Kishore Mahbubani – Telling the unpleasant truth is hard to do

When Singapore was beating its gongs and blowing its trumpets during the South China Sea claims by the Philippines and screaming that the fake Tribunal was ‘UN backed’ and China must obey or be seen as not abiding by the rule of law, I thought Kishore would say something to cool down the hot heads in the Foreign Ministry and the Rajaratnam School of International Relations. He did not.

Perhaps he was still recovering from his ops. Or maybe he was just folding his arms and standing by the ring side, telling himself it was better for the hot heads to learn the lesson the hard way. Subsequently the teacher did deliver the lesson. Whether the hot heads have learnt anything, this I am not too sure, and I think not likely though they kept a very low profile for a while, probably gagged from doing more damage to Singapore China relations.

Finally after a long wait, Kishore opened up. The School of Lee Kuan Yew did not share the youthful or naïve enthusiasm of the Rajaratnam School. You see, today information is everywhere, knowledge is everywhere, at the finger tips. There is no need to go to the library and bury oneself in tomes of literature to gather knowledge and information. The difference between two persons having the same store of knowledge is the wisdom in understanding, interpreting and applying the knowledge. That separates the boys from the men.

When there is an eclipse of the moon, some will take out their gongs and drums and beat to their hearts content for the moon to reappear. The wise and knowing will just wait for the truth to show up. Everyone is concerned, but beating the drums and gongs like crazy would not help but to make one looked crazy in this modern world.

What Kishore said is the hard truth, the painful truth, but the stubborn and arrogant would not want to understand. It is difficult and painful to be told of the unpleasant truth. Singapore was what it was during the time of LKY, being a big mouth in everything, was not because Singapore was principled or strong, but because of LKY. He was the senior statesman that achieved a lot in his life time. He was the oracle, the Jedi master that green political leaders would come to beg for some pieces of enlightenment. He could say anything he want and they would defer to him. Singapore’s politicians then rode on his coat tail to talk big. Now he is gone. No one could fit that shoe and think he could talk like LKY and people around the world would listen to. 

Some arrogant nuts would think otherwise, that they are as clever and influential as LKY and demand respect from leaders of the world, to listen to their cocky stories.
It is painful to delve further into this silly mindset that Singapore must blow its trumpets and beat its gongs on grounds of principles. Kishore reminded the hot heads that Singapore went against its principles to join the Americans to invade Iraq without the consent of the UN. Why, to serve Singapore’s interest, to join the world’s number one bully to invade a smaller country and think it was safe to do so? Kishore was warning the hot heads that Qatar too did the same only to be turned against and dropped by the Americans.

Yes, Singapore was not a tame dog to the Americans. Would it sound better being the barking dog, the attack dog of the Americans? Singapore could talk big during the time of LKY on two important factors. One is the LKY dominant presence. The second was to be in the American camp with the Americans standing behind it. Today LKY is gone. Singapore still can talk big with the Americans standing behind. But be careful. This big bully has many interests and should its other interests rule to favour others more than Singapore, than it is going to screw Singapore in the back.

Oops, I think everyone has been chirping that there is no permanent friend but permanent interests. Is this so difficult to understand? Should Singapore throw everything into a relationship and cut all other options loose, and keep shouting and bragging about its ability to punch above its weight with a big bully standing behind, or standing on the shoulders of the big bully? Isn’t this dangerous, like riding a tiger and unable to dismount? Is this good for a small state?

The contest for wisdom, not ideas, between the Lee Kuan Yew School and the Rajaratnam School has started. If the latter has its way, we can expect to hear more shouting by Singapore and China would not be too nice to Singapore again. If the former’s wisdom rules, then the hot heads would be kept in a tight leash, not allowed to bark crazily thinking that the more they shout, that only they have principles and others did not, it is ok, that Singapore may be small, but Singapore can punch above its weight, with big bully around to protect Singapore.

I think the Rajaratnam School would triumph in this match as they have more hot heads and is better at shouting down their opponents. Kishore is going to be alone in the Lee Kuan Yew School as no one would have the dare to shout back except to apologise for Kishore’s excesses in his ideas.

China, please respect Singapore’s principles, abide by the rule of law and listen carefully to what Singapore is going to say about the South China Sea, all over again.

PS. Would Singapore be able to punch above its weight, to talk big and loud without the Americans standing at the back?


Anonymous said...

Insightful comments.

Anonymous said...

More quarrels, more tensions means more profits for my war stocks.

So I'm very happy with S'pore talking big.

Anonymous said...

LKY is gone, but there are many mini-LKYs around.

Some even trumpeted they had inherited some of LKY's qualities after working just a few years with him.

That's why LKY want his house demolished - so that there's no monument related to him from which these unscrupulous opportunists can extract political mileage.

virgo49 said...

Let them punch and be punched. These nincoompoos had enough to weather the punches.

But the poor working class gonna suffer because of their stupid arrogrance and what's nonsense punching above the weight.

Try to punch the Giant in the face and if you can absorb the Giant counter punches onto your farking faces, then its your pah sa. Or business.

Don't get others to be hurt by your stupid how lian what's punching.

Anonymous said...

Want to talk big, punch people, make sure got capital to do so. Hiding behind the Americans as cronies is a shameful thing to do. Try to punch our immediate neighbours and see what would happen. Want to find quarrels with China? Really khong cum.

Anonymous said...

That oldie was making a dead man s story to gain attention again and again. This man was one of the one in elder care group to tell china to follow international laws when the son and abe went around to talk about ptt without usa and sea islands in seas.
Today and previously on stage, these elder care group spoke against asking china to follow international laws, because, the wind direction changed: its this year wind, not last year.

Few young gen will bother about out dated non influential fellows in academy spoke and shout being wanting to be heard. Question is: shouting from red dot? Its like shouting loud in south china sea. No one can hear as the sound of wind is so strong blowing against the red dot.

I recalled seeing the made up session for red dot to talk about 1R1B with china FM on cna. The FM only said after hesitation: of course, singapore is important to 1r1b with its location.

If the group were hongkies talking about 1r1b, this FM would say: HK is important because of it financial hub position able to garner funds to support the 1r1b.

Red dot want to get financing jobs from china s controlled 1r1b. Really harder than before. Its because of these eldercare group often being quoted in Huanqiu and the son s anti china, usa lackey image. The father was said by Huanqiu to teach Hillary to surround china when the old man asked usa to focus on asia.

China will have a lots to stay away from these people. Xi being never mind type, even to HK pro independence groups, is now being put on pressure to issue warnings to them. I think china communists insiders are no longer so nice to usa lackey and the attack dogs from the west in red and hk. They have high blood pressure to deliver now: taiwan is getting weapons and pro independence, hk pro independence group is taking root and can grow bigger, SC seas have usa ships to sail pass inside 12 n mile to become a new normal. NK will threaten china if china provoke it to please usa.

Red dot U turns probable is a small plus point to china s big problems. To gain from 1r1b and make the U turn is too late, similar to abe s U turn. China leaders cannot U turn as their kakinan groups are too big to fill their own self interest. Sinkies are too naive to have voted a group of novice in diplomacy. Its true: small means weak in influence. Wanna talk big. Big countries will kick it around when inconvenienced.

b said...

The world is big enough. China control the land routes and USA control the sea routes. No conflict at all. Everything can be resolved so long the will is there. Unfortunately, must kick out some lackeys that are working for weapons industry.

Anonymous said...

The moronic scholars were not punching above their own weight.

They were using China as a Punching Back for fancy and fun.

Anonymous said...


Should be "Punching Bag",
instead of "Punchinv Back".

Anonymous said...

Aiyoh, Singapore will be able to punch above its weight lah! I believe we still have the famous 'knuckle-duster' that was used against, mostly opposition parties. That could be used to dust away those who dare to talk big against red dot.

In addition, we still have that famous 'tall goalkeeper' who would be able to punch the ball and prevent it from going into the net. In other words he will be able to prevent opponents scoring goals. The only thing is, age is catching up with him and he may not be able to do the job. Wonder what happened to our 'goal 2010' dream?

In any case, worse come to the worst, we can still hope for the return of the 'Jedi' to face the enemy again. He promised to return from the grave when things go wrong.

You know, the show must go on - in Parliament, in a cinema near you. That is what they say!

Anonymous said...

One is an internationally renowned academic aware of regional political sensitivities. The other is a breast beating, holier-than-thou Bigmouth who could possibly do this red dot in with regards to his comments on China.
Between them, one needs to be put in his place and swallow some humble pies

The Dragon Fly said...

Reproduced from the Straits Times what happened in Parliament today:

Part I

PM Lee said his siblings had argued that even though he had recused himself from all Government matters to do with 38, Oxley Road, the ministers are his subordinates.

"Therefore, the Ministerial Committee cannot be independent from me. In fact, they say this of Parliament itself," PM Lee noted.

"This cannot be right. It is standard practice for the person facing a potential conflict of interest to recuse himself from the matter in this way."

"Suppose instead that I had decided as PM to knock the house down, and had pushed that decision through without allowing the Government to consider the alternatives, weigh the considerations, and go through due process, just because it was what my father wanted," PM Lee added.

"That would have been a real abuse of power. That would have abused my position as PM and gone against the whole system of rules and values that Mr Lee Kuan Yew built up."

On the deed of gift

PM Lee also addressed allegations that he had improperly obtained the deed between Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang and the National Heritage Board (NHB).

PM Lee noted that as Prime Minister, he had every right to see the deed, which Minister Lawrence Wong gave him. After reading it, PM Lee said he was very concerned, as the terms were onerous and unreasonable: Whenever NHB displayed the items, it also had to display them together with the first half of the Demolition Clause of Mr Lee's will - which said Mr Lee wanted the house knocked down when Dr Lee was no longer living in it.

But it did not include the second half of the Clause, which stated what Mr Lee wanted done if the house could not be knocked down - thereby misleading the public on Mr Lee's intentions.

PM Lee also felt his siblings were wrong to call it a gift, when they set conditions that if any of the terms were breached, they could take back all the items for $1.

"What my siblings had done was wrong. Discovering all this, as Prime Minister, I had to act - otherwise people might later wrongly think that I was party to this," he added.

"It is nonsensical to say that because I saw the Deed in my official capacity as PM, I could not raise the matter with a family member. If I come across anyone doing something wrong, even family, it is my duty to set them right."

On nepotism

As to allegations of nepotism by his siblings, who said PM Lee wanted 38, Oxley Road kept in order to inherit their father's credibility and bolster his standing, and help his son's political ambitions, PM Lee said there was no basis for these claims.

"Hongyi, my son, has publicly said he is not interested in politics. Nor have I pushed him to enter politics," PM Lee said.

"My wife, Ho Ching, is CEO of Temasek Holdings. As CEO, she reports to the Board, chaired by Mr Lim Boon Heng. As a company, Temasek Holdings answers to its shareholder, the Ministry of Finance, under Minister Heng Swee Keat," he added.

"I have every confidence that both Lim Boon Heng and Heng Swee Keat understand the meaning of good, proper, corporate governance."

"It is the Temasek Board which appoints the CEO, and the appointment has to be confirmed by the President, who is advised by the Council of Presidential Advisors. If Ho Ching ever behaves improperly, I have no doubt that the Temasek Board, the President and CPA know what their duty is."

"Regarding the house, and how its continued existence enhances my aura as PM, if I needed such magic properties to bolster my authority even after being your PM for 13 years, I must be in a pretty sad state," PM Lee said.

"And if such magic can work, Singapore must be in an even sadder state," he added.

The Dragon Fly said...

Part 2:

On LKY's plans for Oxley

Earlier in his speech, PM Lee sketched out before a full chamber the nature of family discussions on 38, Oxley Road when Mr Lee Kuan Yew was alive, what happened after Mr Lee died, and where the matter now stood.

He revealed that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had explored various permutations for the house with family members, and approved a proposal for 38, Oxley Road to be redeveloped instead of demolished after his death. The private living spaces would be removed and the house renovated without knocking it down.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had also signed the authorisation to submit the development application to the authorities in March 2012, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved it a month later.

PM Lee said he heard nothing to the contrary until after his father died in March 2015.

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will was read before the family in April 2015, Mr Lee Hsien Yang for the first time objected to the renovation plans their father had approved, PM Lee said.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife also objected strenuously to PM Lee reading out in Parliament their father's letter to Cabinet on what to do with the house if it is to be preserved, and to reading the Demolition Clause in full.

PM Lee read both out, and said there was no need to rush into making decisions on the matter, but as a son, he wanted to see his father's wishes carried out.

After the sitting, he also recused himself from all Government decisions and divested himself of the house, selling it to his brother at full market price. The two donating one and a half times the value of the house to charity.

"That complicated arrangement substantially addressed a major concern of mine: that our family be seen not to be benefiting financially from 38 Oxley Road," he said.

No reason for current dispute

PM Lee said there was no longer anything for his siblings and him to dispute over the house. They all want their father's personal wish - to demolish the house - to be carried out.

His siblings' view is their father absolutely wanted to demolish it without compromise.

But PM Lee's view is that while he wanted the house demolished, he was prepared to consider alternatives should the Government decide otherwise.

PM Lee also pointed out some unusual circumstances around how the last will was prepared, which he said are relevant given the weight the siblings put on the Demolition Clause.

Still, the Government has said the ministerial committee will not make any decisions on the house, and will not even recommend any decisions to the Cabinet.

It will only list options for the house, so that when a decision is needed one day, the Cabinet of the day will have options available to consider.

"There is therefore no reason for anybody to feel 'pushed into a corner', as my brother has claimed to be," he added.

The Dragon Fly said...

Part 3 (Last):

Next steps

PM Lee also addressed questions as to why he was not taking legal action - to challenge the will, sue for defamation, or take other legal action to put a stop to the dispute and clear his name.

"These are valid questions. I took advice and considered my options very carefully," he said.

"I believe I have a strong case. In any other imaginable circumstance but this, I would surely sue," he added, saying his siblings' allegation of abuse of power, while baseless, is a "very grave attack" not just on him but on the whole Government.

"But suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch my parents' names," he added.

"It would also drag out the process for years, and cause more distraction and distress to Singaporeans. Fighting this out in court cannot be my preferred choice."

PM Lee hoped that by making his statement in Parliament to account to MPs, the issue would be dealt with expeditiously, and Singaporeans will understand what the issue is about - and put the matter to rest.

He noted it was striking that the Workers' Party MPs had filed questions concerning broad principles, and "contain no specific allegations or facts about any wrongdoing or impropriety". He called on the opposition MPs to raise any questions they come across during the debate.

"My Ministers and I will deal with all their questions and give comprehensive answers, because we have nothing to hide."

PM Lee ended his speech by recounting how when Mr Lee was asked what the most important things to him in life were, he said "my family and my country".

"It pains me that this episode has put both under a cloud, and done damage to Singapore. I hope one day I will be able to resolve the unhappiness within the family," PM Lee said.

"But today I stand here before you to answer your questions, clear any doubts, and show you that you have every reason to maintain your trust in me and my Government."

About 30 MPs are expected to speak during the debate today and tomorrow, and PM Lee and DPM Teo will respond to the concerns and issues raised on Tuesday (July 4).

The Dragon Fly said...

Please read carefully because there are many things not reported by the Straits Times. This selective reporting does not give you the full picture nor the feel, if you had attended and watch the body languages of various people in the audience as well as the speakers themselves.

One thing stands out very clearly in this Parliament Session is that WP seems to be strangely (striking) very co-operative and subdued. Why?

b said...

Maybe it has something to do with the reserves. How much is still there?

Anonymous said...

We are deeply concerned about the disastrous state of Singapore's current foreign affairs policies, noting the serious diplomatic setbacks especially with Great China.

We highly recommend Kishore to be the new Foreign Affairs Minister to right things on the international stage, and replace all the current diplomats and ambassadors at large with his own appointments to revamp the whole ministry of foreign affairs, and give Singapore a new lease of life in the international geopolitical arena.

Anonymous said...

LKYSPP =- Indian chief
Foreign Affairs = Indian Chief
Home affairs = Indian chief

No wonder our relationships with China is in such a disastrous state!
The only thing China is thinking of now is WHY on earth a red dot with majority chinese descendants can't even find a chinese ministers (like george yeo calibre) to engage with the world's largest and upcoming nation? They like symbolism, nuanaces, subtleties, dignities etc..how many of these guys "Get it" all the times? Now there is nothing against our indian chiefs here, just pragmatic engagement needs to be effective. At first I thought LHL wants to be personally in drivers seats but turn out he is too distracted being the sick man..when he's not too busy fainting, crying, apologizing or intermeddling..

Please lah, somebody set the house straight for goodness sake.

Anonymous said...

In TodayOnline, Kishore Mahbubani said, "I believe that some of our senior officials have been imprudent in their public statements. As a result, there have been some serious mishaps in our external relations.”

“The hard work done by our founding fathers has been squandered. Our geopolitical space has shrunk,” he fretted.

Anonymous said...

Bilahari Kausikan proudly recounted that in 2010, then PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at an ASEAN meeting was reported to have publicly and pointedly reminded ASEAN that China is a big country, staring at then Foreign Minister George Yeo. Mr Yeo reportedly stared right back.

What's so great about staring back? Very childish!

This is a case of "goat kid don't know tiger!"

Anonymous said...

小羊不認識老虎 !

Anonymous said...

இளம் ஆடு புலி தெரியாது

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Sorry, can someone translate this Tamil phrase?

Anonymous said...

இளம் ஆடு புலி தெரியாது = Young sheep does not know the tiger

Google translate lah Mr. RedBean!