By: Carlton Tan
This Lee Kuan Yew lèse majesté nonsense is really just another example of a failure to consider the consequences carefully. I wrote about this last year:
“Perhaps the only plausible state interest here would be that Mr Lee’s reputation is so inextricably bound with the state’s that if the state is to be protected, his reputation must be too. This is exactly the logic that governs lèse majesté.
But as much as he ruled like one, Mr Lee is not, and never was, Singapore’s king. He was always the people’s servant, whether he thought of it that way or not. The nation may be embodied in the flag, but it is not embodied in Mr Lee. Mr Lee died but the nation lives on. Mr Lee is just a man. He is not a king.
But even if Mr Lee was a king, this attempt at sacralising him is bound to backfire. As we have witnessed, competing factions in Singapore have sought to appropriate Mr Lee’s legacy for their own ends.
The PAP portrays him as the founder of principles we must continue to abide by—of meritocracy, pragmatism, multiracialism, etc. They hope to strengthen the public’s trust by reaffirming these as the values it stands by.
Opposition groups emphasise Mr Lee’s concern for the poor and his ability to connect with the people, and they contrast it with the PAP’s elitist attitude and its disconnect with the ground. When suggestions were made to build a monument of Mr Lee, to name our airport after him, or to preserve his house, most people asked “what would Mr Lee do?”.
Such jostling over the legacy of a central public figure in a nation’s history is natural, healthy even, but it contradicts the aim of putting Mr Lee on a pedestal, far removed from the undignified contentiousness of the common people. Rather than a towering figure to be revered, he becomes a condiment to be sprinkled on every political dish that is served. Instead of achieving kingliness, his name will be enslaved to politics.
The PAP wants to enshrine Mr Lee as a king. If it succeeds, Singapore will be the world’s newest monarchy. Mr Lee will be our king but we will be his master.
Long live Lee Kuan Yew!

Republished from Carlton Tan’s FB.

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