By Herbert Teo
Having left Singapore almost 30 years ago, technology has allowed me to follow my country of birth’s birthday on August 9 as though I was there sitting in the stands in front of Marina Bay’s Floating Platform.
This year’s Singapore celebrated its 48th year of independence. The NDP has transformed itself from just pure military and marching to multimedia, colours, lights, fireworks and everything else. I follow the parade almost every year when I can because I almost became a life member of NDPs, having religiously being part of eight NDPs when I worked for the Port of Singapore Authority. I was also in the army cadets in school and the marching and uniforms and precision reaction to drill commands were close to my heart.
2013 was all of that and more. As usual, the Oos and the Aahs were very much more for all the men in their wonderful flying machines as the jetfighters and helicopters roared overhead. The might of the military was shown in its powerful killing machines, weaponry and naval prowess. Singapore was a safe place to be.
But it was not all hardness in the NDP. Over the years, as Singapore matures, the softer edges are appearing. The children on stage were just beautiful. Not only beautiful in their colorful costumes highlighted by good lighting and multimedia. I could sense it in their voices as they sung, their pride in their dancing, and mostly in the smiles on their faces. They were happy, and proud, to be Singaporean.
However, all the glitter and gold, and pomp and ceremony, could not detract me from one figure as he sat in the terraces amongst his fellow junior cabinet members. He looked frail because of his years. His hair was white and wispy. His face has aged considerably. I could not but feel the pain of a father. This man is none other than the founding father of modern Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
I asked myself, with all the grandeur, all the skyscrapers, all the wonderful airports, seaports and mass transit systems, WHERE IS THE LOVE? Do Singaporeans really know how to show love, and I don’t mean in a sexual way? Do Singaporeans know how to give, and receive, compliments?
I said to my wife, who was watching with me, wouldn’t it have been so nice if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had walked up to his father, hugged him, shook his hand and maybe invited him to sit next to the Prime Minister of Singapore? Don’t talk to me about protocol? Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is the founder of modern Singapore! Can we not be flexible and give some respect, and compliment to where it is due, by letting him sit next to his son?
I sent a message on PM Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook on how a fantastic public relations opportunity had gone a begging. I said, if he had done what I thought he should have done, it would have left a lasting legacy amongst all Singaporeans young and old of the love that he has for his father and the love that he has for the founder of modern Singapore. In addition, it would have endeared younger Singaporeans to the concept of filial piety, something so good that is being eroded with modernization and technology.
I did get a reply from his Page Administrator saying:
Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts with PM.
Best wishes Page Administrator
Deep in my heart I wish the Prime Minister could publicly love his father on National Day on national – and global – television. It would have been one fantastic show of love and filial piety for all Singaporeans to follow.
This single public gesture of love by a leader could have been like Roberta Flack’s & Donna Hathaway’s 1972 hit song WHERE IS THE LOVE that made it to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 list!