority. It is not possible because whatever the faults of the colonial system, and there are many...they generated the open mind, the inquiring mind." - Lee Kuan Yew Dec 18, 1964 Malaysian Parliamentary Debates

" Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they're conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict." -Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member during 1956 speaking to David Marshall

"One-man-one-vote is a most difficult form of government. From time to time the results can be erratic. People are sometimes fickle. They get bored with stable, steady improvements in life and in a reckless moment they vote for a change for change's sake. This is the danger for Singapore, not in this election, because the results cannot be a disaster this time. But it can be in the future." - Lee Kuan Yew, pre-election speech 1984

The "vagaries" of the one-man-one-vote system "makes it an extremely hazardous system to run anywhere in the under-developed and the under-educated world...We are not exceptional: we are neither more intelligent nor better educated than many of our neighbours. We have been more fortunately endowed and enjoy a better standard of living, but I do not think the basic factors are materially different. Where the majority of your population is semi-literate, it responds more to the carrot than to the stick, and politicains at election time cannot use the stick, so this leads to a situation where he who bids the highest wins. At a time when you want harder work with less return and more capital investment, one-man-one-vote produces just the opposite. I do not think that it is a co-incidence that it has flopped in Pakistan, did not succeed in Burma, nearly came to grief in Ceylon..It has been abandoned, decried and condemned in Indonesia, and it is not held in high-esteem anywhere in Asia. It is not a tradition with the Malays nor with the Chinese to count heads: their custom has always been to listen to the
dictum of the elder... Government to be effective must at least give the impression of enduring, and a government which is open to the vagaries of the ballot box when the people who put their crosses in the ballot boxes are not illiterate but semi-literate, which is worse, is a government which is already weakened before it starts to govern. If I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely, without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I have not the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their own interests. That is a fact which the educated understand, but we are all caught in this system which the the British export all over the place hoping that somewhere it will take root." - Lee Kuan Yew 1962


Blogger Joe90 said...

Very telling remarks by LKY which give us an insight into the inner workings of his mind. It is remarkable how much he has changed his philosophy from a man who championed justice and freedom to one who upholds the enduring success of the state over the welfare of the individual.

1:53 AM

Blogger Joe90 said...

Very telling remarks by LKY which give us an insight into the inner workings of his mind. It is remarkable how much he has changed his philosophy from a man who championed justice and freedom to one who gladly upholds the enduring success of the state over everything else; even to the extent of the detriment to the moral and social welfare of the individual citizen.

1:57 AM

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