Tom Plate and the charm offensive
Mr Plate tries to get under the skin of this man during two interviews over a total of four hours, especially in the second part of his slim, soundbite of a book. The result is a 211-page rewind of the Lee story, which many of us know already.
Based on interviews done at the Istana in July last year, the book is littered with Mr Plate’s impressions of the man and his policies as well as several very private moments capturing Mr Lee’s demeanour and behaviour at the Istana.
There are references to Mr Lee’s persistent cough, the heat pad that was changed regularly by people waiting along the corridor because of the physiotherapy Mr Lee was undergoing and a rare moment – a hug that Mr Plate gives the Minister Mentor.
In journalism, this is generally referred to as adding colour to a story.
Serious-minded journalists would say that this technique is used when you want to jazz up a story that either lacks depth or detail. …
Mr Plate is in awe of the Minster Mentor, and he doesn’t hide it.
He refers to Mr Lee as a “helpful and patient tutor in the all-important subjects of politics, governance and international relations”.
There are several times when the journalist’s instincts are kept in check with Mr Plate on the verge asking that difficult, searching and probing question. But he lets it go.
In one instance, he tries to explain it away by saying that he did not want to sound like a tabloid journalist, especially in front of his “guru”.
The journalist in Mr Plate, again, takes the back seat when Mr Lee drops a bombshell, saying that three ministers quit because they could not accept Mr Goh Chok Tong’s style soon after the latter took over as Prime Minister in 1990. …
“Within six months, three ministers left because they didn’t like his style. I talked them out of it. I said, give him time; he needs time to settle in.
“They stayed on and he carried on for 14 years. I helped him. He appointed my son deputy, who helped him succeed,” said Mr Lee.
Who were the three?
What was it about Mr Goh’s style that the three didn’t like?
How did Mr Lee’s son – current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – help Mr Goh succeed?
Alas, there is nothing to show that Mr Plate asked the follow-up questions. …
What is sorely missing in our bookshelves is a view of Mr Lee Kuan Yew from the centre, warts and all.
And don’t miss the comments at Today, many of which castigate the author for being insufficiently respectful:
MM is God’s greatest gift to us—-as modern Singapore’s founding father. … MM is one terrific exemplar in almost all respects of human life. He is a great leader and communicator.
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Tags: book review, conversations with lee kuan yew, lee kuan yew, tom plate