Poetry, Politics

“And this is how they will earn the right to lead” – a guide

Arrest political opponents
detain them without trial.
Shut newspapers which disagree,
accuse them of foreign guile.
Build a ‘responsible press’
of ex-ISD boys and gals,
Put a fat general in charge
and it will all go swell.

Come election time,
Remake Our Singapore.
Bring the hills of Braddell Heights
to Marine Parade’s sunny shore.
Give teachers all a raise
and hongbao for me and you.
You’ll make it back next year
once parking fees are due.

Reserve this and gazette that
but leave a corner for free speech.
Provided they have a permit
to the converted they can preach.
Should the internet concern you,
on “fake news” you can depend.
Just slap on that handy label
and watch reality bend.

Ivory’s pristine white
but brittle much like glass.
Follow these simple rules
and this farce will ever last.



At the opening of the 13th Parliament on 7 May 2018, the President of spoke about how:

“They will need to listen to the views and feelings of the people, and by their words and deeds, show that they have heard, yet never fear to lead and mobilise public opinion to support difficult policies in the long-term interest of Singapore,” she said.

“This is how they will earn the right to lead,” she added. “That right cannot be inherited.”

Source: Channel News Asia

I found all of this deeply ironic, especially “how they will earn the right to lead… that right cannot be inherited”. And as I looked at many of the esteemed members of parliament and ministers in parliament, I wondered, just how many of them had really earned the right to lead, as stated by the President of the Republic of Singapore.

The irony is especially apparent when we consider what the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said 1956 to the precursor of our Parliament, the  Legislative Assembly, when he was in the opposition:

Repression, sir, is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love – it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course, with constant repetition, you get more and more brazen in the attack and in the scope of the attack. First, the conscience is disturbed by a sense of guilt. You attack only those whom your Special Branch can definitely say are Communists. They have no proof except what X told Z who told Alpha who told Beta who told the Special Branch. Then you attack those whom your Special Branch say are actively sympathising with and helping the Communists, although they are not Communists themselves. Then you attack those whom your Special Branch say, although they are not Communists or fellow travellers, yet, by their intransigent opposition to any collaboration with colonialism, they encourage the spirit of revolt and weaken constituted authority and thereby, according to the Special Branch, they are aiding the Communists. Then finally, since you have gone that far, you attack all those who oppose you.

Repression is an easy substitute for hard work and organisation. To compete with a rival organisation, you have to win mass support, to help the people solve their problems of living. But instead of building up an organisation, it is much easier just to have a collection of friends to contest the elections, with no organisation. Then, by a fluke, you may find yourself in power. You take over the organisation of the colonial power, the government machinery, the instruments of policy – the administration, the police, broadcasting and all the “gimmicks” of a modern colonial State. Then you use this machinery with the connivance and concurrence of your colonial masters against rival organisations. It is easier than building up an organisation of your own. All you have to do is to dissolve organisations and societies and banish or detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil and quiet – on the surface. Then an intimidated Press – and some sections of the Press here do not need intimidation because they have very friendly owners – the Press and the Government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done. Or if these things are referred to again, they are conveniently distorted, and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict it.”

Source: Hansard, Parliament of Singapore, emphasis my own.

And all of that is what inspired me to write the poem above.

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