Lee Kuan Yew: Forging a Nation 2

Zig Zag Roadsign

Zig Zag Road Sign

Introduction: The Stage and the Characters

Planning is with man, accomplishing with heaven
Man proposes but God disposes.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew ‘s place in history is certain. He led a remarkable life, appraising his circumstances with objectivity, while remaining always true to his values and beliefs.

Of his life, Mr Lee said: “I cannot say I planned my life. That’s why I feel life is a great adventure, exciting, unpredictable and at times exhilarating.”

He said: “Why do I want to live my life all over again? I may not be as lucky a second time in so many things. All I can say is, I did my best. What people think of it, I have to leave it to them.”

Main Quote

Former Singapore President Nathan said Mr Lee was someone “moulded by the politics of his time – the decolonising phase of Asian Political History of the 20th century”.

Source: Business Times 30 March 2015 Written by Angela Tan

Events, Situations (Time, Place), Man (Group, Role) (Matters Dictated By Heaven)

When everything seems like it is falling apart, that is when God is putting things together the way He wants it.
Author: Unknown

“The period during which Singapore gained independence was an especially tumultuous one for the region and the world at large. European imperialism was in full retreat by the 1960s with rapid decolonization.

He (Lee Kuan Yew) was a man unafraid to challenge the popular ideologies of the day; he had no truck with dogma. Right up to the end of his life, Mr Lee Kuan Yew believed in constantly adapting to the hard realities of a changing world, and to refresh his “mental map”, he ceaselessly sought out the views of experts, academics, industry, political leaders, journalists and the man in the street.”
Source: Lee Kuan Yew: The Pragmatist Written Teo Xuanwei 23 Mar 2015


The British Empire (The Imperial System)

First British Empire (1583–1783)
Second British Empire (1783–1815)
Britain’s imperial century (1815–1914)
Decolonisation and decline (1945–1997)
Source: “British Empire” Wikipedia

British Empire 1

Source: British have invaded nine out of ten countries Published in The Telegraph 4 Nov 2012

British Empire 2

Source: British Empire, Wikipedia

East India Company (31 Dec 1600 to 1 June 1874)

The company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth on 31 December 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Wealthy merchants and aristocrats owned the Company’s shares.The government owned no shares and had only indirect control it. Originally chartered as the “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies”, the company rose to account for half of the world’s trade, particularly trade in basic commodities that included cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, salt petre, tea and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India
Source: “East India Company” Wikipedia

The East India Company drove the expansion of the British Empire in Asia. The Company’s army had first joined forces with the Royal Navy during the Seven Years’ War, and the two continued to co-operate in arenas outside India: the eviction of Napoleon from Egypt(1799), the capture of Java from the Netherlands (1811), the acquisition of Singapore(1819) and Malacca (1824) and the defeat of Burma (1826).
Source: “British Empire” Wikipedia

East India Company
Source: India and East to Singapore

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (6 July 1781 – 5 July 1826), Singapore (Founded 1819), Raffles Institution (Founded 1823), Raffles Girls School (Started 1844)

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, was a British statesman, Lieutenant-Governor of British Java (1811–1815) and Governor-General of Bencoolen (now Sumatra)  (1817–1822), best known for his founding of the city of

Raffles started working as a clerk in London for the British East India Company, the trading company that shaped many of Britain’s overseas conquests.

On Jan. 28, 1819, Raffles and Col. R. J. Farquhar landed on the Island of Singapore and immediately recognized it as ideal for their purpose. They arrived at an agreement with the Sultan of Johore, and on February 6 a treaty was signed marking the establishment of Singapore as a British settlement. Farquhar was installed as its first governor under the supervision of Raffles at Bencoolen. As Charles E. Wurtzburg (1954) wrote, “It would be difficult to imagine that, had there been no Raffles, there would have been any Singapore.”

Sir Frederick Weld, lieutenant-governor at Singapore, when unveiling the statue of his predecessor at that place in 1887, crystallized the thoughts of his countrymen and anticipated the verdict of history in a single sentence: “In Raffles, England had one of her greatest sons.”
Source: Stamford Raffles, Wikipedia

Initially named Singapore Institution, Raffles Institution was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles on 5 June 1823. He had secured a grant from the British East India Company, drafted the curriculum and set up the structure for the headed by patron William Wilberforce in order to provide education for the sons of the Company’s employees and the children of local leaders in the new British colony of Singapore. The original campus of Raffles Institution was on Bras Basah Road, where Raffles City Shopping Centre now stands. The Bras Basah campus’s library building is featured on the $2 paper and polymer bill in the Singapore legal tender

RI is notable for having produced 90 President’s Scholars, 3 out of 7 Presidents, 2 out of 3 Prime Ministers, including the first elected Prime Minister in Lee Kuan Yew, 4 Speakers of Parliament, 6 out of 18 members of the current Cabinet and 13 CEOs of government-linked statutory boards and agencies. It has been cited as Singapore’s “premier school” and has been recognized as “the top feeder school for the Ivy League universities plus Stanford and MIT, as well as the top feeder school for Oxford University.”

Source: Raffles institution, Wikipedia

Raffles Stamp
Source:Philately Club website

Raffles College
Source: National University

Migrants in Singapore

As a British trading colony established in 1819, most of the city’s population growth until the World War II was due to immigration. Supported by a fledging colonial economy, Singapore drew in large numbers of laborers from China, India, and the Malay Archipelago. Consequently, its population quickly grew from a few hundred to half a million by the 1931 census.

In terms of the overall migrant stock, the proportion of Singapore’s population born outside of the country increased from 18.1 percent in 2000 to 22.8 percent in 2010. The majority of immigrants were born in Malaysia (386,000); China, Hong Kong, and Macau (175,200); South Asia (123,500); Indonesia (54,400); and other Asian countries (90,100).

Lee Kuan Yew Quote

I have said this on many a previous occasion: that had the mix in Singapore been different, had it been 75% Indians, 15% Malays and the rest Chinese, it would not have worked. Because they believe in the politics of contention, of opposition. But because the culture was such that the populace sought a practical way out of their difficulties, therefore it has worked.
Source: President’s Address, Debate on President’s Address, Parliament of Singapore (March 01, 1985). Retrieved on January 16 2015.

Britain’s Presence in Far East: The British Colony of Singapore (1819 to 1965)

Singapore was founded at a time when Britain’s presence in the Far East was just beginning. The British were a relatively new entrant to colonialism arriving only in the 1790s and following well behind the Dutch and the Portuguese before them. As a result they had to compete with the Dutch – to gain a toehold in South-east Asia. This meant that, British presence in Singapore was precarious and its commercial viability and worth needed to be realized quickly to justify the large political and commercial costs of establishing a settlement there.

At Independence, Singapore had been left with some important political, administrative and social foundations. These “foundations” of a nation were the legacy of the British Empire and it is these foundations that have helped shaped the nation we know as modern Singapore.
Source: The Legacy of (British) Empire in Singapore

British Malaya

The term British Malaya loosely describes a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries. British Malaya comprised the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States, and the Unfederated Malay States.

Under British rule, Malaya was one of the most profitable territories of the Empire, being the world’s largest producer of tin and later rubber.
Source: British Malaya, Wikipedia

World War Two (1939 to 1945)

World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, though related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the world’s nations including all of the great powers eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of “total war”, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources.

The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, but the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
Source: World War II, Wikipedia

Japanese Occupation of Singapore (15 Feb 1942 to 12 Sep 1945)

The Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II took place from 1942 to 1945,following the fall of the British colony on 15 February 1942. Military forces of the Empire of Japan occupied it after defeating the combined Australian, British Indian and Malayan garrison in the Battle of Singapore. The occupation was to become a major turning point in the histories of several nations, including those of Japan, Britain, and the then-colonial state of Singapore.

The Japanese captured all of Malaya during the Malayan Campaign in little more than two months. The garrison defending Singapore surrendered on 15 February 1942, only a week after the invasion of the island commenced. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the fall of Singapore “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”

The Kempeitai (the Japanese military secret police), committed numerous atrocities against the common people. They introduced the system of Sook Ching, which means “purge through purification” in Chinese, to get rid of those deemed to be anti-Japanese. The Sook Ching Massacre claimed the lives of between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaya. These men were rounded up and taken to deserted spots around the island and killed systematically.
Source: Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Wikipedia

Winston Churchill

Source: Life Magazine

Sir Winston Churchill (30 Nov 1874 to 24 Jan 1965)

Out of office and politically “in the wilderness” during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His steadfast refusal to consider surrender helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the war when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the fall of Singapore as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”.

During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese claimed to have taken 60,000 Imperial troops in Singapore – 16,000 British, 14,000 Australian and 32,000 Indian soldiers. They also captured a large amount of equipment.

The high number of prisoners was not surprising as the troops had been ordered to defend Singapore until the last possible moment so no major evacuation had been ordered.

Lt-Gen Percival, the British General Officer Commanding, said he had been forced to surrender when the loss of food, water, petrol and ammunition made it impossible to carry on the struggle.

Upon his death, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history. Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, consistently ranking well in opinion polls of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.
Source: Winston Churchill, Wikipedia

PAP Founders

Source: The Straits Times 11 April 2015

Founding Members of People’s Action Party

Toh Chin Chye became politically active during his time as a university student in London, when he served as the Chairman of the Malayan Forum, an anti-colonial group for students from Malaya and Singapore (which included two future Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew and Tun Abdul Razak) which met regularly for discussions and debates on the future of the Malayan region. Toh was among the founder members of the People’s Action Party and the party’s Chairman from its formation in 1954 to 1981. Majulah Singapura was chosen by Toh as the national anthem of Singapore. In 1959, he headed the team that designed the Singapore coat of arms and flag.

Source: Toh Chin Chye, Wikipedia

Sinnathamby Rajaratnam

Rajaratnam studied in St Paul’s boys’ school, Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur, and later in Raffles Institution in Singapore. In 1937, he went to King’s College London to pursue a law degree. However, due to World War II, he was unable to receive funding from his family to continue his studies; instead, he turned to journalism to earn a living.

In 1954, Rajaratnam cofounded the People’s Action Party together with Lee Kuan Yew, Toh Chin Chye, Goh Keng Swee and others. Rajaratnam was Singapore’s first foreign minister, following its abrupt independence in 1965. During his term as Minister of Labour, he implemented tough labour laws to attempt to restore stability in the Singaporean economy and attracted multinational corporations to invest in Singapore. Rajaratnam was a strong believer in multi-racialism in Singapore, and when drafting the Singapore National Pledge in 1966 just two years after the 1964 Race Riots, he wrote the words “One united people, regardless of race, language or religion.”

Goh Keng Swee

He was a student at Raffles College and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and his interest in politics began during his time in London where he met fellow students seeking independence for British Malaya (which covered modern Malaysia and Singapore).He laid the foundation stones of Singapore’s economy, education system and defence forces.

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew’s great-grandfather, Lee Bok Boon, born in 1846, emigrated from Dabu County, Guangdong province, China, to Singapore in 1863. Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather Lee Hoon Leong, was born in Singapore in 1871. He was educated in English at Raffles Institution His son Lee Chin Koon, also English educated, would marry Chua Jim Neo, a Peranakan, who gave birth to Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee Kuan Yew attended Raffles Institution, where he met the top 150 students from all over Singapore. Lee’s future wife, Kwa Geok Choo was his classmate and the only girl at Raffles Institution at that time.

He then went to Raffles College where he met two men who would be his political comrades, Toh Chin Chye and Goh Keng Swee.

After the war, Lee went on to study in England. He briefly attended London School of Economics as enrolment at University of Cambridge had already closed. He spent a term at the London School of Economics, picking up socialist idealism from renowned professor Harold Laski, before moving to Cambridge because he disliked life in London.

A fellow Raffles College student introduced him to the Censor of Fitzwilliam House, W. S. Thatcher, who admitted him for the 1947 Lent term at Fitzwilliam College.

On one occasion during the Japanese Occupation, Lee was asked by a Japanese guard to join a group of segregated Chinese men. Sensing that something was amiss, he asked for permission to go back home to collect his clothes first, and the Japanese guard agreed. It turned out that those who were segregated were taken to the beach to be shot as part of the Sook Ching massacre.

The Japanese Occupation had a profound impact on the young Lee, who recalled being slapped and forced to kneel for failing to bow to a Japanese soldier. He and other young Singaporeans “emerged determined that no one — neither Japanese nor British — had the right to push and kick us around … (and) that we could govern ourselves.” The occupation also drove home lessons about raw power and the effectiveness of harsh punishment in deterring crime.

After seeing how the British had failed to defend Singapore from the Japanese, and after his stay in England, Lee decided that Singapore had to govern itself. He returned to Singapore in 1949.

By the time he returned home in 1950, Mr Lee had grown not just anti-colonial, but also anti-British. He said: “It may have begun with my experience of the color prejudice of the British working classes, the bus conductors and conductresses, the salesgirls and waitresses in the shops and restaurants, and the landladies in Hampstead I encountered in my search for digs.”

In his memoirs, Lee recounted that he had intended to return to Singapore to work as a lawyer. Upon his return, Lee worked in John Laycock’s law firm for $500 per month. His first experience with politics in Singapore was his role as election agent for Laycock under the banner of the pro-British Progressive Party in the 1951 legislative council elections.

He was legal adviser to more than 100 unions and associations by the time the People’s Action Party was formed in 1954. The sheer diversity of the groups he acted for, from journalists and Chinese middle school students, to hawkers and liquor sellers, became an asset at elections, as beneficiaries transitioned seamlessly into campaigners and loyal party activists.

Kwa Geok Choo (Lee Kuan Yew’s Spouse)

Mr Lee said in his autobiography, The Singapore Story : “My great advantage was that I have a wife who could be the sole breadwinner and bring the children up. And that was my insurance policy” to enter politics, unimpeded by financial concerns or parental responsibilities.

Kwa Geok Choo was a former pupil of Raffles Institution, and Raffles College, and read law at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she was a Queen’s Scholar from Malaya.

When Singapore separated from the Malaysian Federation, Kwa drafted the clauses in the Separation Agreement for the guarantee of the water agreements between the Malaysian state of Johor and Singapore. Kwa was also a pioneer advocate of Singapore women’s rights.

Learning Points

Life is fragile, unstable and unpredictable. Life is like a tapestry, weaved from different threads of events.

“Weaving involves crossing two threads, the warp and the weft, one vertical and the other horizontal, one stretched taut and the other undulating and intertwined with the first. To produce the textile it is necessary for these two threads to be bound, otherwise each will remain a fragile and fluttering potentiality…if the meeting of opposites does not take place, nothing is created, for each element is defined by its opposite and takes its meaning from it.”

Dario Valcarenghi, Kilim History and Symbols, as quoted in ZATI The Art of Weaving a Life
Source: Weaving: Integration, weavingalife website

“We are born, we live and we die, this is life. Life is the most fragile, unstable and unpredictable thing that exists. There is only one sure thing about life, it isn’t over, till it’s over.”
Source: Confused forever website

Civilization is fragile. We tend to think that the world we live in is a given, that things are simply meant to be this way.  We forget that civilization is man-made. We forget that over the course of history most people have not lived in freedom or prosperity.

“We who are lucky enough to live in societies where individual freedom and liberty are valued, where there is access to education, health care, and an economic system that promises advancement should realize that these societies exist only because someone cared enough to create them and defend them. Even today, there are countries where the entire purpose of the government and all the institutions of society exist not for the benefit of the people, but to keep one person in power.”
Source: The Hunger Games; The Fragility of Civilization; eventhorizon.typepad website

Much of the abundance and convenience of city life is pure illusion
Source: How fragile we are: Why the complexity of modern civilization threatens us all Written by Mike Adams; natural news website

The Romans reached a level of economic sophistication. Within the span of the lifetime of a Roman born around 400 A.D. much of the prosperity, peace, and security they enjoyed at birth was lost and stayed at pre-Roman levels for nearly 1000 years.
Source: The fall of the civilization of Rome—and the fragility of our own; Written by Kyle Mathews

Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature.
Eric Hoffer

Life has many moving parts. Events happen at random and in different permutations. Yet in all this randomness, there is order. It is like a spider web structure or a tapestry. We are just one of the threads in this fabric of life. This is why life is unpredictable.

This also explains why we should spend time paying attention to and noting events around us, whether in our vicinity, locality, country or region wherever we want to be aware about events that interest us. They are our realities. We sense it in part through observation, listening, feeling and being curious. We need to be ready to change our path.Reflecting on these, the question “what do you want to do with your life” or the statement “find the meaning in life” or “find your purpose in life” are ideological concepts.

Although we have no control over these events, however we have choices. Events in our life avails to us the arena or platform or flow that are available to us. We can choose to play in or to be with the flow. This how we can participate in life and make what we want out of it.In another perspective, our environment shapes us and our lives. We have choices to change our environment – the physical environment, the community, our work and our friends.

Man-made structures and systems are illusions. Even in a sophisticated society, you need someone to create and maintain them so that they continue to exist and serve their purposes, if they have any. In our man-made system, the things that we need come from other people. There is dependency. This is why life is fragile.

The answer is to reduce our dependency and focus our efforts on survival. This is true, whether for country, business, family or self. It also underlines the importance of self-reliance and trade. Trade at the simplest level is obtaining for ourselves what we want through understanding and filling the needs of others that we interacted with. This is why entrepreneurship and not administration is the focus of nations, businesses and families. It comes with doing and being in the thick of experience.

The last is character – the angel and devil (yin-yang) of man. It is the inherent part of this man-made system. It goes beyond ethics and accountability.

The devil is self-serve and will take what it wants; even sparing no lives or to make slaves of others. These are the Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and others that ride with the flow of events and seize power to do their evil deeds. Then there are the smaller devils that we find in our communities and in our everyday lives.

The angel looks and works beyond self, to make a difference to society and mankind. They rise in and from unexpected places. Just like the little devils, there are everyday heroes.

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