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Take a leaf from Lee - EDITORIAL

24 March 2015 06:05 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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With Sri Lanka entering a historic period through the formation of a National Government for the first time since independence, Singapore’s legendary Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who passed away yesterday at the age of 91 would be the ideal model for political leaders including Ministers, MPs, provincial and local council members. With uncharacteristic sternness, President Maithripala Sirisena said last week he expected all those in his government to act according to their conscience. He pronounced the end of a party political era where politics had become a big business like heroin or liquor and most politicians came in to plunder the resources of millions of suffering Sri Lankans. President Sirisena said the priciples of the new era would be good governance and democracy, accountability, transparency and social justice with the politicians being aware that they are not kings, lords and masters but feet-washing servants of the people. Anyone who did not or could not live according to these values and principles must quit the Yahapalanaya government and go into whatever profit making or criminal business they desire.

The Economist, one of the most widely respected economic magazines in the world said yesterday that one of the world’s great economic success stories, Singapore owed much of its prosperity to a record of honest and pragmatic government, the legacy of Mr. Lee. His influence shaped government policy until his death, and will continue to do so beyond. The brilliant Cambridge scholar had come back to Singapore in the 1950s to play a major role in the anti-colonial struggle and was co-founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which governs Singapore to this day.

Mr. Lee became Singapore’s Prime Minister after winning independence from Britain in 1959 and then went on to form a short-lived federation with Malaya. This Malayan federation ended in 1965, after which Mr. Lee led Singapore to become an economic and social model for Asia and the world.

Average incomes rose about 100 times with investments coming from various parts of the world, Singapore had a widely respected civil service and world-class infrastructure.  Mr. Lee retired as prime minister in 1990 after serving in the highest office through democratic parliamentary elections for a record 30 years.
Whether it be negative or positive, Mr. Lee imposed tough laws and punishments to make Singapore orderly, clean and disciplined. He used what was widely seen as a draconian Internal Security Act, to quell anything that looked like subversion. Mr. Lee was often criticised for what was seen as his iron-fisted rule, forcing several opposition politicians into bankruptcy or exile, and once invoked Machiavelli in declaring: “If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.”

This aspect of Mr. Lee’s character and policy needs to be reflected on cautiously by Sri Lankan leaders. He became Singapore’s leader after years of brutal domination by Japanese imperialists and then by British imperialists. In addition Singapore is a planned city state with a population of about 5.3 million, largely ethnic Chinese and no hinterland or remote village areas as we have. Therefore it would be better and wise for Sri Lanka’s leaders not to believe that they also need to be authoritarian to achieve sustainable development goals. Indeed when Mr. Lee came to Sri Lanka in the 1950s he said he hoped that Singapore would one day become like Sri Lanka. In economic and social terms Singapore has soared far ahead of Sri Lanka to achieve prosperity and worldwide admiration while Sri Lanka—battered by the war and plundering politicians - finds itself in an economic quagmire as one of Asia’s most indebted countries. 
 
Mr. Lee, whose son Lee Hsien Loong has been Prime Minister since 2004, quit his post as Cabinet advisor in 2011, after the PAP’s worst-ever general election performance. It still won 60 percent of the vote but Mr. Lee left gracefully setting another example to our leaders. Despite his authoritarian tendencies Mr. Lee was known and admired by his people and the world as a towering figure who turned his small city state into a world economic tower and the pride of Asia.
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  • periya dorai Tuesday, 24 March 2015 04:22 PM

    Dr Lee convinced 80% of the Sin. population that were Chinese that they have to live and share power with the minority Muslims and Tamils, which they did and what you see now is the result, unlike what our TWO Bandas did

    seeni raj Tuesday, 24 March 2015 02:14 PM

    It is sad that Late Dr. Lee has passed away but he had left the country in good hands. Because he had suffered underMalay supremacy policies like in SriLanka , he determined that should not happened to minorities in his country. He said Singapore is our country not belong to Chinese who are majority and every one have equal share in the country and goventment.You conveniently avoided mentioning this. He had indicated for SriLanka to survive as one Country minorities should be given equal rights.Lets hope new Government to do this and build the country equvalent to Singapore as Late Lee dreamed earlier in 1950.


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