Leadership Camp – Part 3

singapore lee kuan yew crowds tribute

The crowd of Singaporeans all lining up patiently and waiting in queue for up to 10 hours just to file by Lee Kuan Yew’s casket for a few seconds to pay respects to him. (The bright roads form about 1/2 of the Singapore Formula 1 racetrack where race cars zoom pass at 300km/h over the long straight at the night race, a beautiful sight.)

(Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of my blog on Leadership Camp – the week of mourning in Singapore and tribute to the late Lee Kuan Yew)

Little do people in Singapore know that the death of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was widely reported in Hong Kong (HK) media too.  Nowadays, with the help of internet technology, overseas TV or radio broadcasts can be received in real time through our smartphones.

A few hours after Mr. Lee passed on, I received the first notification from a friend who is based in the USA. He posted the information about one hour after the news was released in Singapore in the middle of the night, which was day time in the USA. Then I heard of it through the mass media in Singapore. It was an interesting wake-up call that March 23, 2015 morning.

Ever since, in the early morning and late at night, there have been plenty of news reports and talk shows on Hong Kong mass media discussing the funeral arrangements, life and policies of Mr. Lee. Many of them questioned how come HK cannot, was not, should not, and could not be like Singapore.

One of the reasons cited why Singapore is Singapore was because there has been no sizable alternative voice (opposition) representation in Singapore. Some of the HK radio hosts even referred to the system as ‘dictatorship’.


Dictatorship has a significant negative connotation to it. Is it fair to call it that way? Is opposition needed?

Well, this reminded me of an old story of how a young man decided to separate from his new female friend years ago when he was a university student. The young man and the girl went off for a dinner date and the young man proposed fast food. The girl did not agree. Based on his budgetary limitations, he then went on to propose western food and various other dining options but all those suggestions were turned down by the girl. The young man got impatient and simply asked what his female company wanted for dinner and she said, “How would I know? You are the man here.” Nowadays, there is a term for this in Hong Kong: ‘港女’

This behavior, in that young mans’ opinion, deserved a ‘grade point average’ (GPA) of 1. A GPA of 4 equates to a perfect score and a GPA of 1 meant a bad failure. Further courtship was naturally called off. However, no matter if it was graded based on hair, skin, height, EQ, IQ or personality, a GPA of 4 is extremely hard to come by. A relentless quest of a GPA of 4 spouse may eventually force one to save up family formation and/or child creation for old age… Sometime we have to accept some imperfections as part of completion, from a practical point of view. IMHO, It is OK to be approximately right, as long as it not precisely wrong.

Nothing is perfect anyway and flaws will show up with time, which is more or less related to new discoveries as time passes. (Nothing personal and no offence here…) On the brighter side, there are always pleasant surprises too. Life is fair in general.

It is easy to voice out disagreement under any circumstances but it is of no value if there is no better proposition. IMHO, when there is no ‘better’ proposition, voicing out alternative views is probably childish and/or irresponsible.

Currently the population in Singapore is approximately 5 million. In addition to new life creation and death among the population, there people also move in and out of Singapore. We can probably roughly estimate that approximately 10million people have spent a good portion of their lives in Singapore since 1965 (the beginning of the Republic of Singapore). It is not a huge number when it is compared with other places but it certainly is not a small one.

Assuming there is a normal distribution of quality among people, it probably would be quite hard for any given entity to fool many millions of people over close to half a century of time on an ongoing basis. In other words, meaningful alternative views in the society could have gained an adequate level of traction given such a time scale and number of people.

When there is a voice that happened to be significantly meaningful and in the absence of other better views over a long period of time, I think, in my humble opinion, it should be called being ‘damn right’ rather than ‘dictatorship’.

In Cantonese there is an expression for this: ‘屈機’

Please accept my sincere apology, I am not capable of coming up with a proper English translation/version of this ‘屈機’ expression… but this is my blog.

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