Gilbert Goh: My Experiences With Lee Kuan Yew’s Policies As Prime Minister

Ten personal experiences I had with Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s policies as Prime Minister:-

1. Defamation lawsuits – I grew up knowing more of LKY on his defamation lawsuits against his political opponents than anything else. I realised then that this man can’t be messed around and he would take action to bring you to task.

However, my respect of him lessened considerably as it meant that he is very intolerant of dissent and criticism and is too brutal on the way he treats his political opponents.

This perhaps is the gripe of many other people who criticised his policies.

2. International arena – he brought much pride to our country when he travels round widely especially to the US where his expert views on China was sought after.

I remembered the pride for my country was at its highest in the 1980s. I would touch down at Changi airport after a trip and felt goose pimples of pride welling up within me as I am finally home.

Employment was high, wages good and everyone has enough – even those who are a non-graduate like myself. I earned $2500 then and life was sufficient.

I could marry, have a executive BTO flat and a PAP supporter still. I also served in the RC though I resigned within a year due to personal reasons.

Its no wonder then most Singaporeans prefer life in the 1980s under Lee Kuan Yew.

This pride left me many years ago as we struggle with our own identity made worse by the huge influx of foreigners and the high cost of living.

Like many, I yearn for a change within my country as I could not see a bright future ahead.

3. Banning of chewing gum – I was quite shocked that chewing gum was banned almost twenty years ago by LKY when there was a report stating that people jammed gum on the MRT train doors causing them to malfunction.

I thought that was a sign of dictatorship and my unease grew as this powerful man could impose his will on anything in Singapore without any consequence or resistance.

4. Succession plan – I was quite shocked that LKY decided to leave the throne almost 2 decades ago after 30 years as our first Prime Minister. His primary reason for doing that is to roll out a proper succession plan so that Singapore is not solely dependent on him alone.

My respect for him grew back after that as he is willing to sacrifice and let someone takes over from him when he is still capable and at his best.

Most tyrants would try to hang on power as long as they could but this man gave it up for the sake of the country – wow!

5. Graduate mother scheme – when he announces the graduate mother scheme almost three decades ago, I thought that was crap and smelled of elitism.

Graduate mothers could give birth to more babies compared to non-graduates as he argued that genetically, such babies will be born gifted with better genes and thus possess better opportunities at succeeding in life.

There was a lot of resistance against the scheme and understandably it was scrapped.

The scheme however was one huge example of LKY’s emphasis on elitism and his highly-unpopular government scholarship scheme.

6. Anti-corruption stance – LKY is famed for his stand against corruption and those found flouting it were severely punished.

I remembered a housing minister found guilty of corruption and subsequently committed suicide because LKY was coming down hard on him.

He knew the adverse consequences of a corrupted regime and thus decided to pay millions for his cabinet to ensure that they stay clean.

He even complained of a discount given to the Lee family by the developer when they bought a high-end property and later decided to donate the discount to charity.

He wanted a clean government and it has to start with him personally.

However, corruption has began to creep back into the government service and more than ten top ranking officers were caught and persecuted, mostly because of their addiction to gambling in our casinos.

7. Million-dollar ministers – personally I was not comfortable with LKY’s policy of paying his ministers million-dollar salary.

It became a hot election topic and the opposition used it to good effect.

Many people felt that ministers are serving the people and they should be compensated fairly but not excessively. A junior minister earns $1 million per annum.

When it was debated in Parliament, I could see how LKY argued for it without much criticism and I knew that we are in trouble when the policy was pushed through easily just because of one man’s charismatic influence and authority.

To his credit, PM Lee Hsien Loong has reduced his own pay and the pay of his team of cabinet ministers after the previous election but compared to other western countries with larger problems, ours still seem excessive – after a reduction.

8. Housing for all – LKY was the architect of the policy home-for-every-Singaporean and went to make this a realisation when he became Prime Minister.

High-rise public flats were made available and more importantly affordable so no one will be denied a flat despite his financial constraints.

Many babyboomers benefitted from the cheap housing and most people could afford a flat – I bought a executive flat at $146,000 when I married at 32 years old. I am now 53 years old.

The same BTO flat now would cost almost $400,000.

As the economy matures, flats later became more expensive and many people could not afford to own a public flat anymore as our wages fail to chase after our high cost of living.

The secondary market also turns into a national disaster as foreigners with bucket loads of cash churned and caused many second-hand flats in prime locations to rise unabatedly.

Permanent residents could buy second-hand HDB flats but the policy has since tightened with some restrictions but irreparable damage has already been done.

Poor families now have no choice but to opt for cheap government rental flats and the queue is getting longer as the economy favours the well-educated and well-connected.

9. Racist policy – LKY is also famed for his daring anti-Muslim stance as he felt that Malays will always side with Malaysia in a war situation due to the religious factor angering many Malays all this while.

Malays are often sidelined from key sensitive military appointments and many serve their national service with civil defence – a non-military segment of our total defence mechanism.

The Malay community continues to face latent discrimination as many of them were portrayed as unable to fit into our mainstream Chinese-dominated society.

The government-controlled mainstream media also constantly paints this minority community as the ultimate black sheep in a divide-and-rule strategy.

Many Malay voters are expected to vote against the ruling party as they felt marginalised and politically exploited.

10. Loving husband – the world was treated to the amazing dedication of a loving husband when his daughter Ms Lee Wai Leng recounted in a article how LKY took pain to care for his ailing wife caught in a stroke.

He would read to her every night and even cleaned her up personally.

I remembered my tears welled up when I read of his dedication for his wife.

It was a side that not many Singaporeans would know as we all viewed him as someone who is hard-nosed and to many almost a tyrant.


We will all miss you and thank you for your dedication in serving Singapore – the best you could.


Source: Gilbert Goh

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