Give LKY his last wish!

I have three reasons why Singaporeans mustn’t frustrate Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last wish: to have his home at 38 Oxley Road demolished.

1) Any old Singaporean’s last will and testament will be honoured, unless contested and deemed invalid by the courts, due to forgery or incompetence of the person making the will. There aren’t such concerns about Mr Lee’s will. So if any old Singaporean with a valid will can have his last wishes honoured, how dare Singaporeans, well meaning or otherwise, try to countermand what is his final wish? Surely Mr Lee has as much right as the next Singaporean on what to do with his personal assets? Or are we so presumptuous that we believe we have the right to decide just because he is the founding father of independent Singapore and so belongs to the nation?

2) If the argument for going against his wish is that his home should be fossilised for posterity because that’s where most of his ideas for Singapore were born, then I think it implicitly diminishes what are his handiwork all around us in Singapore. Ex-Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono puts it succinctly when he said “Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy lives in every rock, every tree, every building and every home in this country”. When the late Mr Lee is everywhere in Singapore, why do we need to confine him to Oxley Road?

3) The third and last reason for honouring Mr Lee’s wish, I think, is that it would allow him to share posthumously what many Singaporeans of the Pioneer Generation had experienced at some time in their lives, especially their early lives: the loss of home and other property as a result of land acquisition and/or resettlement to build a better Singapore. If I speculate correctly then it would be such a shame if the first among the Pioneer Generation were to have his intention nullified due to the misplaced sentimentality of those who don’t realise that Lee Kuan Yew is bigger than 38 Oxley Road where the annals of history, local and global, are concerned. He stands closer to Deng Xiaoping who was not only cremated but also no niche or urn contains his remains. His ashes were scattered at sea!

I adapt this well-known poem to remind us, or at least myself, how we should view our country’s first Prime Minister.

Do not stand at Oxley Road and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond lights on Marina Bay.
I am the sunshine come what may.
I am the gentle and not so gentle rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of focussed birds in daily flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at Oxley Road and cry;
I am not there. I do not die.

Another way to honour Lee Kuan Yew

Today, I was at one of the new “integrated” developments looking at its show flats and price list.

The two property agents showing me around were attentive and informative. A bit pushy in that they tried to generate an urgency to commit but still not OTT.

Anyway, after settling down to look at price and units available, we got to indulge in a bit of small talk.

Given the events of recent days it was as natural as night becoming day for us to talk about Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the unending queues to pay respect to his memory.

“I didn’t go to any of the wakes,” confided the girl agent when the boy agent stepped away to photostat some papers for me to take home to study.

I raised an eyebrow at her confession but was pleasantly surprised by her follow up: “I have other ways to honour him. I will vote PAP at the next election.”

Pleasantly surprised because it was unprompted and better still, the exact same sentiment I hold. And which I have shared with friends privately ever since Mr Lee was no more.

No better way to honour his memory and ensure the Singapore he built with so much care won’t go from First World to the Third in fewer than 50 years!

The Prime Minister can call his election any time. It won’t make any difference to those who are determined to honour Mr Lee’s memory through supporting the party he founded.

Doing it my way?

Like Petunia Lee, I found and still find it difficult to add to the tributes and sharings that since Monday have come into my consciousness like a tsunami via various Internet media, the print platforms, TV and radio.

It’s not that I don’t honour and respect Mr Lee Kuan Yew, my country’s first Prime Minster who released us from the yoke of colonialism, whether British or Malaysian.

I do. From the bottom of my heart.

But whatever tributes I have to make have already been made by more significant voices and in more meaningful ways.

On Monday morning, I went to the temple in Waterloo Street to remember Mr Lee in a way that’s meaningful to me.

On the journey, I made it a point to give way to drivers who wanted to change lanes or exit from side roads, despite it being my right of way every time. It’s not something I do willingly on normal days.

I gave way as a conscious small effort to thank Mr Lee for having led Singapore for so long and so successfully. For my benefit and my family’s.

But perhaps that’s the wrong thing to do? Dedicate road courtesy to the giant who has just left us? Like some consider it wrong of the MP who dedicated his work out to Mr Lee’s memory. Ditto the bakery chain for creating a bun to sell in his memory even when the proceeds are going to charity?

I wonder why it is more appropriate to queue for hours to pay respect to his remains or write condolence notes and send flowers?

Sure, those are the conventional routes to express respect and sorrow.

Still,let’s not diss all other well-meaning but less orhodox things done out of the pure desire to remember the father of independent Singapore.


I am dead serious!

Someone I know sent me this link about the columbarium brouhaha in West Sengkang and added for good measure: “by some accounts, this Lam guy
doesn’t seem to be handling this very well. sounds a bit like the HDB and URA functionaries of old. more trouble for Baby God.”

This is what I wrote in response: “Frankly I don’t know y these people r making such a fuss… Bishan, Takashimaya, even some good class bungalows in Kheam Hock Road r all built around or on top of old graves… soon it will be Bidadari.

So what if there’s a columbarium?

The people in landed prop around St Ignatius Church in King’s Road have not only a columbarium as a neighbour but also wakes day in and out…

The West Sengkang people are making a fuss now probably as an excuse because prop prices r falling and they want out…

If I were BG, I would say to those who want out: “Please take back yr deposits. And for good measure, I will offer those returned units to those in the Pioneer Generation, who have never had the benefit of buying a discount price home from the Government, who own private property and who would like the privilege of also owning a HDB home direct from the Government. As a special concession to this special group of Singaporeans.”

And I would be the first to jump at such an offer — as after all, with the best of effort, I probably won’t have more than 30 years to live and what better way to get daily reminders that I am not going to live forever than by living next to a columbarium!

I am dead serious about taking up such an offer, if it materialises.

I am also dead serious when I say that I hope our Government would re-learn how to take a firm stand when the occasion arises. Not try to accommodate more and more demands, especially when they aren’t reasonable. Otherwise why should caveat emptor apply to anything any more!

Misdirected largesse

OK, call me sour grapes but I think the government’s continuing “upgrading” of private estates is misdirected largesse.

So, $20 million will be thrown on another nine estates (see repro of Channel News Asia story below) after $167 million had already been spent on 54 private estates.

So, I don’t live in any of the estates that had or will be benefitting from another slosh of tax payers’ money. So pardon my jaundice.

But IMHO, I think the G should be more targeted in its generosity. For example, why not direct the money at pioneer generation members who live in private estates and whose home values hit the dreaded $21K annual value. “Dreaded” because that cuts them off from subsidies when hospitalised and prevents some health care services like hospices providing free care from turning to the G to ask for subsidies for this group of patients, never mind if they are severely ill.

I have raised this matter with highly placed individuals who believe it or not retort that if I felt so strongly about hospices missing out on subsidies when they treat my mum — who falls into the $21K category — then I should donate funds (such as the $100 per month which G provides with no means test to her since she can’t perform 3 self care functions) to the hospice looking after her!

Such a suggestion completely misses the point.

I will let that be. Yet I will not let that be.

Because while reading the latest private estate upgrading news on the CNA website, I also chanced on the internet a write up about Chiam See Tong’s victory in 1984.

I remember that occasion very well.

I was living in the Cairnhill constituency then and that night as we watched the election results being announced live on TV, the apartments in the blocks around me rang out with such loud cheers you would think it’s dawn of the New Year.

Later I learned from a sibling, there was a similar phenomenon in the Sixth Avenue neighbourhood where she lived. Such cheers of glee reverberated from landed property to landed property that one who didn’t know nothing about SG politics would have imagined it’s the defeat of a pesky small time opposition wannabe :roll:

SINGAPORE: Nine private estates will be upgraded at a cost of S$20 million under the Estate Upgrading Programme, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Friday (Jan 9).

The nine estates slated for upgrading are:

•Clover Estate

•Lentor Estate

•Thomson Faber Island Gardens,

•Toh Tuck Estate,

•Meng Suan/Springleaf Estates,

•Happy Gardens,

•Sea Breeze Garden,

•Toh Estate

•Jln Merbok, Jln Layang-Layang, Kln Kakatua, Jln Selating, Jln Rajawali and Shamah Terrace Estate.

The upgrading works will include providing footpath lighting or safety railings to enhance safety and security, covering drains to create footpaths, creating barrier-free access such as ramps, improving the estates’ landscaping and parks and enhancing the estate identity, the ministry said.

According to MND, these nine estates were developed more than 30 years ago. More than 4,800 households will benefit from the improved facilities when the work items are planned and constructed in three to four years’ time, it said.

More than 54 private estates have been upgraded under the Estate Upgrading Programme at a cost of S$167 million.

Prior to upgrading, the Neighbourhood Committees or the Citizens’ Consultative Committees will conduct surveys and/or dialogues with the residents to gather their views and ideas on the upgrading works, the ministry said.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Chairman of the Estate Upgrading Programme Committee and Minister of State for National Development and Defence, said: “This is truly a collaborative effort, with residents taking ownership and playing an active role in deciding what improvements they hope to see in their estates to make the living environment better for all.”

Celebrate SG50 by gifting needy with $2 or more?

Today is the day when many of us wish one another a good year ahead. I have received and sent out my share of wishes for sweet surprises for 2015.

Today is also the day when we are counting down to the 50th year of Singapore’s reluctant independence from Malaysia.

Today is the day when we are on the cusp of the biggest national bash in Singapore’s post independence history. It will be SG50 with everything within a few hours.

Today is the day when I recall again — have done so on and off over the years — where I was when I heard that Singapore was no longer part of Malaysia.

I was outside Victoria train station in London one late August afternoon when I saw a newspaper poster screaming “SINGAPORE OUT”.

As a teen-aged student who followed the news only sporadically, I wondered what it was all about. Bought a copy of the evening newspaper — Evening Standard or Evening News, can’t remember which — and found that Singapore was out of Malaysia. Couldn’t understand the implications nor did I really try.

In fact I learned how upset former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was only years later — in 1968 to be precise when a colleague in the Straits Times newsroom in Kuala Lumpur waxed lyrical about Mr Lee’s tears.

This colleague was a Malaysian student in Perth and vividly retold what she saw on TV on the faterful day of the Malayisa-Singapopre separation.

“I admire your prime minister,” Yeoh Phaik Kim declared again and again.

Even that conversation and that colleague and I have been separated by more than 40 years.

Much has changed. Yet little has changed.

I returned from KL to work in Singapore. One day after work, I saw an old man sleeping on the five-foot way opposite where I was living (which incidentally like many buildings in Singapore has been demolished). I remember seeing him there when I left for work.

Asked him why. I was too young to understand that he might be hungry or had no home to go to. Or if I did, I assumed it was par for the course.

After all, when i was growing up in the same neighbourhood, I had witnessed beggars going from house to house regularly to ask for something to eat. My family always spared them a few cents which in those days could buy a bowl of noodles from the street cart vendors.

So I spared the old man some loose change. And even gave him some biscuits. And sure enough, he wasn’t there any more when I looked out my window later that night.

Wish I can say the same for the generic poor in Singapore. Today, although no one (other than scouts or other trick-or-treat rich kids) comes to my door to solicit something to fill his own stomach, the poor are very much with us.

Two weeks ago, one thundery wet afternoon, I saw a tiny waif of a woman picking up discarded cardboard outside the back door of the Fairprice outlet in Blk 280, Bukit Batok.

I had gone there for a GP-friend to give one of the family’s helpers her MOM mandated check up.

The cardboard picker was soaked even though she did wear a flimsy plastic poncho with hood. The cardboard she was collecting was soaked and disintegrating even as she tried to bundle the lot together.

I felt compelled to hand her a little something that would make her cardboard scavenging unnecessary — at least for that day.

But the pain of pervasive poverty didn’t leave me that afternoon.

I went to the OCBC ATM outside Fairprice to withdraw some spending money. Someone before me had left his/her withdrawal slip where the input keys were.

I am a kaypoh.

I picked it up and the numbers gave me yet another reality jolt.

The person before me (552XXXX203) had withdrawn $20. The available balance was just $34.49.

Fine if it was a domestic helper or a young student with employer or family to fall back on. Not so if it’s an adult, with no family support or worse, has a whole family of dependents!

So amidst all sorts of SG50 celebrations to spend money to mark the occasion, I would like to propose my favourite.

To celebrate SG50, let us adopt this habit to gift $2 (or more) to someone in need or looks in need we come across.

Of course, do respect their dignity. Make sure to smile and say “please let me buy you a coffee?”

A few may say no. Try to persuade. If they still say no, then say something like “another time? Bye”.

In my experience, persistence works in all cases.

So if they say no, try, try and try again. It’s not a waste of time to convince these aunties and uncles that someone out there actually wants to share a tiny something with them.