Forgiveness: A Neglected Weapon of the Government



In the ruthless cut-throat world of politics, there comes a time when forgiveness is the only way to pursue a bigger cause and forge a path forward.

The Pakatan Harapan coalition toppled the government in the recent Malaysian elections because so many enemies forgave each other and reconciled.

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad sought out Anwar Ibrahim, who had been jailed on charges of sodomy and graft when he was PM, Anwar and his family accepted Mahathir’s apologies. It was not easy, but as Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah said: “We must have an open heart man and an open mind.”

Other political foes of Mahathir also agreed to forgive, to live and let live, and be part of the Opposition coalition. They included the Democratic Action Party’s father-and-son team of Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, both of whom were previously thrown into jail by Mahathir under the Internal Security Act.

Mahathir also asked for the forgiveness of Malaysians for wrongdoing during his previous tenure as PM of Malaysia for 22 years. The people opened their hearts to him.

And so the rest is history – but it was forgiveness which made the Opposition victory possible.

The most unforgettable act of forgiveness is that of South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.  Released after 27 years in prison, he immediately forgave his opponents and oppressors who jailed and tortured him. “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon,” said Mandela, who went on to become South Africa’s first black President.

In Singapore, it is hard – perhaps even impossible – to recall instances of the PAP government extending the unconditional hand of forgiveness to those who have stepped on its toes or incurred its wrath. Political dissidents have not been shown mercy. Numerous have died in exile, far removed from their homeland, including Francis Seow and Francis Khoo. Others remain in exile, either unable to return or fearing reprisal, including Ho Juan Thai, Tang Liang Hong, Tang Fong Har, Tan Wah Piow and Dr Ang Swee Chai

The story of Singapore’s dissidents aboard is movingly told in a 2013 documentary “To Singapore, With Love.” True to form, the government banned the documentary.

It was thought that the passing of Lee Kuan Yew would bring about a climate of change. But not so.

To forgive is to show strength, not weakness. It is a “powerful weapon” (in the words of Nelson Mandela) which the PAP government, sadly, has all too often neglected to use.

In the case of Anwar Ibrahim, the act of forgiveness has been returned in kind – he has been released from jail, courtesy of a royal pardon. While Lim Guan Eng, who also forgave Mahathir, has been designated Malaysia’s Finance Minister.

We have MPs like Lee Bee Wah, who, on the one hand talk about cultivating a gracious society, but on the other, says she is friends with everyone except those from the Workers’ Party whom she “seldom talk(s)” to.

If common courtesy is lacking, how do we even begin to talk about graciousness and forgiveness?

For that matter, if PM Lee Hsien Loong were to graciously extend an olive branch to his brother, sister-in-law and nephew, what are the chances of them reciprocating and returning from self-exile?

To foster a compassionate, forgiving society, those at the top must show the way.  Otherwise, it would just be lip service and graciousness would be far-fetched and elusive, never to be in the DNA of our society.

Augustine Low is a proud but concerned citizen. Voicing independent, unplugged opinion is his contribution to citizen engagement.


  1. He made everyone pay hundreds of thousands for a flat which you can only stay in for 99 years before it become worthless while he and his family live in bungalows worth multi millions in prime location.

    He made everyone pay tens of thousands for a piece of paper to own a car for 10 years while he and his family move around in chauffeured cars with escort paid for by the people.

    He said that uneducated people should not have so many children and should stop at 2, but decades later he and his son blames the declination of birth rate on you people for refusing to have more babies thus the need for them to import millions of new citizens here.

    Great man my ass.

  2. We can’t compare LKY and Mahathir. Bcos what faced by Mahathir and LKY is different. Perhaps if LKY faced the situation like Mahathir, he may do the same thing. Who knows. It is not right to judge for someone who oledi left us. At least LKY has made Singapore progress to what it is today. Now it is how our 4G leaders on how they can bring Singapore to greatest height while citizens welfare are well taken care.

  3. Dear PM Lee & The PAP Member (Ministers/MP’s & PAP Internet WatchDOG)

    To be very sincere and frank with All your talks on the Deliberate FalseHood ONLINE and screwing up FaceBook and any other Social Media as well as Rumors. You guys are just making a BIG BIG Mistake and one day you guys will regret. This media or Rumors as Old people says are “TELL-Tale Sign for you PAP or whichever it can be” to NOT to OVER do yourself as what Mr Goh Chok Tong once said….”Don’t go beyond the OB Marker” !!
    We too Singaporen have OB Marker and if you guys have this tendency over keep increasing cost and putting the damn pressure on us Singaporean BORN Natural from Singapore and NOT Foreign Maked Singaporean, TRUST me you guys will Regrets very much and please please try NOT to gives “reexplaination on the GST increase as we or myself have yet to EXPOSED or Question you (PAP) where the HELL All our MONEY goes and ALL the LOSSES made by Temasek Holding….To be very bland or DIRECT….”How True and the Damn Hard-Truth of Temasek Holding Loosing All those Investment or Perhaps it is/was/will be one of YOUR IDEAS of Pretending to Make Losses BUT on the other HAND Transfer them to a “Save HEAVEN” before your Downfall.

    We have yet to Question YOU (PAP) where the MONIES goes for the SALES of CPF Building which was Built on “PEOPLE Monies” as in the 1st REAL TRUTH.

    There aare LOTS of hidden agenda you (PAP) has that why you guys was very QUICK to push for this particular LAWS and POLICY….. that is “Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA)” which on the “PRETEXT” of protecting just our Singaporean Data or perhap prevent the Opposition should they win the Election or a GRC in the PAP ward …this data are HIDDEN from the TRUTH ???”

    There is plenty we know but time is slowly and gradually is running out as we see you despartely fast in implementing Policy to BLOCK the TRUTH to the “National RESERVES of Singapore”

    To the stage of Staging a Plot to Put in another Dummy Malay President like Halimah is your Desperate PLOT and you know FULL well Tan Cheng Bock is your very own PAP and you are Frighten of the SHADOW behind your back.

    How on earth you guys are REALLY slow EXPOSING yourself to us to see the REAL Lies….

    1. Changing Ong Teng Cheong from 1st Elected President to Wee Kim Wee.

    2. Changing a Race of a Lady Halimah fromIndian Muslim to MALAY

    TRUST Me it’s a DANGEROUS Game to PLAY…. THESE are a few examples of PAP “Delibrate FalseHOOH Online” Singaporean are just too STUPID to see them or JUST Irresponsible Singaporean who make ALL of us SUFFER