(Continued from Part I)
To those who hate PAP, I say:
A. Recognize that the old man did things in a certain way because he was a certain kind of person– strict disciplinarian, no-nonsense, no compassion, always driven for excellence.
Hence his laws were strict and harsh; he tolerated no dissent; he spoke hard truths, no pleasantries; he stared his opponents down; he believed the interests of the country (as he saw it) came well before the interests of the individuals. He also lived in a world where he felt continually threatened by the surrounding countries.
Hence, the harsh punishments against even petty criminals; the uncompromising stand on the death penalty; the desire to silence critics; the heavy-handed campaigns against drugs, littering and spitting, even against males with long hair; the overwhelming desire to build a strong military; the drive to be self-sufficient in water; the desire to develop the economy using MNC’s and not depend on the Malaysian hinterland, etc.
It was all in his image.
B. Recognize that many things the PAP did were done for our good, at least as far as he thought it.
Hence, the Two-Is-Enough campaign when overpopulation was a concern, followed by the Graduate Mothers Scheme when that was a concern; followed by the Have Three or More If You Can Afford It when that was a concern; followed by SDU/SDS when that was a concern….
Even more than that, he focused his effort on nation-building– patriotic National Day parades; passionate National Day Rally speeches; using soccer and especially the Malaysia Cup to bond the various races and bring the nation together with a common goal and purpose.
Other less popular measures, again supposedly for our own good: heavy censorship, racial quota for HDB estates, bans on firecrackers, bilingual policy, streaming, CPF, curtailment of free speech, etc.
It was all for our own good, as far as he thought it.
C. Recognize that PAP has changed, and that the old man’s time is passing.
PAP has softened in recent years. Things have been ‘liberalised’, to the extent possible while the old man is still alive. We have R21, then R(A) movies now; CPF investment schemes; F1; casinos; less censorship; less use of ISA; Speakers’ Corner; more opposition, etc.
And recognize that things will change completely when the old man is gone. While I cannot predict what will happen after he is gone, I’m confident the repressive laws we have today will be gone.
Things have changed, things are still changing, and things will change more, when he’s gone.
But what’s more important is to realise that, never in modern history has one man so completely imprinted his mark on a society, a country and a generation.
Those who hate the PAP will never be able to see why Singapore is what it is today, who made it so, how it became so. They’ll never be able to see the greatness of the old man’s achievements, nor will they understand the constraints he had to work with.
They only hate the PAP for 101 things: too many foreign workers, high HDB prices, caught-off-guard ministers; restrictions on civil liberties, etc.
They’ll never understand old man’s legacy. And that would be the saddest thing of all.