Low: S'pore's progress has come at a price

Low: S'pore's progress has come at a price
File photo: Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Kiang, MP for Hougang with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. WP held a press conference on 21 April 2011 to introduce its second batch of candidates for the General Elections 2011.

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was an extraordinary leader who guided Singapore's progress from its tumultuous beginnings, said opposition leader Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC).

He praised Mr Lee's contributions to Singapore's economic progress and his success in uniting and building a multicultural Singapore.

"This is an achievement that is not possible without Mr Lee. My deepest respect goes to founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew," said Mr Low, who went on to add that, in the process of nation-building, "many Singaporeans were sacrificed".

At a special Parliament sitting in memory of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr Low commended the late Mr Lee's fighting spirit, tenacity and sincerity, which took Singapore from Third World to First.

But the People's Action Party's one-party rule was not key to this transformation, he said.

Many Singaporeans were sacrificed in the process of development, he added. "Society has paid the price for it."

Mr Lee was thus a controversial figure in some people's eyes, said Mr Low, who is Workers' Party secretary-general and the longest-serving opposition member in Parliament today.

Mr Lee crafted policies based on the situation at the time, making rational choices in the interests of the country.

Yet policymaking should not just be rational, but also humane and compassionate, said Mr Low.

"Only in this way can policymaking avoid harming people and creating resentment."

If resentment builds over time, it could hurt national unity and cause citizens to feel estranged, he added.

But Mr Low also gave credit to Mr Lee for being reasonable and open-minded, saying: "From my dealings with Mr Lee in Parliament, I don't think he was an autocrat who didn't listen.

"If you had strong reasons and a tight argument and could win him over through debate, I think he would consider your views."

But the sitting's final speaker, Ms Indranee Rajah (Tanjong Pagar GRC), seemed to object to Mr Low's mention of sacrifice.

Without referring directly to Mr Low, she said: "It was not people who were sacrificed but the things which would have made us a lesser people, a lesser country than we are today."

"(Mr Lee) called upon us to make sacrifices in accordance with some very basic principles: humanity, integrity, thrift, welfare of the people."

Singapore gave up "laziness, corruption, division, hatred of other races".

"The other kind of sacrifice we were asked to make, was to set aside divisions and animosity in the interest of national unity," she said, adding that it was the late Mr Lee who made the biggest sacrifice of all.

She quoted Mr Lee's own words about his sacrifice: "At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life."

janiceh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 27, 2015.
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