27 February 2006

LKY's Eulogy

A relative of mine works for mainstream media and was involved in covering the story of Rajaratnam's recent demise. My mum told me yesterday that this relative told her that at the funeral, MM Lee began to cry while making the speech. Unable to stop himself from crying, MM Lee quickly ended the speech and walked off the stage.

On a separate note, the 3rd paragraph of MM Lee's eulogy below shows, hey presto, that MM Lee, of all people, actually understands the importance of a free press. Too bad the Singapore Standard died a long time ago. Now we don't really have any newspaper that can provide an alternative viewpoint when the Straits Times tries to "downplay" anything.

MINISTER MENTOR'S EULOGY FOR MR S. RAJARATNAM

In April 1952, just as the postmen’s union was about to go on strike, Goh Keng Swee introduced me to the associate editor of the Singapore Standard, S Rajaratnam. Keng Swee said Raja was sympathetic to workers and trade unions, and could be helpful.

As the union’s legal adviser, I was keen to meet him. By the pool at the Singapore Chinese Swimming Club, against the blare of loud music, I described to him the case for the postmen. He promised to help.

When the strike started, the Singapore Standard reported it extensively. This forced the British-owned Straits Times to do the same. Raja wrote editorials attacking the colonial government with wit, punch and vigour. Without the Singapore Standard, the Straits Times could have downplayed the strike. As it was, the British colonial government was regularly lambasted for several weeks on the front pages of the Singapore Standard, and its officials got the worst of the argument.

The strike ended with concessions to the union, and changed the course of history. A rash of negotiations, arbitrations and strikes followed, with the unions often appointing me their lawyer. This built up a mass following for our cause.

........

Raja was at his best when under attack. I have vivid memories of him when we were pummelled by the Communists from 1961 to 1963. Almost everyday they berated and denounced us at mass rallies and in the Chinese language press. At times I felt weary rebutting their accusations, but Raja was tireless. A chain smoker always with a cigarette between his lips and taking sips of coffee or tea during pauses, he would bang away at his typewriter, to knock down every one of their points. He did this with inexhaustible energy and gusto. He enjoyed stringing words together to capture people’s attention and make fun of or demolish our opponent’s arguments. His strength was as a thinker and a writer, a man of honour, with great moral courage.

....

His most enduring legacy is our National Pledge. After two communal riots in 1964 and the tensions and suspicions of Separation, we were not at our most optimistic. In spite of our dark mood at the time, I felt Raja would have the conviction and optimism to express our aspirations. I got Raja to draft it. He crafted the words, I tightened them. The cabinet adopted them as the National Pledge. It was an act of faith.

The experiences we shared in this struggle, confronting problems and crises, forged an enduring bond between us.

A few years ago he began to lose his memory. When I visited him in 1998, he did not recognise me.

With his passing, Singaporeans have lost a patriot, a man of deep conviction and principle. His contribution was not in bricks and mortar, or concrete and glass, but in ideas, sentiment and spirit. Everyday when the pledge is recited in our schools, our children are reminded to live up to our aspirations as Raja expressed them.

11 comments:

biased observer said...

Rather, I would say he understands the *power* of a free press. LKY used the tools he had to fight the colonists - and once the goals were reached, he turned around and destroyed those tools so that no one can do the same against him.

klimmer said...

Yes, I wish he would have read it all to himself before he threatened to bash head and break bones.

moomooman said...

To biased observer...

I agree. Though your choice of words may trigger an interview with ISD.

ted said...

I rather think those words are quite alright. It's just opinions. This kind of irrational fear of saying the wrong things irks me greatly. Please grow up.

ANd before you or anyone else retort please cite cases where people have been invited to tea with the ISD agents just because they say things like biased observers.

Anonymous said...

Four legs good, two legs BETTER!

locky2ky said...

yes, i would say he realised the power, and not importance, of a free press. That's why our ST is #140 isn't it?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Yes, I agree too. I was going to post a funny cartoon about this, but I wasn't convinced that MM Lee wouldn't track Mr Wang down and sue him to bits.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if copies of the Singapore Standard are still available on microfilm? They'd be interesting.

Anonymous said...

The National Archives should keep copies of the Singapore Standard..at least I think they should.

Would be very interesting to see the articles LKY mentioned in his eulogy, full of "wit, punch and vigour".

How ironic LKY has brought this up...

moomooman said...

To ted,

I guess your reply was in response to my post.

Firstly, that was not a serious statement with regards to ISD.

Secondly, MM Lee would not use ISA against people who made statements. He uses Legal means.

Thirdly, to cite cases as per your request before retortion is like asking Chee Soon Juan to payup $500000.

Lastly, I'm surprised you wouldn't think I wasn't serious. Do I sound so credible? You flatter me.

tuck said...

yes, you read the mainstream newspapers, it is downplaying all the time. like, instead of saying the eggs are rotten, they will say, these eggs were good eggs but for some reasons got rotten! you know Mr Sia Chiang Nee writes interesting articles about Singapore in his website, littlespeck.com . His articles are published in a Malaysian newspaper. Shame, for some reasons, these could not see the light of day in Singapore. His last one was on the only 9000 new voters. He analysed, 'Why so few'. the mainstreams will downplay what he has to say.