Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Origins Of Lim Shee Shee

The ST reporter claims netizens have mocked him online, dubbing him "the most moronic minister for his illogical tales, broken English and bad slogans."

"I was never strong in language. When I speak in Mandarin, people think I'm English-educated. Then when I speak in Enslish, people think I'm Chinese-educated. One day, Catholic High invited me to be the guest of honour for its anniversary. I went on stage; I was very frank with them because they wanted me to speak in Mandarin. So I told them, '..by tonight, you'll know I'm Chinese-educated, and my Chinese sucks'."

Lim Swee Say's speech impediment is legendary, but he also confesses his weakness with sentence structure. His excuse for problems with "singular and plural, past tense, present tense, future tense, and I don't know what tense," is this: "When I speak, if I focus on the structure, then I distracted from my content." Okay, that explains the defective logic in his story of the frog who climbed his way up a tower inspite of taunting and verbal castigation of his critics because he was deaf. The same frog could inexplicably hear the question posed to him at the end of his story. For the record, the story was not narrated in perfect English either.

Life is full of ironies. Before his eventual fall from grace, the unpopular Minister of National Development Teh Cheang Wan was once defended by then prime minister Kuan Yew in parliament, "He may not be able to string a complete sentence in grammatical English, but he has a good mind." To which, Teh proceeded to apply in ernest. But we digress.

So how did Lim pass his oral exams and clear the Public Service Commission interview for his scholarship to study engineering in Britain? None of that matters after he collected his piece of paper, because the Singapore meritocracy system then guarantees the scholar can do no wrong, irrespective of the damage he continues to inflict on the human language.

Desperate to credit him for some achievement, we are told that Lim, as Environmental Minister, "was instrumental in getting Singaporeans to drink recycled water - Newater." So now we know who is responsible for injecting up to 5 percent of shit water into the reservoirs. For his contribution, Lim recalls unabashedly to the reporter, he was renamed Lim Shee Shee, local dialect for "drink urine".

In a perverse way, it all makes sense. Lim also reveals how he chooses to flush out negative thoughts - when he is sitting on the toilet bowl. "That is the time I clear my mind. I think about strategies, issues, what to say at the May Day rally." Too bad the crap also comes out of the other body orifice.

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