Rubbishy Reductionism; Sovereign’s Superiority; Tolstoy’s Tension

Having an hour or two between meetings today, I popped by the National Library to read Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and The Fox (amazon). The copy was well-kept and had once belonged to Lee Kuan Yew. I wondered, if he’d read it, and if he’d agreed with Berlin’s take on Tolstoy’s philosophy of history. After all, even while he lived, many sought his advice on replicating the (economic) success of Singapore in their own countries. But advice can only be properly given if the causes that effected such prosperity can be adequately identified (and, indeed, repeated to similar efficacy).

National Library of SingaporeAccording to Berlin, Tolstoy was uniquely tormented by ultimate problems – of good and evil, origin and purpose of the universe and its inhabitants, causes of all that happens: what is to be done? How should one live? Why are we here? What must we be and do?

The answers provided by the theologians and metaphysicans struck him as absurd, says Berlin.

History was only the sum of the concrete events in time and space – the sum of actual experience of actual men and women in their relation to one another and to an actual three-dimensional, empirically experienced, physical environment. This alone contained the truth.

Metaphysical philosophy and history:

  • pretends to be something it is not – a science capable of arriving at conclusions which are certain. As if it must be possible to discover and formulate a set of true laws of history which, in conjunction with data of empirical observation, would make prediction of the future (and “retrodiction” of the past) as feasible as it had become say, in geology or astronomy;
  • is arbitrarily selective in deciding which factors determine the life of mankind. These are various, but historians select from them only some single aspect;
  • represent only “political” public events, while the spiritual inner events are largely forgotten. Yet prima facie, they are most real, the most immediate experience of human beings.

First Thai, 23 Purvis Street, Bugis, SingaporeTherefore Tolstoy set himself to:

  • do what historians were failing to do – to describe the ultimate data of subjective experience – personal lives lived by men, the thoughts, knowledge, poetry, music, love, friendship, hates, passions of real life. For only the individual’s experience is genuine – of colours, smells, tastes, sounds and movements, jealousies, loves, hatreds, passions, rare flashes of insight, transforming moments, the ordinary day-to-day succession of private data that constitutes all there is to reality;
  • expose the great illusion that (great) individuals can, by the use of their own resources, understand and control the course of events. This self-deception affects almost all mankind. Men are unable to bear the fact that their lives are no less than what natural law has determined. They seek to represent it as a succession of free choices, and seek to fix responsibility for what occurs upon persons endowed by them with heroic virtues or vices – the “great men”. But this is hollow, self-deluded, and fraudulent – an elaborate machinery for concealing the spectacle of human impotence and irrelevance and blindness;
  • reject the notion that any historical movement is directly connected to the “power” exercised by some men over others. Or that these events were under the dominant influence or “force” of great men or ideas. What occurs is the result of a thick, opaque, inextricably complex web of events, objects, characteristics, connected, and divided by literally innumerable unidentifiable links, and gaps, and sudden discontinuities, visible and invisible;
  • demonstrate that while man’s freedom is real and there is free will and responsibility and the real experience of a private life, we are all victims of inexorable historical determinism. Omniscience belongs only to God. Our historical reasoning is an effort to substitute our own arbitrary rules for divine wisdom.

In other words, not much different from what God had already caused Nebuchadnezzar to realise in Daniel 4.
pad thai, thai iced milk tea. First Thai, 23 Purvis Street, Bugis, Singapore*so it was with some bemusement that I spotted Project South East Asia‘s Thum Ping Tjin at the back of SG Magazine with some mention of his The History of Singapore podcast.

**of course, there was also time for a quick pad thai at First Thai (23 Purvis Street). Wok hei, infused fish sauce, a little on the sweet side.

Little Vietnam (Guillemard Road) and Immigration Policies

Had my pho fix on the way home from London, but we were quite happy to help F satiate her Vietnamese food craving at Little Vietnam Restaurant (facebook, 511 Guillemard Road, #01-25, Grandlink Square). Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

Possibly because the place was staffed by Vietnamese people, the pho, bun bo hue, bun xeo, and fried quail tasted exactly right.

What a pity if Singapore, like so many countries in Europe and in the rest of the “Western” world, were to close her borders to immigrants. We would lose more than good food from around the world.

Remember Philipp Rösler, the dynamic Vice-Chancellor of Germany a few years ago? He was born in Vietnam, adopted and raised in Germany, and identified as a German. Yet, his “Asian face” was raised as an issue, instead of his achievements as Health Minister and Federal Minister of Economics and Technology. Whether or not this was the reason why his party did badly at the polls, he resigned as chairman of the Free Democratic Party thereafter, and is now on the board of the World Economic Forum. If race had indeed been an issue, it would have been stupid of the Germans to deprive themselves of a good public servant just because of a problem with the colour of his skin, not with his intellect or leadership or integrity.

A few months ago, I commented to an Indonesian friend that the dislike of foreigners seemed quite rife in the Singapore society I’d returned to.

“Not dislike, she’d said,”outright hatred.”

“The government keeps bringing in foreign talent who take our jobs” goes the common refrain, not just in Singapore, but all around the world. But surely this xenophobia bodes especially badly for Singapore.

quail. Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

Taking a leaf again from Rawls and applying the presumption of good faith, I thought to examine Lee Kuan Yew’s past speeches to understand the rationale for our immigration policies, and not only that but how the need for talent for the survival of the nation impacts taxation and education policies:

  • the need for talented people to lead the country:

    From 23 years of experience in government, I have learned that one high-calibre mind in charge of a Ministry, or a Statutory Board, makes the difference between success and failure of a major project. A top mind, given a task, brings together a group of other able men, organizes them into a cohesive team, and away the project goes.

    That was the way Goh Keng Swee set about the Ministry of Finance in June 1959. He picked Hon Sui Sen as his principal lieutenant, Permanent Secretary (Ministry of Finance), and then in 1961 made him Chairman of the EDB. Hon Sui Sen collected an able team in the EDB and Singapore’s industrialization slowly and steadily gathered steam.

    Even in 1982, I find it difficult to imagine how we could have made the economic development of the last 23 years without the ability, the creativity, and the drive of these two able men. Whenever I had lesser men in charge, the average or slightly above-average, I have had to keep pushing and probing them, to review problems, to identify roadblocks, to suggest solutions, to come back and to discover that less than the best has been achieved.

  • the inability of Singapore to withstand potential harm brought about by mediocre leaders:

    Decline into mediocrity disastrous

    There may be those who believe that having sound men with modest minds in charge of the government will not make all that difference. Indeed, an anti-elitist ethos prevails in many Western countries, especially amongst New Left groups in Britain. They glorify mediocrity into a cult. They condemn excellence as elitism. They advocate wild programmes to dismantle their own institutions of excellence because the children of manual workers are under-represented in these institutions.

    There is a heavy price to pay if mediocrities and opportunities ever take control of the government of Singapore. And mediocrities and opportunities can accidentally take over if Singaporeans, in a fit of pique or a moment of madness, voted for the politics of opposition for the sake of opposition. Five years of such a government, probably a coalition, and Singapore will be down on her knees. What has taken decades to build up in social organization, in industry, banking commerce, tourism, will be dismantled and demolished in a few years. The World Bank has a queue of such broken-back countries waiting to be mended: Jamaica, Uganda, Ghana, Nicaragua, to name a few recent casualties seeking emergency World Bank aid. At least they have land for plantations or mines to dig from, or rivers to be dammed for hydro-power and irrigation. Singapore has only got its strategic location and the people who can maximize this location by organization, management, skills and, most important of all, brains. Once in disarray, it will not be possible to put it together again.

    Singapore, a small, barely established, nation, cannot afford to have anything less than her ablest and her best, to be in charge of the government. If we are to preserve what we have, and more, to build on the present, and achieve further heights, we cannot have mediocrities either as Ministers or Permanent Secretaries. Prompters and ghost-writers are a luxury for those who have large margins of safety due to their large size, great wealth, and considerable institutional strength.

  • the negative knock-on effects of having mediocre or bad leaders:

    Here we see a law similar to Gresham’s at work. Gresham pointed that bad money drives out good money from circulation. Well, bad leaders drive out good men from high positions. Idi Amin was a bad leader. He killed or drove out good Ugandans, ruining Uganda for decades. Solomon Bandaranaike was not an evil man like Amin. But he was a bad leader who brought race, language and religion into the centre of political debate. He ended up, intentionally or otherwise, by driving out good Ceylonese, and later Sri Lankans, from politics, whilst able administrators took jobs in UN agencies, leaving their own administration impoverished of talent. On the other hand, a good leader, in government or in large corporations, attracts and recruits top talent to reinforce his own capability to overcome problems. Hence the high quality of Germans in top position under Konrad Adenauer, and of top Frenchmen under Charles de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle’s Cabinet included Pompidou and Giscard d’Estaing, both to become French Presidents.

Ok great, one might say, so where can we find this talent? What about within the Singapore population?

  • the lack of natural talent in Singapore due to its small population:

    What was the most important single factor for Singapore’s rapid development since 1959? Without hesitation, my answer is the quality of the people. For not only are our people hardworking, quick to learn and practical, Singapore also had an extra thick layer of high calibre and trained talent . In the protocol list of the first seven persons in Singapore, I am the only Singapore-born. The President, CV Devan Nair, the Chief of Justice, Wee Chong Jin, the Speaker, Yeoh Ghim Seng, the two Deputy Prime Ministers, Goh Keng Swee and S Rajaratnam, and the Minister for Finance, Hon Sui Sen, were not born in Singapore. One Singapore-born out of the top seven Singaporeans! This is the size of the contribution from the non-Singapore-born. If we had relied solely upon the talent of our natural population pyramid, Singapore’s performance would not have been half as good.

  • well what about giving scholarships so that our best and brightest will, in return for university expenses being paid for, come back to contribute to society? Well, we know how that’s going – scholarship holders accuse the government of violating their rights and tricking them into bondage for a few years while they were still teenagers! They feel justified in breaking their bonds for better job offers elsewhere.
  • the lack of a wide range of talent even amongst remaining non-bond-breaking scholars:

    Let me spell out our talent problem. Most of our scholars went into medicine, the law and engineering, but none into banking or finance because they were professions that were not open to our bright students. Even now our banks want to reserve their top jobs for the sons of the families that control them. Moreover we draw our talent from only 3 million people. A short mountain range is unlikely to have peaks that can equal Mt Everest. You need a long mountain range like the Himalayas…

  • the lack of necessary leadership traits in remaining non-bond-breaking talented scholars:

    Alas, not all of these bright minds have strong characters, sound temperament, and high motivation to match their high intelligence. I have found, from studying PSC scholarship awards for the last 15 years, and reading confidential reports on their work in the public service and the SAF, that the scholars who also have the right character and personality, effectively works out to 1 in 3,000 persons. In the 1970’s, our annual births went down to 40,000. The numbers of talented and balanced Singaporeans will be between 12-14 persons per annum at one per 3,000.

bun bo hue. Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe, 511 Guillemard Road, Singapore

That’s tough. How can we get this paltry number to stay in Singapore? Well, there are school programmes to instil love for the nation in schools but many teachers and students and parents dismiss them as mere propaganda, not realising that it’s not the PAP who will lose out but they themselves. And perhaps, also, it means we can’t assume that all theories of distributive justice and equality of opportunities are right in all circumstances and can be applied wholesale to the Singapore context:

  • preventing brain-drain by instilling patriotism and self-respect, and holding off punitive taxation:

    Now, we ourselves may be threatened by a brain-drain of Singapore-grown talent. These figures have serious implications for us. The figures for engineers and other professionals are less devastating only because they are less professionally mobile across national boundaries. Unless we are able to instill patriotism and self-respect, unless we succeed in inculcating a sense of commitment to fellow-Singaporeans in our talented youths, we can be creamed off. We shall become diluted like skimmed milk. We must ensure that because Singaporeans value their Asianness, they will not want to be tolerated and patronized as minorities in predominantly Caucasian societies. Therefore, any policy which denies trained talent its free-market rewards by punitive taxes, as in Britain, must lead to a brain-drain and to our inevitable decline. It is the chicken and egg cycle. As long as we are able and growing, our talented will stay and help our economic growth. Because they stay, we can offer them comparable standards of life, and decent prospects for their children’s future. Furthermore, we can attract talent from abroad to work in Singapore. The reverse cycle will be devastating and swift in bringing about our ruin.

    The Singapore-born must be the pillars on which we can place the cross beams and struts of foreign-born talent to raise us up to higher standards of achievement. If we begin to lose our own Singapore-born and bred talent in significant numbers, then the pillars are weakened, and additional cross beams and struts cannot make up for pillars. The Singapore-grown talent must, by the nature of his upbringing and schooling, be the most committed, the most emotionally and intimately attached to Singapore. We shall lose our own Singapore-grown talent if our policies punish the outstanding and the talented by progressive income tax with the objective of income redistribution. It has happened in an old established society like Britain.

  • amidst the usual sometimes green-eyed chatter about growing income inequality, and the common sneering at elite schools and disdaining the perceived elitism of the Gifted Education Programme, training and rewarding the talented might actually be the best for the whole society:

    It is in the interest of the not-so-talented that the talented should be adequately rewarded for the contribution they can make to the total progress of Singapore. Drained of our trained talent, Singapore will be like a man with a truncated right arm, unable to function effectively.

    If a brain-drain ever happens in Singapore, if our brightest and our best scatter abroad, because of populist appeals to soak or squeeze our able and successful professionals to subsidize those who are less able, less educated, and less well-paid, Singapore will be ruined. The sufferers will be the mass of the workers and their families who cannot emigrate because they are not wanted by the wealthy and developed English speaking countries.

And since we have such a small local pool of talent, who may not even stay in Singapore, how can we entice foreign talent to come and help us survive in the future? Foreigners “prepared to start life afresh in a strange new environment, are usually exceptional in enterprise, drive and determination to succeed – key attributes for high performance”.

  • Everyone knows that Shanghainese are the brightest and sharpest of people. But few know why. It is because for over a hundred and fifty years, ever since it became a treaty port for the foreign powers it has drawn the ambitious, energetic Unless we change our mindsets, we will be out of this race. We have to go out to tap talent. To get top talent, you must take in those who have not yet reached the top but are on their way up because when they are in their 30s we do not know which of them will make it to the top. You will only know when they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. This is the way to protect our future.

  • Singaporeans must realize and accept as desirable the need for more of the able and the talented to come to work in Singapore. We have to compete against the wealthy developed countries who now also recruit such talent. We have to make these people feel welcome and wanted, so that they will make Singapore their permanent home and contribute to the overall progress of all our people. We should encourage them to take up permanent residence with a view to citizenship so that they can enjoy the same opportunities to buy HDB executive flats and HUDC homes as Singaporeans, and to shoulder the same responsibilities. They can give that extra boost which has lifted our economy andour society to heights we could not have achieved if we had depended only on Singapore-born talent.

all quotes a mash-up from: “THE SEARCH FOR TALENT” BY LEE KUAN YEW, PRIME MINISTER

And also this arrow from LKY:

Instead of getting high quality men; we have imported over 150,000 unskilled workers as work permit holders. Instead of importing first-class brains, we have imported unskilled brawn. To continue this policy is to court disaster.

LKY was a magnificently holistic thinker. As Christians though, we have even more reason to welcome foreigners whether of the brain or brawn variety. Though we are not part of a nation like Israel, nor do we intend to build a nation in this world, the rationale for care-for-sojourner still stands:

33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Actually, our incentives are greater – we haven’t just been rescued from slavery and brought to a mere physical Promised Land as the Jews were; we have been rescued from spiritual darkness and eternal death and brought into the light and given eternal life. And we have been given God’s Spirit in us who helps us think his thoughts after him. So if God does not change, then his compassion for the weak, helpless, and the foreigner has not either.

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

The heavens opened up onto the tiny island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula. A fitting end to a week of national mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister. As thousands (some reports give an estimate of 100,000) lined the state funeral procession route, drenched even in their ponchos and under their umbrellas, salty tears mixed with the rainwater coursing down contorted faces.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015Strangers held up the ends of full-sized state flags and distributed smaller ones to those who had none. While waiting, standing in unmuddied rainwater, under the shadow of skyscrapers in the financial district, we spoke of the magnificence of the man, not tiring of reminding each other of his legacy.

People were worried about the “Missing Man Formation” ceremonial flypast by the Republic of Singapore Air Force – “Aiyoh, raining so heavily, can fly anot? I hope they take care!” State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And true to form, several in the crowd were following the “Live” proceedings on their mobile phones – “Ok, they’ve just left Parliament House…now turning right…wait, why are they travelling so fast? That’s not 25km/h…Oh! Coming, LKY is coming!” The last cry was taken up by the waiting crowd.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And there he was – so small, so frail, in his casket in a glass case; so vulnerable. “We love you Lee Kuan Yew!” “Thank you Lee Kuan Yew!” cheered the onlookers, waving their dripping flags and wiping away tears and rain.

There was no reply, of course, no acknowledgement, no smile and a wave. That man, that personality, so immortalised in videos and photographs at different stages of life – dispensing wisdom, being cheeky to American journalists, firing up the people of Singapore to do the right thing for themselves and their nation, was no more.

Then it was as if the whole nation was tuned in to the state funeral at the University Cultural Centre. At Heartland Mall, the aunties selling dim sum had the radio on, the promoters of products in Cold Storage were watching it on their mobile phones, and shoppers had gathered around the HD TV seller’s demo set: watching Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral at Heartland Mall

Here it is on Youtube:

And then the eulogies at the private funeral service at the Mandai Crematorium by LKY’s son, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (full script, and this is possibly the the speech to cardiologists that he referred to):

daughter, Lee Wei Ling (excerpt) youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang:

Li Hongyi, son of Lee Hsien Loong:

Li Shengwu, eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang (full transcript):

After the rain, after the state funeral, after the private cremation, we saw the sun break through the dark clouds. A reminder that great as our founding father was, there is a greater Father still who:

makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45b)

And so we carry on not just to make Singapore a great nation, but to live according to the contrarian values of that even greater kingdom:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

On the Sixth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the sixth day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, the queues have continued unabated. It is the final day for paying last respects to Singapore’s first prime minister.

Some of our friends were in the queue at the Padang, where apparently even the Priority Queue was a few hours long. But everyone was making a go at getting to Parliament House before the queue closed at 8p.m..

television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre

television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural CentreThe rest of us were strategising where to position ourselves for the best vantage point along the route of Lee Kuan Yew’s state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre where the state funeral service would be held. As we travelled along, we could see that barriers had been put up and the television crew and other media had started to set up shop.

At lunch at Brotzeit at Westgate Mall, conversation turned inevitably to online commentaries, blog posts, articles, Facebook status updates on LKY. The general frustration was that the usual tired hackneyed accusations were being rehashed despite evidence to the contrary or without regard for the context in which certain decisions were taken. The frustration was two-fold:

  • that it was unfair to the memory of Singapore’s first prime minister – not that he cared when he was alive, nor will he care now that he is gone. But it was a matter of justice – that is, in the vein of “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” (Leviticus 19:15);
  • that if many couldn’t even separate facts and the proper interpretation of facts with regard to context, then what hope did we have of an educated (not merely literate) populace who would be able to carefully consider current circumstances and so elect the right people to govern us and not just those who pander to popular desires but have no interest in doing the difficult and necessary for Singapore and Singaporeans.

It was pointed out that this was not an unexpected trait of humankind – a fallen humanity.

Weihenstephan, Brotzeit, Westgate Mall, SingaporeTake Jesus – the Jews in that time had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah to come. But when the Son of God himself came to them:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

 Later on, John records the signs Jesus kept doing that should have alerted the Jewish leaders that he was truly the long-awaited Christ. But instead of breathing a sigh of relief and welcoming him with tears of joy, though they acknowledged that the miracles did happen, they refused to think anything of it.

In John 9, there was the miraculous healing of a man who had been born blind. The reaction to this great event was at the same time hilarious and very sad.

His neighbours, too used to him on the ground waiting for spare change, couldn’t believe it was really him:

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:8-11)

Brotzeit, Westgate Mall, SingaporeThe Pharisees saw it was a tremendous miracle again (not something that could be faked or be the result of any adrenaline rush), but refused to be think well of Jesus because he did this on a Sabbath when no “work” was to be done:

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9:13-16)

So they thought perhaps there was a sleight-of-hand somewhere and called up the formerly-blind man’s parents as witness:

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:18-23)

No joy there either. Yes, it was indeed a spectacular miracle – not just to show Jesus’ power, but to fulfil what the Jewish Scriptures had prophesised a long time ago by Isaiah, that God’s appointed servant would be sent to Israel as:

a light for the nations,     to open the eyes that are blind (Isaiah 42:6d-7)

And so, rather poignantly,

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:40-41)

Starbucks and white roses. long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeNow no one is equating Harry Lee with Jesus. Far from it. Rather, the focus is on the crowd, the populace, the people – this shows human beings have not changed since the first century; we are the same wherever we are found in the world. If God’s own people, no, the teachers and leaders of God’s own people could not even recognise the Son of God when he was displaying his identity fairly obviously, then it is of little surprise that many would refuse to look at LKY with proper judgement.

That’s where the parallel ends though. As LKY himself predicted, PhD candidates and history book writers will be arguing about this sort of thing for a long time to come, and it would make little difference to him. And though it might be a worry for those of us who plan to live the rest of our lives in Singapore, that’s only a cause for concern for the next, what, 50-60 years? But if what Jesus says is true, then our concern is not merely academic – our individual response to him, our personal refusal to see him as he is, means that our guilt before God remains, and affects us for eternity.

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the 4th day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, after MRT and LRT trains and some buses ran all night, the crowds cleared a little. We got to City Hall MRT, took Exit B to emerge outside St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There, those for the priority queue (frail, elderly, special needs) turned left and headed to the steps of the old City Hall, while the rest of us turned right and skirted the other side of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Water was handed out and there were clean portaloos. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

There was a last chance to get to the priority queue.”Oh! Me, me!” yelled the white-haired man in front of me as he sprinted forward with remarkable agility, to the amusement of the crowd. No one begrudged him his technical right. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

From there, there were snaking queues on the Padang, where the hardworking army boys had set up tents. The queues were efficiently run, though of course, people weren’t always around to stop queue jumpers.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Then across to the Cenotaph at Esplanade Park, along the leafy Connaught Drive where we had a good view of the new Downtown Core and magnificent Marina Bay Sands. More water was available, as were clean portaloos.

“Please take water and drink. Take care of yourself. Very hot, don’t dehydrate.” Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

We shook hands with (and here I had to check against the composite photos of MPs, ignoramus that I am) Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shamugaratnam and Halimah Yacob, who thanked us for our patience and for coming. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Past Victoria Memorial Hall (or Victoria Concert Hall), we hanged a left on Fullerton Road, down the underpass to the other side, past the Asian Civilisation Museum, kept along the Singapore River, where there was more water available and some cold yoghurt drinks and juice. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

You could tell some people were a little worried. It was a typical Singaporean worry:

“Eh, where is the dustbin?”

Fortunately, they were in plentiful reassuring-green supply. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Under the white tentage, there were powerful fans, and pens and cards for condolences messages, and the opportunity to read some condolence boards until we got to the security scanners.

“No point spreading out, please keep to one line.”

“Tell your friends to keep all their metal objects in one bag.”

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Then into the Parliament House compound, where there was speculation amongst the crowd whom each SD car belonged to. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

No photos inside, but not many were obeying the SILENCE sign. Suddenly, and very matter-of-factly, there was the casket drapped with the Singapore flag, and the vigil guard.

“Don’t stop, keep moving.”

Several people choked up. Many bowed as they wiped their tears (and sweat).

Then we were out, blinking in the sunshine. The priority queue was heading in as we exited.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeAs one of my queue neighbours said, waiting in line was almost like a tour of what LKY had achieved for Singapore* – look at the greenery; look at the well-paved roads; look at the efficiency of the army and police; look at the cleanliness of the place – no globs of spit everywhere like in Beijing, no smell of urine or vomit like in London; look at the polite but again efficient security clearance; look at the buildings all around – office buildings full of workers driving the financial sector, shopping centers where a wide selection of goods are available to most of the population.

As George Yeo is reported to have said, quoting the epitaph of Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral,”If you seek his memorial – look around you.”

*no he didn’t physically do the work, but as the leader, he set the vision, recruited the right people, drove them towards the goal. In the world, the leader is the one who is responsible for the group, the company, the country he leads. When Churchill led Britain to victory, Churchill wasn’t in a uniform with a gun, but the world credits the victory to him. In the same way, when a bank does dodgy deals, it is not usually the managing director who authorised or even had knowledge of the deals – but the world also holds him to account for them.

Good places to eat after the long queue to Parliament House (and talk more about LKY’s legacy and toast to his memory):

food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre

places to eat after Parliament House: food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore places to eat after Parliament House: food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parlia or just a few bus-stops down along Keong Saik Road:

big prawn hor fun at Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) big prawn hor fun, Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) steamed kaya bread, crispy kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, good strong tea at Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) good strong tea, soft-boiled eggs, steamed kaya bread, crispy kaya toast, Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore)

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

Early last afternoon, three separate queues of about 8 hours long each had formed of people lining up to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, whose body was lying in state at Parliament House.

Here’s the one that started at Clarke Quay, snaked round one side, up the overhead bridge to Fort Canning, up a little of Fort Canning, doubling back across the overhead bridge, along the Singapore River, through the underpass, up and along New Bridge Road, onward to Hong Lim Park and back down North Bridge Road towards Parliament House.

The queue route continued to change over the course of the day. This official Remembering Lee Kuan Yew site gave good updates on where to join the queue and queue-timings.

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

long snaking queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House

There’s the usual Singaporean banter about how we love to queue (for free things, for places in a good school for our children, for HDB flats, for Hello Kitty). I think that’s wrong. I also think people who’ve judged us as the most unemotional country in the world are wrong – they were using a culturally-inappropriate yardstick. We don’t love to queue; rather, we demonstrate our affection for things by queuing for them. We queue for things we place value on – limited edition dolls of cats with no mouths, but much much more so, for a man who gave his life for the good of our country.

As I was standing there in the hot sun, I thought of a man who not only gave his life for his country, but for the whole world – Jesus of Nazareth. And he had it much worse. He died shamefully in agony on a cross, not peacefully in a hospital bed. He was placed in a borrowed tomb without much ceremony and without being properly embalmed. There weren’t snaking queues to his tomb, just a few timid women and disbelieving disciples. But then there is a reversal – Jesus rose to life from the dead in 3 days, and in 3/4 days we will witness the cremation of LKY’s mortal shell.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is of course the thing on which Christian claims stand or fall. Googled around and found a talk well worth listening to – “The Resurrection of Jesus: did it happen and does it matter?” which I’ll park here for future reference:

TU13-014 from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.

This is what I find so compelling about the Christian faith – that it isn’t about blind faith or a leap in the dark, but the Bible expressly says time and time again: here is the evidence, here is more evidence, here is overwhelming evidence, so believe – because your life, now and in eternity, depends on it.

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the third day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, his casket was transferred from Sri Temasek to Parliament House by ceremonial gun carriage, where it will lie in state for the public to pay their respects until Saturday.

“The Coffin Bearer Party drapes the State Flag over Lee Kuan Yew’s casket. It is the highest State honour accorded to a leader and is positioned over the casket such that the crescent and stars lie over the head and close to Lee Kuan Yew’s heart.”

Coffin Bearer Party transfers the casket bearing ‎Lee Kuan Yew onto the Gun Carriage. The Coffin Bearer Party is led by BG Ong Tze-Ch’in, Commander 3 DIV, and comprises 8 officers from Army, Navy, Air Force and Police.

A foot procession follows the carriage carrying Mr Lee Kuan Yew from Sri Temasek for about 70m.

Singapore Armed Forces Band plays Beethoven Funeral March No 1 during foot procession, led by eldest son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching. The elder Lee’s other children Wei Ling, Hsien Yang and wife Suet Fern, and grandchildren follow.

As ‎Lee Kuan Yew Carriage comes to a stop, a bag piper from Singapore Gurkha Contingent plays Auld Lang Syne. President Tony Tan, ESM Goh Chok Tong, among those at Istana Plaza to offer respects to Lee Kuan Yew.

At Istana main gate, 24 Ceremonial Guards from the SAFMPC have formed a line of honour.

The Gun Carriage for ‎Lee Kuan Yew enters into Parliament House. 8 pallbearers accompany the carriage, representing of 3 branches of government – legislature, executive, judiciary.

Lee Kuan Yew’s casket was received by Chief of Defence Force, Police Commissioner, Speaker of Parliament, PM Lee and family.”

Lee Kuan Yew’s Coffin Bearer Party has transferred the casket onto bier for lying in state at Parliament House. The public can pay last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House until Saturday evening.

(For information on the names of the pallbearers at the 8 pallbearers from the Istana Household and Mr. Lee’s Private Office, and the 8 receiving pallbearers representing the three branches of our government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary, see this page.)

You can see the Singaporean camera-salute outside the Istana and along Orchard Road in the 5th video. According to Facebook reports by onlookers were weeping openly and cheering and applauding. Amazing for “unemotional” Singaporeans. And definitely not stage-managed.

There were 3 queues to Parliament House this early afternoon that joined into one at some point:

  • from Hong Lim Park (yes, this is probably why the unrestricted use of the Speakers’ Corner was revoked, and unlikely to do with trying to clamp down on freedom of speech as Kenneth Jeyaratnam alleged); Screen Shot: Channel NewsAsia Singapore: aerial view of queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew in Hong Lim Park
  • from the Supreme Court, around the yet-unopened National Gallery of Singapore, past the Singapore Recreation Club, over Fullerton Bridge, past Fullerton Hotel, along the Singapore River (glad LKY got that cleaned up!), back across Cavenagh Bridge, past Asia Civilisation Museum;
  • from Clarke Quay, up the overhead bridge to Fort Canning, a little way up Fort Canning and down again, doubling back over the overhead bridge, down along the Singapore River, under the underpass, along New Bridge Road to Hong Lim Park.

It was good to enjoy our (rare?) show of unity and care for one another as the opportunity presented itself: Fullerton Hotel, Crazy Elephant and other restaurants along the way were offering complimentary iced water to everyone waiting under the hot sun.

Artisan de Fleurs at Raffles Place offered free flowers for mourners to take to LKY’s wake.

Rather like the gentle Singaporean humour about how the Guinness Book of Records should have them down for the longest queue. And also in a typical Singaporean way of solving this issue, Parliament House will be open for 24 hours daily until 28 March, 8pm.

screenshot: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Lying in State at Parliament House - Latest Info. Open 24 hours daily.