Holding Lee Kuan Yew accountable

09Feb09

The SDP’s indefatigable Chee Soon Juan courts defamation suits yet again by pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.  Part 1:

There’s nothing wrong, of course, about making bad predictions. Let’s be fair, everyone at some point has made calls that have turned out embarrassingly wrong. Mr Lee has made, and will make, his fair share.

The difference with the MM’s words is that they drive policy formulation which involves spending of billions of dollars of public monies. Once spoken, these words precipitate PAP groupthink; few dare to tell the Mr Lee that he is wrong, let alone hold him accountable for his errors in judgement which have catastrophic consequences. …

He repeated the line later in the same speech: “An experienced team of ministers is getting our policies set in the right direction.” In 2003, never tiring of reminding the people of his goodness, Mr Lee repeated that Singaporeans were fortunate in having a “competent government in charge, anticipating events.”

“Competence”, “experience”, and the ability to “anticipate events” are the words Mr Lee chose to describe himself and his ministers, and to justify their salaries. Indeed if they all possessed such traits of distinction why did they not see, and warn Singapore of, the crisis that was brewing and all the warning signs that were hollering for attention?

Now that the MM’s rhetoric has been so extravagantly shown up, there is only silence within the establishment. Speech? What speech? seems to be the new strategy going forward. Everyone pretends that it was never made. And yet, that speech is probably the most serious misjudgment of Mr Lee’s carreer.

But among the many words that Mr Lee has spoken only one matters, but it is one that we will not hear: Accountability.

UPDATE: Part II now online.

Now that the predictions that Mr Lee made in 2007 have gone up in smoke — and together with it many billions of dollars — what does the MM do?

First, roll out the Vintage Lee Act: Wag the finger at Singaporeans. “So this generation may believe that Singapore and Singaporeans will automatically go up the escalator every year. This is not so,” Mr Lee told his audience at a Lunar New Year dinner last week. He forgot that he was the one who gushed that the golden period could go on for years.

Second, lay the blame on others: “People and systems tend to be carried away by exuberance. Investors get greedy and rush in to buy, believing that prices will only go up. When prices collapse, investors find they have lost huge sums.” Of course, these are other people and other investors. Not him and his ministers who just got caught up in the system because “it is in the nature of the free markets of the western world that our economy is plugged into.”

In 2007, it was he and his “competent and experienced team of ministers” who adopted “domestic policies to encourage growth.” In 2009, it is the banks who “have lost confidence in themselves, in their fellow banks and other financial institutions, and even in their customers.”

Third, pretend that there is no poverty in the country. “But nobody will be destitute, depending on soup kitchens or begging in the streets. Everyone has a home…” Mr Lee said to his audience, who were either too polite or too subservient to tell him to take a drive outside the Istana to HDB void decks.

Fourth, play the you-don’t-know-how-lucky-you-are gambit. “My generation of Singaporeans will never forget the 1960s and early ‘70s…” he started off and then waxed nostalgic about Konfrontasi and shanty huts. It’s another way of telling Singaporeans how good his party is.

In fact Mr Lee talked about everything regarding the present crisis except his role and the role of his ministers in the debacle. No mistakes were admitted, no errors conceded. If he had any tinge of regret about that “golden period” remark, he showed no sign of it.



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