Lee Kuan Yew: Don’t judge a man until you’ve closed his coffin

Posted on September 15, 2010


Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin on Sep 13  refuted Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s allegations that Malaysia is a failed state. He was responding to Lee’s remarks in a New York Times interview on Sept 1, describing Malaysia as being in a “most unhappy situation” and criticising Malaysia, in particular the ruling cadre of Malays. Read the full report here : http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/142561

The following is excerpt of the transcript of the interview on 1 Sep by  Seth Mydans  with Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. The interview was held on 1 September 2010.

Lee Kuan Yew: Don’t judge a man until you’ve closed his coffin ..

Q: “Let me ask a question about the outside world a little bit. Singapore is
a great success story even though people criticize this and that. When you
look back, you can be proud of what you’ve done and I assume you are. Are
there things that you regret, things that you wished you could achieve that
you couldn’t?”

Mr Lee: “Well, first I regret having been turfed out of Malaysia. I think if
the Tunku had kept us together, what we did in Singapore, had Malaysia
accepted a multiracial base for their society, much of what we’ve achieved
in Singapore would be achieved in Malaysia. But not as much because it’s a
much broader base. We would have improved inter-racial relations and an
improved holistic situation. Now we have a very polarized Malaysia, Malays,
Chinese and Indians in separate schools, living separate lives and not
really getting on with one another. You read them. That’s bad for us as
close neighbours.”

Q: “So at that time, you found yourself with Singapore and you have
transformed it. And my question would be how do you assess your own
satisfaction with what you’ve achieved? What didn’t work?”

Mr Lee: “Well, the greatest satisfaction I had was my colleagues and I, were
of that generation who were turfed out of Malaysia suffered two years under
a racial policy decided that we will go the other way. We will not as a
majority squeeze the minority because once we’re by ourselves, the Chinese
become the majority. We made quite sure whatever your race, language or
religion, you are an equal citizen and we’ll drum that into the people and I
think our Chinese understand and today we have an integrated society. Our
Malays are English-educated, they’re no longer like the Malays in Malaysia
and you can see there are some still wearing headscarves but very modern

Q: “That doesn’t sound like a regret to me.”

Mr Lee: “No, no, but the regret is there’s such a narrow base to build this
enormous edifice, so I’ve got to tell the next generation, please do not
take for granted what’s been built. If you forget that this is a small
island which we are built upon and reach a 100 storeys high tower block and
may go up to 150 if you are wise. But if you believe that it’s permanent, it
will come tumbling down and you will never get a second chance.”

Q: “I wonder if that is a concern of yours about the next generation. I saw
your discussion with a group of young people before the last election and
they were saying what they want is a lot of these values from the West, an
open political marketplace and even playing field in all of these things and
you said well, if that’s the way you feel, I’m very sad.”

Mr Lee: “Because you play it that way, if you have dissension, if you chose
the easy way to Muslim votes and switch to racial politics, this society is
finished. The easiest way to get majority vote is vote for me, we’re
Chinese, they’re Indians, they’re Malays. Our society will be ripped apart.
If you do not have a cohesive society, you cannot make progress.”

Q: “But is that a concern that the younger generation doesn’t realize as
much as it should?”

Mr Lee: “I believe they have come to believe that this is a natural state of
affairs, and they can take liberties with it. They think you can put it on
auto-pilot. I know that is never so. We have crafted a set of very intricate
rules, no housing blocks shall have more than a percentage of so many
Chinese, so many percent Malays, Indians. All are thoroughly mixed.
Willy-nilly, your neighbours are Indians, Malays, you go to the same
shopping malls, you go to the same schools, the same playing fields, you go
up and down the same lifts. We cannot allow segregation.”

Q: “So leadership is a constant battle?”

Mr Lee: “In a multiracial situation like this, it is. Malaysia took the
different line; Malaysians saw it as a Malay country, all others are
lodgers, “orang tumpangan”, and they the Bumiputras, sons of the soil, run
the show. So the Sultans, the Chief Justice and judges, generals, police
commissioner, the whole hierarchy is Malay. All the big contracts for
Malays. Malay is the language of the schools although it does not get them
into modern knowledge. So the Chinese build and find their own independent
schools to teach Chinese, the Tamils create their own Tamil schools, which
do not get them jobs. It’s a most unhappy situation.”

The full report and interview transcript is at http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/2010/09/lee-kuan-yew-dont-judge-man-until-youve.html